“Good afternoon gentlemen! I am Major Rohit Singh.”
Awarded for bravery during the recent cross border skirmish, Major Rohit Singh stood addressing an eager audience of youngsters under training for the defence forces.
“It was a dark, stormy night, my footsteps hastened through the thick undergrowth. Crouching through the bushy terrain, hiding from the enemy flashlights and occasional bursts of fire were taking a toll on stamina. I whizzed past the hurdles determined to run over anything that came in the way. It was a life in question, the life of Joga Singh, my trusted aide ever since I wore the shining stars on olive lapels. Thoughts, footsteps and the raging storm interspersed each other and I felt trapped as if in a whirlwind.
Joga Singh was my appointed aide when I joined the unit as a commissioned Lieutenant, which was almost 7 years back. We were together through thick and thin, both professionally and personally. Unlike elsewhere, the senior-subordinate relationships are differently woven in the forces. Mutual love, respect, admiration and the courage to die for one another are primary. Such was also the spirit of Joga Singh, 15 years my senior in age and experience. His care for me did not end with the mundane daily needs of tea, food, a sparkling uniform and shoes shining to perfection. He was my mother, father and wife all clubbed into one. Such was the emotional connect!
A burst of fire shook me back to the present. The soft moans from the wounded lump of human mass on my shoulder reminded me where I was headed. Where was I headed? No compass, no headlights, each footstep was like a shot in the dark. The shot did hit the target and the light of a tiny bulb deep inside the thick vegetation and overgrowth caught my eye. A quick glance towards the left and I knew I was well within the Indian Territory. Taking the leap of faith I staggered and hit the door of the roofless dwelling throwing Joga Singh like a sack into a cavity.”
“Mian Javed?” the heavy Urdu touch alerted me and while I searched for my pistol, an octogenarian limped into my presence. Without wasting time in explanations, I just blurted out, pointing towards Joga Singh, “This man is profusely injured and needs medical aid.” I stood still waiting for a reaction, oblivious that the reaction was going to push me into a black hole……
“That is Javed. What is he doing with you?” “What?”, “no”……the only syllables I could blurt out. Persuasion and assurance followed in an attempt to establish that this was mistaken identity. I was told the man I had tugged along for endless miles was the most trusted enemy spy!! The old man was the handler. He could not have mistaken Joga Singh as the latter was paid a princely amount to compromise loyalties. I stood dumbfounded, as if struck by lightning. Thoughts raced back to fish out past moments when his over inquisitiveness of defence subjects had been brushed aside callously thinking it to be love for the motherland.
The next thing I knew, my sculpted dagger had slit two throats.”
The decision to kill him was to repay the emotional connect. Death was better than disgrace and humility of returning as an arrested spy. My conscious was not clouded and I felt lighter despite the betrayal.