Monday, November 28, 2005


Dear Mr. Rana Singh,

No words would be enough to express the bravery of your son Brigadier Ratan Singh. He was involved in the most important operations the army had carried out. He was a fine soldier and believed strongly in the pride of the nation. He single handedly fought with the enemy soldiers to make way for his colleagues which resulted in the capture of eight enemy bunkers. His death is a tremendous loss to the Indian Army. On his sad demise we share the grief with you and your family and pray that his soul may rest in peace.

The Indian Army

Damodar remained emotionless as he typed in the alphabets using the age old typewriter on his desk. The noisy growls made by its yanking cylinder and the echoes of the keys striking on it had already became a part of his life. Currently in his late forties, Damodar joined the Indian Army as a typist when he was twenty three and since then he has been making the obituary notes of the deceased soldiers to their families. From the day he joined his post, he wished he was fired from his job, for a better cause. But he also had to think about his wife and three children back home. And then he stayed with his job.

Damodar finished the letter and took it from the typewriter. That was the seventh one he had typed in for the day. The battle was turning severe at the war-front, the battle between fraternities which once fought in unison for freedom by driving away a common enemy. He took the letter with him and went to the major’s cabin. Now the letter would be sent to an army camp near the decedent’s native place which would then be delivered to his house, in an army vehicle.

Damodar knocked the cabin door for the major to call him in; and he didn’t have to wait for long. Major Ramesh was busy deciding on war strategies. Despite having a huge loss of soldiers, there were orders from the top that the points which were captured by the enemies shall be taken back at any cost.

“The letter is done, sir. The one of Brigadier Ratan Singh.”

“Where is he from?”

“He belongs to the village called Mirzapur, which is about 150 kilometers from here, sir.”

“Oh, so we ourselves can deliver the letter.”

“Yes sir.”

“Oh but we don’t have any soldiers left in our camp now. They all are at the battle front.” With a small pause the major continued. “Damodar, can you go with the driver and deliver this message at his house?”

“Sure sir.”

15 minutes later a jeep arrived in front of the office and Damodar started off towards Mirzapur to deliver the message.

It was a three hour journey. Initially the road was in a bad condition due to the shelling in those areas. Finally they reached Mirzapur. Since the village was pretty small, it wasn’t that difficult for them to find Brigadier Ratan Singh’s house. The driver applied the brakes in front of his house and the vehicle came to a halt unsettling the dust on its sides.

As the sound of the engine gave way to silence, a kid of age somewhere around six ran towards the vehicle from the house.

“Papa came! Papa came!” he was yelling on the top of his voice. On seeing Damodar and the driver and no one else in the jeep, his face swiftly tainted to steadfast disappointment. Still, with a subtle smile he invited the guests in to their house. Meanwhile, hearing his bawl, other children appeared at the patio, followed by a lady in her early forties. In the portico there was an old man who was reclining on a long armchair.

“Namaste Chacha, we are from the army.” Damodar spoke out to the old man, after entering the room. He assumed that the old man was Rana Singh, father of Brigadier Ratan Singh. The eyes of the old man slowly turned towards him in question.

“Chacha, I'm sorry to say this but your son died yesterday in the battle.” Damodar didn’t know how he said that until he completed it. Suddenly, a cry awash with disbelief, sorrow and pain originated from the side of the room. It came from the lady, wife of Brigadier Ratan Singh.

Damodar looked back at the old man. Two drops of tears shone below the eyes of the old man. It fought its way down the cheek. But it didn’t die on its way. The elder children understood the situation. But their eyes manifested that they were shocked as they joined their mother. The smallest one was still at the courtyard. Damodar proceeded towards him to receive a sweet smile from him. He took the letter he had brought with him from his pocket and kept it in the palm of the child. And the child ran towards his mother saying, “Maa, uncle gave this to me!”

Damodar couldn’t stand the situation any further. He thought about the umpteen letters he had typed out since he joined his service. He thought that each one had such a story associated with it. And those thoughts made him disturbed.

Both of them returned to the army camp. On their way back, Damodar was still thinking. And his mind was full of disturbances. Disturbances made by the sounds of a typewriter which kept on resonating inside...