Hey guys, look what I got!” Palak, Prateek and Dhara were strolling in their backyard, and Sudha and Mohan were out of station. Dhara ran towards Saransh in excitement. “Saransh bhaiya what-is it? Show! Show!”, Squealed Dhara encircling Saransh. By that time, Palak had already noticed a big frown on Prateek’s face. Saransh rushed towards Palak. “Pallu Didi sees, I won the Student of the Year Award.” Prateek’s frown widened on hearing this. Palak tried to pacify things and said, “That’s great congratulations bro. Okay now, come-on in and freshen up.” “No! No! Where is Maa?? I want to show-her,” hooted Saransh. “Saransh, Maa and Paa are not at home”, said Palak casually.

Ohh nooo!!! Such a special day for me and Maa and Paa are not there,” Saransh said in a dejected tone.

Idea! Let’s capture this moment and preserve it for Maa and Paa, what say?,” chirped in Dhara. “Ohh that’s a fabulous idea!,” Saransh’s face lit up.

Before Palak could stop him, Saransh rushed towards Prateek. “Hey bro come-on let’s take a pic,” said Saransh in a casual tone. Prateek didn’t Respond. Neither did he turn towards Saransh. “Hey bro,” Saransh patted on Prateek’s shoulder.

How dare you touch me?,” Prateek thundered on top of his voice. His eyes were red in a fury. The other three were left shell-shocked. “Stop your drama and don’t try to come near me,” yelled Prateek. “Prateek stop it!” Palak said with a sense of urgency in her tone. “No, you stop it!! All of you!!” Prateek howled. “Prateek relax, what’s the matter? I just…” “I told you to stay away from me, you don’t understand.” Prateek gave a sudden push to Saransh, and his Trophy fell down. “Prateek! What’s wrong?,” Saransh shrieked.

You are wrong! What do you think of yourself? Who do you think you are?? You fool Maa and get extra love and attention. You are not a genius, you are trained for everything! If I am trained, I can win trophies too. What’s the big deal? What is this show-off for?,” roared Prateek his voice cold and crisp. “Prateek stop it, please. He is elder to you. Don’t create a mess,” Palak was on the verge of crying.  “Really didi, I create a mess? We already have a readymade mess standing before us!”Prateeeeek! Mind your tongue,” Saransh had raised his hand towards Prateek. “Yes beat me, kill me rather! It’s better to die than living this suffocating life,” shrieked Prateek. “Are you out of your mind Prateek? I was jus…” Saransh tried to talk.

Yes yes go runnn, start your Drama of falling sick and all will gather around you,” Prateek mimicked satirically. “Prateek I am warning you, stop it,” said Palak firmly. “No! Why will I keep shut? Why…” Palak slapped Prateek hard. “I said stop it.” She got hold of Dhara who was already crying and signalled Saransh to get inside. Palak gave Prateek a stern look and turned to leave. “Yes! You also, you also go didi.” Prateek wept badly. Saransh stopped and turned. See I got slapped for you, go celebrate”, said Prateek in a choking tone. “You are not my brother. Don’t come near me. I wish I had no brother, I wish you were,… ” Before he could complete, Palak dragged Saransh and Dhara inside. Prateek’s words were ringing in Saransh’s ears. He was not at peace. Except for Dhara, no one ate that night.

Next morning when Palak woke up, she saw Prateek was fast asleep on the old backyard bench. She looked for Saransh, but he was nowhere. Terror gripped Palak. She searched the entire house frantically.  But all in vain. There was no sight of Saransh. Palak was Extremely tensed. As she reached out for a glass of water, she saw a white paper folded and kept underneath. Palak impulsively opened the letter.

Hi Pallu Didi. I know only you will find this letter. I never knew I was the stumbling block. I am extremely sorry. You all are not trash as Prateek said. When he calms down do tell him that I love him. He is the best brother. I love you and Dhara too.

I am going to apply for NDA. I will join the Army. I will never come in any of your ways, rather will fight for your security until my last breath. I won’t come back on my feet. But I will definitely come back wrapped in the tricolour flag.

Bye. Love you all.

PS: Please do not tell Ma and Dad about my whereabouts. I don’t want them to look for me and bring me back.”

Yes, I won’t come back. I will never come back. I will nev,…”  Major saab! Major saab! Wake up! Subedar Manoj frantically Shook up Saransh. Saransh opened his eyes and saw a terrified face. “Major saab are you alright?” Manoj asked Saransh. Saransh gathered himself and nodded. “Major saab, here, have some water. Please don’t say you won’t come back. You are a brave soldier. Victory will be ours. We will definitely succeed in the surgical strike.” Saransh just patted him and nodded. He asked Manoj to leave.

Saransh got up and freshened. The dream was still afresh. Every time-he had to go on a tough mission, he had that same dream.

That incident danced before his eyes. He sat with his face buried in his hands. He got up and reached for the landline. “I don’t know whether I will see them ever again. How much I miss them!! He could feel he was on the verge of breaking down. He held his nerves and picked up the receiver, but he could see his fingers trembling. “I wish you were not my brother!,”  Prateek’s Words rang in his ears. He kept the receiver.

“I shouldn’t disturb them.  Moreover, they must have forgotten me. Or do they remember me? Do they,..

Suddenly the door opened, and Brigadier Varun walked in. “Major, you have to report at 16:00 hrs. Get the troops ready,” there was a sense of urgency in his tone. Without a second thought, Major Saransh marched towards his troops.

Mohan dialled the Number finally. “Hel . . . Hello, can I speak to Saransh Lal?” “There is no one named Saransh here,” said the voice on the other end. “Bu.. but he had joined NDA,” butted in Mohan. “Ohh! Then he must be an ex-cadet. By now he must have been posted in some regiment,” said the person at the other end and hung up. Disappointment loomed over Mohan.

I still wonder why Saransh joined the Army when he had always dreamt of becoming a bureaucrat!,” Mohan murmured to himself.