The long night of Kohima

Year: Jan 2020

Place: Somewhere in Kohima

Kohima, the sleepy capital of India’s northeastern state Nagaland was turning out to be the final battleground for the Indian security forces and the Insurgent militant group which had created havoc and panic for almost four decades. Kohima has seen its fair share of war. One is reminded of the bloody Battle of Kohima which brought the then eastern bastion of British India to a standstill in the Second World war. With Security establishment led by the Special Task Force (STF) Chief Meera Vasudevan, IPS was finally closing in on Kalayavan – The dreaded and feared militant leader who had given a slip many a times to the security forces. He had a bounty of One crore rupees on his head and the police had almost given up chasing him. The more the police tried to hunt him, more they were getting hunted. His militant group had struck terror in the hearts of the locals and was a major irritant for the security establishment. Kidnapping police personal with impunity, ambushing police patrol vehicles, countless IED blasts, booby traps killing security personal – Kohima has seen them all. Playing mind games with the beleaguered police was Kalayavan’s trademark. It seemed Kalayavan was invincible. All those seemed to be coming to a bloody climax. The terrified residents of Kohima were locked in their homes. Things have not been easy for them. Peace had eluded the residents of Kohima and villages around it for decades. It was as if its they had forgotten to smile. The civil unrest had ravaged much of their economy and livelihood. Countless young men, women and children had to lay their precious lives in the decades-long civil strife.

Based on a reliable tip-off, Meera and her team had Kalayavan and his men surrounded. The dense forest cover and the hilly terrain meant combing through was not easy. Kalayavan knew the place like the back of his hand. Several predecessors of Meera had failed before because they underestimated both Kalayavan as well as the hilly terrain of Kohima. Meera had spent countless days and nights to understand the modus-operandi and the movements of Kalayavan and his people. Kalayavan had an army of informants; through which he could always be couple of steps ahead of the security forces. A good section of the people suffered from Stockholm syndrome where they helped Kalayavan and his people and helped him escape every time the police closed in.

Meera chases Kalayavan through the narrow streets of the ghost town navigating through the myriads of thick vegetation on hillocks. Kalayavan entered an old dilapidated building. His men were by now split and no longer had the back of their beleaguered leader. Kalayavan with a heavy breath was trying to find a place to hide. He waded into one of the rooms. It was pitch dark and he prodded on slowly as his tired boots created unwanted noise on his every footfall. Suddenly he stumbled upon an immovable large object. He couldn’t see what it was as it was completely dark. Thinking it to be some piece of furniture, he kicked it in a fit of rage as well as desperation. Suddenly, the strange giant object started moving a bit. Kalayavan even kicked harder this time out of sheer panic and fear. Slowly, the object moved up and Kalayavan realized it was indeed a giant monster. The giant slowly rose up and made a huge growling noise. Kalayavan had gone cold and was covered in a pool of sweat. There was a massive lightning and Kalayavan could take the glimpse of the monster in the split-second flash of the lightening. The monster was huge man close to 7 feet tall and was dressed in an old tattered military shirt and a brown pant with knee-length boots. Kalayavan shrieked in terror and screamed loudly for help; which was heard by Meera who was closing in on him. Lightning struck again and now the monster-man was having a big gun in his hand pointing it at the half-dead Kalayavan. Before Kalayavan could move an inch, a massive ball of fire pierced through Kalayavan’s head and he fell down with a thump like a log of wood.

Meera hearing the loud gunshot, found her way through the maze of the crumbling structure which looked much older and clearly not habitable by any stretch of imagination. With a torch in her left hand and a pistol in her right hand, Meera saw a puzzled giant man in the center of the room and a dead Kalayavan lying in front of him in a pool of blood. There were blood and brains splashed all over the walls which looked like they have stayed unattended for decades. Meera was uncharacteristically calm and composed standing five-feet-nothing facing the seven-feet giant. The man looking puzzled, lost and dumbstruck. Meera asked the man in her sweet and confident voice to put the weapon down and surrender to her.

Before, Meera could speak a word further, the man introduced himself as Havildar Muchukund s/o Havildar Mandath from the 161st Indian Brigade of the British Indian Army. He wanted to know whom he was speaking to. He was holding a World War II era Bren gun in his hand using which he shot and killed Kalayavan. Meera asked him does he know whom he had killed. Muchukund replied in negative and was looking around as if everything is new around him. He said someone woke him up from his sleep and he shot him in self-defense. Further, he added that their brigade was called in to defend Kohima against the marauding Japanese. He said he fought a long bitter battle spending most of his nights dug up in a trench filled with dirt and mud holding his Bren rifle and push back the enemy from the ridges of Kohima. He had forgotten how it felt to sleep and turned into an insomniac. He said he lost most of his comrades to either hunger or the malaria more than those killed by the Japanese. Finally, his brigade could hold Kohima in pushing the enemy back and saving Kohima from falling into the hands of imperial Japan; thereby putting paid to the grand plans of Japan. The war left him exhausted and he longed to sleep. By then he was done fighting the seemingly pointless war for the thankless colonial masters. The 161st  brigade was then bolstered by the arrival of brilliant tactical soldier Jamedar Karthik Mahadev who took over the reins from Muchukund’s tired platoon.  He went to his platoon commanding officer Indran and requested him to be decommissioned. CO Indran was well aware of the heroics of Havildar Muchukund in the Battle of Kohima and wanted to help him with a well-deserved break. When Indran asked Muchukund what he wanted, Muchukund said he wanted to sleep peacefully without getting disturbed. CO Indran though  initially taken aback, immediately approved his request and said he can sleep at the officer’s guest house in Kohima as long as he desired, and no one will dare to  disturb him. In fact, Indran told him casually that anyone who wakes you up gets killed instantly in a goblet of fire; to cheer up the broken and battered Muchukund. Muchukund went to the officer’s guesthouse next to the tennis court in the heart of Kohima which saw pitched battles between the Brits and Japanese. Muchukund slumped in his room and didn’t even bother getting dressed into something comfortable. That was the last thing Muchukund remembers before getting woken up by the nasty kick from Kalayavan.

Muchukund then asked Meera which unit she belongs to in the British Indian Army. Muchukund was also puzzled at the sleek-looking modern military fatigues which Meera was sporting compared to his torn brown shirt and flabby khaki shorts. Muchukund, clearly lost and unable to gather what was happening around him asked Meera to understand what was happening. A smiling Meera who had lotus like legs, hands which shone like a pearl, pierce but calm and beautiful eyes donned with a golden-brown cap held the shoulders of the tall Muchukund and said that it was year 2020 and he has been fast asleep for more than seventy-five years. She also told him that India was now a free independent democratic country not ruled by the British anymore. She said most of his family is no more with the passage of time and the world outside has completely changed compared to year 1944. She said went on to add that telegrams and radios were long gone and are now replaced by smart portable communication device called smartphones.

Meera then introduced herself as the chief officer of the Special Task force unit who were tasked to capture or kill terrorist insurgent leader Kalayavan who had terrorized one and all. Muchukund bewildered and by now relaxed; was eager to explore his new world and requested Meera to let him be in her tutelage. Meera smilingly obliged and assured Muchukund of all her support and help. She then gave Muchukund some money and a phone – both of which looked alien to him but was pleasantly surprised to see Mahatma Gandhi’s smiling image on the note. She taught him how to operate the smart phone which he looked at with a great deal of amusement. He said to Meera he always wanted to meet the Mahatma to find his inner peace, but it could never happen. On which Meera, said though Mahatma Gandhi – the father of the nation viz., Independent India was long gone, Muchukund should be finding his much-needed inner peace in an Army camp set up in the Gandamadana Mountain in Rameswaram. Meera promised to be at his help whenever he needed. Muchukund left Kohima on his long journey to Rameshwaram exploring the new India of 2020 and find his inner peace.

Featured image courtesy: @forgeandlynch

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