By Dee Kay
“Why do you even want to join the army?”, his father asked Rudra.
He looked at his father and then photo of his brother that was hanging right behind him. The smiling photo of his brother in his Indian Air Force uniform was the obvious reason why he wanted to join the forces. He looked at his father’s wrinkled face and could see the fear in his eyes. His father was an old man who had already lost one of his boy to the forces and here he stood with his youngest one pleading him to let go of that fear.
“I asked you a question? “, his father said as he could sense his fear and anger in the words that came out but moreover he could feel the pain.
He just stood there looking at his father then his elder brother’s photo with garland. He had no clue how to reason with his father’s fear. He doesn’t understand what it felt like losing your own son to a plane crash. He doesn’t know what his father must be going through after hearing his choice of joining the forces. He was blank in the head and numb all over. He just stood there listening to his father.
“Is this why I sent you aboard to study? So that you can come here and tell me that you want to join the bloody army? “, the old man said as the buried frustration started coming out.
“Remember the day they brought your brother’s burned remains to us? He died in his plane while protecting the people of this country who don’t even care. He burned in that cockpit. My little boy was burning while these bloody middle men made millions buying low standards parts for the plane my son was flying.”, the old man finally let out everything.
Rudra just stood there in silence as his father kept bringing out reasons after reasons as to why his decision to wear olive green was wrong. He knew that his father’s fear and anger was justifiable. He too remember that unfortunate day when his brother’s mortal remains came home. He couldn’t even recognize his face. The face that once made him dream big. The face that made him hope that one day he too can fly. The face that taught him that even sky isn’t the limit.
“You can do your MBA from anywhere around the world. You can take my money and start your own business. I won’t stop you from doing anything except this.,”, his old man finally broke down as he knew that all the reasons he gave before won’t change his decision.
“Dad! I’m not asking. I’m just telling you that I would be joining soon. “, Rudra finally spoke.
His father looked at him with teary eyes as he saw the same look on his youngest one as he saw 5 years ago in his late son. He knew that it’s too late now as his son would not change his mind. Just then the fear of losing him forever took over him again as he started shouting at him. He no longer could contain himself so he slapped his son for the first time.
Rudra witnessed a different side of his father that day. It was the last day he saw him. He left his father’s house and stayed at a friend’s place till the time he could join the academy. He was smart enough to get his parents signature on all the forms as he had lied to them about it. In every term break he would avoid going home and would usually meet his friends or stay at hotels. In the meantime his father silently cried in his loneliness as he realized that his son was just like him, too proud for his own good. None of them ever called each other even though their hands always ended up dialing each other’s numbers.
*5 years in the future *
Rudra’s father was sitting on his chair watching the news. Suddenly he saw his the name of his son’s battalion being flashed on the breaking news. His heart skipped a beat as he realized his son’s battalion was involved in an encounter. The news read that one army officer was martyred and another was injured while all the terrorists were neutralized. He immediately started calling people so that he could get some news about his son as the initial news didn’t reveal the identity of martyred man.
His heart was sinking as the old haunting memories of his elder son’s remains arriving at his doorsteps came as a flashback. He was under a lot of stress and he didn’t want to deal with the pain of losing both his son in one lifetime. All of sudden he collapsed on the ground and ever went dark. The next thing he remembered was opening his eyes in the ICU of a hospital. He looked around to search for a familiar face but all he could see were the doctors and nurses.
He lay there as a tear rolled out. His sight were blurry as he didn’t had his glasses. In the corner of his room he saw a man in a olive green uniform. His heart felt as if a dragged was pushed inside his chest as he knew that his man must have bought the remains of his youngest one. He didn’t want to talk to anyone nor did he wanted to live anymore. He turned his face to the other side as he cried openly for the very first time. He remembered how he slapped his son the last time they were together. His only regret was not being able to tell him how much he loved him.
“Sir”, he heard the nurse say.
“There is someone here who wants to meet you “, she completed.
“I don’t want to meet anyone.”, he said without turning his face towards her. He heard some footsteps coming towards his bed. He knew it was that man in the uniform and bow he would tell him about his son’s bravery and how he made the ultimate sacrifice.
“I said I don’t want to meet anyone.”, he screamed as he wanted to live few more minutes not knowing what happened to son.
“I know.”, he heard a familiar voice. He turned around and saw his son standing right next to him in his olive green uniform. He tried to get up but the nurses stopped him. The tears came out of nowhere and they wouldn’t stop coming out. His son was alive.
Rudra looked at his father crying it out loud. He could still feel the pain in his voice but his eyes no longer had that fear. It was then that he realized that these tears were not of grief but that of happiness of seeing him again. He too couldn’t hold back his tears as he leaned towards his father as they both embrace each other. It was then that Rudra softly spoke in his father’s ears,
“It was bhaiya’s last wish.”, he finally gave the answer to his father’s WHY.
(Bhaiya – Hindi word for elder brother)
BY Dee Kay
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Categories: Short stories