The Fallen

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I don’t like men wearing gloves. White gloves. Especially not when they are standing in a perfect row, near a freshly dug hole.

It has always meant a death. Mostly, someone not much older than me. Sometimes younger.

I watch their unreadable faces. I watch their full ceremonial uniforms, rifles held high, perfectly clasped between the palms, ready to be raised... and then arch downwards, with the mourning tune, the business end facing the earth.

The thousand yard look in their eyes... trained to ignore their own mortality. Trained to look, not to see.

They don’t blink when another set of young men bring the flag covered coffin with in-sync steps.
The not so old woman next to me whimpers, trying to muffle her sobs. How old would you be when you lose your 24 year old son? Not much.

The detail leader shouts familiar commands. Familiar to me because I have lost my share... some would say more than my fair share of lives.

Six men march out a few steps and fold the flag with mechanical movements. Completely aware of the fact that it can be their own turn the very next time. Their turn to lie in the coffin.

A plain military issue coffin.

It was sealed, obviously.

Everyone loves to see a young man in uniform, fighting for his country. It makes your heart swell with pride. Makes you wanna run and enlist. Or wonder how your son would look in the fatigues.

No one wants to see his dead body wrapped in anonymous white sheet, its face torn apart with bullets. You can’t imagine what a high calibre bullet does to human body. You have to see it to believe it...

No one wants to hear... no one wants to know that he died because his gun had failed him after he barged into a bunch of terrorist, sure of the weapon he held in his hands.

No one wants to realize that someone somewhere had made some moolah by passing on faulty guns and ammunition...

No one really cares that the same terrorists were at large simply because someone somewhere had decided to swap them for a handful of civilians kept hostage in a plane.

After all, he did sign on that blank cheque as they say it. Amounting up to and including life.
I watch them lower the coffin in the grave. I hear the TV guy telling the story of a young Muslim Captain who died fighting Islamic terrorists.

I feel bile rise in my throat. I think about the guy now buried in that grave. I know he would have laughed such things off. I am not as generous as him. Not as big hearted as he was. I want to do something really horrible to the TV guy.

Instead, I take the hand of that not so old lady and walk away. She seems to have aged decades in last one hour. I wonder, if I keep really quiet, can I hear people switching channels? Impatient to get the next exciting story?

Already forgetting about the guy in the grave.

Just another dead soldier.

Who cares for dead soldiers?


©2010 by Chhaya. All rights reserved

PS: the image is from movie Letters from Iwo Jima

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