by Durlabh Singh
It was a hot, sweaty and suffocating afternoon. Not a bird in sky, only the sound of some dogs barking at the sun perhaps showing their anger at the injustice in creating such an unpleasant weather for them to bear.
Water was evaporating fast from every pour of your body, you try to replenish it by filling your stomach up to the bottom your throat but still felt thirsty until it was rippling inside your tummy. You line your courtyard with big earthen pots and then fill these with fresh water and after that the scientific principle came into force. Water seeps through all those pours and wants to escape into space and it had to borrow the heat from the pot in order to evaporate itself and thus cool it down. As the pot became cool so did the water inside the pot.
And what do you expect in the month of Jeth, hotter among the hottest months of the year. Sehna dragged his cot to the verandah where it was less oppressive. The heat induced in him a sleepy state and he started musing about things and his life.
He remembered his childhood. His parents were of farming stock and owned a small plot of land, which provided them with wheat, vegetables and other things. When they sold any surplus, they managed to save some money for other things to buy. It was not a luxury living but at least they were not starving .He loved his land and the green fields, different season and different rotation of crops. He particularly loved the oncoming of spring when the whole earth turned to yellow as the sown mustard flowered. The intense blue skies and tarnished gold of crops induced in him a sort of poetical reverie.
He remembered fondly the festival of Basant Panchmi. He liked the preparation before its advent and then long wait for the day of festival. His parents dyed the family’s clothes in yellow. His father prepared a yellow langa and a turban for himself while his mother donned a yellow salawar kamiz with a dopatta to match it. Not to be left behind he had a small turban dyed in yellow too. His father taught him how to tie it himself.
The open-air day brought in a new mood; frolicking through the passages among the fields, it became a new world for discovery, for him to explore. So many variety of the trees to observe, touch and hug; so many birds to watch, cooing, fluttering with their multi coloured plumage. It seemed an image of heaven
He was so proud of his yellow turban, his manly walk imitating his father. Holding on to his parent’s hands he felt sound and secure. He watched the water pouring out of small tin pots of the water wheels as it prepared to irrigate the fields. He liked the fresh morning air, the smell of wet grass and the gentle touch of brown earth beneath his feet.
How distant all that seems to be!
But now all that is gone.
And then the things changed. A dark cloud came and covered the land, things began to fall apart. His land was invaded by foreign forces and that pleasant land became a battlefield with cruel, callous and inhuman activities. The natives fought but had to pay a heavy price for their freedom. His father lost his life in a malaise and soon his beloved mother died too, heart broken with the loss of her husband. He was taken in by a distant relative for upbringing.
His life changed completely. He felt alone without any warmth or love. His inner coldness soon poured over the land and all became shrouded. He did not take any more pleasure in the fields around him and he felt like an alien in a strange land. He grew up to be man but his inner and outer being became desolate and vacant.
He drifted from job to job, working for others – a laborer, a tiller or a coolie.
The news was running around that a great guru has come to the town and was organizing a campaign against the invaders. He was recruiting people for the army, organizing networks for the common folks as how to defend themselves and thus to organize the resistant.
The guru for the sake of his people and country had left his secluded spot of scholarship and learning and had taken up the sword as a hedge against looting, killing, rapes and other such disasters. With his unique brand of personality he infused great courage and love of justice among his people that they turned themselves into full of valour. His attention was to make a hundred of his followers take on at least a thousand of the enemies and thus beat them at their own game.
It was better to die fighting for one’s dignity, country, family and home then to yield to cowardly whims of marauders.
On one afternoon, Sehna went to the durbar of the guru and sat timidly in a corner to await arrival of guru. When he saw the guru, he was greatly impressed with his personality, which was soothing but overpowering.
The guru carried out various urgent tasks like recruiting people for his army, appointing military instructors, generals and other organizers. Further he gave the outline of his plan for the civilians to organize themselves behind the scene and thus to help each other in a co-operative strategy.
Lastly he asked for volunteers willing to do difficult task of caring for the dying and the wounded in the battlefield. Timidly Sehna stood and presented himself for such a task and was glad that the Guru had accepted him. He was provided with all the first aid boxes and sundries.
The great battle had begun. You could hear the roar and den of it miles away. It was frightening and intimidating and imagining that men could kill each other in such a horrible way.
Could you imagine one’s head being chopped off by the sword of another and not feel sick at the sight of a torso gushing out fountains of blood? It would be hard enough to force oneself not to scream and shudder in total horror.
The invaders had come to trample over this pleasant land, intend upon a killing spree, with no pity in their heart and no soul within their body. He shuddered again at the very thought. How could they do it? He could not even kill a fly. It was not given to us to deprive a human being off his life. Once you have taken away that last possession of a human being, what is there left to be proud of?
But that was that. Someone had to confront those marauding invading hordes and only the Guru had the guts to stand against those killers. His small army was fighting like tigers against overwhelming numbers of those outlaws. They showed an exemplary valour to defend their homeland.
What a tragedy it was for the guru to take up arms! A guru with tenderness in his heart and pity for the sufferings of others. He admired the guru greatly for his courage and fortitude. He infused such a spirit in his army that it fought like heroes forgetting even the fear of their own death.
* * *
He was in the battlefield, caring for the wounded and the dying. He had his medicine box and jars of water with him.
In that aftermath, the battlefield was littered with the fallen; strewn bags of
the bodies, either the corpses or the wounded. It was his first time and an overwhelming sight clutched his being. His eyes began to get misted and his hands had a tremor caused by seeing all the grief .He pulled himself up remembering the guru’s command; of caring for the wounded. He began to set himself to work. He attended to the ghostly forms smeared with blood and dirt. Tenderly he cleaned their wounds, applied the precious ointments, bandaged and propped them up giving them sips of the water. Hours passed and he forgot himself completely. Gone was his fear of seeing the dying and he found a small satisfaction in carrying out his duty to full. When he reached the end of his lines, he wanted to take a respite from the exhausting work but he heard moans and cries from the other side of enemy’s lines. They had no one to care for them and they were calling upon Bhai Sehna for help. What could he do? Become a traitor to his own side by helping his enemies?
He tried to cover his ears as not to hear those ghastly cries but could not help hearing them. He knew he was provided with the costly and precious ointment which was not to be wasted on enemies but the sight of those wretched creature awakened his consciousness and pity. He went forth to enemy’s lines and started attending to the dying and wounded enemies. The pity and tenderness of his heart drove him to go against his own reason.
His reputation has suffered. Some people were saying behind hid back that he was helping his enemies while the other termed him a traitor, which was extremely painful to him.
One day someone came to see him from the committee managing guru’s affair. He was called upon to present himself in the durbar to answer various allegations brought against him and against his conduct on the battlefield.
For days he could not sleep properly and was worried as to what would happen to him at the hearing. On the appointed day he went early and sat in a corner in a timid gesture avoiding people’s eyes.
It was a busy day and the guru eventually came and sat in his usual seat on the dais. He consulted various people about the coming battle plans, listened to the pleas of the poor and the dispossessed. Other people brought him gifts, money for the battle expenditure, provisions for the langar, the common kitchen.
At last his name was called and he got up to face the guru with trembling heart, presented himself in dignified manner and made a courteous bow and felt a bit at ease as he observed guru’s reassuring demeanor .A senior member of the committee read the people’s charges against him. He pleaded as not guilty to all those charges.
Guru asked him – ‘ Bhai Sehna, what did I employ you for?’
‘To care for the wounded and dying on the battle field ‘
‘ Did you truthfully performed your duty?’
‘ Yes sir, I did. I did care for the wounded and the dying ‘
‘Did it include the enemies in your course of duty? ‘
‘ No I did not thought so first t but then things changed. As you commanded me to help the wounded and dying. I did, as I could not see any difference between one human being and the other, all were wounded and dying on the field. So I provided the aid to all ‘
Every body in the congregation was eager to listen to the guru for his command of punishment to a traitor who has collaborated with the enemy.
‘Bhai Sehna ! Shabash , you have truly carried out my instructions. I am proud of you ‘
That was a thunder bolt out of blue to the congregation and they held their breath
A hush fell on the congregation with few whispers of dissent and anger.
Sehna felt his heart fluttering within his expanded chest. With pride he stood upright and felt like ten feet tall. He took his handkerchief to wipe away the rush of tears pouring down his face. He forgot himself and felt even greater pride for his leader who could see directly into human heart and its motivation. Guru was a dignified figure who distributed proper justice. His whole being melted. He wished he could do more for his beloved leader. If asked he could even offer his life. More tears of love flowed from his dim eyes.
Durlabh Singh © 2008.