The train gushed through the aisles formed by the green pleated forest. I looked out of the window, realizing that it will be another six months before I could see the greenery of the plains.
In the train I was accompanied by three of my subordinates Anupam, Vijay and Akash. It was my first posting as a captain in Loungewala. We reached the destination in noon as the scorching heat welcomed us, we hired a qualis to reach to the base camp which was in the middle of desert .The car was moving through the arid roads of lifeless desert of Thar. At this point of time, the desert was a lifeless creature and once lively creature lay astray in their skeletal form.
The journey was going smooth and silent.until a fuzzy noise made everyone to think of its occurrence. Anupam sarcastically commented on ‘Those mooli paranthas have taken a toll on someone’s stomach’ he flashed his eyes on Vijay, to which we all had a hearty laugh. The laughter came to a halt with the car. The car broke down.
The Engine heated up and the rear axle broke down, driver excused in dismay that the car cannot be fixed before two days. We were in complete awry of what to do.
The driver suggested that there is a village nearby and if we were lucky, we could reach there before the sunset. So we started moving in the desert terrain, keeping with us the necessary ration to last a day. The desert was a heated oven and we were the chicken going to be roasted in that oven.
After several hours of trekking in the sands we were not reaching anywhere, the sun was about to set and the harsh hot winds were replaced by cool breeze but this change came with the realization of the fact that:- WE WERE LOST.
Two days passed but the sign of any living creature except the four of us was untraceable. Our ration was completely exhausted and the sun was frying our bodies, blisters came upon our feet. Mirages were turning to show up. Especially, to Anupam….
At times Anupam would see a pool of water or an oasis, used to run in its direction, as soon as he realize that it was just a part of his fickle imagination, he would get upset. Then that blissful noon came when I first saw her.
Actually, Anupam saw a group of women in Ghaghara Choli, holding pitchers filled with water, he came running toward us and told us of his vision and I thought that a mirage of this kind would be treat for Anupam but only this wasn’t a mirage. As the group came nearer I find myself loosing conscious and my vision getting lost, voices of Akash and Vijay were getting dissolved in the background. I fell unconscious on the sand; my eyes were faintly open for half a second in which I saw a face, beautiful with bright brown eyes. Those were the best thirty seconds of my life.
I came to my senses in the evening, as I found myself lying on the bed. Akash, Vijay and Anupam told me that we are in a border village of Loungewala and this house of Sarpanch and I was unconscious for nearly three hours. The faint memory of the face which I saw just before getting insentient was faded by the elapsed time of three hours.
The evening was soon replaced by the cheerful night, full of stars with the full bright moon just to convert the harsh dragon heat of the desert into a fairy’s warm arms. We were asked to join our host for dinner and then joined him for to smoke hookah pot.
The Sarpanch spoke of bitter condition which they have to live in, the armies of both side also make their life miserable as both lay claim on this piece of land. A land full of sand and nothing else. Desert is the toughest of all kind of regions man has known to conquer. His conversations were serious, political, and religious and…. and boring.
As he was talking, I excused myself of for a little rest, while the three of them remain seated and inattentively listened to Sarpanch’s blabber which they don’t seem enjoy much but for the sake of courtesy they remain seated.
I have a habit of going for a walk before sleep, so I was walking around the village looking over those modest huts made out of fodder grass and a small amount of cemented bricks. The village was a beautiful canvas that was carved by the magnificent hands of an artist, I looked at the sky above, and it looked as a black blanket glazed with the peaceful white stars against the backdrop of silver sand dunes.
I heard someone moving round the corner of a street, I just started follow the sound of anklet which was music to my ears, she was moving fast, I could see her black curly hair shining under the moonlight, I had maintained a certain distance from her. I felt a jolt of attraction towards her; I somehow controlled myself and never let my presence felt.
She stopped under a street lamp for a while and started moving again, I thought that she had sensed my presence then I gathered some courage and called her ‘Excuse me…’
She stopped at once and turned around, that was the first time I saw her face. Her milky white skin texture looked even milkier under the vanilla twilight; I couldn’t help my eyes that were looking in her bright brown eyes, they carry so much light in them that it could brighten my days.
She had an expression of astonishment in her eyes but her lips possess a moving smile, then she spoke ‘haan?’ the sweetest sound I have ever heard. She asked again as I came to my senses.
I asked ‘I have lost my way, can you tell me where is Sarpanch’s house?’
She started laughing and said ‘It seems you have a habit of getting lost’ and then I remembered, those were the same bright eyes that I saw before getting faint.
‘Oh! Umm… thank you for saving me and my friends.’
She blushed and said ‘my pleasure.’ She spoke that in English.
I was shocked and bewildered, sensing my shock she continued ‘What do you think only city folks know English…Let me tell that we have good education facility in here…’ She spoke at a stretch for about an hour and I listened attentively to her, not because I was in shock but I wanted to listen to her melodious voice.
Then she said ‘Let me take you to the Sarpanch’s house’ her proposal was amusing and I happily agreed to this.
On the way she started humming one of her tribal songs. The melody hung in my ears though I couldn’t understand what she was singing so I asked for the meaning of the same and then she said ‘It is a song of parting lovers.’ I felt that it was weird.
We continued walking and talking till we reach our destination. The mud coloured house was the only one with its lights on in that area. The inmates were waiting for someone, probably me. I guessed, there were muffled voices when we came close to the door. I gently knocked on the door. She was standing beside me eagerly looking at the door.
Finally after several moments Sarpanch opened the gate and she sprang on him shouting “Bapu….” I was in mere shock and they never seem to notice my bewilderment and hurled me inside the house. She winked at me and sensing the fool I made out of myself, I smiled back at her.
The remaining night went in her thoughts, her eyes, her smile, her voice, I was getting restless and by the dawn I was determined of proposing her.
Soon the bright morning was lingering over about our heads and it was time to bid farewell but I don’t want to say goodbye to her without letting her know my feelings her. So I started looking for an opportunity to find her alone.
All morning I kept my eyes on her and when she went inside the kitchen, I got my opportunity. I made an excuse for water and went inside the kitchen. She was looking even more beautiful under the golden haze of the sun; I couldn’t control myself and held her by the wrist.
She tried twisting her wrist but without success she surrendered and asked “What do you want?” I replied “You…”
Long moments of silence passed by her dark hazel eyes never leaving mine, then with some courage she pushed me back and said “I don’t know what to say…. but I also kind of like you but…” then she came near to me kissed me on the lips and then ran away.
I was stunned by her act and went outside the kitchen, she was serving samosas to Anupam and I could barely stand him staring at her but then I looked at her she was smiling seeing me, I too managed to pass one.
It was evening again and it’s time for us to leave. We have packed and Anupam and Vijay were loading the carriage on the Qualis while Akash had gone to fetch some snack and I was waiting for her outside the old temple where she promised me to meet.
At last she came there, our conversation was short but and sweet. At the end she said “Why is it that you have to leave can’t you stay here?”
I don’t want to answer that question of her but there are duties beyond the duty of love, the duty of motherland and I had to serve her till my last breath. That was my oath an unbreakable oath.
With tear filled eyes she said bye and in return I could only make a promise to return. That was a dark night but at least I had her memories to sleep by…
One year later..
The war has begun. Pakistan had done it again; throwing our trust in the garbage and attacked us on our back. My base was the commanding post during the war. We had fifteen villages under our supervision and now as the cloud of war hung over the area. The defence ministry issued warning to these villages and base camps were asked to help evacuating these villages.
I was send with a troop to evacuate these villages and one of the villages I was eager to visit was the one in which she lives. In which ever village we went, there was chaos, people either had evacuated or in process to leave.
Then that day came when I finally entered the boundary of that village. I could the difference a war could bring to the geography of the place. People were senselessly running here and there. They claim to hear a loud roar from atop the hill.
They believed enemy had put his cannons and is getting ready to fire. I stopped one of the villagers who was running to the migrant’s trucks and asked “Where is the Sarpanch?”
He answered “They are mad he and his family won’t keep a foot outside their house until the whole village is evacuated. Hearing this I made a quick run through the village to get to her house.
Then I heard that earth shattering sound of cannons, one of the roof tops were blasted, I quickened my pace the sound now frequent and rushed to her house. When I was near to her house I saw a fireball striking the roof of the house, this followed by a subsequent blast which had thrown me on the ground I tried to get up but couldn’t.
Her body was bruised and burned, her eyes were open watching the darkness of the sky in which she left me, the star glittered upon her face, I moved near her kissed her forehead and then closed her eyes.That night my destiny left me with nothing but something hollow inside….