He smiles and says: “Welcome to our new home, Brother”At last, I got the assignment! Perhaps the editor considered my family's association with the place, my marital status (I am unmarried) and my willingness to work without any pre-condition, before giving the assignment to me. I was asked to visit Kargil, Dras, Batalik and Muskoh valley on the occasion of 15 years of Kargil War and submit a detailed report on the current ground situation.
I landed at Srinagar airport on a fine morning in July. Immediately I went to 15 (Chinar) Corps Headquarter and submitted my travel plan to the Corps Public Relations Officer. This was approved quickly, maybe because I mentioned about my elder brother. I started my journey to Kargil the next day.
The sturdy Mahindra Scorpio comfortably moved through the serpentine hilly road. I reached Matain without any problem and showed my pass to the on-duty Military Police. I started towards Dras where my elder brother had fought along with his comrades-in-arms to throw away the enemy infiltrators and regular soldiers. They had recaptured Point 5240 but my brother, grievously wounded in the battle, could not survive. He had breathed his last in the makeshift medical tent. He had been awarded Vir Chakra posthumously.
My heart-broken old parents had received the Vir Chakra on his behalf on the next Republic Day. The next year they had visited this place. Returning home from Kargil, they had left the world in quick succession leaving me behind. I had joined a newspaper as a journalist and started living in Delhi.
During next two days, I visited Dras, Batalik, Kaksar and Muskoh valley which had been in the first pages of the newspapers 15 years ago. I met the soldiers, officers and common people to understand current situation. I sent two detailed reports with many exclusive pictures to my editor.
I received an SMS. My editor acknowledged receipt of my reports. He also informed me that the Commanding Officer of my elder brother was now the Divisional Commander at Leh. My editor contacted him and the officer asked me to meet him today at 1800 Hours sharp for an exclusive interview.
I started quickly and reached Kargil. It was 1500 Hours. A drizzle started. The driver of my vehicle refused to drive on that day, but he allowed me to drive the vehicle to Leh.
I started from Kargil. The road was narrow. The gorge was deep. The drizzling became a torrent. The road was slippery. I continued moving forward.
After moving upwards, I found there was no rain. But a dense fog was coming down. My vision became hazy. But I could easily see the valley down the gorge. Although I couldn't see the road properly, the green valley was perfectly clear. I was feeling a peculiar attraction towards the valley.
It was almost 1700 Hours. I had to reach the Divisional Headquarter before 1800 Hours for the interview. I increased the speed. The road was dark and unclear. I could hear the honking. I saw a dim headlight. Was it a truck coming from opposite direction? I closed my eyes.
I open my eyes. I am lying on lush green grasses. He is standing there in full uniform. They are also standing beside him. He comes forward and hugs me.
My elder brother whispers in my ear: "Welcome to our new home, Brother. Welcome to the Valley of Death." My parents are smiling.
(Competition entry: TOW contest for the week 28th Jan'18-3rd Feb'18-Welcome)