The Day The State Split Asunder-18
The Day The State Split Asunder-1814 mins 65 14 mins 65
April 30, 1999.
Eleven-year-old Adarsh got off the school bus and began sprinting towards his home with an overwhelming joy as the summer vacation is going to begin from tomorrow.
He is the only child of his parents born in a small village Karari situated about forty-seven kilometers away from the city Allahabad. Karari is located near to the famous pilgrim 'Chitrakut Dham' which was once the living place of great epic poet Tulsi das who had written the immortal poetic book 'Shri Ram Charit Manas'. His father Saurav Thakur works as an officer in the Indian Army while his mother Kavitha Thakur is a homemaker.
Every day before stepping into the home he checks for the letters in the letterbox clamped to his gate. Today there is one letter in the box. Being a remote village a lot many houses still rely upon the postal cards for communication as not every house in the village has a telephone connection.
Carrying the postcard inside, he set it down on the table in the front hallway and pulled off his shoes. The sharp, delicious scent of paneer curry wafted from the kitchen. He walked into the kitchen. His mother was singing and humming along to a tape of romantic film songs from a Bollywood film on the radio. The music punctuated by the sound of spluttering oil and the steady beat of her knife hitting the wooden cutting board.
"How was school beta?" his mother asked.
"Fine Maa. You got a letter."
She turned around. "Where is it?"
"I kept it in the hall on the table."
She stopped chopping and moved to the sink where she began washing her hands. Her hands were very small and shapely but covered in scratches from the many hours she spent gardening in the backyard. She wiped them dry with a dish towel, dabbed at her eyes, and went over to collect the envelope. She picked up the letter on the table and began reading it. A minute later, it dropped from her hand, she gripped the sides of the table and closed her eyes for a long time. She regained her composure and took up the letter again. She wanted to cry, but she couldn't as Adarsh came to the hall.
"Maa... What happened?" he asked, looking at her sorrowful face.
"It's nothing," she said, but her voice changed. "Go and change your dress."
"Is it from Dad?" His curiosity aroused, but his mother did not say another word; instead, she placed the letter into the shelf and went back to cooking trying to act normal.
Adarsh put on casual clothes and went out to play with his friends. His mother turned on the television after he left. News is pouring in of Pakistani infiltrators crossing the LOC and occupying the Kargil and Baltik sectors of Kashmir.
Suddenly both panic and despair surfaced inside her. She closed her eyes for a second with tears occluding and looked up at the ceiling, requesting for divine help
"Rama, please protect my husband," she said to herself.
The letter which she received was from her husband. He was supposed to come the following week but at the last minute, his leave was canceled owing to the burgeoning hostility between the forces of India and Pakistan.
Seven months ago she had undergone heart surgery and doctors advised her not to stress herself too much emotionally as it may build up the pressure inside her heart. With that realization, she wiped the tears and began chanting Ram mantra.
Two hours later darkness fell upon the village. Adarsh's mother stopped her chant and called him for dinner. After a quiet dinner, he got to the bedroom while his mother went back into the Kitchen. After washing all the utensils it is a daily routine to tell him the bedtime stories from Panchatantra, Vikramaditya, Ramayan, and Mahabharath.
She used to complete all the cleaning works by nine. But today, the time has already struck 09:30 and his house is quiet except for the sound of the cooler. Adarsh has been waiting for her but she didn't turn up. He must give her medicine and water before she starts telling the story. Seven months ago she had undergone heart surgery and the doctors warned her many times not to stress herself too much. But it is very hard to suppress emotions once it is up and running.
He got down from his bed and walked to the kitchen and saw his mother crying. Her chest heaved, her hands shook, and tears coursed down her cheeks. He hadn't seen his mother cry in years, and the vision made his heart freeze.
"Maa… What happened? Why are you crying?" he asked, paralyzed by the shock of what he had just witnessed.
She cleared her throat but didn't bother wiping away the tears which flowed freely. She hugged him close, whispering, "I am not crying beta."
"You didn't take your medicine," Adarsh said, wiping her tears.
"Go to the room. I will come in five minutes after washing the dishes," his mother said and brought her palm up close to his face
Adarsh went back to the room and climbed into bed. The moon was huge and gold, it winked at him through the curtains. His mother came to the bedroom. He gave her the medicine along with a glass of water and slept on her lap.
"Your father will come beta," there's no smile on her face. She began the story and fifteen minutes later, "So you see Adarsh… The moral of the story is you should never cheat on anyone. Always help others in need and when you give you always get back more in return."
"Maa... I will never cheat on anyone and I will always help others in need," he said in an assuring tone locking his palm into his mother's hands.
"And also, don't forget, When you give you will get back more in return," she kissed him on his cheeks, and soon he had fallen asleep.
She walked back to the kitchen and opened the letter again. She looked at the date and it's dated 20 April. Few teardrops fell on the paper. She wasn't able to sleep the whole night.
The following day, the sun rose upon the tranquil village. His mother immersed herself in making breakfast. Whenever she was troubled about something, she liked to stand at her gas stove and gazed out at the trees in her backyard through the window. Her eyes were swollen as she didn't sleep and wept the entire night thinking about her husband. The omelet was starting to turn brown. She quickly flipped it over and let it cook on the other side.
Meanwhile, the front page of the newspapers depicted the photos of the missing Indian soldiers from the line of control along with their names. The news traveled faster than sound and neighbors started flooding Adarsh's home as his father was also one among the missing soldiers.
Adarsh's father Saurav Thakur along with five other soldiers were on a patrol of the Bajrang Post in the Kaksar sector in the Ladakh mountains when they engaged in a firefight with Pakistani forces across the LOC. The patrol ran out of ammunition and they were encircled by a platoon of Pakistani rangers and captured all the Indian soldiers as prisoners of war.
Among those neighbors was forty-five-year-old postmaster Srivastav who is the only person in the village to have a telephone connection. Pushing all the neighbors aside he came to the front with his hands trembling.
"Kavitha behen," the postmaster removed his spectacles, "I got a call from your husband's office."
"What did they say?" she started shivering.
"I don't know how to say this."
"Please do tell me," she said, forcing a lump down her throat. "I am the wife of an army officer. I have the courage to swallow any kind of news."
"Behen, Your husband is no more. The Pakistani soldiers handed over the dead body of your husband. The army officials are going to bring your martyred husband in the afternoon to the home. They already reached Gwalior."
"I know…" she responded, coughing hard and holding Adarsh tightly. "I know one day I have to listen to the news like this. He left us… He left us in the dark..."
She started feeling a contraction in her chest and was finding it difficult to breathe. The next moment she collapsed on the floor, squirming and crying unable to bear the agonizing surge in her chest. Adarsh began crying, paralyzed by the shock of what he had witnessed. A few sprinkled water on her face but she did not respond.
"Let's take her to the hospital…" cried the postmaster.
The villagers carried her to the Government Primary Health Center. It was only after half an hour the doctor showed up. He checked for her pulse and heartbeat.
"She is no more," pronounced the doctor.
In a single day, everything in Adarsh's life had become topsy turvy with the sudden death of his parents. This terrible crisis was unfair and nobody prepares for such calamities.
Adarsh began crying bitterly looking at his mother. "Maa… please come back maa… I can't live without you maa… I will do my homework daily… I will study well and get good marks… Who will tell me bedtime stories daily…"
The memories that he had with his mother the previous night began playing in his mind. Everyone around tried consoling him. His legs felt weak. He kneeled down on the floor and cried. It was a heartbroken glimpse. The scene of his cries moved everyone to tears.
The postmaster looked after the formalities in the hospital and the body was shifted to his home. He informed his father's brother Brijesh Thakur who lives in Jhansi about the death of Adarsh's parents. In an hour his father's brother Brijesh reached the place.
Hundreds of people from the nearby villages made their way to the martyr's residence.
A truck carrying the coffin of Indian army officer Lieutenant Saurav has arrived. The army authorities brought down the coffin from the truck. His father's body was wrapped in white cloth from tip to toe. The reason being the savage torture committed by Pakistani forces.
Post-mortem examinations conducted by India reported that his father had suffered the most extreme torture as a prisoner of war. His father's hands and legs are burnt with cigarette stubs, ear-drums pierced with hot rods, teeth have been completely broken, fractured the skull, eyes had been punctured before being removed. They even cut his lips, chipped the noses, and amputated limbs and genitals.
People gathered over there raised slogans hailing Saurav and the Indian Army. The funeral procession started with the body placed in a decorated olive-green Army vehicle with the national flag draped over his father's body.
A large number of people waited along the route of the funeral procession to catch a glimpse of the body of the slain Lieutenant. People showered petals from rooftops as the procession made its way through the streets. Army officials and relatives carried the coffin to the cremation place before the last rites began. Adarsh broke down crying bitterly when the Army officials handed over the uniform and the tricolor flag that was used to drape his coffin. Personnel of Bihar 19th battalion gave a 21-gun salute to the fallen soldier.
With a screaming mind and a bleeding heart, he looked at his parents for the last time. Unfortunately, he couldn't see the face of his father as the body is completely wrapped with a white cloth. That was the final glance. His parents are ready for their final journey. He lit the pyre and very soon they were reduced to ashes. His uncle supervised the entire funeral rites and later took Adarsh along with him to his home.
"Adarsh Beta," said his uncle, trying to console him. "From today you will stay with us. It is only because of your Dad I am in this position. He is not just my brother but like a father to me."
The army welfare association for the state took the responsibility for Adarsh's education. He didn't want to stay in his uncle's house because he knew that his life was bound to be terrible under them. The reason being the property dispute between his father and his uncle.
Adarsh's father Saurav took good care of his father in his last days. His younger brother was a drunkard and often used to get involved in gang wars and quarrels. He always used to immerse himself in gambling games and as a result of his illegitimate practices, he contracted an upward debt of two lakh rupees. His father paid the entire debts and he even helped him in setting up a garment store in Jhansi.
After Brijesh got married his wicked wife poisoned his mind and compelled him to demand half of the share in the property. But Adarsh's grandfather was reluctant to give him the share on the fear that he may sell the lands and use the money in betting and gambling games. The entire property of twelve acres was written in the name of Adarsh's father. From then on there was no communication between his father and his family.
His mother's sister wanted to take Adarsh along with them but his uncle convinced them that he would take good care of him.
Seven years have passed ever since that worst nightmare of his parent's death. But that incident is still lingering in his mind. He spent his entire childhood devoid of happiness. His foster parents never took good care of him. They took him for granted. The army welfare association of India used to send monthly allowances of five thousand for Adarsh. His foster parents used to utilize the money on their kids. They never used to purchase good clothes for him and never took out along with them whenever they have gone for a vacation. Adarsh used to do all the household works like sweeping, getting the vegetables, and even cooked and washed the utensils whenever his aunt fell sick, but they never appreciated him.
One day in June, It was raining hard. Streaks of lightning were dancing across the sky, and rain bullets were beating across the windowpane of his room. As he looked outside, he saw the reflections of his miserable life in the downpour.
He didn't want to stay anymore in his uncle's house. He made a plan to get out and began executing his well thought out plan in motion. He already secured admission at PSU Engineering college in Lucknow and didn't inform this to his foster parents. He packed his best pants and shirts into a backpack. The day he came to this decision he straight away went to meet the lawyer who lives just two streets away.
Out of twelve acres present on his name, he transferred six acres in the name of his cousins Sandeep and Anjali, each with three acres. He requested the lawyer to look after the formalities of getting the land registered in the names of his cousins. He paid the fee to the lawyer and informed him to give them the documents tomorrow morning. Afterward, he went to visit postmaster Srivastav whose son works in a bank, and with the help of him, he was able to open a zero-balance account. As Adarsh now reached eighteen he is eligible to receive the amount straight into his account from the army welfare association.
Everything has been accomplished as decided and now he has reached the final task on his list and that is, to make an exit from his uncle's home clandestinely.
While he sat morosely in the room, thinking deeply at length about making an exit from the house, his cousin Sandeep walked into the room and shut the door behind him. Sandeep crossed his arms and stared at him for a long time.
Adarsh was tempted to tell him that today would be the last day he would ever see him, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He and his cousins became great friends despite his parent's treatment of him, and if he wasn't so broken on the inside he would've stayed a little longer just for him and his sister.
"I'm sorry about my parents." Sandeep sighed. "But I want you to know that I really liked having a brother like you a lot. Are you going to forget all about me and Anjali when you leave and start over? I can't blame you if you say yes."
"What are you talking about? I'm not—"
"Don't worry. As long as you are here you can achieve nothing. Go and do something big with your life and come back again to see me and Anjali."
Adarsh hugged him tightly. "I will come back."
"Anjali and I will always be on your side," said his brother. "Please don't forget us. Mom and Dad have gone to the temple and they won't be coming for one hour."
"I will never forget you both. I will call you once after I reach Lucknow. Study well and take good care of your parents, bye..."
He silently slipped from the home without turning back and took an auto to reach the Jhansi railway station. He purchased the ticket and boarded the Jhansi-Lucknow passenger train.
The following day after reaching Lucknow he completed all the pre-joining formalities. He took a small room for rent and with the help of one of the professors in the college he was able to grab a part-time job at a tuition center.
He managed attending the classes in the day and after college hours he spent three hours in giving tuition to students from grades six to ten. For four years it was usual routine and at the end of his last semester he succeeded in grabbing a job on campus. After completing his graduation he moved to Bangalore to begin his new life as a Software Developer at Alex Red Software consultants.
To be continued...