He is a soldier…
My father was in the army. For twenty-five years ,he has served our country, sacrificing everything that he held within. He was the son of a zamindar family, the landed aristocrats of Palasdanga. My great grandfather was given the title of Bahadur for his fierce indomitable spirit. My father is the only son of my grandpa and naturally, he inherited everything. The landed substantial mansion, the lands, the orchards, the ponds and so much more. He could have settled in our ancestral village and ruled like a benevolent king. Or he could have sold everything and settled with us in some satellite city. He did neither. From early childhood, he was distinct. When his friends aimed to secure a government job and lead a luxurious life, he sat on NDA and CSB exams. The life of a soldier always enticed him. The zeal to serve the motherland, the pride to stand upright on the border and guarding the country, the glory to become a martyr in the battle attracted him as a flame does to a moth. It was from his reason he ran off from home when the appointment letter from IMA arrived. He knew my grandmother would never allow her only son to join the army and die in foreign lands far away from the blood kins. So he got away. Ran away in the dead of a night, boarded the train to Jabalpur, and straight to the Indian army Centre for training Institute. What happened when he returned home after a year of training shunning his curly hair for a crew cut hairstyle is a story for another day!
Those twenty-five years were the best time of his life. Other than meeting with my mother and marrying her, he had his full share of happiness in his work too. Training personnel, mock war practices, gunfights, horse riding, and evening with his chummy! Those were the days! He often narrated to us about his life on Border.
“ It is the most beautiful place anyone can ever reach to see. White snow-capped mountains everywhere your eyes fall upon, clear blue sky, and a temperature is less than minus 20 degrees. It’s a glory to stand there with the flag fluttering high as if they say ‘ you are not alone. I am with you’ the whole country sleeps while we stand awake and alert, guarding our motherland with our lives”.
I still remember that time when the Kargil war broke out between India and Pakistan. My father was posted at Rajouri Border for six months. That was the time when the internet was still a baby inside the womb of a computer that was still a child itself. Everything was curtailed, with no rights no liberties no freedom. Even letters used to be used long after the writer has already deceased. Such was the situation! Every day scores of soldiers perished. The Delhi Doordarshan flooded its channel with the news of war, the martyrs, and the fake consolatory speeches of different ministers of government. We didn’t care for those. We didn’t care who was in power or who held the sceptre. For us, only the life of one man mattered. We used to wait with paved breathe for just one single news.
Those six months made me realize that life is no better than the holocaust for a family whose father, husband, and son go to war. Those six months were a trial for us too. It was as if we were fumbling for each other in the dark. My mother tried her best to remain strong but I knew about her silent sobbings in the kitchen at night. I was too young to understand the real implication of war then, but now I can very well comprehend how each of us went through the harrowing hell in that long span of six months. The only human who suffered the most was my grandmother. She almost left her eating and sleeping. Day after day, night after night she spent counting the beads of her rosary and praying for the safety of my father. Probably the gods heard her prayer and he returned hale and hearty after six months.
When he returned home we came to see how brutal a war came to be. A young soldier who was napping just two meters away from my father after a frozen meal of stale chapatti and pickle was shot dead by a flying bullet. He never got up to see the rising sun the next morning. There was a bomb blast a foot apart from their embankment. Stories like this filled my heart with bitterness. What was the use of the war? Nothing did change. We are still fighting uselessly.
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro Patria Mori
Our lives rotated around these stories, waiting for his arrival after every six months on station to see the middle-aged crew cut tall man step out from the compartment and swept both of us into his arms. that was our lives. Fear of losing him made us stronger. But the strongest was my mother. Never once she broke down crying when left every time, never once she tried to stop him. She said to me once,” your father’s dedication towards his nation made me fall in love with him. Everyone should do his part in serving the country however little it might be”.
I can never be like mom. Although I have inherited my father’s indomitable spirit and urge to explore the world, I can never be a strong-hearted woman like my mom. I am more like my grandma, emotional, compassionate, and weak.
Then that day came when it was time for him to step down, put his uniform away into the closet, and his tired old body to rest. He retired after serving his motherland for two decades and more. The hardest days were yet to come. We always were habituated to seeing him in his military routine. Post-retirement hit him hard. There was no mission, there was no target, there was no goal. He felt himself stumbling in darkness, with nothing to do, nothing to achieve, and a complete aimless human. My mother started giving him some household chores to do like buying vegetables, cleaning the car and the bike, brushing the dust off the couches, and so on. Those things were new for him.
Before he joined the army, my father was a precious darling of grandma. He passed his time with football and music swinging his curly hair and making the ladies of those eras sigh in love! Things changed when he joined the military. He became a hard-hearted man, crew-cut hair, well built muscular who carried his AK 47 all along. A man like that didn’t look good buying potatoes and dusting dirt every day. The more he tried to saturate himself in that life, the more he lost his mental peace.
Every soldier passes this phase of his life. As long as he serves the nation, he is remembered. No sooner he turns into an aged horse, he is turned out. No one remembers him, no one congratulates him, no one gives him a road and a salute for his long service. Frustration creeps in slowly. My father too was not accustomed to that pathetic life. As days passed, he became more irritated. My mother advised him to start working somewhere. That would keep his mind distracted. Indian government gives a quota for military ex-servicemen to start work after their retirement into other semi-governmental agencies as security officers and other posts. But was it easy for a middle-aged man to carry his CV and high resumes and attend interviews and seminars for a job? No, it wasn’t.
By god’s grace we had enough to provide for our means, so earning money to support a family wasn’t necessary for my father. He passed his time, looking at his medals caressing them. I realized this is what the life of every soldier turns into once he gets retired from the battlefield. Depressed. Dilapidated and alone. Although he was present with us physically, his mind was far away.
When a child is upset, parents are bound to intervene in his personal life. So is with the gods. There came a time when the Gods probably decided to intervene in our lives personally and solve the matter that we were going through. They sent a reward for his service.
Brijbasi Mahamant came to our home. Tall well built in an orange attire with wooden sandals and a beaded rosary in one hand and a bundle in his shoulder, he spread an aura of serenity in our lives. He came of his own accord. No one knew why or what his intention was. But we were never inquisitive towards those things. His smiling face and his ways of explaining the Bhagwad Gita mesmerized us. We felt our souls rejuvenated, our thirst for knowledge mitigated, and our desire to know the unknown was satisfied. His voice was deep and sonorous, like the deep bells of an ancient temple, whose sound vibrates through all the walls of the God’s abode. He was the harbinger of peace for my father. My father was never a God-fearing man. He was a theist but the relationship between him and Almighty was just as formal as two neighbours crossing paths. But that day everything changed. The way he revealed to him the secrets of life, the true meaning of his truer self, the path of salvation, and the logic behind the trans-migration of soul, brought tears into my father’s eyes. Never had we seen a man with such high impulse like an ADHD patient, sit still like a rock, trying to restrain his emotional overflow.
“ Who is a soldier?”, asked Brijbasi
-“ One who fights for his motherland”, replied my father.
-“ Really? Just only for the motherland? What about the one who fights for evil?”
My father was speechless. This never had crossed his mind.
-“ Do you know who is a True Soldier? Son, a true soldier is who fights with evil. one who guards his fellow beings against evil, from darkness, from satan. One who protects his loved ones from evil.”
-“ What is evil?”
-“It's not an enemy state or a nation. It's not a physical entity. It's not a terrorist. It's us. Simply us”
-“ us? How?”
Brijbasi smiled. A sparkle crinkled in the corner of his eyes.
“Evil resides within us. Deep inside our soul. That's what prevents us from Moksha. That’s what stops us from leaving the cycle of birth and death. It's evil inside men which cause war, it's evil inside men which wages battles and which creates a lust for more”.
My father was astounded. He simply looked at him wide-eyed, in amazement.
“ son, can you fight with that?”
-“ can I?”
-“ yes. You can. You are a soldier. Once a soldier will always be a soldier. You are born for this. You have crossed levels and pathways and cross yards in this game of war. Now you are in here. In this level to fight another battle. You have already fulfilled your duty as a son of this pious land. Now fulfil your duty as a destroyer of evil in mankind”.
-“ But how?”
He touched my father’s hand and patted him.
“ look around you. The world is dying. Each day thousands of men, women, and children are perishing in vices and follies of their own. Think of a single man whom you can save from being corrupted. Think of a single soul you can protect from succumbing to the dark. Even you can save one man, one soul and one living thing, your battle as a soldier will not go waste”.
Realization dawned upon us. He felt as if a window has been opened in the darkroom that pervaded upon him all this time. His soul relaxed, his contorted face smoothened and his lost smile returned. His eyes sparkled again and he felt a strong adrenaline rush that once flowed into his veins.
Brijbasi got up and blessed us with wide open hands. On the door, He turned around and looked directly at my father and said:
“ On the fields of Kurukshetra millions perished. The fight was between good and evil. But which of the soldiers do you still remember? “