IN THE WAR ZONE

No, this is not a review of the play by this name of my favourite playwright Eugene O’Neil. This has got much limited scope: the War Zone called Sector 20, Kharghar in Navi Mumbai. If you had similar war zones in your own neighbourhood during Diwali, I can only add a disclaimer, as is found before movies and books: ‘The resemblance is purely coincidental’.

Everyone’s been warning us that the Maoists are eyeing urban landscape for expanding their war against the state and its citizens. Little did we know that this war would come to us from unexpected quarters: revellers trying to celebrate a certain Ram having returned home safely. My take is that he was lucky he was exiled to the forests; if he was to be exiled to Sector 20, Kharghar, returning safe would have been a tougher challenge.

Initially, during the day, it started with sporadic firing of small arms but enough to make our dog Roger cringe and look for shelter. But soon the calibre of the weapons used increased in inverse proportion to the calibre of the users. By night, unguided missiles, heavy artillery, rockets and grenades had been brought out. The scenes of blood curdling warfare with unintelligible screams of “get them”, “bachne na paaye” (don’t let them get away), “aaj nahin chhodenge” (tonight we shall not leave them) filled the air. Soon, no place was safe for the enemy.

 In a distant place called Guantanamo, American investigators used to disorient their prisoners by constant loud noises; so that finally the terrorists would own up their guilt or collusion. But, the kind of torture, Sector 20, Kharghar, subjected its inhabitants to would have put any Guantanamo to shame.

The technological excellence of the raids left us gaping. Like Iraq war, first the targets were softened by continuous aerial bombardment. Tracers were used to illuminate the targets and then it was tchak tchak tchak boom boom boom blast. The enemy could not be seen but must have been running for life. Flushing out operations were the hardest; boom, boom, tchak, bang, wroom.

Just as we thought there was a let up,the door to door fighting resumed with renewed zeal. Sounds of determined explosions continued the whole night. We were in our homes like people cowering in nuclear bunkers, expecting the worst.

At one stage, I ventured out like an intrepid war – journalist and tapped a combatant as young as 14 years old who was about to light up the fuse of serial bombs of a few hundred kilo-tons and asked him, “Beta yeh aap Ramji ke liye kar rahe ho?” (son, are you doing it for Lord Ram?) His reply was muffed in the blast of the explosions but I could understand the essential part of it: He was doing it for fellow combatant Ujjawal, who had taken a break to replenish ammunition from the nearest store.

 Another one told me that life depended upon subjecting the enemy to continuous firepower; something similar to Basanti in Sholay: “Ab nacho; jab tak tere paer challenge, tere aashiq ki saans chalegi” (Now dance; as long as your feet run, so will the breath of life of your lover).

To give credit to these warriors, their devotion to duty was so complete that they continued relentlessly the whole night. Basanti would have given up long ago.

In the morning we were gratified to get the news that Sector 20 Kharghar had emerged the winner in urban guerrilla warfare. It had to face extremely tough competition but the young men of our neighbourhood had fought determinedly and without respite. We are going to honour them in a felicitation ceremony as soon as we have collected a billion old sandals and chappals, one each for the tchak tchak boom boom.

I saw a young warrior returning home at wee hours of the morning, rockets and missiles popping out from his back-pack, grime and grease on his face, and satisfaction of a job well-done. His only complaint was that victorious though he and his gang were, there was shame in returning home with unused ammunition. I assured him that life had not ended for him (even though it nearly ended for us) and that there would be a next time.

I went for a walk at the other end of the Central Park and found a few familiar mongrels. These gathered near a trash mound there and looked pretty inactive and morose. I told them that they did not have to come this far since Sector 20, Kharghar had adequate number of garbage dumps to welcome them. Their reply made me think highly of our young men’s commitment to their cause, “All very well for you to say so. Everyone in Sector 20 Kharghar is very cooperative in throwing garbage everywhere so that we can enjoy. But, last night we were out-manoeuvred by really heavy firing. On one hand you welcome us like proper Indians with trash everywhere. On the other hand, you slam the daylights and even nightlights out of us by war cries, explosions and blasts. You can continue to stay there because you have no choice; but, we will not return until peace prevails.”

Peace prevails? Lord Ram, you have returned after fourteen years of exile and we welcome you. But, tell us when will peace return to Sector 20, Kharghar?

© 2010 – 2016, Sunbyanyname. All rights reserved.

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10 Comments

  1. We have been the undisputed winner for the highest DB’s during any part of the day or night . In normal conversations/mobile /tel et all we are simply unbeatable ! – A J

  2. As I am going progressively deaf, this debate leaves me unmoved. I feel Diwalis have become quieter nowadays!

    1. Haha Mohan Ram Sir. Gradually, with age, when we start losing our senses of hearing, sight, taste, smell and touch, we start being more receptive to extra sensory experiences…silently but surely. Your world is, I am sure, far more beautiful. Regards.

  3. Ravi, in your inimitable style you have conveyed your message explosively loud & clear- guys cool it, do not scare the daylights out of Lord Ram, lest He beat a hasty retreat out of Mumbai!

    1. Thank you John Philipose. Noise as a form of devotion is an altogether new phenomenon. During my childhood, I used to hear stories of gods and goddesses giving their curse on someone who would indulge in unwanted noise. Perhaps, people feel that whatever happens in the well of the Lok Sabha, whence parliamentarians vie with each other to be heard by the Speaker is the same when it comes to God too.

  4. Hilarious. Absolutely rip-roaring. Touches a chord because I’ve experienced it first hand in Powai too 😂😂 Every festival has lost its significance to crass commercialisation n so I’ve stopped participating or believing in them all

    1. Thanks Geetanjali. You have hit the nail on the head; there is nothing religious or traditional left in the festivals. These are merely commercialisation these days and exploited by the netas and babus as the sentiments of the people.

  5. Message received “loud and clear”. Excellent articulation. Hope this message is well received by all the concerned fighters and we see a behavioural shift this Diwali.

    1. Thank you Sanjeev. Normally, there is a lag between the awareness of the inteligentsia and the people at large. So, I take it that it would be several years, if not decades, when the people realise the futility of such competitive noise and ostanetation.