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Rulda Singh writes a letter home from the Basra Front, not realising it will be intercepted and will not reach its destination.

1916

[ I’m fine and I hope you too are well. I pray for your good health.

It’s hard to explain what things are like here.

The battlefield teems with Yama’s henchmen, his savage messengers of death are everywhere.

[ When I think of you my love, an exquisite peacock dances for me and I am overcome with longing.

Then I hold your scarf, kiss and embrace it. I inhale you.

[ I have looked death straight in the eye. It is no one’s friend.

It may conquer the whole world, but never dies.

[ My brother in arms kept a letter from home in his breast pocket and tied a talisman around his arm. A shell hit. He drowned in the river of his heart, deeper than any ocean.

[ Who knows what a man sees when he breathes his last; what plays out before his eyes.

The banyan tree in his home village, struck by lightening, falling, split.

A bullet, unerring, piercing his horse’s shining eye.

[ His mother’s earrings, dangling.

Light playing across his beloved’s nose stud or her thumb-ring’s mirror.

His father’s beard, shaking as he weeps.

The tinkling bell tied round his little boy’s waist.

[ Who knows how many I have killed. What did I have against them? They were strangers to me. But they too were sons and they too were fathers.

[ It is like this: my train never left our village station. I am still there saying goodbye; it is as if the whole village traveled with me across the seas.

[ God willing, I’ll be home soon in no time. You’ll see.

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Hoch

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