Ganesh was sitting on an old wooden chair in the small backyard of the government quarter allotted to his father. His face was looking so pale. It was clearly visible that he is frightened of something. Anxiously, he was looking at silver scissors which were brutally cutting his hair. The irritating sound of flip-flops was making him more frightened. But somewhere in his eyes, there is a sense of safety which was obvious because this month his loving Father was cutting his hair as he was at home on his holidays.
After cutting his hair, he started massaging Ganesh’s head and he started giggling.
“Baba, can you please sing that song for me, which you were singing last time?” Ganesh said in his trembling and breaking voice because of the vibrating sensation he was receiving from his Dad’s Strong Hands. Ecstasizing it was.
His father laughed and started tickling his belly. Then he started singing in a nasal voice.
“sar jo tera chakraye, ya dil dooba jaaye, aaja pyare paas hamare, kaahe ghabraye, kaahe ghabraye.”
Ganesh was now rolling on the floor because of the tickle and his Father’s funny voice. He wasn’t able to catch his breath but couldn’t control his laugh.
His Father continued ” Sun Sun Sun, Arrey baba sun, Is chumpy main hai badhe badhe goon.”
They both were having a great time together. Every time his Father used to come home, Ganesh couldn’t control his happiness. He always felt a sense of protection around him, a sense of security which an eight years old kid couldn’t express in words.
But his happiness was about to take a long break as his Dad had to leave for Manipur the very next day. He has to report the next day as his holidays were getting over. He had to join his battalion the very next day. His father was the chosen one exclusively by Mother India- he was Lieutenant General in Indian Army.
That night while walking in the Quarter’s maidan, Ganesh’s father could sense his son’s unsaid feelings. he knows how to deal with it because of 3 reasons. first, these situations are recurring and the number of holidays he used to get can be counted on fingers. second, he knew his son better than anyone else in this world. Third and the most important, he himself was the son of a soldier.
he was about to break the silence by telling him fictional or some self-created stories of stars or moon but Ganesh asked a question which took Ganesh’s father into a dark cave of memories.
“Baba, How did Dada Ji die?” he asked with his glittery eyes, walking next to his Dad.
His Father wasn’t expecting this kind of question at this time. He got emotional but decided to answer it as lightly as he can. Some memories make you weak, some make you strong. But for a soldier, he finds his strength in those memories who generally makes people weak. He decided to answer his Son’s question as lightly as he can, but some emotions are beyond your control. They both sat on a bench under a street light, buzzing with mosquitos. he took a deep breath before replying.
“Your Dada Ji was a great man Gannu. He was not only my hero but a hero of the nation. In a war against Pakistan in 1965, while attacking the enemies he sacrificed his life for the nation. While dragging an injured soldier, an enemy threw a grenade towards them. He pushed the other soldier as forcefully as he could, but not even once thought about his own life.” he paused for a second and continued “I remember touching his feet early in the morning when he went to join his duty back. I was even younger than you. And when he came back, he was in a little Goblet. A soldier gave the ashes to My Mother and saluted smartly before leaving.” A cold tear dropped slowly through his left eye.
Ganesh was listening to each and every word very carefully. Instead of getting emotional, he shot another question.
“But Baba how do you know it was Dada Ji? I mean was there any proof of that? What if he is still alive somewhere in the nation, somewhere very far from us”
He smiled at his Son’s question and decided to take him back to the quarter.
That night, Ganesh cried silently, squeezing his head against the pillow. He was making sure that no one sees him crying. His pillow was wet and his heart was heavy. He didn’t want his Father to go away from him. He couldn’t understand the meaning of National Duty, what he could understand that that duty is taking his Father away from him.
Next Morning he saw his Dad getting ready for the duty. He wore his uniform, applied oil to his hair and was tying his shoelaces. Ganesh was watching everything carefully. He wanted to bid goodbye to his Father, but he couldn’t. It was just the beginning of his summer holidays and he will be badly missing his Dad.
Soon, the lights were off again and his Father was gone. there were still some hours left in the sunrise. He started crying again and this time his voice was a bit loud. Her mother came to him and started wiping his tears. She was a strong lady. He hugged his Mother tightly and asked
“Maa, when will Baba return from Manipur?”
She replied still holding him in her bosom ” Soon Gannu, Very soon. And he didn’t went to Manipur son, He went to Kashmir. Shekhawat uncle received a call last night that they have to reach Kashmir directly as there is some disturbance in the Kargil area.”
After sobbing for some time, He didn’t realize that when he slept. He saw a very strange dream. He saw his Grandfather, wearing the uniform, just like the picture hanging in the drawing room, and sitting next to him on the same bench on which his Father and he were sitting. He said to Ganesh that in that Goblet there were ashes of some other Soldier. He is still alive and living somewhere in Rajasthan.
Ganesh woke up with a thud but didn’t share anything with anyone.
After a couple of days, they received a call that a war has been declared between India and Pakistan and is at its full pace. Ganesh and His Mother stuck to the Doordarshan for all the updates and news about what was happening in Kargil. They tried hard to contact Ganesh’s Dad but it was of no use. Days became Weeks and week became Months but there was no news of Ganesh’s father. Fortunately, India tasted victory in that war but still, there was no news of Ganesh’s Father. His Mother used to see newspaper where they used to declare the list of soldiers who were declared Martyrs. Every name she reads in the list raises her heartbeat, thinking about the family of those soldiers. But there was no name of Lieutenant General Umakant Mishra. That gave her a partial relief, but was still worried and was eagerly waiting for his husband to come back.
One day, he came back, but not alone.
Another soldier came with him, pushing his wheelchair slowly. Ganesh’s Father lost both his legs in the battle. But he kept fighting not thinking about his legs much, till they tasted victory. Though he lost both his legs, he returned with his head high.
He saluted to Ganesh with a broad smile and Ganesh saluted back, crying because he was not expecting his Father in that condition. He always portrayed him as a tall, handsome and an ever-smiling man. He couldn’t see his Father’s lower Body. Though it was covered with a blanket, there was an emptiness he felt whenever he looked there. He couldn’t estimate the loss his Family has suffered, but he was immensely proud of his Dad – Lieutenant General Umakant Mishra.
28th March 2012
Ganesh softly opened the main gate of his flat, so that no one could feel his presence. He wanted to surprise his parents. His Mother was making food in the kitchen and Father was reading newspaper in the little backyard, where he used to have hair-cuts. He firstly bowed to his Grand Father’s Photograph in the drawing room and then directly went to Backyard to surprise his Father. His Mom saw him and was numb for a moment. She accidentally touched the hot utensil placed on the gas stove and screamed a bit in pain. Ganesh’s Father turned his wheelchair around to see what had happened to his wife. And what he saw was a smart soldier of around 6 Feet tall standing in front of him in uniform.
“Lieutenant Ganesh Umakant Mishra Reporting Sir.” He saluted smartly after placing some papers on his Father’s Lap.
His Father was literally into tears but was smiling.
“So where are you posted, Officer?” he wiped his tears looking directly into his Son’s eyes, who was not his son now. He was Son of Mother India- our Holy Bharat Maa.
“Where My Dada Ji is” he whispered.
“I beg your Pardon, Officer”
“In Rajasthan, Sir”