Year 1971. The terrible times of Indo Pakistan war. I was a resident of Gajsinghpur, a small town near Punjab-Pakistan border. Things were turning bad to worse with every passing hour. The scene was grave. We lived in fear, locked mostly inside the four walls of our houses, unsure of when misfortune strikes and breathing stops! As horror struck, many people left the place for good, running away with their lives and hoping to secure the welfare of their families.
I, from my family, along with some friends still managed to stay there. We all stayed together at my place. It was complete blackout for more than fifteen days. No one dared to even peep out of the windows of their houses. Any sign of life and the Pakistani terrorists could fire. Few of us who held back at Gajsinghpur tried our best to underplay our presence. No one told us, but it was evident that the town must look abandoned. We were told that Pakistani miscreants were out for the kill. After all, wasn’t bringing down the enemy’s property and strength, thus destroying the opponent’s confidence, an important power-play during wars?
We had no idea that what was going to happen in future. I was married and had kids. I made sure that my wife and kids reached my wife’s place safely. I was not even sure whether I even survive or not. If I would get to see my family ever again – I tried not to think about it. I stayed with my friends at my place, waiting for the best and preparing for the worst.
For the first few days after our families left, we were very worried. Days passed at their usual pace. The most interesting trick of time is, it gets you used to the fiercest, after exposing you to it for a while. In a while, we too accepted that stress as “normal”. We were mentally stable and far calmer now. I still remember, on the sixth day one of my friends suggested, “Lets play cards!”
Since then we pretended as if nothing was happening, nothing was unusual, we were missing nothing. Maybe after surviving six days of that horror, we had grown more confident. Or maybe, nothing mattered any longer. Those days the houses had a very different architecture. The layouts were typical to those times and geography. Especially in states like Rajasthan there were large, wide-spread and royal houses. So was mine. We stayed underground for almost fifteen days, used up all the basic needs like food and water we had stored, remained tensed for first four or five days and then got fed up of the fear!
By God’s grace, none of us died. The situation was reversed eventually. The town returned to its life. The families returned to their houses. Separated relations were united again. In due course of time and the tensed situations relaxed. I lived peacefully with my family. Much later once, my wife asked me how I had spent those days of intense fury, having been left alone by family. I had told her, “We played cards and slept for the rest of the time.”
Storyteller : Surajmal Bothra (84)
As told to Ritika Jain