07 May, 2021

Grim Messenger

Grim Messenger
WE were in the telegraph office in Srinagar on the army base. I was trying to get through to Delhi to get them to give instructions to give me permission to get into Kargil. The usual hustle and scramble any reporter does to get in. A soldier walked in. Dusty and battle-worn. He looked exhausted, red-eyed, traumatised. He gave four names. Their families had to be informed with the standard telegram. A telegram none of the families would want to open. They'd know from the envelope. Four dead comrades. Four bodies. His friends. He'd brought the four bodies back from Kargil in the usual black-flagged army truck. Raghu Rai, the photographer, was also hit by this soldier's pain. He offered him a chair. 'Yaar, baith to jao,' Raghu's low voice breaking. 'I can't sit. I can't eat. I can't drink. I can't do anything,' he whispered. We couldn't look at him. We couldn't swallow. We stopped breathing a bit. For us, that was the beginning of a life-changing experience of Kargil.

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