Sunday, September 25, 2011

Scars


“So you say we discuss the matter today?” asked Koch nervously.
“Yes, unless you want to change your mind!” said Jite mischievously.
“Of course not!” replied Koch rubbing his hands.
After a few minutes of silence, Koch asked “Do your parents know that I am a Qal?”
Jite looked at him and exclaimed impatiently “Yes, they do. Do you think these things matter? My parents are broad minded and are going to be least bothered about this”.
“I suppose these things still matter” said Koch and then muttered under his breath “At one time it was all that mattered”.
Jite grasped his hands tightly and said fiercely “You know I can never marry anyone else”.
“Yes, I love you with all my life too” said Koch, sweeping his fingers over her hair.
“It is time to leave” said Jite “Dad would also be back from the travel agency as well.

They were at Jite’s house within the next 20 minutes. Jite’s parents, Tru Tet and Lola Tet greeted them warmly.
Tru put his hands on Koch’s shoulder and led him in.
“Please be seated” he said to Koch warmly. “Jite has been telling us all about you since quite some time. It is good to finally meet you”.
“My pleasure as well” said Koch politely.
“Son, will you have some tea?” asked Lola.
“No, I am fine” said Koch.
“Well, Mom. Koch drinks lots of tea. So please get him some” said Jite.
“Jite knows you very well already!” laughed Tru.
“Sir, are you generally home by this time every day?” enquired Koch.
“You may know that I attend to customers seeking foreign tours with our travel agency. Yes, I am home quite early always.  All for more time with family” said Tru winking at Lola & Jite.
“Ha, and what about all the years when you were constantly out of home?!” exclaimed Lola.
“Well, that was when Dad was in the armed forces” explained Jite. “He was constantly out of home and travelling”.
“Yes, it wasn’t easy” said Tru. “Also, we tend to forget today that there were troubled times around 15 years back and there a lot of stress then. You may not know much of it, Koch, since you would have been a small boy at that time”.
“Not know much of it….”, whispered Koch to himself slowly.
“What did you say Koch?”, asked Tru.
Koch came out of his thoughts suddenly and said “I was asking what you did in the armed forces, Sir”.
“I was in the air force. I am not sure if you know the mission in which the dreaded militant Xat was killed? I was part of that mission and also received an award from the government for the same” said Tru proudly. “See the trophy there” Tru pointed to the wall cabinet.
Koch stared at the trophy, his mind racing back to the events of that day 15 years back, which he could never forget.

On the Ground (Sarla Town)
“Mom, I hear the sound. I think the planes are here again today as well” cried Koch hugging his mother Rupe tightly.
“Nothing will happen, son. Don’t worry. We are here” said Koch’s father Trup sitting close to both Rupe & Koch.
There was a loud explosion several yards away, and Koch screamed in fear.
“He seems to be getting breathless again” said Rupe looking at Koch in concern.
“Yes, it is an asthmatic attack. Here, give him a puff from the inhaler”, said Trup, worry was writ large on his face as well.
Between gasps, Koch asked his father “Why do the planes come here again and again?”
“That is because there are some bad people nearby. Once they are gone, the planes will not come back again, son”, said Trup.
“Dad, let us go away from here. Somewhere far where these planes will not fire at us”, pleaded Koch.
“Where will we go, son? We have no money to settle somewhere else. Anyway, I am sure all this will end soon, don’t worry” said Trup.
At the sound of another explosion, Rupe stared and whispered to Trup “That was very close”.
Koch looked out the window and shouted “Dad, Mom – look there is a big fire there”.
“We are very far away, son. The fire is at a distance. It is showing up very brightly in the night”, said Rupe.
There were several loud explosions in quick succession. Koch watched in horror as the roof of their hutment collapsed, a beam hitting his Dad and Mom on the head. Koch fell unconscious, as the entire hutment collapsed over them.  He was among the few fortunate children to be moved to a home for orphans about 3 months after his parents died in what came to be referred to as the “Xat raid”.

In the Air (above Sarla town)
“Bingo!” exclaimed the pilot in joy clapping his partner’s hand in joy. “We got Xat!”


“Koch, where are you? What happened” said Jite shaking his shoulder.
Koch covered his face with his hands, his mind continuing to be tormented by images which would not go away.  He looked at Jite and said softly “I never knew your Dad was earlier in the armed forces”.
“What do you mean?” said Jite.
Nobody spoke for a few minutes and the air was filled with tension. Koch realized that Tru, Lola and Jite were all staring at him.
Koch took a deep breath and then spoke slowly “My parents and me lived in Sarla town till 15 years back. An air force plane dropped a bomb very close to our hutment and it collapsed on my parents killing them. This was the raid which also killed Xat. Everyone remembers it as the successful Xat raid, for me it was something which changed my life for ever”.
“Oh”, cried Jite, her hands covering her mouth.
Koch looked at Tru wearily and spoke “One of the planes in the Xat raid killed my parents”. He paused a moment and then said softly “It may have even been the plane you flew”.
It was a few minutes later than Tru spoke looking Koch in the eye “All of us returned from the Xat mission with the satisfaction that we had eliminated someone who had already been responsible for taking several innocent lives and would have done so in the future as well. I am not sure if the plane I flew actually dropped the bomb which led to your parents’ death. My conscience is clear though that any harm I have caused to any one is totally unintentional. If I was in any way responsible for your parents’ death, I am truly sorry”.
Koch’s voice was strained as he spoke “Sir, it is not that I want you to feel sorry. I don’t know how I can live with this though”.
Jite sat beside Koch and held his hand. She brushed away the tears welling up in the corner of Koch’s eyes and spoke “You know Dad would never have done anything to harm your parents intentionally. Can you trust his and my words for that?”
Koch replied “Yes, you are people of character. It does not take time to understand that”.
He walked over to the window and watched as the night grew dark. He then turned to Tru and Lola and asked “Did you know that I am a Qal?”
“Yes we did”, Tru and Lola replied together.
“I am here today to seek your daughter’s hand in marriage, Mr & Mrs Tet. After what you now know, will you accept me as your son-in-law?” asked Koch.
“Son, it is you who have every right to refuse. As for us, we would be most delighted to have you as part of our family”, said Tru.
Jite sighed in relief and hugged Koch tightly. Koch looked at her and spoke “I love you very much”.

At home later in the night, Koch held his parents photo in his hands, thoughts forming in his mind:-
“Dear Dad & Mom, I will be marrying Jite who I am very fond of. Her father flew one of the planes during the Xat raid. It is strange that today I feel less tormented by the events of that day, though I have actually come face to face with someone who may have been responsible for your death. When I looked at Tru’s eyes, I saw in them the same light of character, which you had taught me to recognize in the eyes of all good people. It is because of that, that I am still going ahead with my marriage with Jite. Bless me and stay with me as you have always done till date”.

2 comments:

  1. Leaving your past behind and moving ahead is what I felt after reading this story. Really nice.

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  2. Thanks Sulekha. That is true

    ReplyDelete