The summer that I cannot forget

(Warning: it is long…1318 words to be precise)

I think it was the summer of 69. Or was it 62? Either way it was a summer to remember.

This is a very insignificant incident that happened in my life. I know, it might scare the S*&^t out of you, but for me…it was plain vanilla.

I was then on Indian soil, for I still remember stepping on some shit. The Chinese had started bombarding, and we had taken cover. Or do you think, I need to give you some more backgrounder before I proceed with my story?

I had joined the Indian Army, and in the early 1960s was posted at Aksai Chin region of Ladakh. Today, that land is with China. But it was Indian when this story of mine begins.

In the 1962 India-China war Aksai Chin was captured along with 33,000 square kilometers of Indian territory. China doesn`t accept it as Indian land and says India has captured its area – which is supposed to be Arunachal Pradesh.

Ever since, India-China have mended their fences. That is, they have put in place stronger fences on the border. But that doesn`t concern us. What concerns us is the day when I single-handedly brought China on its knees, and how just because I did not have a box of matches…India lost the India-China war.

– – –

In those days, we would always be in our war fatigues – the clothes Indian politicians had bought for their country`s soldiers. How much I wish, they hadn`t accepted the kickbacks before signing the contract…for we could not spend a night in those clothes without drinking in a bottle of rum. It was so cold. Once the rum went in, we did not need the clothes. Mind you all this was happening when the mountains were snow-clad.

I even remember the day when some Chinese soldiers could not see us in our ‘birthday` clothes and ran for their lives. Later, we realized the Chinese soldiers had run INTO India. We never told our superiors that we saw some Chinese soldiers, loaded with guns and ammunitions, run into India.

As I was saying, everyday I would get up outside of the tent. Perhaps, it had to do with this unique habit of my tent-mate – he believed that we did not need a sentry in the night, instead whenever we get up to pee in the night (and it being cold, that would be often), we should fire a few rounds in the air. I would have stayed on in the tent…but for two reasons. First, our tent did not have a roof…the tarpaulin had been blown off by my firing-in-the-air tent-mate. Second, whenever he got up to pee, he would fire…and then I would pee ….needless to say, in my pants. I was s*%t scared of the Chinese.

The best option was to get off the tent. No, I am not making this up for the daily dose of rum. That was free…and anyways, I was not married then….and hence did not need any excuse.

This went on. One day…our battalion decided to move to Arunachal Pradesh. That was a peaceful area…and everyone jumped up with happiness. Not me. I wanted to fight for my country and prove that I was not the son of a hunter, wild animals that had never seen. The closest my father had ever gone to a wild animal was when I fell down into the bear pit, and he climbed down to give me a sedative (and not take me)…so that I don`t cry and wake up the sleeping bears.

As I was saying…my whole battalion left and I was made sentry of the temporary toilets that the army units generally build wherever they travel (more so in the fighting zones). Generals like Napolean Bonaparte and Chingiz Khan have used these shit-holes as the primary level of defense, but not the Indian Army sir…we were fully armed to the teeth. We had soldiers who would have Pan Parag, and were ready to burst their mouth open whenever an enemy was in the vicinity.

Being the only man in the whole of 33,000 square kilometer region could be boring. Maybe, if I had a few sheep to talk to, I would have been fine…but the yaks that I met were not interested in conversation. Days passed, and then months.

You might think I lost my mind or something like that. But no…I was on the border. Don`t ask me what I ate and what I wore…and how I slept. That is classified.

Here are some snippets from the diary that I kept during the attack –

April 18, 1962, 9.30 a.m.
I realize I have to do something. The Chinese are accumulating their soldiers and arms across the border. I dress up…

April 18, 1962, 11.30 a.m.
I have decided to surprise the Chinese. I will attack them, when they would be least expecting it.

April 18, 1962, 12.00 noon
I spot one hole in the Chinese fence (so the Chinese did not mend their fence after all…they were just fooling us) and decide to sneak in.

April 18, 1962, 12.45 p.m.
I am in China. My secret attack on China is on. Hope it is not painful.

April 19, 1962, 7.00 p.m.
I killed one Chinese…goat…I think. I can`t be without food for more than two days. They never taught us this in Defence College.

April 20, 1962, 7.00 a.m.
I am captured…by the farmers. My disguise works. They think I am a petty Indian thief. They want to send me back….but I want to stay and attack.

April 20, 1962, 12.00 noon
I am in a Chinese jail. My strategy is working fine. I befriend the pick-pocket inside the jail. Looks like Bahadur, whom we see in so many Hindi movies.

April 21, 1962, 12.00 noon
I am taken to a judge. Who announces that I should be jailed in Beijing Central Jail.

April 22, 1962, 1.00 p.m.
I am in a prison van, being transported to Beijing. My plan fits my hand as my pocket…or is it the glove?

April 23, 1962, 6.00 p.m.
We reach the Beijing Central prison. Incidentally, the Chinese Premier is visiting the prison to give away steel rods to the jail wardens. China sure is a different country. Could not get close to the Premier; looks like he forgot to wear deodorant.

April 24, 1962, 4.00 a.m.
I try to escape from prison. I am caught and put in a cell with the notorious Russian Nuclear scientist called Fuclear Nission.

April 24, 1962, 9.30 p.m.
Scientist Fuclear Nission is now a friend. Nobody knows yet, but he even showed me a nuclear bomb under his bed.

April 24, 1962, 11.30 p.m.
The scientist is sleeping, and I have decided to die a martyr`s death….I am going to explode that nuclear bomb so that the whole of China is history. Shucks…I don`t have a box of matches. Note: Never smoke too much when you plan to attack a country.

April 25, 1962, Full Day
Feel pathetic about not being able to find a match box and light that nuclear bomb. Tried the prison kitchen…seems like they use Gobbar gas. Never knew the nuclear bomb looked like a candle …only the nuclear bomb gives a nice jasmine fragrance. Wonder if it would smell of jasmine when I light it …and it explodes.

April 26, 1962, 10.30 a.m.
I am released from prison. Exchanged at the border with other prisoners….but there is no hero`s welcome. If only I had a box of matches, and I had blown that nuclear bomb…today there would be no China …and I would be a war hero!

I still have the nuclear bomb in my house – including my wife and you only five others know of it. BTW, you can call me Field Marshall Rajan….

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