-‘I cannot forget the year it was 1984 and Punjab militancy was in heat! I knew I had to board a train that evening since I had to move to getting to the regimental training center in Shillong. I mean 58 GTc but now in Dehradun!’
-‘As such the journey from Danapur (Bihar) to Ambala was an uncertain one but there was no train thereafter to Jammu. The only one available was a day after and that to an army special’! My father after I passed out had taken me to Danapur! That proved to be his last posting as he died there!
-‘ My father (in the army that time) had given me an address and that was of my cousin’s sister Dolly! But I never knew where their location was. Her husband was in the regiment of artillery but that clue was not enough!’
-‘Ambala Cantonment is a huge place and in those days the station was small but now it is a huge one. With a suitcase in hand and bag on my back, I got off the train as instructed by my dad!
-’After a struggle for the location of my sister Dolly I found the house. Sister is a sister and the next day Col Pathania her husband) put me in the train but a story was to start 18 days later and it did!
-‘It was Sealdah Express, Jammu railway station to start from platform-2. Whether the same is true now I cannot say because it has been 15 years since I visited Jammu railway Station last!’
-‘ Obviously the date to get into the train was the same as mentioned in instructions and we had to move through Lucknow!’
-‘I was sitting in the curtain apartment of an AC-2 chamber alone but in Pathankot I had company!’
-‘She looked good, healthy but a bit morose. But when the ticket teller (TT) came to check the destination was Shillong. Was it a coincidence or a ticket to nowhere? At that time I could not make out on the first look at the girl and neither was I bothered!
-’I had the grub in my tiffin but I did not dare to ask her and since I was fond of a drink I walked out to have it in a glass that I was carrying!’
-‘By twelve in the evening my first friend boarded the train. The place was Jullunder!. By another hour we were four. We got out of that curtain chamber and walked into the other which had no passengers! By another four hours we were seven!’
-‘It was Rommy who reminded us that guys we are eating what about the kid in the next apartment, ‘the exact words Kulu Pooch Toh Leh! It’s indecent that we are eating and she is alone in the compartment and also ask where are you going!’!
-That was the beginning of a fascinating journey. She had the food, whatever we were carrying but the story had to explode after early morning at twelve as the train stood at Moradabad just a few but still kilometers short of Lucknow!
-‘But trust me she had everything that we carried along with us as tiffin! We all remained in one curtained apartment but made she was secure!~
It was at Pathankot when she had sat with me and after that till Saharanpur we had a whole gallery who had 17 days before passed out of the Drill squares of Indian Military Academy and got pipped!
As stations passed and we just quit that apartment but were in the next but some drunken rogues had climbed on and Reena was in a bit of difficulty. Understatement though because she had a company and that to a rogue one! Four men sat there and Reena was under the blanket. I went to pick up my tiffin but at Ambala we were to become three and in subsequent stations many! It was at Saharanpur that Reena came to us sensing trouble! ‘They are staring at me!’ Just relax on the upper berth and I handed over my food box! She had it and then slept but the rowdies did come but now we were seven! They saw us and retraced their steps!
But one man had the indignity to challenge us and the words were bad, I do not want to write them! We seven were enough for eight! We unloaded them at Bareilly railway station bruised and battered but Reena was with us.
We were having tea and Assam mail was to move from Lucknow in the evening (meter gauge train). That was the time I asked her where are you heading towards. The reply stunned the seven, ‘No where’ ‘If you are my brothers save me!’ We stood stupefied, all youngsters not knowing what to do! I, myself and a carefree man, responded by saying, ‘sister is an appropriate word to use then’ and the other was, ‘ let us see what happens’ and we travelled and reached Shillong!’
I had studied in St. Edmunds Shillong and I knew a few great girls from Loreto Convent uphill there. It was nice to see them employed in Lady Keane’s College! I knew that was the right place for Reena! She stayed there for the next five years and then she left. Where exactly we were not to know! But then it was a strange encounter!
We had got into a house where something was to happen. A place in Bhikhiwind, a town in Punjab. It was afternoon when we got into the premises after we had surrounded the house. There were five men sitting inside and having afternoon drinks, definitely not beer in the afternoon but countryside liquor! A lady was on the blast furnace, (Tandoor) and a girl in mid twenties was making roundels of flour! We knew what we had come for but there was something that was going to happen a couple of hours later!
We got up and suddenly Reena held my hand! I did not know that she was the same lady who we seven had met on the train. She removed the face cover and I recognized her, and one line summed it all up. ‘Brother that day you helped me eight years back, it’s time for me to pay back’! ‘You came in search operations, the weapons are in the trunk and they are right in front of you’! I looked at Reena and asked as to why you are saying so! The answer was a screamer! ‘These guys raped my mother and she stands cooking for them, she cannot speak!’ Whatever happened thereafter, I will not write but readers can understand what a brother would have done! Reena is my second sister and she is in Ottawa, Canada! Some stories of men in uniform never end! After all attaining an age of retirement an army man has many episodes written on heart and brain! This was just another one!