THE SOLDIER

THE SOLDIER
A Short Story
by
VIKRAM KARVE

To read the Original Post in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal please click the link below:
http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2013/01/the-pen-is-mightier-than-sword.html

THE SOLDIER

THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD
Short Fiction – A Soldier’s Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE
The Soldier sat on the footpath near the gate of the Accounts Office.
Abe Langde … Hat Wahan Se (Hey you one-legged cripple … Move from there)” a street-food cart vendor said, “Yeh Meri Jagah Hai (This is my place).”
The soldier winced.
Then he looked down at his amputated leg.
Yes, he was indeed a cripple, a langda.
When he had joined the army he had two strong legs.
And now he had just one leg and one stump.
He picked up his crutch, pushed his body up and slowly hobbled a few steps away and was about to sit under a shady canopy near the street corner when a traffic policeman shouted, “Ae Bhikari … Wahan Mat Baith (Hey Beggar … don’t sit there).”
Main Bhikari Nahin Hoon … Main Fauji Hoon (I am not a beggar … I am a soldier),” protested the soldier.
Phir Border Pe Ja Kar Lad (Then go and fight on the border),” the policeman said with sarcasm.
Wahi to kar raha tha (That is what I was doing),” the soldier mumbled to himself.
As the soldier tottered on the street on his crutches he talked to himself. He had been a fool to be brave. He should have played safe. At least he wouldn’t have lost his leg. And he wouldn’t have been discharged from the army as medically unfit.
Now he was being made to run from pillar to post for his disability pension because just because some clerk had “misplaced” his documents.
The soldier was exasperated.
In the army he was expected to do everything promptly and properly in double-quick time.
But these civilians were just not bothered.
First the paperwork was delayed due to red tape.
Then there were some careless typographical errors in his papers and his documents had to be sent back for the necessary corrections.
And now his papers had been misplaced.
It was sad.
Nobody was bothered about his plight.
The civilian babus comfortably cocooned in their secure 9 to 5 five-day-week jobs were slack and indifferent and did not give a damn for the soldiers they were meant to serve.
Civilians expected soldiers to be loyal unto the grave without offering loyalty in return.
“What is the big deal if you lost a leg?” one cruel clerk had remarked mockingly, “You soldiers are paid to fight. And if you die, or get wounded, it is a part of your job. You knew the risks before you joined, didn’t you? If you wanted to live a safe life why did you become a soldier? You should have become a chaprassi (peon) like your friend.”
Tears rolled down the soldier’s cheek as he thought of this.
Others were not so cruel and heartless, but their sympathy was tinged with scorn.
Indeed, he should have become a chaprassi like his friend who was now helping him get his disability pension.
Both he and his friend had been selected for the post of peon in a government office.
But he had been a fool – he told everyone that it was below his dignity to work as achaprassi and then he went to recruitment rally and joined the army as a soldier.
He made fun of his friend who took up the job of a peon and boasted with bloated pride about being a soldier.
And now the tables had turned and the peon was having the last laugh on the soldier.
The peon was secure in his job while the soldier was out on the street, crippled for life and begging for his pension.
And now his friend wasn’t even called a chaprassi – they had upgraded all Class-4 to Class-3 and his friend was now designated as “assistant”.
His friend would retire at the age of 60 after a safe, secure, easy, tension-free career without any transfers or hardships.
And if he got disabled they wouldn’t throw him out.
And if he died, his wife or son or daughter would get a job in his place.
Nothing like that for the soldier. He had to fend for himself.
The soldier felt disheartened.
He looked at his amputated leg and deeply regretted his decision to join the army.
Indeed he had made a mistake.
He would have been much better off as a peon or in some other civilian job.
The soldier also felt a sense of guilt that he had made fun of his friend.
Today he was at his friend’s mercy.
The soldier had to live on the kindness of the man he had once ridiculed and scoffed at.
It was a terrible feeling.
It was more than six months as he anxiously waited for his pension and dues.
His friend had given the soldier, and his family, shelter and food. And now he was trying to help him out by running around from office to office using the “peon network” to trace the misplaced papers.
The soldier felt sorry for his hapless wife.
She was at the mercy of his friend’s wife who openly derided her and made her displeasure quite clear by making scathing comments about the soldier, his wife and their children and kept on carping about how they were sponging on her hospitality like parasites.
The soldier’s wife hated his friend’s wife but she had to suffer the humiliation in silence and bear the daily insults – it was terrible to be at the mercy of someone who detested you.
Today the friend had asked the soldier to stand outside the gate and gone into the accounts office alone.
He had gone in alone because last time the soldier had spoilt everything by refusing to a pay a bribe to the accounts officer.
The soldier had even threatened the accounts officer that he would report the matter.
The accounts officer was furious: “Go and report. Nothing will happen. Now I will see to it that your papers are not traced until you die. What do you bloody soldiers think? That you can threaten us? This is not the army. This is the accounts office. Haven’t you heard the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword – now I will show you.”
Today his friend had gone inside to negotiate.
The clerks had told him not to bring the soldier inside the office as the egoistic accounts officer may get furious on seeing the soldier and everything will be spoilt.
Once everything was “settled”, they would try and trace the “misplaced” documents and he could take them out to obtain the soldier’s signature and resubmit the papers for clearance of the disability pension.
The soldier waited anxiously in the hot sun for his friend to come out. Angry thoughts buzzed in his mind.
“Ungrateful, corrupt people – all these civilians,” the soldier muttered to himself, “we sacrifice our life and limb for their sake and they humiliate us, even ask me to pay a bribe to get my own disability pension.”
“Patriotism, heroism, idealism – no one bothers about these things anymore. I made a mistake by joining the army,” he mumbled to himself, “I made a bigger mistake trying to be brave. What was the point of showing courage, initiative, daring and going beyond the call of duty to nab those guys? How does it matter if a few sneak in? Out here in the city, who is bothered about these things anyway? They don’t even know what is happening out there. Had I looked the other way no one would have known and I would not be a one-legged cripple – a langda. And even then, I wish they had shot me in the head and I had died. That would have been better”.
The soldier thought of his wife, his children, the bleak future awaiting them.
How long would they have to be dependent on the mercy of his friend and his loath wife?
He felt sad, very sad, as depressing thoughts of despondency and hopelessness perambulated in his brain.
He wondered whether his disability pension problem would be solved today.
It was taking long – his friend had gone in at 10 and it was almost 12 noon now.
The sweltering summer sun was hot and the soldier felt parched and weak.
He had drunk just a cup of tea since they started their journey to the accounts office in the city by bus from their friend’s home in the distant suburbs early in the morning.
Suddenly the soldier felt faint, so he walked towards the compound wall of the accounts office, took support and slid down to sit on his haunches.
At 12:30 his friend emerged from the gates of the accounts office. He was happy – the bribe had been paid, the documents had been promptly traced. Now all he had to do was get the soldier’s signature on the papers and he had been assured that the soldier’s disability pension and all his dues would be given within a month.
He began to look around for the soldier and saw him sitting strangely, propped against the wall.
The soldier’s eyes were closed and it seemed that he had fallen asleep.
Something seemed amiss, so he briskly walked towards the soldier, bent down and touched the soldier’s shoulder.
The soldier fell down to his side.
The friend panicked. He thought the soldier had fainted so he started shouting for help.
The traffic policeman, the street-cart vendor and some passers-by rushed to help.
The policeman told the vendor to sprinkle some water on the soldier’s face but nothing happened.
The policeman rang up the police control room for an ambulance.
“I hope he is not dead,” the friend said with trepidation.
“I don’t know. But it looks like he is totally unconscious. What happened? Who is he? He was muttering that he is a fauji – is he really a soldier?” the policeman asked.
The friend told the policeman the soldier’s story – the full story.
“Sad,” the policeman said, “very sad – the way they treat our soldiers.”
The ambulance arrived.
A paramedic examined the soldier and said, “I think he is dead. We will take him to the hospital. There the doctors will examine him and officially pronounce him dead.”
“The enemy’s bullets could not do what the babus did – the enemy’s bullets could not kill him but the these babus  killed him,” the policeman commented.
“Yes, the accounts officer was right,” the distraught friend said, “the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.”
VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Did you like reading this story?
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http://www.flipkart.com/appetite-stroll-vikram-karve/8190690094-gw23f9mr2oAbout Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse – his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

Vikram Karve Academic and Creative Writing Journal: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile Vikram Karve: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve
Vikram Karve Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/vikramkarve
Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog: http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
Email: vikramwamankarve@gmail.com

      

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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