Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pratap Talkies -- Adolescent Fatiques (Part II)

Please read part I, for an introduction. There would be self-contradicting happenings, but since this is directly from my dream, logical correctness was not part of the deal.

Somehow I manage to get off the grip of the Tigers, and run off. The escape was easier than I had expected and I have a feeling that they might have staged it, hoping to lead them to something, like a bee homing to its hive.

Then I looked in my hand, and there was a paper stub. I automatically knew that my mission was to take this piece of paper to somebody. I did not know who it was, not did I know where he is. I also knew I had to go north (this is contrary to current state of the SriLanka, where the northern part of the island is under the tiger control and I am a army regular).

I started from the front-line in the middle of the jungle and headed north. The jungle was thick, and was not too green like I had imagined. There was a footpath through the jungle, and I jogged for the most part. My army boots were sturdy enough for the long journey. The hard sole crushed pebbles and any small creatures which were unfortunate enough to tread across my way. I was happy to have those boots, (and military fatigues) other than which I had nothing on me worthy of a soldier's attire. The Tigers had disarmed me, and I had no rifle, or the standard small arms pistol (I did not miss my army knife, because I am not a fan of knifes). An unarmed man in army fatigues, running into enemy territory is quite comical, but I had a mission to finish.

Then I entered a village and it was early morning for I had walked most of the night. I was hoping to get some water and possibly some food, but was quite apprehensive. More importantly, I had to find the person to deposit the paper in hand. I meant a 50 year old man, who looked decent, and so I asked him if he knew. He looked at the paper, and told me that the person that I need to see was in a town, some distance north of that village. He also told me that the paper I had in hand was a cheque, and there were no banks around. So, I exchanged it with him for its worth. (I never took the effort to read the paper). So, taking his advice, I headed further north.

There I entered a town, and managed to find the house of the person I was looking for. The road surprisingly looked like Lakshmanaswamy Street, KK. Nagar, Chennai. His house was at the corner of an intersection, and was easy to find. I knocked on the door but there was no answer. There was a back door, through which I entered and found him sleeping. I carefully woke him up, and was afraid I would scare him but surprisingly he woke up and kept his cool. He was very concerned about me, and before I told about the journey, I conveyed my hunger. He fed me well.

After I ate, we sat in the same armrest-less dining chair and we talked. I formally identified myself, with my name and ID, and then narrated my first encounter with the tigers. I told him about the piece of paper which I was supposed to be delivering to him and how I got cheated on the way. He asked me not to worry about it and was happy I made it to him. He told me that the information about the Tiger advancement was critical.

He then told me that the tigers would have reached this town and since it does not have any military installation would fall quickly. He took me to another room and opened a cupboard. He was very well equipped with an array of M16s. I was surprised at the preparedness of the man.
I took a M16 and provisioned myself well with 2 magazines. I did not see any reason to carry an assault weapon then, but he assured me that the tigers would be here soon and they would get to his house.

Since we two were the only people in the house, defending it would be quite difficult against a determined well organized Tiger squadron. We drilled holes in the concrete wall, to aim and shoot from inside. In urban warfare this is common procedure when a smaller unit is holed up in a house, they cannot use the windows for firing because of larger exposure area, and the weak barrier. Firing through drilled holes in the walls gives good protection against enemy fire and shrapnel and the position is hard to find. I made 3 such positions and bedecked each with a couple of M16s. If I died there, I would have at least fought to finish.

I was busy getting nervous, when he suddenly suggested that I get out of the house. He told me that, the mini-fortress was impossible to defend and will only end in death. He noted my young age and asked me take one rifle and get out of the town. I obeyed his word because he was confident he himself could inflict the quite a damage on the approaching enemy and since he was a senior officer I had to follow his order. I moved out of the house, in civilian clothes, and could not believe my eyes at the peaceful neighbourhood. Only I could see the fortress in the sleepy town on a warm afternoon.

I was resting my rifle on my shoulder, standing at the intersection, carelessly choosing a direction to go. At about half a kilometer, there was a tiger squadron of about 7-8 soldiers which is when I realized that the enemy was here. I realized I had to act soon, and checked out the other three roads and no tigers were in sight. I knew that since the house was the target, they would come in all the four directions. If they find me, the M16 would ID as an army regular, and they would be happy to empty their magazines on me. And while I was contemplating my direction to flee, there were Tigers in all the four direction. I placed my M16 under a moped parked nearby and decided to proceed along the widest road.

I was walking nonchalantly on the shoulder of the near empty road which had almost zero vehicular traffic and carefully noted the buildings around in order to run into. I was planning to just walk past the approaching Tiger squadron and completely ignore them. As soon as I had decided on this plan of action, I noticed that they had started firing at the sidewalk users and three men went down. I had to get off road in order to avoid death. There was a school playground where some girls were playing soccer. I jumped over a wall into the ground and hid behind the parapet wall. I eagerly waited for the Tigers to cross my position and raised my head and checked to verify. They had walked past the school and were about 50 meters away. I was happy to have evaded them and jumped over the fence and landed softly. I started slowly walking in the opposite direction hoping that the dangers over but the house would be surrounded soon.

I was increasing my pace when suddenly one of the Tigers looked behind and saw me walking. Even though I was in civilian clothes I knew my time was over as I could see him drawing other soldier's attention to me. I was not sure if he was interested in me or the two other civilians who were happily ignorant of the impending danger. But soon I heard automatic fire and bullets ricocheting on the tar road surface. I dropped on my knees and rolled to the shoulder (the shoulder was about 20 cms lower than the tar road surface) and I hoped to hide from the line of sight. There I lay on my back, and tightly closed my eyes afraid of the danger and more importantly the dirt blew all around me from the impact of the projectile bullet on any hard service. Then about after 30 seconds the automatic fire stopped, but I was playing playing dead, not that I had any other option.

About 2 minutes later, there was a single shot and it landed pretty close and I knew that someone still remembered me. Now, as I was looking at the sky, and nervously waiting for my death, there was one more shot and landed equally near. I realized that there was only one person and he was using semi-automatic mode in his assault rifle. I hoped he would just go away and leave me alone. It looked like he had taken his firing position and I was his target practice. Finally after several close shots, there was a hit. A bullet braced my tummy and made a 1 cm cut diagonally starting from the right hip to the left chest. It was just a external wound (skin tear) but I knew that the Tiger soldier was getting better at this. Then there were three more shorts each of which entered my stomach and was lodged inside.

The semi-automatic fire stopped after than. I lay there, immobile and nothing to do. I hoped my intestine absorbed most of the stopping power of the bullet as anything else means a bleak future. I did not feel any pain, but was much agonizing as though someone very close to me was getting shot at (may be in dreams can one actually feel pain??). Somehow I was at peace and was both sad and happy at the same time. I was sad because, even though I had enough firepower to stop the whole squadron, I chose to drop my weapon in a failed attempt to flee. But then again, in this whole bloody war, I did not kill anyone. I am completely innocent. What was the point of all this? Why did that guy kill me when I chose to stay in the path of non-violence?

I then remembered the book Catch-22, and how the illogical, maddening arguments Joseph Keller puts forth made sense like never before.



Blogger The girl said...

I was not able to enjoy the story... but I guess this is a documenting exercise for you... Probably you will be amazed at the high resolution dreams that you get :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 3:03:00 PM CDT  

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