TODAY -

Army Arrived at Lunch

Kamal Baruah *



They planned for a stopover at the gateway of North East leading to hometown Diphu. Hope to be away from all turmoil they faced endlessly there. But it wasnít actually happening. For God, being good, canít be responsible for everything happening. It is manís fate and Godís choice. The frontier city had been under siege by protesters at once they arrived in Guwahati.

There was Citizenship Amendment Bill violence on the street. Probably they carried the same suffer as they saw in Srinagar. My Fauji friend Paresh and his companion Deepali were holidaying for 25th anniversary. The cavalry regiment charged up the road in order to prevent chaos.

The banquet hall dinner had been cancelled and they preoccupied inside hotel before the curfew sounded. The more depressing news was that curfew imposed dusk-to-down for three days. Yet dissenters defied curfew leaving five casualties. The military operation had surrounded the city, cutting of internet services and compelling people to stay indoors.

They stayed so near yet so far. I wasnít able to meet them for fear of Army flag march. Our Kitchen experienced severe food crises. Finally the day-curfew had been relaxed on fourth day. Amidst relaxation of few hours, I quickly arranged all necessity for the household.

Being Sunday, a lunch was arranged at my residence. The wait was too long for I could finally greet them at my doorstep after two decades. Although, we couldnít see each other, social media helped us to contact sometimes. There was long chitchat over heavy lunch throughout the day of our good old days of New Delhi where we posted our first assignment after ab initio training. Those were fun and frolic moments of bachelor days in Western Air Command.

I took early retirement for ease of living from combatant service. He is now posted in Air Force Station Awantipur, 45 km away from Srinagar. Life of a soldier in the silent valley is uncertain and catastrophically unsafe. When a bullet from AK-47 could travel at double the speed of sound? And there is shelling along the forward post. They live under the unpredictable weather as any sunny day could fall to freezing-cold suddenly.

People remain inside as army patrolling along the road. Families arenít allowed to go but with close security. Jammu-Srinagar highway remains closed for traffic due to heavy snowfall on either side of the Jawahar Tunnel. The flights often cancelled while snowing heavily. There is no Internet service and ATMs run dry for cash replenishment. Soldiers are on duty 24X7. Army intensifies search operation inside cannabis that grows abundantly. Life is never easy as uniform personnel faced threat from militant.

We recalled those uprising insurgency at the talk over lunch. Our hearts go out to all soldiers who have been affected by unrest. Life goes on amid fears but the most unforgettable memory is the looming mountains that are caught postcard-perfect. The stunning snowfall hits the valley all of a sudden. Amidst the breeze, the long chains of mountain ranges dotted with olive green military posts.

The beauty of the dancing rivers changing with nature is beyond expression. Think of Kashmir in spring and what comes to mind is a valley in bloom. The landscape is fast changing with the onset of autumn. The Chinar (Maple) leaves acquire varied colourful hues of radiant red, mauve, amber and yellow. Oh what scenery, it could only be believed while one walks around.

We sipped milky tea in the afternoon while remembering hustle bustle of Shikaras and grace of the paradise that have been marred by years of militancy. But common Kashmiri is genuine and very hospitable towards its tourist. 19 Rashtriya Rifles is the guardians of the valley.

IAF has Garud Commando Force for internal security. Every army man feels proud of joining Rashtiya Rifles. They have loaded guns in action always and donít trust anyone even their shadow leaves in darkness. The war zone situation made innocent people harassed. We saw surgical strike Uri and Balakot through screen. Soldiers are facing QRT which is beyond the dreadful wild-weather.

The morning sun blurred their eyes from reflecting snow. Everyone wants a smooth hassle free comfortable life. But armed forces are bound to obey orders and go to war even for an unjust war.

Kashmir is in the decades of turmoil. Article 370 and 35(A) now revoked. Army accused for torturing Kashmiri. In spite of unrest, tourist thronged the valley in April to witness stunning view of the Dal Lake. It celebrates the blooming season of the magnificent Tulips. They described the everlasting road journey to Kargil-Leh.

We are inspired from their tale of visiting the holiest shrine of Amarnath Yatra. Weíre also amazed hearing huge production of apple when there is extreme winter for a year as insects die after heavy snowfall. The purity of people of Kashmir has changed our mind towards the valley.

We promised to meet them over vales and hills. Hope there wonít be any unprovoked shelling over Rajouri-Poonch. I would go besides the Jhelum and Indus, beneath the Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Ladakh. And neighbours wonít retaliate missiles befittingly at the cross borders.

A less formal meal was another way of satisfying hunger but soldiers were the guest of honour at the lunch. My family had the opportunity to see a true picture of Kashmir with a soldier deployed in J&K while the army clamped a curfew in my city. We enjoyed lovely and memorable lunch after all he is my fellow servicemen.


* Kamal Baruah wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a former Air Warrior and currently working for SBI Dispur. He can be reached at kamal(DOT)baruah(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on January 07, 2020.



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