It was on a winter Sunday in Delhi that I discovered that I was a proud Indian citizen. Not only me but at least hundreds of cowardly citizens did on that gloomy Sunday.
I was shopping with my wife near or around the Chandni Chowk area. It had been a very long day as we had been scoping each and every street in this historic bazaar area. As was our habit, we had our lunch at the Gurudwara Seesh Ganj. My wife was passionate about going to the Gurudwara, and whenever we did, we would not miss the Langar.
Night had already set in and the crowd on the streets was sparse. As we walked towards the Metro station, we could hear a loud scream followed by the visual of a young girl running madly towards us. She was not alone, for she was being followed by four boys who, it seemed, were chasing her and trying to apprehend her. The girl was shouting for help and it was soon obvious that she was in some kind of trouble with the boys who were chasing her.
As this was unfolding before our eyes, we could also see that the boys were armed. Three of them were carrying fierce-looking knives with long blades flashing intermittently as it appeared and disappeared in sync with their running motions. The fourth held a pistol or a gun. They were shouting at the woman to stop or she would pay the price with her life.
It was clear that the man with the gun did not want to shoot the girl and that they wanted to catch her alive. The girl was constantly and desperately shouting at all and sundry for help.
Ordinary men and women on the streets are not usually brave. In fact, ordinary men and women like us are cowards of the highest order. We invariably choose the flight option when faced with danger, and this clearly was one such situation where the danger was clear and present. The girl was running in our direction and fear had frozen us. We stopped in our tracks and our minds had gone numb with fear. I shouted at my wife to run, but neither of us was able to get our kinetic energies flowing. So there we stood the two of us, right on the pavement with the girl and her predators shouting and rushing towards us.
As I said, we were frozen into paralysis and we were hardly aware of what was happening around us, for our eyes were only on the approaching disaster. Just as the girl reached us, she grabbed my wife and fell at her feet, pleading her for help. It will only be minutes before the armed assailants would also be on us. I was now ready and willing to run for my life, but my wife was now struggling to free herself from the woman. I could not leave her and run. I, therefore, grabbed the girl and tried to tear her away from my wife.
The assailants were now upon us. One of them caught hold of the girl’s hair and jerked her head backward with violent force. The girl shrieked in pain, let go of my wife and fell back. Now, all the four hoodlums were upon the girl, kicking and beating her all over her body. It was then that I looked around to see if someone can help us, for it was clear now that the goons would not let us run away. The street wore a near-deserted look as those few who were present would have surely distanced themselves from the spectacle. I feared that something bad was going to happen to the girl and us on this fateful day. The boys with knives were now threatening to stab her and were waving the weapons at us also.
Just as I had given up hope and was resigning myself to our fate, I could see a young jawan running towards the scene of violence. He was tall and was wearing army camouflage. I was already pleading with the assailants to let us go and my wife was threatening them with dire consequences if they did anything to the girl or to us. One of the men advanced threateningly at my wife and pushed her violently. He waved his gun at her and was ordering her to shut her mouth or else he would fire.
The young jawan pounced on the predators with trained agility and soon the four grouped to neutralize this new threat. A scuffle followed and the jawan shouted at the three of us to escape. He was asking us to run for our lives and that he would handle the goons. My wife and the girl took the cue and ran hard, with me closely on their heels.
I looked back to see what was happening to the jawan. He was there alone, but fighting like a tiger. He had somehow put down two of the goons and was now having their knives. However, I could see that he was waging a lone battle. I heard the gunshot, a soft plop that sounded more like a firecracker going off during Diwali than the loud noise that guns in movies make. The bullet caught the jawan in his shoulder forcing him to drop the knife. The two goons whom he had sent sprawling on the pavement had recovered and the four were upon the jawan now.
In that split second, I made the decision. Here was a brave boy and a soldier of the nation fighting to save his life in an attempt to help us save ours. He had no business to get involved but as a jawan, he was perhaps taught that it was his duty to protect his country and it's people from any danger. And there was me, running away from trouble to save my inconsequential life. I have done nothing for my country and was always enjoying at the cost of the government. While all my mortal instincts were crying at me to run away, there was this new voice inside me that wanted me to go and stand with the jawan.
It suddenly occurred to me that these assailants were not just common hoodlums. They were enemies of Mother India and were about to kill one of the most loved and worthy sons. These were sons who braved everything to keep India and it's people like me safe and comfortable. This was not just an incident of law and order. These hoodlums were attacking India and I was running away to save my worthless life.
I dropped the bags and rushed towards the goons shouting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. I do not know why I did it, but suddenly I was not just a common man on the street who likes to see nothing unpleasant. I was no more the coward that I was. For the first time, I was an Indian and a proud Indian. This was my city, my country and these invaders had no right to defile it. They had no business to kill anyone, let alone a single braveheart jawan.
Before I realized what had happened, I was upon the goons like a mad warrior. My life was no more threatened and I no more thought of what would happen to me. The jawan looked at me and laughed. He had heard me say “ Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. Now he looked at me and shouted in a patriotic frenzy “ Jai Hind.”
It is funny when you think about what will happen to you. This small thought turns you into a selfish coward. The moment you win over this thought, you have changed. Energies flow like the mighty Ganges river and you can feel it's strength in every bone and limb, in every vein and nerve. The energy rushes into your head and you have no thoughts, no insecurities, and no fears.
It took the two of us just five minutes to deal with the goons. They knew they were defeated and what fell on them were not just two frail men but the might of the Indian Army.
Even as they tried to escape, we saw a mob of citizens giving chase and catching them. Then it was mayhem. The four assailants had no chance to escape. The mob was upon them and their full frenzy was unleashed on the four.
Before the police arrived, the angry mob had finished its job. The four assailants, four enemies of India lay dead on the streets of Chandni Chowk and the cries of “Jai Hind”, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” was renting the winter night, piercing the fog that was like a white blanket, a shroud, If I may say so for the dead enemies.
I was hugging the jawan and thanking him. He was crushing my bones and thanking me and applauding my bravery! We were in between joining the crowed that was praising their Motherland.
I could not see hundreds of cowardly citizens of India. I could only see the hundreds of proud Indians including me who had suddenly discovered that they were sons and daughters of this great country.
I felt strangely proud for two reasons that night. I had lost my fears and had suddenly discovered my brave self; and then, most importantly, I found the real Indian in me. How can I ever thank the jawan who showed me who I really am!
“Jai Hind! Jai Bharat!”