Days passed. So did weeks and months. He just got a grant for a three day weekend holiday. The army life was tiring him but he loved his job. He loved his country. He missed his family more. He packed his bag and raced all the way to the bus terminal. It was crowded. It always was, especially when it was a holiday season. People stocked them inside buses like bees in a hive. There was hardly any place to land his right foot. He waited impatiently for another hour, smoking seven cigarettes. He knew he had to quit smoking.
Another hour later, he found a bus that he could stand in. It was an hour’s journey to the city where he could get the train that drops him off in his hometown. The constant guarding at the borders of his country has given him many sleepless but memorable nights. It made him smile with pride. The not so frequent encounters and shootings with the terrorists gave him scars and stitches. He ran his fingers across his scars and something about them made him smile with tears in his eyes. The bus finally brought him to the railway station. He jumped out of the bus and helped his fellow passengers get their luggage down from the bus.
“The train to Hyderabad will be arriving at 9:30 PM.”
He heard the announcement. He ran to the ticket counter and bought himself a ticket in the general compartment. He could’ve bought a ticket in the air conditioned bogie but he loved to travel with people. He loved talking to others. The sleeper class bogie was full. There wouldn’t be any place to sit in the general compartment and he knew it.
The train had arrived twelve minutes late.
Fortunately, he could find himself a place to sit, not on the seat but on the floor. It was enough. It was a thirteen hour journey. He needed a good night’s sleep but he chose to stay awake. He spoke to his fellow passengers all night. It was 10:00 AM by the time he reached his city. He took a cab home.
He wanted to surprise his wife, he opened the gate slowly and carefully so that it didn’t make a sound. The front door wasn’t shut, it was partly open. He pushed it open gently. He then saw a new girl in his house.
She got up slowly, holding on to a chair near her. She stumbled when she walked to the door and fell. She got up again, holding on to the wall this time. Two steps later, she wasn’t holding anything to support her walk. Hands up in the air, eyes wide and an innocent smile.
He sprang in and lifted his daughter up, holding her for the first time with tears in his eyes. He hugged her and kissed her, completely unaware of his wife watching him, crying herself.
“I guess you’re ready for another war.” His wife said as she hugged them both.