The late evening rays gild the tree-tops and paint any wayward cloud in some zingy orange shades. Lets not even talk about the breathtaking beauty of monsoon clouds and sunsets ( more on that in later months).
The Army uses the field to gather troops, prepare convoys and do other stuff which demonstrates the amazing discipline and systems they have. Trucks and troops are marshaled into neat piles, there is a sharp pep-talk and then, the entire convoy moves out…as they trundle past my balcony, it takes all my self-control to stop me from shouting “Jai Hind” at every passing truck. Ah well, it’s a good feeling, this pride and admiration for our troops!
The field changes its persona many times—in a single day, it can go from early- morning- exercise- field TO training- ground- for- marathon- runners TO afternoon- practice- ground- for- the- band TO evening –hockey- cricket- football- volleyball- field TO drill- and- parade- field and, finally, to stark-and-lovely- moonlit-field- for- jackals- and- rabbits- and- the- occasional- big- cat.
The evenings are my favorite. I watch dusk settle down, hear the night drift in with owl hoots and jackal yelps,and then, before I turn in for the night, the dogs and me take in a few minutes of the star studded sky, the frost and dew drops , the brilliant moonlight and the whispering breeze. Perfection.
I am not the only person who enjoys the field in all its avatars and in all seasons. There is a soldier on guard duty, around the clock. The shift changes thrice a day, and the night guard gets a companion, a brilliant torch, firewood and a delicious packed meal who’s aroma can tickle my nostrils (if the wind direction is right). The morning guard gets to watch and participate in the morning PT routine, the training sessions and even the band practice.
But the tough job is reserved for the mid-day to evening guy. 8 hours of bland field sunshine with some crows and birds for company. 8 hours of watching the grass grow, the branches sway and the cars pass. No Big Cat walks by, no trespassers pop in, no jawans jump up and down. This is the time when I sit and watch how each soldier chooses to spend his guard duty time.
- Young soldiers use this time to have long mobile conversations with friends ( whooping, guffawing and swearing), family ( lots of hmms, yes, no) and their beloved ( tiny smile on face, frequent hand gestures, lolling on the ground ).
- A few fierce looking soldiers gather up the trash which is thrown by passing folks, pile it up and set it on fire, fierce expression intact. I can relate to their anger and frustration at seeing the constant littering which our fellow citizens indulge in!
- Naga soldiers have Kung-Fu Fighting in their blood. And who could be a better target than the slow grazing, occasionally mooing cows? I don’t get surprised when I see a bored guard siding up to an unsuspecting cow and doing a fearsome ”kick-and-hoo-haa-act “and then resuming the correct soldier-on-duty expression.
- And then, there are the Zen soldiers. Men who use the long duty hours to focus on themselves and improve. Who bring a rope and practice skipping a thousand rhythmic times. Who concentrate on individual steps while jogging and then break into a fluid, synchronized run—again and again. Who are so totally into their chosen actions or drill that they don’t care if anyone is staring at them. But lo and behold, let their seniors arrive and they snap into attention, give the smartest salute possible and look a perfect soldier. The Zen soldier.