Monday, 27 May 2013

A SOLDIER ON THE RUN



I saw the man beside me take a bullet in the chest and then crumble with a shriek when he was only halfway through the story that he was telling me about his wife and the children in the lull. I would never come to know if he was forgiven by his wife who had been keeping awake on the night he had not returned from a party with his friends during his vacation back home. The ghastly murder of the soldiers around had made me feel sick and I was not in a mood to count whether we were going to lose or win because I had decided that I would leave the place of mindless slaughter. I did not think it necessary to defend the cause of my escape from the place as I knew that when a soldier flees from the battlefield, he is hated both by the enemies and his friends. But I did not want to stay back to prove my support for the cause because I wanted to leave and tell the people in the vibrant world the story of how one kills the other in a war simply driven by the urge of cruelty and hatred based on the mindless motive of furthering a cause that will lead to the annihilation of mankind. Yet I was filled with trepidation as I could conjure up picture of the way I would be treated if I was caught. But there was no way I could waver and I wanted to flee and surface in the world of men where people still dreamt of loving one another and left the dreariness of the night to greet another dawn of love and hope.
 I knew that my urgency to leave the place where people in battle fatigues were mindlessly killing one another holding on to their vain ideals of patriotism, tempted me to grow philosophical contrary to the sermon of the training that a soldier was not supposed to think of anything but the end of his enemies. But here in the jungle of death there was another volley of fire and I had to do something to keep alive as I could feel the people fighting against us making a steady advance as most of the people belonging to our post were wounded or killed. It was not the time to retrace my steps and I had to fire on the approaching people I should refer to as enemies. But I did so with reluctance and there was a prompt reply, though there was no casualty as most of the men who had been fighting alongside me had been killed. Should I come out of the place and surrender to the people saying that I did not believe the way people were killing people?  I knew they would mock me and take me to their camp to exhibit me as the biggest find from a world of cowardice and foolishness. Though I was well concealed to evade the steady flow of the bullets, I knew that they would be here any moment and then I too would have to be killed if I wanted to fight back.
 In life there are situations when you have to do things that you do not do because you want to do but you have to do because the situation so demands. Suddenly a hail of bullets tore a part of the ridge where I was hiding and the impact of the fire startled me out of the balance sending me down with a sudden jerk. As I was plunging below to the depth of the place not known to me, I knew that it was death but the feeling of peace though somewhat frigid, seemed to enlighten me about the uniqueness of a fall. But when I finally landed on the ground of soft mud, I realized I was alive though every cell of my body was aching like I was numb. Nearly dug in the sot mud of what seemed to be the exposed bed of a river, I felt as if was in the womb of the mother. I did not know where I was but I felt happy that I was far out of the fire of the enemies or that of the scheme of a war perpetrated by the war mongers. I lay there for some time, trying to collect my thoughts and found that it was my eagerness to run away from the place that had defined the fall. I probably wanted to fall so I was here. But that I had been able to do it without killing myself or any of the men who wanted to arouse the sharp shooter in me filled me with delight. I continued to lie in the soft mud and when I looked round, I saw some deer drinking water on the other side of the stream, though they did not seem to take note of me. A soldier who was on the run could not even frighten the deer and I wanted to laugh as if one of the many who had died fighting the intrepid enemies was cracking a joke with me but I did not feel like pitying myself.
I was now happy to be a vegetable that did not ever frighten anyone nor was it frightened. But the reality could not banish from my mind the nagging fear that I might be found by the enemy. I extricated myself from the wet warmth of the mud and came out on to the bank of the stream. I looked as far I could and saw a small village on the extreme end of the plains where I was. I began to walk towards the village and decided to reach it before the men of war were after me. I walked for several hours or rather dragged my feet and by the time I reached the village, I was hungry and too tired to take a single step forward. When the village was in view, I lay on the ground as if I was finally home. Then after some time I pulled myself up with the last ounce of strength and found myself tottering. But I did not care for anything and began to shamble towards the village. I do not know for how long I walked and with several falls and injuries, when I finally arrived in the village it was close to that hour of the night when people abuse their dreams in their curtained sleep. But I had to be wary of the house at the very beginning as the cottage still had light. Walking stealthily, I went round behind the hut and lay there hidden, trying to think about how the people would react to the discovery of a fugitive from the battlefield. While lying there, I peeped into the room of the cottage and found a child studying at that hour of the night. I was amused and began to look, taking in the sight of the cottage. As the boy read there was no one in sight. I loved to sit there reclining against what seemed to be a sack filled with some chopped pieces of wood to be used as fuel. As the boy read, my breath seemed to echo the letters he recited. Each of the letters he read aloud seemed to tell me the significance I had learnt when I was child. As he read I became at one with him, feeling in me the innocence of a child and my fear of being caught or being exposed began to melt away. I began to take a lesson in life full of purity and goodness with the eager breath and lisp of a child and that seemed to be the only weapon to fight against the malice of the warmongers and the death merchants. The eastern sky was beginning to change and the child who was reading was doing so to please his father so that he would return from the war.

I kept looking at the photograph that had slid out of the pocket of an enemy we had killed with a passion and the child in the photograph resembled the boy. My heart ached for my child who had taught me the lesson of life and now I had to relieve him from his lesson and smother him with kisses, whispering in his ear that his father had sent me to him. 

Image courtesy Google images