‘Dadaa dadiii’, I shouted lovingly to my paternal grandparents just last week when I went home, one evening when they were sitting in the verandah.
‘Bolo beta’, dadi said invitingly, ‘Come sit with us.’
‘We have heard Akbar Birbal, Panchatantra, Vikram Betaal stories from you while growing up. I want to hear your life stories now! I always see that photo of yours dada, the one where you are getting Presidents’ Police medal. I want to know how you got it! And dadi, I want to know how you survived at the border all alone at a young age! Can you tell me your Nagaland stories today, please?!’ I said, pleadingly.
Dada dadi looked at each other, as if remembering it all, and dada began narrating their adventure.
‘Beta, so I was in my 20s when I got recruited to the Intelligence Bureau of India, one of the most secretive union offices in the country, as an Inspector. It is called the Khufiya Vibhaag. We basically worked to protect the country against spies, terrorism, etc. I wasn’t allowed to talk to absolutely anyone about my work and could only say that I worked in Central Police Home Ministry!’
I could sense the pride in his voice. Working for the country would have been soo great! My profile as a Business Intelligence consultant suddenly seemed so insipid to me.
‘As part of the initial drill, we had to spend a couple of years in border security training and get posted on one of the 7 borders that surround India.’, he continued. ‘The problem was that I had just got married to your dadi and had to go with her to the border! No one ever brought their family. Dadi was just 22 years old then. (‘Arre, I was 21 years then’, dadi corrected dada.) ‘But we considered all options, convinced our parents and relatives and decided to move to Nagaland! That was the start of our 5 and a half years of adventure.’
And I thought moving to Bangalore was an achievement? Duh! His strong, determined voice emanated confidence, one which would have come from his experiences. I could picture him as a patriotic and strong youth, ready to do anything to protect the border.
Dadi chimed in, her usual excited-self making the story more interesting. ‘You know what? In those days, it used to take us 9 entire days to just reach Nagaland! We had to change multiple trains and even take a boat to cross the raging Brahmaputra. We had reached Dimapur at 3:30 AM. The sun had fully risen and by 4 AM, it seemed like peak morning! From there, we had to travel to Kohima, accompanied by a convoy of so many army jeeps. ‘
‘Armyy convoys?!’, I exclaimed, clearly realizing then that dada was in a big shot post! I was already writing in mind an entry for my blog…
‘Yess!’, she continued. ‘We lived in a garage for the first few days. And food! Bhashu, there is no vegetarian food there! They put fish in everything like we put coriander. We had to eat only rice and salt for dinner for days. Sometimes your dada would go out to get some food and could only find a banana. That was our meal.’
Wow! I decided to respect even bottle and bitter guards from now on. 😛
Dada started saying, ‘We then had to move to Churachandpur, where we got a small government quarter. Our luggage finally reached to us from Gujarat after 3 months, though in an unrecognizable state. We set up our small house, surrounded by tribal families and stunning beauty of the untouched nature. Living with the tribal people was some experience! They spoke 16 different languages, none of which was remotely close to what we speak. They are very kind and helpful if you are good to them, but they are people whose enemy you never ever want to become.’
‘Tell her that Mumbai wala’s story’, dadi said immediately.
’Oh yes’, dada said. ‘We were introduced to a young inspector from Mumbai who had recently come to Nagaland. After a few weeks, no one had any news of him. Later, we got to know that he had annoyed some of the tribals and they had killed him!’
‘WHATT?!!’, I shouted, wide-eyed! I felt like I was listening to a movie story. ‘You lived among such people?’
Dadi told dada, ‘And you would go away on tours for days together. I would be all alone. Till you would come back, I would have no one to speak to. Just sign language with neighbors, remember that tribal family?’ Dada nods with a gentle smile, pride showing on face for his then newly-wed better-half.
Turning to me, she continued,’Dada had to maintain so much secrecy in his work that sometimes I wouldn’t even know about his whereabouts. Also, at that time the Chinese Aggression was going on. There was illegal trade of weapons from Burma border happening so dada had to attend to that. There could be firing at any time of the day. I had to lie down on the wooden floors in nail biting cold till the firing stopped.’
I looked at dada and dadi, a new respect for them. Blog and diary long forgotten, I urged them to tell me more. ‘THEN?!!’, I shouted.
‘After some time there, we found out that dadi was pregnant.’, dada softened, surprising me. ‘Yess! Noww papa comes into the picture!’, I exclaimed.
‘Bhashaa!’, mom shouts from the window above. ‘You have to go get medicines for dada from that hospital before it closes.’
It snapped me out from the imaginary life of Nagaland that I had made in my mind and I came back to reality. I wanted to hear more stories. But then it was medicines for dada, my dada for whom I can do only so much.
‘Dikra, go. We will tell you about your papa’s birth and childhood after you come’, dadi reassured me.
‘Dada, I want to know about your tales of the border also and about your experience with the enemies. Okay?’
‘I will, after you come back’, dada smiled and promised. ‘Till then, I will complete reading my newspaper.’
I smiled at both and left…
Part 2…more to write, soon 🙂 Stay tuned!