- The Dog of Tetwal
The two sides had not budged from their positions for several days now. Occasional bursts of fire—about ten or twelve rounds in a day—were to be heard, but never the sound of human shrieks.
The weather was pleasant; the wind wafted across, spreading the scent of wildflowers. Oblivious to the battle on the peaks and slopes, nature was immersed in its necessary work—the birds chirped as before, the flowers continued to bloom, and lazy honey-bearing bees sleepily sipped nectar in the old, time-honoured way.
Each time a shot echoed in the hills, the chirping birds would cry out in alarm and fly up, as though someone had struck a wrong note on an instrument and shocked their hearing.
September-end was meeting the beginning of October in roseate hue. It seemed that winter and summer were negotiating peace with one another. Thin, light clouds like fluffed-up cotton sailed in the blue sky, as if out on an excursion in their white shikaras.
For several days now, the soldiers on both sides of the mountain had been restless, as no decisive action was taking place. Lying in their positions, they would get bored and then attempt to recite sh'ers to one another. If no one listened, they would hum to themselves. They remained lying on their stomachs or backs on the rocky ground, and when the order came, let off a round or two.
The two sides were entrenched in rather safe positions. The high-velocity bullets crashed against the shields of stone and fell to the ground. The two mountains on which the forces were ranged were of about the same height. Between them was a green valley—a rivulet wriggling like a fat snake on its chest.
There was no danger of air raids. Neither side possessed artillery. Therefore, fires would be lit without fear or danger, and smoke from fires on each side would rise and mingle in the air. At night, it was absolutely quiet. The soldiers on each side could hear bursts of laughter from the other. Once in a while, entering into this spirit, a soldier would begin to sing, and his voice would awaken the silence of the night. The echoes would then [End Page 80] reverberate, and it would seem that the mountains were repeating what they had just heard.
One round of tea had just been taken. The pine coals in the stone chulhas had grown cold. The sky was clear. There was a chill in the air. The wind had ceased to carry the scent of flowers, as though they had shut up their vial of perfume for the night. However, the sweat of the pines, their resin, left an odour in the air that was not wholly unpleasant.
The soldiers slept wrapped in their blankets, but in such a way that in a single movement they could arise, ready for battle.
Jamadar Harnam Singh was on guard. When his Rascope watch showed that it was two o'clock, he woke Ganda Singh and told him to take station. He wanted to sleep, but when he lay down, he found sleep a distant proposition, as distant as the stars in the sky. Jamadar Harnam Singh lay on his back and, gazing up at the stars, began to hum:
Bring me a pair of shoes, studded with stars Studded with stars O Harnam Singh O Yaara Even if you have to sell your buffalo.
Harnam Singh saw star-studded shoes scattered all over the sky, all a-twinkle.
I will bring you shoes, studded with starsStudded with starsO Harnam KaurO Lady, even if I have to sell my buffalo.
He smiled as the song came to an end, and realizing that he would not be able to sleep, he rose and woke up everybody else. The thought of his beloved had made him restless. He wished for some nonsensical chatter that would recreate the mood of the beloved in the song.
The soldiers did begin to talk, but in a desultory fashion. Banta Singh, the...