By Gautam Kumar Sharma, Batch of 2017
1 July 2015
Heat, sand and blood! It really is too much. It is my third day at this camp here. Everything here is ominously quiet. In the day, when the sweltering sun scorches over you, you can even hear the sweat moving from your forehead, dropping to your chin and then falling off in the sand in complete oblivion. Just like me, some poor soldier must be at some deserted godforsaken piece of land, unseen by the probing eyes of the world, those war mongering eyes sitting at high places making ‘tough’ decisions and showing their support by enjoying fine bottles of Cognac at their late-night parties! But more than that, I remember my mother. I can picture my mother, a woman of 82, white hair with a few strands of grey, clad in a white sari with a yellow border, ironically reading ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ on the porch and humming my childhood lullaby. How broken she was when I left her to serve the mother of us all. My officer tells me and my comrades to be ready for the war from across the border to our west. But I see no border, no fences; just sculptures of sand driven by the cold western winds, the peace and tranquillity of the land, only broken by abrupt bouts of gunfire which then reveal the ocean of mangled bodies dividing us.
4 July 2015
Rifles and pistols fire beside me. Mortar bombs tear the limbs of my comrades. Ricochet firing has us surrounded from all sides. The no man’s land in front of me is hard to see for it is covered with the dead bodies of men. There is no way to identify them now since they are dead. They all have died fighting for their mother, for this small piece of land that has claimed countless lives before and will gorge on numerous more now! This fight is about the honour and esteem of my mother, not only my country but my own mother who is sitting on the porch waiting for me, waiting for her Godot to return. But even in this war of honour, my heart falters. I can’t wait for this war to end, to see those promises which the authority has made to us, to be in the shadow of my mother again! To live those days of glory and fame and …Blood! My best friend just got hit by rouge cannon fire, his guts spilling over the floor of dead bodies on which he was standing! As the dry winds shepherd my friend’s soul away, I could feel a sharp jab on my shoulder just below the collar bone. I place my hand on it to support myself but it is wet. I am hit!
I wake up to the sound of hard banging on the thick steel door of my room, only lit by the light of fluorescent lamps trickling in through the bars on the top of the door. Describing this place as a room is not incongruous. It is more like a dingy gutter hole even deserted by rats who probably found it too difficult to stay there! On the left side, there is a narrow steel bunk affixed to the wall with heavy chains. There is a small sliding door at the bottom of the door from which the food comes in. I have stayed so long here (Sahib says 18 years) that I have forgotten the warmth of the sun tingling on the skin, the smell of the soil when raindrops wash over it and the sweet merry chirping of the birds in the morning sky. But I can hear the silent shrieks echoing off the corridors. I can feel the scratches made on the door by the prisoners before me. I can smell the bodies of the countless people whose bodies have decayed behind these walls. The darkness in my cell has percolated to my mind as well. Sometimes, I wake up at night (probably) dreaming about an old woman sitting on a porch humming a lullaby. I guess this memory is the only remnant of my past life. At present, I am waiting for my redemption. The noose on my neck would be the last piece of the jigsaw and death will provide me with the answers that life couldn’t. This is my last hope, my last wish!