Being the eldest son, it was incumbent upon him to rescue the family in its hour of crisis. His idea of a steady income was a government job in the army. For a poorly educated 6 footer with broad shoulders and the heart of a lion, joining the army as a sipaahi didn’t take much. A couple of physical exams and he was in.
With the little money they received every month and privileges the family subsisted. Initially, he visited them once in a year. It warmed his heart to see his family in a better place than before, because of him. He was a proud son, both of his house and the country. But one question he couldn’t answer for himself was whether, being a sipaahi in the army was a service to Hindustan or a profession. If it were a profession why wasn’t he looking out for something which paid better? If it were a service to the country why was his family’s welfare involved?
Years drifted by and he found himself married with children. The days were long and he literally counted down days left to meet his children. The idea of ‘service’ seemed more like a delusion which the exuberance of youth had cast over his mind. He wanted to get back home to his family. He’d much rather do what his father did for a living than live his life. But the government had other plans for him. He was commissioned to fight the war. There was death all around him. His buddies had been killed. They were his brothers in all the years that had gone by. He felt a rush of blood in his veins. The will to serve his nation drove him day and night. He fought bravely among men who were ready to face death head on. He lived to see the enemy slain. But all did not end well.
Euphoria over the victory soon died down and the shine of the badges on his sleeve began to fade. He decided that life needs a change for the better. Leaving a part of himself behind, he packed his bags and bid adieu to the institution which parented him through his youth.
A shrill noise brought him back to his senses. It was the bus driver honking. He dragged his bags down the steps and pointed to his seat. The bus conductor reached under the seat and took out a pair of crutches. The cripple balanced himself on the staff and set out towards his village. A young boy stuck his head out of the bus speeding past him and waved at him crying ‘Hero!’
This post is inspired by an incident a friend narrated.