Monday, January 28, 2013

The legacy you leave behind

Bali coughed hard trying to breathe in as much air as possible. He was sweating profusely with his tongue trying to lick every drop of his precious perspiration.  The dry arid Gujarat summer can break the back and sense of most, Bali being no exception.
He was hit twice, one on his shoulder and one just below the right knee roll. The hits had made him immobile from his hands and from his abdomen. This pain he could endure, but the dehydration and the scorching sun of the Gir desert was a different test of endurance altogether.
Alex was lying dead next to him. Bali had done all he could do to save him. The bullet had hit him on the chest and tore apart his heart and come out from his back. Bali had emptied his canteen of precious water inside Alex’s throat to keep him alive. He had mustered all his strength to shake the dying man to keep him conscious and make him live for for as long as possible. No human has ever influenced him the way Alex had. Alex was an Oxford University researcher who was in Gir forests to learn about famed Gir Lions. Bali was Alex’s Indian guide and in the last five months spent with Alex, he had begun to worship the Englishman. “Mr. Alex, please stay put, please fight for your life. Just a few more minutes and help would arrive”, He tried to console Alex and more importantly, himself. When he finally realized that Alex was not breathing anymore, he cried out loud. Not because he was now alone in the battle against those barbarians, but because how feebly such a magnificent life was lost. He looked over at Alex’s body, a powerful and athletic man, a young spirit who believed in the goodness of humanity. But now he was dead. Bali thought,”Alex should have minded his own business and gone back alive to Oxford and continue with his thesis”.
Bali could see the British army in its bright red costumes discussing amongst themselves what to do with the two bodies. He knew he only had a few minutes before they would be here and he would breathe his last but he vowed to fight, fight till the end. Bali repented not being assertive enough with Alex. Bali knew they could have never escaped from the imperial army’s camp carrying this entire load. But, he was helpless, he was weak. He was mesmerized by Alex’s vision to do something good; he was enchanted by Alex’s sense of invincibility. This mission was a suicide mission but they had done well. The mission was to destroy army’s ammunition and they had succeeded. They had sneaked into the military camp and had set the barbarian army’s entire arsenal on fire. Bali’s pain eased a little when he relived the moment when he poured kerosene over all those cartons and Alex lit those boxes of death. Now, lying on the hot burning sand and in acute pain, Bali felt content. He had betrayed his own motherland and his own countrymen for the meaningless silver coins those Britishers had thrown at him. He had watched his own childhood friends being brutally assaulted while he, Bali the British Subedaar didn’t even finch an eyelid. He had sold his soul for a few pieces of silver alienating his maa - baba, his village men and his friends for life. But today, all his misdeeds would be forgiven.
He had accomplished a major feat, a milestone so huge that it would define his country’s future and would play a vital role in helping his motherland fight for its independence. Bali was smiling coyly about his feat while he heard footsteps. The British army was getting closer and his mind got alert to the situation around him. He saw those rifles lying around Alex’s body. It clicked to him that Alex’s efforts shouldn’t go waste. There was lying dead a man who could clearly distinguish between rights and wrongs, someone who idealized the goodness of humanity, and someone who was fighting someone else’s battle in someone else’s country. Looking at those rifles, Bali realized that there were unfinished tasks. He along with Alex had destroyed the entire ammunition consignment and now the British Army would be helpless till the new consignment arrived from Great Britain. Bali and Alex had successfully accomplished their mission.On their way back from the camp; they saw a large stack of rifles. Both knew that if they could sneak a few of these rifles out to the rebels, they could easily change the face of this conflict. Despite knowing that it would be virtually impossible to sneak out undetected with such a big load, they took the risk. Of course, they were noticed but Alex refused to drop the guns. The heavy load slowed them massively and the soldiers could easily shoot them down. Bali knew he had to destroy these guns. It was mid 1800s and guns were expensive and difficult to obtain. Without ammunition and guns, British army would be severely handicapped and the villagers could launch a counter-attack and win back their villages and lands.
Bali’s mind was running fast. There was this sudden zeal and energy which was driving him. He felt possessed. Without wasting a moment, he took out his own revolver and started destroying the rifles by shooting the barrels. The British soldiers realized what he was up to and they hurried towards the scene. “I must hurry,” he told himself. “They are close.” Bali kept on shooting at the guns destroying several of them. The soldiers were taken aback by Bali’s fervor. They wanted to take him alive and question him. They shot him on his left leg but Bali didn’t stop. The captain of the troops took out his sword and amputated his hand. His right palm dropped on the ground, revolver still tightly gripped by the index finger. Blood oozed out of his body like water from the fountains of Vienna. Bali was beyond the point where he felt any pain. He knew his calling was here and he had justified his existence in the world - He had left behind a legacy which would be cherished by his family and village men for generations.
The captain stepped forward now with a rifle in his hand; he raised the barrel to Bali’s face. Bali laughed again, his laughter was shrill and wild. His mind went into a zombie state, and he saw his parents and his village in his vision waving at him with appreciation. He saw the farms ripe with wheat and barley produce. And he saw Alex, cigar on one hand, his fashionable British hat on the other and gave him a soldier’s salute.

1 comment:

Dinesh Agarwal said...

The least I can say is "high class"