The story continues from last time...
I take a seat across Xordin who is scouring through the report with a furrowed brow. For long moments, the only sound is the rustling of paper and the hum of the restless city in the distance. A siren blares far away and I wonder if its Arminder getting himself involved in yet another fracas with the Croatian Military police.
He is such a hothead… a young Sikh from Chandigarh, barely out of college, who moved down to Delhi because he could not bear to see the Croatian flag flying over Rashtrapati Bhavan!
I marvel at how he mirrors the immortal Shahid Bhagat Singh not only in looks but also his mannerisms…its as if the great martyr has made a return to this world, to repeat what he did once a long long time ago!
Delhi has always had a significant part to play in our nation’s history over so many centuries, since Qutb-ud-din Aibak came marching through. Its historic monuments found at virtually every corner are stories in blood and sacrifice, the whispering ghosts of history walking the ruined halls and balconies.
Ironic too, that we sit here in this ancient, yet unremarkable brick house in the middle of Daryagunj, hidden from the Croatian agents in the midst of this heaving mass of humanity…an HQ that mirrors our freedom movement – a simple cry for freedom by the people, where THEY are the heroes.
Appearances though can be deceptive and although our HQ looks run down, it is a hive of activity with some of the smartest minds in our nation busy at hi-tech workstations deep underground from where we co-ordinate our strikes across the country.
Arminder is the livewire head of our cell in South Delhi, a real finance whiz and a genius at ensuring our coffers never run dry. Unfortunately his impulsive streak means that whenever he gets an opportunity, he cooks up a plan to pester the Croatian troops. They are sick of his antics and one of these days, he could find himself in trouble!! I must remind myself to speak with him sooner rather than later and calm him down a bit!
“Damn, I cannot really understand these…these… squiggles!” grunts Xordin, making me snap out. That is so typically Xordin…great at bringing people together and giving people hope but terrible with war strategy. I lean across the table and begin explaining…
BLUE ARROWS - INDIA
GREEN - CROAT DIVISIONS
“This was the critical turning point in our battle. As you know, the Croats had a pretty easy march through the city while we relinquished our positions gradually towards the city centre. The snipers still maintained position to pepper the Croat Armoured Column as it marched along the highway. This was to delay them till nightfall which is when we would make our move.
The Croat Column had their 13th, 22nd and 25th Armoured tank division accompanied by their 4th and 7th Infantry battalions. Our snipers succeeded in scattering the infantry through the bylanes as they went combing through the buildings, looking out for antitank hideouts (which was a futile search since we already had moved them out.)
The Croat commander was in no hurry to get to the City Centre since he was confident that their firepower had secured the win…after all, they had pounded us throughout the day and reduced most of the city to rubble and they were not wrong in thinking that this would demoralize most defenders. Thanks to our spies, we however had known when they would attack and had prepared our plan.
We allowed the 13th to cross through to Bridgehead 2 while the 22nd moved up to Bridgehead 1. Our 5th Andhra regiment launched a smoke screen and a suicidal assault to cut off the 25th just prior to the railway crossing to ensure they got delayed long enough to let the supply train come trundling through at 8 pm as always… effectively cutting them off at the crossing.
Our guys had already hijacked the train and as it crossed the signal, intercepting the path, the Andhra regiment fell back. The train was halted halfway through the crossing, creating a barricade while half of our antitank 2nd Reserve battalion jumped off the train on the other side and taking cover of the train, blasted away at the tanks stuck at the crossing. The tank commander was enraged and let loose with a ferocious volley to turn the great train into a battered hulk as bogeys went flying mile high! While they were occupied, the remainder half of the antitank battalion and our sole surviving artillery (camouflaged in the Race grounds at the back) moved forward, and having outflanked them smashed through the back, leaving the trapped 25th regiment bewildered and calling for help.
The desperate radio calls went out to the other regiments who had crossed the bridges halfway and while they debated and started to slowly reverse backwards, our citizen resistance force hidden on the island close to bridgehead 2 silently moved to both sides of the shore and quietly planted copious amounts of C6 on both the bridgeheads.
Before the Croatian commander could reverse out of the bridge, the command had been given, and the ruined city shook with massive explosions and the rending scream of metal as both the bridges collapsed virtually simultaneously into the river.
The thunder could be heard for miles around and the pall of smoke that rose ominously into the sky was met with wild cheers by the military, resistance volunteers and citizens alike. The Croatian assault was broken and in the dark of the night in an unknown city, they lost their nerve and their infantry and remaining survivors quickly surrendered.”
I paused, breathless … imagining what it would have been… a victory to savour… a victory with horrendous costs to us and the Croatian army…and yet I could feel the rush of blood in my old bones … that old feeling of adrenalin pumping through… a feeling I had all but forgotten.
The only sound was the swishing of the fan, as Xordin sat there, stunned and incredulous. It took a few moments for him to speak…a proud gleam in his eyes…”unbelievable!!! Simply fantastic!! This is JUST what we needed!!!”
He thumped his desk with all his might and rose up “ I MUST address the people right away. I have to let them know there is still hope!” and then he paused…
”you never told me though… who planned it all? Whose masterstroke was it?”
I turned to look at him wistfully “There were so many… I cannot name them all…
all fought with great courage in the face of impossible odds. Yet, yes, there were a few geniuses, the ones we all know … and the ones we do not.
Among the main strategists was a Serb named Captain Vladimir Alexei from the 2nd anti tank battalion, who died when the train was pounded along with nearly half of his troops. The resistance was led by the fiery Ashphalt, Hem Sharma and Akshay and the assault at the railway crossing was led by the unbelievably tireless Brigadier Abhinay Gupta.”
“The whole nation owes them a huge debt of gratitude!” said Xordid with head bowed. “thank you very much for the briefing, I shall now prepare myself”
I turned back to step out when his voice again called out “You never told me who informed you about the Croatian plans!!”
I slowly turned around with a smile beginning to form … “ah but it was an anonymous tip…however I have a suspicion who it could be. He is most likely an old ghost, someone may have seen flitting about Chhatisgarh … a master of disguise, cloaked among the many who walk the streets everyday.
I thought he had died during the Chinese operation…but it seems some people have nine lives indeed. It should be fun meeting him again.
For now, I cannot tell you anymore till I am certain… and I await his next cryptic message as he floats within the occupied lands.”
Xordin looked at me disapprovingly… but he knew better than insist on pushing me for info. With an irritable, dismissive wave of his hand, he turned back to his desk while I chuckled out the door… thoughts going back to that fateful day, decades ago, when the rain poured down in sheets as I hurried down Sudder Street, past the Salvation Army … only to bump into an innocuous looking,bespecctacled, “well endowed” Bengali gentleman...stuffing himself on hot jalebis under the awning of the Blue Sky Café.
Yes, he was quite a piece of work…
The story continues...
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