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Ablaze in a Blizzard

Ablaze in a Blizzard - Col.(Retd.) P. Ganesan





The lifelong regret



The lifelong regret

With the happy news that I had been selected for permanent commission and I would be going for 3 years B.Tech course at the college of military engineering; I was doing the routine works at Shillong. In early Feb 1970 I had been getting letters from home that my mother's health was deteriorating and it would be better if I could come on annual leave. Around the same time a Major serving in Shillong Chief Engineer Office was getting married at Dindigul, Tamil Nadu. I thought that by getting annual leave I could see my mother and also if possible I could attend the Major's marriage.

On 23rd Feb 1970 I received a Telegram that my mother's condition was serious. With that Telegram and past few letters I went to GE's office and met him. I explained the situation and the urgency of going on leave. The Garrison Engineer, a civilian officer took it very lightly and sarcastically said that I was planning to attend the Major's wedding and it was a bluff that my mother was serious. Perhaps in the light of strained relationship of mine, being very strict he wanted to show off his power by refusing leave.

I knew that my mother might not live long. But I could do nothing at that moment. I simply sent a Telegram home that I was not able to come. In the evening I went to the bar and had couple of drinks and kept thinking about the situation. The glass which I was holding was being crushed in anger and suddenly broke to pieces. A glass piece got into my hand and started bleeding. The barman ran towards me and helped to put a bandage over it. I got up, had dinner and went to my room. I wrote that day's diary about the unusual events of that day and ended it with that a chapter in my life was being closed. I slept well.

Perhaps because of yesterday's disturbances in me, I might have dreamt like this. I got ready and went to my office which was about 15 km away from GE's office. At about 3pm I rang up GE office to find out any letter was there for me. The head clerk said no letters but a Telegram had come. I requested him to open and see. After a few seconds the head clerk said, "I am sorry sir"

The painful revenge

The GE thought that he was establishing his authority by denying authorised annual leave to me. But I did not beg him further and left the rest to the Cosmic Force. When the news about my mother's death spread, number of people went to GE and shouted at him that there could not be a greater fool than him who denied leave when some one's mother was serious. So the GE came to my office and rendered an apology for whatever happened and requested him to proceed on leave. I was not interested to go as it would take time to reach my native village. But the GE insisted that he would carry a lifelong curse if I did not go on leave. Friends and well-wishers also requested me that I should not face the idiot GE's face and should proceed on leave.

So I sent another Telegram that I was coming on leave and went by car to Guwahati. From there I flew to Calcutta and further to Chennai. It took more time from Chennai to my village than the time it took from Guwahati to Chennai. I reached home at about 4.00 am on 26th Feb 1970 and found an empty space in my house where my mother used to sleep. My brothers were looking at each other and said how unfortunate I was that I could not even see my mother's face as they already cremated her. I was wondering why in spite of informing them that I was coming on leave, they did not wait?

The Cosmic Force gave the answer. On 23rd Feb, I received Telegram that my mother was serious and I was denied leave. So I gave a Telegram that I was not coming on leave. Before this Telegram could reach my house my mother expired and my brother sent another telegram that mother expired. Few hours after they had sent their second telegram, my first telegram reached them stating that I was not coming. So they did not wait for me to proceed further and cremated her. On their return from cremation ground my second telegram reached them. What a pity! I, one amongst seven children would carry the regret for the rest of my life that I could not see my mother's face. Perhaps that was the reason that my mother came to Shillong to bid farewell to me as if it happened in the dream.

The Farewell

On 26th Feb, all of us went to the cremation ground to do the last ritual. The body had been burnt completely. However little bones here and there were collected and the last ritual was conducted. At that time I took one small piece of bone of my mother and some ashes and kept it in a cloth as I wanted to immerse it in River Ganga. When I got my captain's pay with arrears in 1966 Dec., I had taken my parents to Rameswaram, Madurai and then to Palani. At that time I had promised my mother that I would also take them to Kasi subsequently. But that did not take place. So I wanted to immerse her ash in the Ganga. After my mother's death there was no female member at home as both sisters were already married. My father and two younger brothers were there. So I suggested that my younger brother who was provisionally earmarked to look after ancestral properties to get married as early as possible without waiting for me. With that I bid farewell to my home and the village.

While immersing my mother's ashes in Ganga I kept one piece to myself and returned to Shillong. As mentioned earlier I was to report to CME, Pune for 3 years B.Tech course in May 1970. I had purchased 3.5 Bullet Motorcycle in March through canteen. Things went on without any problem and finally I bid farewell to Shillong and reached Pune in May 1970.

The Cosmic Force gave the answer. On 23rd Feb, I received Telegram that my mother was serious and I was denied leave. So I gave a Telegram that I was not coming on leave. Before this Telegram could reach my house my mother expired and my brother sent another telegram that mother expired. Few hours after they had sent their second telegram, my first telegram reached them stating that I was not coming. So they did not wait for me to proceed further and cremated her. On their return from cremation ground my second telegram reached them. What a pity! I, one amongst seven children would carry the regret for the rest of my life that I could not see my mother's face. Perhaps that was the reason that my mother came to Shillong to bid farewell to me as if it happened in the dream.

Reflections


In the Army, leave was a privilege and not a right. We could not leave that place without proper written permission or produce medical certificate like Civilians did.


It might be around three or four o clock in the morning in my room at Shillong. I heard a sound that the door being opened and I saw my mother coming towards me. It was a great surprise and I asked her how she could come all the way from the village. With a gentle smile she replied that she wanted to see me before going. I raised my hand and wanted to hold my mother's hand. Alas, suddenly everything disappeared and I was sitting on the bed from sleeping position. Oh! What an experience that I couldn’t believe it was just a dream.