Two days ago, I visited Pune Institute of Computer Technology for something called a FOSSMosis-17 festival. It was organised by the Free Software Movement of Maharashtra. I will write more about it in some other post, this one is about a conversation I had early in the morning with a Ola cab driver.
To reach quicker, I booked a cab and got into it. He asked me if I travel to the institute everyday and we got talking about Pune and cities we came from. As it turned out he lived back in 1985 in a Mumbai suburb of Kadivali. That was sort of near where I grew up as a kid (Goregaon, Mumbai).
He revealed that he was very young back then and joined the army. He then ended up spending much of the late 80s in Sri Lanka.
I knew what he was refering to instantly. He had been a soldier in the IPKF. Their mandate was the end the Sri Lankan civil war.
I asked him about his time in IPKF. He perked up a bit and was surprised I even knew about India’s role in Sri Lanka. I asked him about where he was posted.
He has served in Jaffna. A city held for years by Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka, and often heard and read about it in newspapers as a teenager, for terrible crimes.
He opened up about his time in Jaffna. The terrible things he saw there. He lamented if ever there will be peace in the world. He saw the role of the Indian army in Sri Lanka favourably.
He spoke of the roadside bombings and guerilla warfare they faced.
He also revealed that he was thankful to VP Singh as he was not entangled in looking strong and managed to recall the soldiers back.
He was happy to have retired.
We spoke about civilians who were around where he was posted. He simply said
“Civilains were the worst off, I have seen too many of them lose everything”
I asked him about the recent nationalism and jingoism on television and media in general. He shrugged his shoulders dismissively.
“They do not know what they are talking about. Such peope do not care for lives of young boys in the army who will die.”
There was pain, supressed pain at what he saw through a 28 year old career in in Jaffna, Sikkim and Srinagar. Suppressed pain at what he was probably forced to do, forced to see.
We had reached our destination but we chatted more, about family and life. He was happy to have retired. I thanked him for his time and for opening up with his life to me.
He thanked me back with a wide smile.
“I am an old man, nobody listens to me or asks me about my life. You made my day.”
That hit hard. Twenty eight years in the army, travelled all over India and a couple of years in Sri Lanka. He was still driving a cab to make ends meet and thanking strangers for listening to his story.
But why was’nt anyone listening to his story?
*The coversation was held in Marathi, I have translated some of his quotes.