If you haven’t read it already : Part 1 🙂
Intelligence Bureau. Nagaland. Just married. 9 days of journey. Dangerous/helpful tribals. Sign language. Wooden floors. Firing. Food. Dada out on tours. Dadi alone. Granparents. Respect. Honnkk Honnkkk! Smile. So proud of them. Honnkk! Mild irritation. Madam?! Honkkk!
Pop, bursts my bubble! Why am I on a road? Oh right, medicines. Hospital. Scooter. Red light. Green light?! God, me and my day dreaming. I must have turned all pink with embarrassment. *Facepalm*
‘Sorry sorry, bhaii!’, I gujju-apologized to the angry man on scooter behind me, and to multiple people behind him, and sped on as fast as I could.
‘I am back!’, I announced to no one in particular. No one looked up. Dada dadi were in the midst of a very intense discussion. ‘How would S.K.B. Singh and his wife be now?’ ‘They had called last week. They were so happy to remember everything.’ ‘Hmm.’ ‘And Ung Fung Pete and HK Rota? Dr. and Mrs. Deb?’ ‘We should call them.’ ‘Hmm.’ ‘Where are all our Nagaland photos?’ ‘I will check later and tell you. I am not going to get up now.’ ‘Hmm.’
‘Dada daddii whatsup?’, realizing that it was time to jump in. ‘Storryy!’, I shouted, sitting on the swing and opening my little blog book.
‘Hahaa, dikra’, laughed dada. The happy, eager laughter. ‘Where were we?’
‘You forgot? Raju’s birth!’. The unmistakable excitement in dadi’s voice.
‘Right’, dada started. ‘So, Dr. Deb, the medical officer there, told us that dadi had to stay there all 9 months. He wrote an authoritative letter to my father informing him that he cannot send dadi to Gujarat in any circumstances. She cannot travel from Nagaland, it’s very risky. Even airplane travels have heavy turbulence in that region, so the last option was cancelled too.’
‘And there was hardly any nutritional veg food, no maternity homes and no daily help. I would feel so weak.’, dadi exclaimed. ‘Maa came to Nagaland then so it was better. Fast forward to August 25, Raju was born in an extremely cold night. And he wouldn’t cry! We were all very tensed. That night was the worst. He had turned blue and cold.’
‘And then by morning, Raju was fine!’, dada said, eager to reach to the happy ending. ‘The tribals around us were extremely happy. Nupa, Nupa, they shouted, and came to see your papa and touch his nose. Long noses are exotic for them. Mrs. Deb explained later that Nupa is a boy and Nupi is a girl in tribal language.’
Wow, my papa was born in Nagaland! Sounds out of the world.
‘Your papa was the favorite of all’, dadi said laughingly. ‘When he walked down to the only school there as a child, tribal girls used to wait at the hill every day to see him and play with him.’ (Haha! Funny. I added a point in my mental checklist to tease papa about this 😛 ) ‘To spend my days, I used to teach Hindi to the tribal girls. I also used to show them the map of India and give them knowledge about different states. They didn’t know anything apart from the sister states!’
‘And Trupti fai?’, I asked? Could I forget my dear aunt?
‘I was able to come to Gujarat when Trupti was born.’, dadi answered. ‘So that was less of a struggle.’
‘I had gone to bring them back when Trupti was a few months old.’, dada told. (‘You hadn’t come, we had come back alone.’, added dadi tauntingly :P) ‘Everyone loved Raju and Trupti there. When Raju was 3 and Trupti was 1, they organized a grand function for them, brought biscuit packets from Bengal and gave us so much respect!’
‘Both the children grew up in midst of flying snakes, leech and…what do you call veechi in English, beta?’, dadi enquired.
‘Scorpion, dadi. You had snakes and scorpions there?!’
‘Oh yes. I couldn’t leave the kids alone even for a second. Families of government officers had the fear of getting kidnapped.’
Really?! I wondered if I had any shock-quota left for the day.
‘Dada, I am realllyy curious to know. What was your work exactly?’
‘Even if I am retired, I can tell you just some things, beta. It was all very secretive, all for country’s security.’ (Salute to his loyalty!) We had to try and get information on the border underground activities and report it to the central police department. We had spies who brought information from sensitive areas and we had to take steps to see that the enemies’ plans didn’t execute.’, he said, choosing his words carefully.
‘The Burma border called Bihang, 60 km from Churachandpur, was where I worked. I was the first one to be posted there. We used to take rum bottles and food for the Naga tribes on the border to keep them on government’s side. They used to tell me stories about how Subhash Chandra Bose had once come to the border to submit weapons and ammunitions left by Britishers.’
‘That sounds scary and dangerous, dada! Were you safe there?’
‘Not always. Once I was sitting in my office and I got a document from across the border, brought by one of the spies. It was a list of targeted people. First in that list was my name in capitals, because of all my work on the border. P.P.MARU, it said. Under my name was written in small clear words: ‘He is NOT to be killed. Bring him alive, he will have information.’ (I gasped audibly.) I submitted the document to government. I was presented Rs. 5000 cash prize and Nagaland Special Duty Police Medal for my bravery.’
My jaw dropped. He said it so casually, as if this happened very often. There were people appointed to harm my dada?!
‘Arre tell Bhashu about that story’, dadi joined. They were completing each other’s lines and I smiled. Companion goals, I thought. 🙂
‘Dada was once going on a tour’, she said, telling the story herself. ‘And his jeep reached a wooden bridge. Suddenly he asked the driver to stop. He got a feeling that something was not right.’
‘Let me tell now’, dada exclaimed. ‘So, I asked the driver to check the bridge before driving. He went near the bridge, sensed something and dropped a leaf to confirm. And his doubt was right. The leaf burned to ashes and fell in the valley below. The bridge had been strategically set on fire and covered in a way to disguise the fire. The jeep would have gone down the valley too!’
I couldn’t even blink my eye. I suddenly noticed that I had been gripping my blog book so tightly. I was speechless.
‘During my 5 and a half years, I recovered loads of arms, ammunition, revolvers, rifles, binoculars, typewriters, etc. from the enemies. I got many medals for my work there. Write in your diary.’
‘Of course, dada. This goes in my blog’, I smiled.
‘Your dadi and I were the only Gujaratis in Nagaland. I was the only one from the state to get the respectable Indian Police Medal and President’s Police medal for distinguished services, later in 1992.’
I could see his chest swelling with pride.
He looked at dadi. I sensed it was the end of the story. ‘We went there as 2 in 1962, came back as 4 in 1968. Those were the best years of my career. There was struggle but there were precious memories. Nothing would have been possible without your dadi’s support. She struggled with me and kept us all together as a family. (Awww! I got almost teary.) They say that in Nagaland ONE NIGHT IS ONE LIFE. And we survived multiple nights. God is great!’
One word for them. Respect. I had plethora of questions for myself then. Do I value my peaceful, ultra-comfortable life as much as I should do? Do I do anything for my country? Do I have the strength to struggle so much if put in such conditions? Maybe their inspiration will give me answers to these questions. 🙂
Besides sharing their adventures and glory, I had one more message for everyone. Not all grandparents would have stayed among flying snakes and firing. But all of them have struggled in some or the other way to bring us all up. Do we sit down with them and hear their stories? They probably have a lot more wisdom to give to us than any philosopher. Do we spare some time from our busy lives for them? Try that, they will love it. I have seen the twinkle in their eyes, the feeling of being listened to, the feeling of being loved, the feeling of being valued. 😀
Lots to write, laters 🙂