Its three years today. 3 years of being ” Mala Rani ” ( name for saving my mobile number–I am hopelessly efficient at forgetting one of those 10 digits), of wondering what day/date/month/year when anyone tries to pin me down to attend an event, of having found my little slice of paradise.
It has been three years of supportive friends and family, smiling school kids and passing Tata Sumo drivers, firewood laden women and a stream of friendly doggies. There have also been the marathon runners of the Army, the golfers and caddies greeting the dogs and the daily thump-thump of regimental boots jogging past me at dawn. Morning exercises, evening games, mid-day firing exercises, night route marches, parade and Gorkha kukri routines….I have seen them all.
So here was I, savoring the penultimate week of my third Ranikhet year, and there were they, preparing to leave the town and get back to defending the borders of our country. My military neighbors, an excellent example of all that’s good in the Army, were leaving our hamlet. And what an amazing demonstration of planning, teamwork and diligence till the departure of the last truck.
As soon as the schools closed after final exams, the exodus process started. Families and children returned to their home towns after a good three years with Dad and the extended regimental family. The advance team left the premises and less boots thumped past me in the mornings. The little snack bar closed down, fences and ropes vanished and the regular evening games ceased.
And then, this Sunday, a trickle of trucks started to enter the ground. They parked in neat lines, the drivers huddled over cups of tea and there was brisk business at our little tea shop.
The parked trucks continued to fill the ground and by evening, there was a festive camping site in front of my eyes. Food arrived ….there would have been some good liquid stuff too, judging by the laughter and song which filled the air! Every truck cabin glowed in the silvery moonlight and I could hear voices chatting late into the night.
Dawn arrived, and so did military precision! Brisk orders, marching soldiers, uniforms and duffel bags, whistles and shouts–it was all there, but there was no confusion or chaos. By the time I had prepared my morning breakfast, the entire regiment was ready to move out of our little town.
Ignition keys were turned, engines revved and the trucks began to move smoothly into their positions in the long convoy. The army men stood in formation for the last set of instructions, the final shouts and whoops filled the air and the first vehicle moved out.
One after another, continuously and inexorably, the line of vehicles moved out of the field and started their long journey to the next posting station. I watched them leave with a slightly heavy heart. They had all been such an invigorating part of my last three years, and I was going to miss them.
But hey, what’s happening now? the last truck has left and the ground is full of soldiers cleaning up the mess that has left behind?! Its the advance party of the next regiment which is coming in to be my neighbor for the next three years!
Life will go on…there will be the daily thump-thump of regimental boots jogging past me at dawn. Morning exercises, evening games, mid-day firing exercises, night route marches, parade routines…I will see them all.