The memories of our stint, together during the operations in 2003 came flashing back. In the tropical virgin forests, I was in ambush and my commandant as a lieutenant colonel was located south of me with mobile team, at the range of the Walker-talkie handset. His job was riskier than mine as it involved moving around.
It was almost 4 days without tasting hot food. I even dreamt about eating hot plate of rice with dal and choked on the saliva. I told this to the commandant and he was filled with pity overpowered by funniness of the incident. It must have had a great affect on him, as I overheard him narrating the story of choking on saliva, to the gatherings in one of the parties after the operations.
How we met in the middle of the canopy of broad-leaved trees within the thick undergrowth was -when I was looking for a match stick to cook a packet of Maggi noodles that I was carrying. He was a smoker and I hoped that he was carrying the match box or a lighter like all smokers.
"Mike Tango Oscar message over". I called him up when I heard his voice in the net.
"Ok over" came the reply. Each one of us has a unique voice and more unique accent, like that of a thump print, that all officers of the unit would know by the voice print and need not identify oneself.
"Do you have matches? Sir..." Before I could complete, spat came the reply.
"Oh, yes, yes, Sierra whiskey. Do you have cigarettes?" I knew he ran out of cigarettes, and I can comprehend how much he must have been suffering, how I wished I had a stick or two but I did not smoke.
"No sir. I want to make fire to cook Maggi."
"Okay I am coming to your location."
We shared our own position's grid references and other natural references and landmarks and we met halfway in the middle of jungles of the southern Bhutan.
"Sierra whiskey and Mike Tango, you will not make fire." Interrupted by brigadier then Colonel kipchu. There goes our planning for the hot menu.
The fire will not be made but we went on to meet and on our way back to my location, I narrated about, how famished I was and how the dreams about eating hot food choked me with salivation. We went to look for a settlement or a house and there, a packet of Maggi was cooked and shared among 5 of us. The villager topped it up with boiled cassava to the delight of our taste buds and empty stomach.
We departed from there wishing each other good luck and praying to meet again, unharmed in the operations. I made him remove his rank to escape the shots from the snipers. Snipers are trained to shoot the boss, and boss can be made out with ranks on the shoulders.
Our prayers seems to be doubly answered as we withdrew safely after the successful operations and once again being able to meet, in best of our health, here, at MTC Tencholing. He - with a well deserved rank of brigadier and a commandant of the reputed and the only training center of Bhutan. It would be pleasure to serve under him. It would be a piece of cake, comparing to those days, where we never knew from where the next burst of fire would come, still he dared to spring out of the safety of being static and hopped from one site to another. With dark AK hung over his neck and side arms tucked neatly at the waist region holstered with the belt.
Call it PTSD, (Post Traumatic syndrome disorder) but some incidents remain as fresh as ever, as if it happened just yesterday. And I am eternalizing it by posting here as someone told me "digital is permanent".