Monday, November 07, 2005

A Short Story

Jaswant Singh stepped out of the shining new Air Force Gypsy, almost as soon as it came to a halt in front of the Station Commander’s Office. The Station Commander walked up smartly and saluted to Jaswant Singh He could not help but admire the tall, erect 6’ feet frame little betraying its seventy five years of age.

Their eyes met as Jaswant Singh shook his hand. The Commander looked away quickly. The entire situation was overwhelming. His mind strayed back to the big tragedy that had happened just a week ago. The air crash and the loss of a young pilot was bad enough. The prospect of facing an old father who had lost his son in such a tragic manner was worse.

Jaswant Singh was a man of few words. He conveyed the purpose of his visit to the Commander in a cryptic manner. He wanted to visit the base to have one last look at his son’s place of posting and his staying quarters in the Mess to get a feel of the world of the Indian Air Force his son loved so much. And to take back his sons’ belongings.

When they reached Sqdn. Leader Amardeep Singh’s room, the Commander stayed outside to allow Jaswant Singh some privacy.

Jaswant Singh entered, and looked around as if trying to feel the presence of his departed son. The room had been left untouched since, just the way Amardeep Singh had left it when he last went out for his early morning sortie. On the table in the corner was a music system. Jaswant Singh’s memory raced back to his son’s visit home while on annual leave, and the leg pulling he was subject to by the family because of his passion for singing but his horrendous out of tune voice.

His purpose fulfilled, Jaswant Singh’s visit was quickly over. The Station Commander walked with Jaswant Singh to the vehicle this time accompanied by his adjutant, a young pilot and a close buddy of Amardeep.

Jaswant Singh reached up to the jeep and turned around. His face wore a deadpan expression. But the Commander and his adjutant could clearly see immense physical toughness and mental strength, of a seasoned Subedar Major who had himself devoted his life to the armed forces. He shook hands with the Commander and said a simple but sincere “Thank you”

As the jeep drove out of the Station Commander’s Office driveway, the adjutant noticed the expression on his boss’s face. Clearly this one had been a tough situation to handle, he thought. He could not help speaking up “Sir, He must be one real brave man – being able to face up to such a big personal tragedy!” The Commander turned to his adjutant and said, “ Let me tell you something few others know. Jaswant Singh’s elder son, a Major in the Army, was killed in a counter insurgency operation six months ago”


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