Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Brave Young Soldier

Zawar jammed the green cap on his head. His bright eyes were shining with joy and pride.

“How do I look, grandpa?” He turned an eager face towards his grandfather.

“Just like a brave fauji jawan (young soldier),” his grandfather replied fondly and Zawar beamed happily. Standing upright on the donkey cart, he saluted the grazing cows, the roadside beggar, the green fields, the grand old trees and even the bleating goats that he saw on the way.

Zawar and his grandfather supplied milk to the army base near their village. Everyday, before dawn, the little boy would help his grandfather milk the cows and cart it to the base canteen. Captain Khalid had befriended the young lad and gifted his old, worn out cap to him. When they reached home, Zawar rushed to show his cap to his mother who was churning butter.

The following evening, a stranger called Durab came to the village. He told the villagers that he wanted to buy some land. He toured the whole area and met everyone. He was terribly interested in Zawar when the old munshi told him that they supplied milk to the army base. He was very friendly but Zawar did not like him. He felt that there was a cunning look in his eyes. Mr Durab asked a lot of questions about the soldiers but the young boy grew silent and unresponsive.

Mr Durab was staying in the little village inn. The next day he again came to Zawar's house.

“Well, boy,” he said. “Would you like to earn some money?”

Zawar did not reply. They were poor but he did not trust Mr Durab.

Mr Durab gave him a gaily wrapped box. “Do me a little favour, boy. Tomorrow morning when you go to supply milk, give this mithai (sweets) to the guards. Our soldiers are so brave. I want to show my love and respect for them.”

Zawar took the box. It was very heavy.

Mr Durab handed him a shiny watch. “This is for you for being such a good boy. If you do me this favour, I'll bring a nice, fat envelope full of money for you.”

Zawar again had an uneasy feeling but the watch felt nice on his slim, brown wrist.

“Don't tell anyone. Ok?” He patted Zawar on the head and went away. On an impulse Zawar decided to follow him. Mr Durab slowly went up the narrow, dusty road. It seemed as if he was not going anywhere in particular. However, when he reached a little forest at the end of the village, he gave a little whistle. To Zawar's immense surprise, the old beggar came out. They talked in low voice and Zawar held his breath.

“What can they be talking about?” he thought.

The two men looked around and went into the forest. Zawar followed and saw them enter an old, abandoned hunting lodge. He went around cautiously and heard more voices. He peeped in through the grilled window and saw Mr Durab and the old beggar with another person. They were eating and talking in a language he did not understand. He snooped some more and in another room he saw something that made his blood run cold. On the floor, there were some weapons and uniforms.

Suddenly Zawar knew that they were enemy spies. He looked around desperately. He could not tackle three men and he was too far away from his village to call anyone for help. There was only one thing to do. As quick as lightning, he darted forward. The three men looked up in alarm. Before they could move, Zawar slammed shut the heavy iron door and bolted it. With trembling fingers, he took the heavy lock from the gate and locked it too. The men were shouting, kicking and hurling threats but Zawar quickly sped towards the army base. He was afraid that those angry men would escape and come after him.

At the base, he poured out his story to Captain Khalid. Hardly believing his ears, he called his superiors and then everything happened very quickly. They raided the hunting lodge where the three furious and frustrated men were still locked up and arrested them.

Zawar threw the watch at Mr Durab. “We lay down our lives for Pakistan, Mr Durab. No amount of money can make us betray our country.” The prisoners glared at the young boy who had ruined their evil plans to create chaos.

Later, Zawar was given a medal for his bravery in a special ceremony. But the best reward for the little fauji jawan (young soldier) was the scholarship to study in the best cadet academy and a chance to serve his country.

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