I couldn’t tear my eyes off those steel grey eyes frecked with another deeper shade of grey, looking deeply into mine. Those impossibly brilliant diamonds that had ceased to shine. He had left. Left me into a deep dark alley. Left me alone, alone to fight the void that he left in my soul, alone to swallow the lump which permanently occupied my throat choking me, making it difficult to breathe.
This has become my only occupation in life. Lighting a deeya in front of this magnificent picture of Late Captain Viren Singh in his army uniform, proudly looking at the camera. Changing the wilted flowers, dahlias his favourite, placed yesterday in a vase in front of his picture. Doing all this just to make myself accept the fact that he’s really no more.
I can hear my son practising his shots on the imaginary enemy, that endless racket of the toy bulletes admixed with the shreiks of the dying enemy soldiers. As I light the deeya I notice some movement by the main door, a reflection in the glass pane framing Viren’s picture. I turn around and am horrified to see Ranjeet. Captian Ranjeet Singh, Viren’s best friend and colleague.
Ranjeet has his bandaged arm tucked in a support hanging from a loop around his neck, evidently a fracture. Half of his face looks brownish from the scalds. He is on a wheelchair which he’s operating with the other unhurt arm. Ranjeet wears the same expressions as Viren, same pride, same glint, but this time I notice a hint of pain, a hint of grief and a sense of loss, a profund loss.
“I’m sorry Rohini. I’m really sorry. It should have been me.” the grief spilled onto his cheeks from his eyes.
” You were there with him Ranjeet, tell me everything. How did it happen? Was it very painful? Did he hurt badly? Tell me everything in detail Ranjeet.” Rohini almost lunged towards him, forgetting to even ask him to come inside.
“We were seething with anger after the Uri attacks. We were humiliated. Our soldiers were’nt even given a chance to fight. They butchered them in sleep. Those Bastards.” Ranjeet was shaking with anger. His fist curled into a tight ball. “We needed to retaliate,we needed to tell them that we knew how they operated, where they operated out of , who were their masters and where they trained. We needed to hit them where it hurt most. We trained hard, did reorientation exercises and were just waiting for a nod from high up. And finally launched ‘Operation Retribution’ in the early hours of 26/11. The pristine white of the snow covered landscape soon got painted red. We took them all out but one. He was hiding somewhere in the woods, he took us by surprise as we were about to retreat, successfully having achieved our retribution. But he charged with his AK 47 shooting blindly in an arc. We shot back but his bullet had found a couple of targets one of them being Viren. No Rohini he didn’t hurt, the bullet caught him in his chest. He passed away immediately, wearing a smile on his lips. He had achieved retribution.” Ranjeet was breathless as he told Rohini of the most critical operation of his life. An operation that had caused him his dearest friend, his career in the army and both of his lower limbs. His spine had been damaged irreversibly.
“Viren’s life is but a small price to pay for the pride of this great nation.” Said a brave widow of a brave warrior.