Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Truth is stranger than fiction and the least we human can do, not to be surprised and tormented by it, is accept it. The relationship between India and Pakistan which used to be worth a masala film prior to 70's, is presently a fitting story to be a Balaji production. However, situation had had never been so- lets say not friendly, to be modest. There were days when Ashfaqullah Khan followed Gandhi with greater spirit than he ever followed Jinnah.
I, along with my grandfather, am sitting at the Wagah border. Thanks to my brother, who is in BSF we managed to get to the VIP seats. He is going to be a part of the retreat ceremony today, so indeed I am excited.The atmosphere and delivery of slogans at Wagah border is something you can only know by experience. The heat of the situation is palpable to be said the least.
My grandfather is an old man. He was a freedom fighter who lost his left leg in one of the fights against the Britishers. In our childhood days, we often asked him to tell us the stories of his and Mohammad Nabi's adventures. Mohammad Nabi was his fellow comrade who lost his life in Quit India Movement. My grandfather always speaks highly of him. He was a brave man born to parents of a Lahore based family. His family resides in Lahore now. Once after the freedom, my grandfather went to Lahore to meet his old friends and from there he brought a photo of Nabi's family. He was survived by two sons, about whom he learned later on the elder died of some contagious disease. The elder is survived by his only son, who would be of nearly my age.
Both the sides are shouting patriotic slogans to the most their parched throats can afford. Whenever any side bursts into forceful shouts, the other side replies with an even forceful-er shout. The stands are full up to the the brim on Indian side, or rather overflowing. People are standing on iron fences and railings surrounding the stands. The Pakistani stands are pretty full, however a fine number can still be spaced in. Both sides are playing patriotic songs making their respective people dance on the roads. Though girls are common to be seen dancing on Indian side, and reverse is true for across the gate. People are still pouring in on both sides, a good number of foreigners can be seen pouring in from Indian side. The other side lacks it, thanks to their military, militancy and religious idiosyncrasies.
The ceremony has begun, a comrade of my brother is shouting in the mike, held by the anchor of the evening, with a vigor and enthusiasm that seems unending. He said the first word 'squad', with what seemed to be an infinite stretching. The later words were incomprehensible.
Two of the Indian BSF men marched up to the gates. The marching with legs rising higher than their heads got an applauded spectators, however with time passing they became a common feat. The same events were occurring on the other side. A Pakistani Ranger came marching forward with a tantamount vigor, with anger and flared noses as if he is going to over run the gates. Both the soldiers turned coming in front of each other at the gate, and started forming a line at the edges of the their own roads. Similar feat was repeated by other two soldiers.
My brother was of the last two to march. My bristles were standing, and I was getting virtual jolts as he passed in front me and my grandfather. There was a glaze in my grandfather's eyes which we rarely used to see, and the rare moments were when he used to describe his fight against the Britishers. I could see that shine in my brother's eyes now! The glaze which could even send tremors through the Gods of War. Two bearded Pakistani Rangers marched towards the gate.
My brother was the one from India's side who was supposed to bring back the National Flag, and a bearded Ranger from the Pakistan's side was supposed to do the same. Both competed with full gusto to see who shall be the fastest with proper respect.
Both sides folded their respective flags and rolled back to their own buildings. The Retreat Ceremony was over.
I met my brother later, he was sweating and his glaze was fading yet it showed its existence. He came and touched my grandfathers feet and asked him, 'did you see the Pakistani Ranger who was removing the flag?'
My grandfather calmly replied,'was'nt he Nabi's grandson!.'
I was left aghast. My brother knew it the very moment he saw him approaching, yet his ferocity did not dampen at all, and my grandfather to whom he was alike his own grandson did not flinch at all. My grandfather would have done the same if he had been in my brother's place, and if in a fight my grandfather would'nt have a hesitated a bit to slaughter him.
That is what duty is, and that is what truth is!