Life between darkness and light

The night was soaked in black ink, deep and beautiful. Even the moon could barely peep though, just a naughty star mischievously squinting or that’s all I noticed. Holding hands with that darkness he slowly inclined and in arms of serene wilderness, his lips touched mine. And I just melted, as time stood still. The night’s aroma pervades the air, woven into a soft net, covering all the scenery inside. The only sound was of my heart pounding in my chest as his lips addictively invaded all my senses.

Entangling breeze to wind,

Shrubs and vines combined,

Slowly he too inclined.

Our melted soul weaved a blanket of devilry on that darkest of the nights and we were free from the chains of worldly binding and flowing to the outer world.

In the right hands who doesn’t melt and I was flowing a river. His hypnotic smell took me over and I let go of everything.

His lingering fingers felt cool on my warm body as the kisses grew deeper. Rest everything, I censor in my heart and lock it up there, hidden from the world.

From the pathless forest wood,

In the green, we stood,

Dimming twilight understood.

We had not slept at all that night. I remember holding his hands as we saw the sun pouring in and I kept guessing was it all just my wild imagination. The sun rose to break our hearts and announcing the awareness that we had lost in the arms of the moon. We didn’t get from the dark forest floor which had lead us to a new pathless long road of blooming flowers and warm hearts. The dawn did bring us a new light of forever togetherness but we didn’t want to leave that moment behind.

Deeper we walked in the forest, the more lost we were. But we didn’t care and still kept walking in and kept exploring days as they came. Awed with the first-time experiences we build our new world and didn’t leave a leaf unturned. Time lost its meaning and forgot the existence of time altogether. Which led to forgetting time’s disciples and order. Consequences to which he needed to say, “Sheuli, the summer is almost over”. Comprehending what he meant, I suddenly woke up to our brutal reality.

Finding the way out of that forest or at least not going in any deeper our summer days ended forever. He was a proud Army Captain, and it was time for him to go back to the tension gripped borders. How proud I felt seeing him in his uniform! The soldier in all loving heart signed on as a protector, realising what he sought to protect in others he sacrificed in himself. One side was his devotion to the country and the other side was me, his wife standing with a torn heart, and fear of losing him killed me inside.

He took a bus and I drove home alone. In our last conversation, he told, “no matter where I go, remember, there is someone, somewhere, who loves you a lot.” He promised to write letters because where he was posted didn’t have any network, plus in war zones making a call would never be permitted.

Every 15th of the month his letter would arrive. He would tell me about the cold north winds and I would capture the warm sea breeze of the Arabian sea and send him. On every letter, I whispered a prayer to keep him safe. All I could do was to wait for him with trepidation holding his letters to my heart, often struggling alone to keep up with my ever-changing environment, and trying hard to divert my pain by focusing hard on my work. I started freelance writing for marketing companies and that did help in getting lost in time sometimes.

On the morning of May 1999, almost a year after he had gone, I read about the declaration of war as a big and bold headline of my local newspaper — India and Pakistan are going to war in the Kargil district of Kashmir, along the LOC. And I just froze knowing he was just there, in the freezing mountainous terrain of Kashmir.

By June positive news was pouring in from all news channels- Indian troops re-capture two key positions in the Batalik sector; Pakistani troops pulling back…. But the same day my thirteen letters came back to me – undelivered it stated. Going mad with fear I tried reaching him in every possible way but all my attempts drowned in failure. The news kept pouring in from Kargil as the war grew bad to worse. Hundreds of people had already died in just a few days.

I was told that he was a part of a rescue operation and he has not returned to his troop. But I was not going to give up. I waited with all strength and hope. Thinking about our last sunset together and writing this brings a lump of saddens in my throat. First love has its power. Not days, months, or years, I’m writing this after decades of witnessing our most beautiful darkest night. One thing I can tell you that first love you can never forget. It lives inside of you, like a part of your soul.

If you are wondering, what happened, let me tell you. I received his written incomplete letter which had the dust of Kargil and some blood fleck on the half-empty sheet. The Army confirmed that he is missing and they are on the lookout – prisoner of war what the media said. With time I learned he was not the only one, there were other 53 missing soldiers. The international media called them “the missing 54”.

Today it looks like the country has moved on and “the missing 54” are lost in the fog of war. But I haven’t and nor has another 53 families. I meet other wives sometimes and share hope and strength to keep going. But more than four decades after they disappeared, there’s no clarity over their numbers and fate.

My first love ended most tragically. We never got the chance to live together and experience life. The day he left was orange, bright, and brave but today when I look back that bright day was darker than our darkest night.