A Solitary Traipse

A Solitary Traipse

The chilling winter air squirms up my spine making me shudder. I continue to crawl on the freezing, cottony white snow bed. I’m unable to feel my nose or ears even after pinching them hard. Snowflakes dance gracefully as they descend from the sky, falling on my eyelashes. I wipe them to keep my vision clear.

The sharp, sweet aroma of pine trees no longer lingers around. A searing acrid stench fills my nostrils instead. My parched throat begs for mercy. I stick my tongue out and lick the snow.  The sharp crystals slit my tongue in various places and I feel a warm, metallic taste in my mouth. I spit in disgust. 

It is difficult to discern how far I have come. I look behind and let an exultant sigh to have ascended the icy mountain to this point. But I regret losing my teammates. I decide to take a breath and lie on my back, facing the boundless sky. A warm orange tinge fills the sky proclaiming sunset and the arrival of moon along with her army of glittering stars. My chapped lips curve into a smile as I reminisce their love story that Padma had narrated- where the sun died each night so that his lover, the moon could live. I used to mock at her mushy heart that visualized romance even in inanimate objects! I miss her so badly now. Her warm hug to thaw my freezing body. Her passionate kiss to assuage my perturbed heart.

I try to get up and walk. A shooting pain swarms up and I stagger and plummet numerous feet down. Perplexed, I touch my right leg. I feel numb below the knee. I can’t see a thing in the dark. I cringe as my hand touches something soft, sticky and pulpy. I construe what that is. So the bullet hadn’t just grazed my leg.

Dragging my leg, I clamber again with equanimity. To distract myself, I drift my thoughts to the one who conspicuously hoists my diffident spirit- my four-year-old Nina. How I miss her non-stop chatter! 

Reaching my pocket, I retrieve my prized possession- the letter I had written for Padma and Nina that I make sure to carry on every mission. We soldiers inevitably prepare ourselves for each operation as if it’s our last. My badge rips off. I glance at it- Major Uday Verma. Placing it inside the envelope, I kiss it one final time.

Stranded in the middle of nowhere, having lost contact with my base unit, I inch ahead with tenacity.

Not afar, I spot the enemy bunker. I hear loud cheering. The b@$***ds are celebrating their victory, assuming to have eliminated my entire team. I sneer at their overweening pompousness. They committed a grave blunder of shelling our camp. This wounded tiger won’t rest until they are all annihilated.

I don’t wish to take a chance. Tethering the sole bomb onto my waist, I valiantly infiltrate their cantonment bellowing Bharat Mata ki Jai!!! 
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Shilpa Keshav
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