At 11,000 feet above the sea level, manning a bridge to prevent terrorist attacks is certainly not a good job to do. But Keshav was upto the task and doing it diligently. It had been more than a year that he was in Dras, a small section in Kargil district of Kashmir and probably the coldest place inhibited in India. Month of July was approaching its end. It was one of the warmer periods in Dras with temperatures going as high at 20 degrees on some days. So Keshav wasn’t complaining. There were other times when he had fought for snatching the Tiger hill back from the infiltrators in sub zero temperatures. But the war was over now… at least for some time and Keshav was happy about it. Finally he had a chance to go home. He was going to meet Laxmi.
Laxmi and Keshav had spent all their childhood together before a tragedy struck and they were separated. But they still managed to sneak time to meet each other. It was difficult, especially considering the trouble between their parents. Never the less it couldn’t stop them. Sitting on the watch tower with a Tavor TAR21 in his hand, he remembered how difficult it was to control Laxmi when he broke the news of joining Indian Army. Keshav always had this attraction of guns and ammunitions. Though as a child he never knew what are they really used for and what catastrophe they create. But he liked them anyway and always dreamt of getting into the Army ranks. Laxmi on the other hand was a very sweet little girl. She liked poetry more than bombs. She cherished chasing the butterflies in the garden whereas Keshav enjoying hunting them down so that Laxmi could preserve them in her note books. They were opposite ends and they attracted each other like any thing.
Keshav alerted the security when he saw a tourist jeep approach the bridge. From distance it looked like a white colored Gypsy. Although the vehicle was at least a kilometer away, dwindling down the road, with the help of his Fujinon AR-SX 6×30 binoculors, he was pretty sure it was a Gypsy. As he downed the cross hair, he remembered how he and Laxmi used to watch stars in the night through the astronomical binoculor his father owned. Laxmi would get facinated by the stars and would want them all in her lap. Keshav would often get upset for he couldn’t shoot them down the way he shot the butterflies. One day, he thought, he would take Laxmi to the sky and show her how beautiful it is from the top.
The vehicle was now clearly visible. Keshav was wrong, it was not a Gypsy but a Toyota. This brand was not sold in India. Some thing was really fishy and Keshav’s heart was now pounding. He immediately shouted on the microphone and alerted the command post. They men on ground immediately pulled extra barricades and waved the vehicle to slow down. The Toyota instead increased the speed and was now cruising towards the bridge. Keshav’s mind began to race. What was that? A suicide attack on the bridge? Yes… probably yes! He had to act and act very quickly. He immediately threw his bino off and pulled the Tavor in position. Another few seconds passed. There were no signs of the vehicle slowing down. He aimed the cross hair on the front tyre and fired. Missed… shit! He fired again. This time it was on target and the vehicle began to swivel. But the vehicle was still on course. He now aimed at the wind screen and fired multiple shots. The screen crashed and he could see two bearded guys inside. He had to avoid the vehicle to come any closer. By the time even the ground platoon was ready and firing. Both men couldn’t take the barrage of bullets and the vehicle lost control. It swiveled some more and to Keshav’s horror, banged right on his watch tower. Keshav didn’t remember many things after that, except that he fell to the ground with a thud. A large iron block followed and fell on his right leg. Looking at the sky with a diminishing vision, he prayed god. He wanted to be home for Raksha Bandhan.
Looking at the sky, remembering Laxmi, he closed his eyes.
To be continued…