Thursday, October 1, 2015

109. Only losers in a war

The actual scene was quite close to this picture
Like thousands of others on either side of the border, I too was caught in the crossfire of the historic Indo-Pak War in 1965. While I don’t remember the exact date, I was a 9-year-old then and was travelling with my mother. On a sunny September morning, we had arrived at the Firozpur railway station, located close to the international border at village Hussainiwala, in time to catch the next train on our onward journey to Bhatinda.

Using the only foot over bridge at the station, we had alighted on the platform where bogies of our next train were lined up. There was time for the train to depart and hence the coal-fired engine had yet to be connected to the rake. Hardly had we finished our meals, when the train was hit by some kind of a thunderbolt, tossing us over as the bogie tilted in one direction. Luckily for us, it tilted towards the platform and rested back on its track.

No one knew what it was, and there was commotion all around. People were screaming and hauling as we ran out of the bogie in the direction in which the crowd was running. My mother  held my hand tightly but I could not resist looking back to see one of the burning bogies of our train. It was an enemy fighter jet that had dropped a bomb on our train. Emergency sirens were blazing as the jet had continued to dodge three Indian fighter planes which were on its hot chase.

There was drama in the sky; someone shouted at us to lie down on the ground. The cockfight in the air was amazing. Two Indian planes were on either side of the enemy jet with the third flying behind and firing rockets at it. As the planes were flying low, the firing was clearly visible. The enemy jet  continued to escape fire by swiftly changing its direction and elevation. If my memory serves me right, the drama lasted for around half an hour.

The enemy jet was finally hit and I could see the burning plane hurtling towards the ground at some distance. As a big cloud of smoke rose at a distance, the victorious Indian planes surged upwards in an arrow formation.  At that age, it was an exhilarating experience devoid of any emotions much like what the present generation may encounter in a video game. I have been wondering ever since at the plight of the jet pilot, and those trapped in the burning bogie.

At the end, there are only losers in any war! Back to my school the following week, I made a humble donation to the families of those who had lost their lives in the war.

(real-life encounter)
First published in Deccan Herald, Oct 2, 2015