The lightening that struck occasionally was the only source of illumination we had to form a mental strategy of how we were going to proceed. It was a fairly rugged terrain with the cold and the never ending rain making it a challenge of many sorts. I tried to keep my calm, but the gun shots and the sound of loaded ammunitions that filled the hostile space between us wouldn’t let me. I was drenched from head to toe and the wetness of the fabric send chills through my skin with every cold breeze that swept through us. It was an outright hostile topography. I didn’t expecting anything kinder. We were in the LoC.
‘Major Jodha, you dropped something.’ I heard one of my boys call out. Before I could reach out to it, one of them bent over, picked up the beautiful turquoise marble and gave it to me.
‘Collecting marbles, Major?’ he asked trying to suppress a smirk. The embarrassment sent a flush of blood through my cheeks. He was still gawking at me as he saw me place the prized possession in my pocket. He probably expected me to say something in my defence, but I moved on, ignoring his stare.
But I couldn’t silence my mind as much as I silenced my sub-ordinate.
What was I doing? Carrying marbles around in the battlefield? I had officially lost my mind. But there was just one word that kept echoing at the back of my head and at the bottom of my heart. It was a name.
Keyath. My childhood playmate. My best friend. My soul-mate from across the border.
It’s really funny how your mind tries to justify all the reckless and stupid things you do when you want something (or someone). Your actions leave the rest of the world wondering if you had been left out in the 3 million year long process of evolution or if you brain had had a manufacturing defect. The irony of it all being, you have no idea that you’re being insane until you budge away from that thing (or person) of interest.
My dad had worked in the Indian embassy at Islamabad and I spent the first eight years of my life there. Keyath was my play mate, neighbour and best buddy.
‘You know Jodha, I’d trade my entire collection for a turquoise one.’ He said as we were looking at his huge pile of marble collection. ‘It’s the rarest.’
I remember how his ash coloured eyes glittered as he spoke. We were just around six back then. That was one of the two clearest memories I had of him. The second was that of a rainy day, two years later.
‘You’ll come back to see me, won’t you Jodha?’ he asked. We were at the airport. We were going back to Delhi. My dad’s transfer came as a tycoon in the best days of our lives.
‘Every summer.’ I promised him. ‘And when I visit you next time, I swear I’ll bring you a turquoise marble.’
‘Think of me, whenever you see the colour blue’ he said. Even from inside the airport I could hear the deafening spattering of the downpour outside.
‘And you think of me, whenever you see the rain’ I said as I waved goodbye.
The first half of that promise was the part I broke first. I never had the chance to see him again. For a full year I kept pestering my parents that we should visit our ‘old home’ sometime. But they clearly declared that it was not happening due to various reasons (one of them being the fact that “we did not belong there” as my mom put it). After a series of emotional blackmail, hunger strikes, crying, begging and demanding failed I started paying attention to other things of my new life in Delhi. My new school, new friends and new dreams succeeded in distracting me.
My childhood at Islamabad ended without an epilogue.
Until, a few months ago, Keyath was back in my life. It was on a very beautiful Thursday afternoon that I was whiling away my time in front of the computer. My Facebook page was up and I was talking with a few school friends that I had received a friend request: Keyath Abdullah wants to be your friend.
I coudn’t believe my eyes. My heart raced as I opened his profile in a new tab. Yes. It was him. It was the same tall, fair guy with ash coloured eyes who had given me the best days of my life. The conversations started, and we just couldn’t stop talking about how our lives had changed.
It was like I never left. He was still the same boy I had known. But the plot twist was to come later.
He worked for their army.
The conversations were not the same again. I found it very hard to look at him as a friend after he mentioned his job. I tried to ignore him as much as possible. But my mind wouldn’t stop thinking. He probably realised I was ignoring him. But he did the unexpected. He started confronting me.
Keyath: Uh…..Jodha, Are you ignoring me? o.O o.O
I decided not to lie or beat about the bush. I had to tell him and put an end to this.
Jodha: can I be completely honest?
Keyath: Yea. =))
Jodha: it’s your job.
Jodha: we can’t be friends, mate.
Jodha: It makes me feel like a traitor.
I saw that he had seen the message. But he did not reply. The hours that followed were the most agonising. I felt guilty. I thought maybe I should’ve been a little less rude. His reply that came twenty hours later took me by surprise (yet again.)
Keyath: My dearest Jodha, it really is such a pity that our destinies had to be intertwined like this. I don’t know how much you have changed or how much you haven’t, and in all honesty, I don’t care. Coz, I still remember you as the high spirited girl who was and still is the truest friend I have had in all my life. That should suffice, right? True friends reach out to each other. Not just across borders, but across worlds.
My eyes welled up as I read the message. I swear I could hear his voice as I re-read it
Keyath: P.S: I still think of you when it rains. Do you think of me when you see the colour blue? ;))
I was dumb folded and I so badly wanted to see him. Each and every word of the message hit hard and deeps as I kept re-reading it. I only felt fully alive when I started talking with him again.
Jodha: So when do I get to see you?
Jodha: hmmmm L
Keyath: hey, wait. wen and where’s your next camp?
Jodha: LoC, Friday.
Keyath: kool! I’m camped there too =))
Jodha: Our re-union I really going to be one of a kind, isn’t it? ;p
Keyath: Yea, Cuz coffee shops and Theatres are too mainstream. :p :p ;p
I hysterically laughed out loud until my stomach started hurting. I promised him I’ll bring his turquoise marble. He said he seriously doubted it, because I was not the kind of girl who kept her promises. The truth of that statement stung my heart but I started counting the hours to Friday.
Yet, here I was, in the middle of a rain storm, treading over the Line of Control, with marbles in my pocket. I was just simply way too tired to even laugh at the irony of it all.
I don’t remember how or when it all started, but all of a sudden, there were firings from both sides. Literally in a blink of an eye, I saw more than half of my brigadiers fall. And out of a gut instinct, I started shooting back. The firing lasted for more than fifty minutes and we kept going until we had owned the other side down.
A very dark and antagonistic silence followed.
It was still raining as I walked across the LoC. With my heart pounding, I kept praying and hoping that another appointment had kept Keyath away from the camp that day. I wished he had forgotten or fallen sick. But I was wrong.
There, a few meters across the LoC, I saw a tall fair body with ash coloured lifeless eyes.
True friends reach out to each other. Not just across borders, but across worlds. He had said. How dreadfully mistaken he had been. It would probably be very much easier to reach out across worlds, but nobody can reach out across borders.
The rain stopped as I crashed down and cried hysterically.