That fateful night of December 3

I was in class nine and my brother, who is younger to me by exactly a year, was in the eighth standard. We lived in the city but our school, Kendriya Vidyalaya, was at the farthest end of Jalandhar cantonment. Normally, we commuted by the school bus which took us about forty minutes for one side journey. But twice a week we had to stay back for NCC drill and would get back on our own. Those two days were really taxing since we had to walk about three kilometres to catch a local bus to the city. From where the bus dropped us, there was another kilometre to be covered on foot to reach home.

It was December 3, 1971. After the NCC session, my brother and I began our march towards the Sadar bus-stand but deviated to the adjacent Sadar bazaar as my brother had to buy a book. Consequently, we got a little late and by the time we caught the bus, it was dusk. While the bus moved on its journey, it became totally dark. We realized there were no street lights; there was not even a glimmer of light anywhere. The entire area seemed to have been engulfed in complete darkness. As we approached the city border, the bus halted at the railway crossing. We were stranded, absolutely clueless as to what had happened. There was a complete black-out. It appeared the traffic had come to stand still. A few vehicles that were plying on the road moved with headlights off at a snail’s speed. Occasionally a vehicle passed with the lights on and we were frightened to see reflection of its lights on the windscreen. It appeared as if an aircraft was descending. It was after quite a while that the news trickled in. War had broken out between India and Pakistan. We were shell shocked. As the passengers came to know that the bus would not continue its onward journey; they started alighting. My brother I and, two terrified children were struck up in the bus. There was no way we could contact our parents. Who had heard about mobiles in those days? We did not even have a fixed line.

In that pitch dark night, when we were too petrified to venture on our own, a Sikh gentle man who was travelling by the same bus came to our rescue. In that hour of panic when people were rushing home, he ensured we reached home safely. But it was not easy. We were far away from home and no conveyance was available. Accompanied by our guardian angel, we somehow managed to reach home at around ten at night partly covering the distance on foot and then on rickshaw. Thank God, the ordeal was over.

It was a happy ending for the family. For us the ordeal lasted for just a few hours on the night of 3 December but the war continued till sixteenth of December which eventually ended with the surrender of Pakistan army and liberation of Bangladesh. Though we won the war but I can never say ‘All is well that ends well’ regarding any war. Undoubtedly, war leaves permanent scars which are difficult to erase.


(Published in Hindustan times on Dec 3, 2014)

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