Two men were seated on a charpoy outside a small dhaba off the highway. Both had their heads covered with a shawl.
No. 1. "Dekho, mujhe abhi abhi khabar mili hai, ki woh log use vapas bula rahein hain.. Tumhe pata hai tumhe kya karna hai.. Koi laparwahi nahi honi chahiye.. Do you get it? Tum jaante ho, there's too much at stake if you fail."
No. 2. "Aap chinta mat kariye.. Main sab sambhal loonga.. Kissi ko mujhpar shaq nahi hoga.."
The first person nodded, "Mujhe ab chalna hoga.. Aur haan, yaad rahe, koi contact nahi.. I will find a way to be in touch with you.."
No. 2. "Theek hai.." , and the person stood up and shook hands.
The second man slumped down on the charpoy and ordered for another cup of tea.
He had accomplished many missions in the past, both tricky and dangerous ones.
But what he had been asked to do this time, was even more complicated.
He knew he couldn't fail his boss. He had to do it for the sake of the man, to whom he owed his career, his life. Aap jaisa chahte hain, bilkul vaisa hi hoga..
Naina had just returned to the Rahatpur base camp after having spent nearly two weeks in isolation in the deep forest.
She entered her tent and was surprised to find a couple of parcels waiting for her. She put down her camping bag and was just about to open the first one, when she was interrupted by someone,
"Lieutenant.. Welcome back.. Aapke liye ek call hai.."
And Naina nodded her head in acknowledgement and made her way towards the telephone.
She picked up the handset and sat down on the chair next to it. "Lt. Naina Singh here.."
The person on the other side smirked, "uh huh.. Lt. Ahluwalia,
Aapki Yaad toh ek anmol phool hai,
Hum aapko bhool jaayein, yeh aapki bhool hai..
Koi yaad humein na kare, gila nahi..
Hum doston ko nahi bhooltey, yeh humara usool hai.."
Naina smiled and nodded her head, "Abhimanyu!! Aap baaz nahi aayenge, hain na?"
Captain Abhimanyu Rai Chauhan smirked and straightened his collar as he let out a sigh into the phone,
"Naina.. Kaisi hain aap? Aur jo baaz aaye, woh baazigar nahin.."
Naina hit her palm on her fore-head,
"Gosh! Abhi.. this one was too lame.. Aapko ho kya gaya hai? Aur haan, main bilkul theek hoon.. Bass abhi thodi der pehle.."
Abhimanyu: "Thodi der pehle aap camp pohonchi hain.. Humein pata hai.."
She knit her eyebrows together, "Aap.. aapko kaise pata? Aap kahiin mujhpar nazar toh nahi rakh rahein hai na?"
Abhimanyu let out a laugh,
"Naina.. Aap bhi.. the ever so smart and vigilant soldier.. Jee nahi Lt. Sahiba, hum aap par koi nazar nahi rakh rahein hain.. Woh toh aapke naye posting orders aaye hain.. Aur humne socha ki hum khud unhe aap tak pohoncha de.. Isliye hum Rahatpur base camp aaye the.. Lekin humein pata chala, ki aap patrol duty par thi, isliye humne aapko disturb karna sahi nahi samjha.. Aur hum laut aayein.."
Naina seemed relieved,
" Oh.. new posting orders? Unmein aisa kya special hai, ki aapko khud yahaan aana pada?"
And reality hit her as soon as she had uttered those very words..
This could mean only one thing!! No!!
Sensing her silence, Abhimany seemed to understand Naina's turmoil,
"Naina.. I think you've probably guessed it already..Yes, Lt. Ahluwalia, you are to be posted as an officer on special duty and a faculty member at Kanchenjunga Military Academy.."
and he let out a loud sigh.
He had eventually done it. He had finally broken the news to her.
He looked up and saw his favourite ex-Cadet, now a Lieutenant himself, grinning widely at him.
Naina was hit by a wave of nostalgia. She felt her knees go weak..And she hung up..
Abhimanyu realised that Naina had hung up on him. He had expected her reaction to be somewhat similar.
He sighed and put down the receiver.
The officer walked up to his chair, "Sir??"
Abhi looked up dejected, "Humein nahi lagta woh aayengi.. Humne toh tumse pehle hi kaha tha.."
But the officer looked unperturbed,
"Woh aayegi Sir.. Jaroor aayegi.. Kyunki woh pehle ek sipahi hai.. Aur agar phir bhi nahi maani, toh apun leke aayega usko.. Apun usko asliyat se aur bhaagne nahi dega.."
Abhi nodded his head,
"Humein pata hai Alekh, lekin hum nahi chahte ki humare iss kadam se Naina aur depression mein chali jaayein.."
Alekh placed a hand on Abhimanyu's shoulder, "Nahi jaayegi Sir.. Apun usko jaane nahi dega.. Woh Captain Rajveer Singh Shekhawat ki best Cadet reh chuki hai Sir.. Aur humare Captain Sir ne humein haarna aur musibat se mooh modhna nahi sikhaya hai Sir!!
Lekin abhi time ho gaya ki Naina, woh kehte hai na, Sach ka Saamna kare.."
Naina had put down the receiver and started walking towards her tent. Her body and her mind had become two separate entities again.
Her body was dragging her along, while her mind had already drifted back to KMA. She fell on the ground.
!Cadet Naina Ah' Singh.. Phoolan.. Behen bole toh sister.. Bina network ki tower.."
"Just believe in yourself because I believe in Cadet Naina Ah' Singh.."
"Naina, main tumhara mentor hoon, lekin tum mujhpar kitna trust karti ho? Naina kitna trust karti ho mujhpar? Kiss hadh tak?"
"Cadet Singh, I promise you. Main poori koshish karunga ki main tumhe kabhi niraash na karun..
Aur rahi baat tumhare mentor rehne ki, toh main tab tak tumhara mentor rahunga,jab tak tum meri best Cadet rahogi.."
"Toh phir deal pakki Sir?"..
"And yes Cadet Singh, deal pakki!!"
"Captain Rajveer Singh Shekhawat.. I will drop you dead!!"
"I believe in you Sir.."
"Afsos iss baat ka hai Naina ki main tumse kiya hua vaada nibha nahi paya.."
"Red box ko paana, Captain Rajveer ki zindagi ka maksad ho gaya tha.."
"You're right Cadet Singh, court ne unhe bari kar diya tha.. Isliye unhe kissiko kuch prove karneki koi zaroorat nahi thi.. na Army ko, na duniya ko.. na kissi aur ko..
Sivay ek shaks ko, naveen ki kaatilon ko dhoondhne ke liye aaya tha.. Woh ek shaks Captain Rajveer ke liye itna imp ban chuka tha, ki uske liye koi baat imp nahi thi.. Aur woh tum ho..
And he wanted to prove his innocence to you.. To the one he loved!!"
"Captain Rajveer se unke rank, unke saare medals aur unke saare fauji commendations cheen liye jaayenge..Aur unhe civil prison mein chaudah saal ki saza kaatni padegi.."
"Haan lekin mujhse vaada karo, ki agar main apne maksad mein kamiyaab nahi hua, toh meri jung tum ladhogi.. Jo bi unhone mujhse cheena hai, mera career, mera dost, mera py.."
She screamed aloud and let out a wail. She sobbed uncontrollably for a few minutes and then realised that he had gone!! Left her alone..
She had to go back to KMA. KMA, which had been her home away from home.
The very place, where she had met him, the place where she had made a few friends, friends for life, as they called themselves.
KMA held many bittersweet memories for her, memories, which were all she was left with!
It was going to be difficult for her to step into the gates of KMA all over again..
Shakti aur samman had been KMA's motto, but for Naina, it was only Rajveer that symbolised both pride and honour..
She shut her eyes and an image of Rajveer smiling flashed in front of her eyes.
She made up her mind, she had to go back to KMA.
It was time to repay her alma mater.
Life in the army had taught her one important thing over all these years,
there's always a reason behind everything.. sometimes invisible.. But there always is!!
She remembered her brother's words, "Soldiers do not find battles, battles find the soldiers"
And then her mentor Rajveer's words, "Mere liye, khud se pehle mera desh aata hai.."
She stood up, wiped her tears with the back of her palm and turned around to grab the packets, one of which contained her new posting orders.
She looked around and found only one envelope there.
She bent down and looked around.
She searched the entire tent and couldn't find it. Kya woh mere vehem tha? Nahi.. aisa kaise ho sakta hai.. yahaan ek aur parcel tha.. Kahan gaya?
And she moved out of the tent to ask an orderly, if anyone had misplaced it accidently. "Nahi Lt. Maine kissiko aapke tent ki taraf jaate hue nahi dekha.."
She returned back and sat down on the floor. Shayad mera vehem hi hoga..
A person had been lurking outside her tent, waiting to sneak in.
As soon as he had seen Naina walk out of the tent to attend the phone call, he had taken the opportunity to sneak in and steal the parcel.
He walked to a corner of the base camp and received a call,
"Jee. Maine woh parcel chura liya hai.. Aap befikr rahiye.."
The person on the other side sighed and said, "Thank you. Aur haan, woh kal jaa rahi hai.. Dhyaan rakhna.."
Naina had just alighted at Ambala Bus station. She could already feel the nostalgia starting to creep in.
She shook her head and walked towards a rickshaw. "Bhaiyajee, KMA jaana hai."
She was just going to load her luggage into the vehicle, when she felt a warm palm on her left shoulder.
She turned around and saw them, smiling at her,
"Tujhe kya laga, apun ke hotey hue, tu yeh rickshaw wale ke saath jayegi? Dekh apun family ke saath tera welcome karne aa gaya.."
She smiled at Alekh and hugged him.
His eyes immediately teared up but he managed to control himself.
He separated from her and patted her head affectionately.
She next turned to Neelu who was smiling at the reunion of this most unique brother-sister pair and was silently sobbing herself.
Naina got worried seeing her cry and turned to Alekh, who threw up his hands.
Naina held Neelu by her arms, "Neelu, kya baat hai? Tum ro kyun rahi ho? Is everything alright?"
She next glared at Alekh and pulled his ear, "Tune.. jaroor tune kuch kiya hoga? Kyun rulata hai meri Bhabhi ko?"
Alekh gaped at her with an open mouth, when Neelu burst out laughing,
"No.. No Naina.. Iss qaidi ne kuch nahi kiya.. Woh toh tumhe dekhkar meri aankh bhar aayi.. And plus, aaj kal mere mood swings battar hotey jaa rahein hai.."
Naina was shocked and looked up at Alekh, who had an arm wrapped around his wife. He took Naina's palms in his own and looked into her eyes,
"Apun ki family mein ek naya member aanewala hai Naina. Tu bua bannewali hai.. Aur apun Pappa.."
Naina jerked back with surprise and squealed, "Alekh!! Neelu!! Oh God! I don't believe this.. Congrats guys.. Aur main.. Main bua??"
She hugged Neelu and Alekh soon joined them in a bear hug.
All three of them were sobbing, though for different reasons.
Neelu was happy to see Naina happy.
Alekh was happy as he had managed to get a glimpse of the Naina, he had known 4 years back.
And Naina.. Naina was happy because her best friend and now brother, was finally getting his share of happiness.
However, they were unaware of a pair of eyes watching them through binoculars, standing on a hill, not too far away from them. The man put his binoculars back into his bag, put on his jacket and disappeared into the thick forest!