Last letter of Lt Ummer Fayaz
I get suspicious. Who delivered it? Oh, looks like the soldier didn't leave.
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Nothing interests me anything anymore. The soldier I met last month keeps following me. Wherever I go. I try to drive through the slogan-shouting crowds at Jantar Mantar, seeing a collage of angry, blank, aggressive, calm, hopeful and disillusioned faces.
Banners with demands for water, employment, solutions to farmers’ agricultural woes, demands to revive dying rivers. Demonstrators blocking the way to attract attention to the extinction of a rare breed of bats.
The soldier patiently watches me passing through all this and keeps following with his questioning eyes focussed on me.
I look at the political hoardings, huge cut-outs, new alliances, formidable looking coalitions against one party. Ganga, Krishna, Kaveri movements. Buddha’s message to look inwards for peace and tranquility.
I try to look inwards but I see the face of that soldier. He is not impressed and wants an answer. I try to run away but he, like a shadow, confidently comes along. His questioning eyes now terrify me. I try to collect some courage and look straight into his eyes. They have a question but I don't know the answer. I can't even decipher what he is trying to ask. I mumble, sir, please don't follow me. I can't understand what are you asking. Please leave me.
He doesn't say anything.
I hurriedly get into the International Intellectual Club. Order some grilled sandwiches and an iced coffee. It's so loveable. I take up some newspapers and see their special supplements. The news is hardly worth reading these days. So I look at the entertainment section. IPL matches. New teams. Young, unheard-of cricketers being auctioned at astounding prices.
The new food joints in Hauz Khas village. A famous chef has just arrived from Amsterdam with the most bizarre delicacies. Fashion divas’ summer shows. Property rates touching a horrible low in Gurugram. The poor, frustrated stone-pelters being subjected to another round of atrocious torture by the forces.
Some TV channels are sad and a few columnists asking for justice for the man, Farooq Dar, who was used as a shield in front of an Army jeep. A few of them even interviewed his mother and asked questions about his childhood, his dreams and how she felt when she saw her son in that condition. Very emotional interview.
In protest against government atrocities on the jihadi peaceniks, some journalists and award-winning authors want to return the ACs fitted in their bathrooms to a government agency. "AC wapsi" campaign by angry justice-seekers. But let the summer pass. It's so hot these days.
The soldier keeps watching me. He is not in a hurry.
I return home, fatigued and nervous. I look around - the road wears an eerie silence. Oh, the soldier must have gone back to his barracks, I suppose. Do they have ACs in their bunkers? Must be provided in this heat.
Some of them serve in Jaisalmer also. But then aren't they paid to live without ACs and face stone-missiles and bullets I suppose. It's all part of their job. Huh, that's not my problem.
It's shower time. Needed after a hectic day. Hot delicious food is waiting at the table. I won't take more than five minutes I tell myself.
At the table a note is kept for me. The domestic help pinned it there so that I read it unfailingly. It says:
We both left home at 18.
You cleared JEE,
I got recommended.
You got IIT,
I got NDA.
You persuaded your degree,
I had the toughest training.
Your day started at 7,
And ended at 5.
Mine started at 4 till 9, and
Some nights also included.
You had your convocation ceremony,
I had my POP.
Best company took you and
Best package was awarded,
I was ordered to join my paltan
2 stars piped on my shoulders.
You got a job,
I got a way of life.
Every eve you got to see your family,
I just wished I got to see my parents soon.
You celebrated festivals with lights and music,
I celebrated with my comrade in bunkers.
We both married.
Your wife got to see you every day,
My mother just wished I was alive.
You were sent to business trips,
I was sent on line of control.
We both returned.
Your wife and my mother couldn't control their tears,
You wiped hers but,
You hugged her but,
Because I was lying in the coffin,
With medals on my chest and,
Coffin wrapped with tricolour.
My way of life ended...
In the name of Allah, the merciful, they had killed me.
It was signed - Lt Ummer Fayaz.
I get suspicious. Who delivered it?
Oh, looks like the soldier didn't leave.
I have lost my appetite. I go to sleep. But the questioning eyes of the soldier are still staring at me.