I opened my eyes as the sunrays touched my face today ! I looked at the alarm clock that displayed 8:30 am as the time. I then got up lazily scratching my hair and in my pyjamas went near the window. Slowly I opened it and a cool breeze greeted my face . It was still quite foggy outside considering it was late winters in India! But the North -Western part of the country always braved the harsh cold wave and though compared to villages, Chandigarh was still better but today it was quite chilly . My heart belonged to Chandigarh , my city where my family , my beautiful house and my entire identity bore resemblance . The wide streets with bushy greenery alongside , the planned junctions , the organized urban planning showcasing the contemporary architecture blending with the old charm of large open gardens with a “charpoi” installed in it where the entire family can gather, chit-chat and have a get together, the ever smiling faces of the people in the city make me believe that probably I might have done something good in my past life to be owned by this city!
I was lost in my thoughts when the calling bell rang.
” Aunty, where is Rishi? He is not answering his calls or messages ! We are here to greet him. Its been so long that we have met!” ,asked Harish with two more young gentlemen dressed in their casuals.
“Ohhh , please come in. He is just tired from jetlag and he is in his room.” My mom answered and before she could finish the statement , I found three of my childhood friends already on my bed, with wide grins and Harish had almost jumped on me! I smiled along and I don’t know the next minute we started discussing topics from past till the present moment. Not even a single moment passed where I could realize that I was away physically from these bunch of three musketeers and with long gaps of absolute lack of communication did not matter . It all seemed futile. We connected instantly and probably this is what friendship is all about. To whole heartedly accept each other , to be part of each other even in the darkest odds, to laugh at each other yet always want the best of each other. Quickly, I took my shower and we headed out to the bustling market areas for some sumptuous brunch and some shopping! We wandered around the lively areas of Sector 17 and Pallika Bazzar before entering into the DLF City Centre Mall where I had to buy a few pair of jeans and have our brunch there.
After landing my hand on my favourite jeans with the right amount of tattered pattern just near the thighs , I wanted to try out the fitting and walked towards the trial room. Just then, I could see a girl rush past me , and quickly entered the only Men’s trial room available and shut the door on my face before showing me her teeth and uttering words like ” please ,please, please”!
“What kind of pathetic behavior is this ? No respect for Rules!! How is this being tolerated in this country ? No wonder this country never progresses.” I was boiling with anger and wanted to bang the door open. But only my civil sense of behaving in the public kept me sane. As I waited outside , it probably took an eternity for the slim framed female to come out. My patience was running out with every passing minute. But I could do nothing!! Soon, she opened the door and gave me her smile in which I was not at all interested. I wanted to make her realize that what she did was wrong ! But , before I could say anything, She said:
“Thanks dude. You look handsome in your Ray ban Aviators.”
What? What is this now? She thinks she will escape using such cheap tactics with me? , I thought to myself!
I went to the Reception and made my point against her, while she was billing. Seeing me in full rage, the receptionist apologized and said they will take care in future. The girl seemed embarrassed when they reprimanded her in a polite manner. She looked at me with her blue eyes and said sorry in a soft voice. That is when I noticed her beauty. She wore a leopard printed top with Jet black jeggings and black boots. She had tied her black hair in a pony tail that was bouncy and was long enough till her waist. She had a fair complexion and her well manicured hands were very pretty that attracted my attention while she was making the payment. I loved her smile as it made two little impressions on her cheeks !
Just then , I saw her leave the counter and before crossing the exit door, she turned and announced ” Hey handsome! Sorry Or May be not !!” and winked at me! This time ,I could not stop myself from smiling and along with me the entire staff at the cash counter along with my friends were also grinning. My friends soon started teasing me ! Well it was as a pattern since our student days as I was one of the popular guys, whom girls wanted to impress all the time. I have had few flings as well but they were all casual as I could never find the true connect that I always searched within.
Well, after a few days, I had to again pack my bags as staying home for long is not something that I can afford to. The moment I received the message, I saw the tears accumulate within the soul of my mother come near the corner of her eyes but they never made their way out ! I never understand how she manages that! She never stops me from going out on any mission. All she does is to embrace me and press me tightly on to her chest where I feel every heart beat for me with so much of pure love and motherly affection, that I heal every time I get that hug.
She took my uniform out of the closet and made me wear it and then she brushed both my shoulders with her hands as a sign of pride. “Captain Rishi Singh” She announced while pinning the name plate on my chest. And every time she does that, every fear, every little anticipation just vanishes. However, I find it very hard to keep my feelings at bay every time I touch her feet before leaving the house. This time was no different!
We rushed to the airport as I had to join the Headquarters as soon as possible. I entered the plane , waved my family a good bye kiss, thereby praying to GOD to let me see them again soon! I reached my headquarters in Delhi and within no time, I joined the platoon that was to be sent to Syria as part of the UN peace keeping mission. It was going to be a tough assignment taking in to the Arab Spring that had made the situation complicated leading to civil unrest and on going conflicts where even countries like Iran, Turkey , Saudi Arabia etc. had involved themselves in the internal political scenario of the country leading to a very chaotic atmosphere. The rebel groups keep bombarding the various cities killing millions of citizens every single day. The soldier in me could only think of doing my duty at the right spirit so that I am able to upheld my vigor and pay tribute to my Motherland and the fulfill the duty that the Uniform demands. All the officers mounted the special army helicopters with all our ammunitions. As I entered it I saw, few female officers in the cabin. They were army doctors and a sense of pride filled my heart seeing their dedication. I felt I saw a similar face but as comrades, I did not want to make the situation uncomfortable. Hence, I refrained myself and concentrated on the mission.
The Helicopter soared higher up in the sky and from the moment we landed in the war- torn nation, there has never been a single moment to breathe the air of solace. Every moment is crucial and one has to be on high alert. It had been almost a week and luckily me and my officers whom I was leading had escaped any injury. It was an achievement in itself as I had vowed that I might die, but not let any of my officers die at least till I breathe.
The days were hard. The burning smell of the grenades, the splash of someone’s blood on your uniform, the dance of death all around, the cries of innocent lives losing near and dear ones, the gorilla tactics of warfare, the strategy to stay alive every single moment made life difficult beyond any explanation. That night it was difficult to sleep for me though I had been awake for past 48 hours. I looked at the ceiling of my tent till it became blurred and I do not know what woke me up. All I could hear was a loud sound of a bomb blast very near my outpost and I had my gun in my hand before I could properly pull my pants up. The announcement happened in a fraction of second:
ALPHA TEAM, Take Charge !!! NOW!!
I , was heading the Alpha Team and I sprung into action immediately so did my men at the command. Not to mention the day was very intense where we exchanged gun fires at the miscreants trying to tear down a part of residential area where many refugee women , children had taken shelter. We as a team gunned down every single one of them and rescued the refugees. But unfortunately one of my officer had been shot on the left side of the chest and I too received a bullet injury at the back of my left shoulder . I cried out for help as I could not see my men die in front of my eyes. Soon stretchers were arranged to take us to the paramedic area for treatment. I accompanied my team mate while holding his hand. He was one of my close mates and all I could hear him say was,” Sir, please tell my wife and my son that I love them. Sir please !! “I held his hands while I could not hold back my tears because I could sense the pain in my team mates eyes.
We entered the designated area for first aid and quickly the doctors attended the patient. I could not maintain my calm while a doctor attended my wound, I shouted while holding both her arms, “Doctor, there is no need to attend me. Just for heaven’s sake, save my friend! I had a fire burning in me and eyes were blood red. Before I could realize , I saw the same blue eyes again!! The ones, that had once made time still. I released my grasp. I recognized her, she was the same lady I had met in Chandigarh few months back!
Suddenly, I hear, “Captain Rishi Singh! Calm down! “,The doctor was holding my hands and pressed it tightly as a sign of comfort. “We are all trying! The blood loss is immense and being shot so deep near the heart is making the operation a complicated one. We need you to trust us! Captain Rishi , are you with us?” I nodded my head, while she patted my back and said, “Good.”
She quickly entered the operation theater and after about three and a half hours, the red signal was off. I rushed to the entrance and I saw the doctor come out. It read Lt. Yamini Sood on her Name plate. The operation had been successful. I was relieved. At least I had not failed my men and breathed a sense of sigh! There was a smile on my face.
“Please open your Uniform!” I heard a voice.
“What?” I asked.
“Your wound is still not treated, there is only a plain bandage that you have wrapped! “The doctor ordered and I did the same. I could not believe, the eyes, that seemed so mischievous in the mall, can be so confident while treating the tattered gun wounds that make it difficult even to look at them. I had almost forgotten my wound. She gently touched my back and cleaned my wounds. A sense of excitement run down me as the soothing touch reminded me that a human being resided in a soldier too that craved for care, empathy and love like any human being!
I thought to myself, “Probably she has forgotten about me. It’s good if she has, in fact!”
Just then I hear a whisper, “Hi, handsome! You look dashing in the Uniform ! But you looked way too cool with your casual look that day!!” I looked at her with surprise while she had brought her face near my ears. Both our eyes met and we both giggled like little children. I felt so alive with her at that moment that I forgot how difficult it had been to survive past few days! I felt a connect!
We soon became close and though it was tough meeting each other, I managed to cross check with her every now and then. She too made every possible effort to squeeze out time from her busy schedule for me and we talked for few minutes whenever we got the chance. The topics were varied and sometimes it did not make any sense but just being with her made every possible sense. She was like the oasis in the barren desert which comforted my soul. I forgot all my pain when she smiled and she too loved my company a lot. We became talk of the group soon and even my seniors would sometimes pull me up during our not- so formal sessions. I would just smile and even Yamini did the same!
That night after our dinner, I went to meet Dr .Yamini only to find out that she had left the base to treat some critically shot patient at the blast site. The situation must have been worse because the doctors leave the base only as the last resort. I was tensed as the radio signal came in live. Dr. Yamini has been injured at the site. Please rush aid. Breaking the protocol, even I accompanied the team of other doctors. My heart was beating faster inside my rib cage and when I saw Yamini, surrounded in blood as a splinter had torn across her calf, the Man in me could not stop myself and I just took her in my arms. The eyes that always dazzled with a spark looked dull and was feeling scared . A feeling that I fail to explain! I could not say a word. I held her hand tightly and looked into her eyes. The Doctors treated her wound while she slowly lost her consciousness due to loss of blood . I panicked but I understood soon that Yamini will be all well as soon as the stich is opened.
Within a few days she was all fine and I had made it a point to visit her daily and ask her requirements, take care of every need, sometime listen to her unnecessary blabber, wipe her emotional tears when she missed home! We were, by then unofficially declared the Best Couple of the Mission though we had never sealed any pact.
That evening I was with my team mates and we were enjoying our chilled beer sessions as the past few days were little less tense with diminishing bombardments. I saw one of my team mates signal me with his eyes and I looked at the door. And what did I see? I see a panting Yamini signaling me to come over!
The moment I went to the door , she held my hand and ran towards the open area , which was little far away from my tent. As we stopped running, before I could ask anything, I find Yamini embrace me in her arms and declare that She loved me ! I did not understand the outburst! While I was suppressing my smile, she was almost in tears, She went on to say that, if she did not propose, Dr. Ruchi would have proposed me and she did not want that to happen!
Little did she know that Dr. Ruchi and I had planned it because, Yamini would never accept the fact that she was in love. Every time I tried to hint, she had avoided the topic. But not today! Today was our day. I heard what I had wanted to. I wanted to make her mine and be hers. I took her face in my arms, wiped her tears and planted a kiss on her forehead before locking my lips with hers. A kiss so passionate that made me forget any inhibition or fear of the future. Yamini too gave in and we were lost in the moment where two souls merge to become one. I did not want the night to end and wished the time to just pause. This was probably the best time in my life that I can never forget! Yamini was in my arms and I was in hers.
Just then, I received a radio message,
Captain Rishi, Prepare to leave for your next mission with your men in next one hour! Hand over this operation to the next group of officers that has just arrived! This is a secret and a very tactical mission!
I wore my Cap and released Yamini from my arms, and kissed her again while announcing ,”Got to go! Official orders.
I saw tears swell up in her eyes, just like they do in my mothers eyes.
It felt as if my breath was heavy and I do not know if this is how you feel while you die. I slowly turned around and marched on towards my tent !