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GOD Of A Man

Eternity Versus Eternity

 

“Hatred in a heart and politics in a society are the two biggest curses on humanity.”

 

Chapter Eighteen: Ranjit Singh’s Ark

Dated: During a summer of death

 

Reasoning is often the first casualty of hatred. Such intense is the clasp of hate, a clouded mind fails to predict the consequences of its’ own actions. Actions in real life are, however, irreversible. Hatred is like a fire; the more one fans it, the more it consumes one’s soul, morality, ethics and peace. A double edged weapon, it hurts both its’ wielder, as well as its’ victim. The only thing that compares in destruction with hatred is politics. Politics can divide a society, create and propagate unimaginable hate, and destroy the beauty of life, if the wielder of this weapon has an axe to grind. But is there any antidote to these poisons of humanity? While hatred can only be ended by an un-conditional surrender of ego, commonsense is the only thing that can help uncover the real designs of politics. But it takes a herculean commitment to move a society into action, to undo the damage done. Yes, the antidote for politics, like its’ medicinal counterpart, only acts in retrospection. Some damage has always to be borne.

 

The ‘Lion of Punjab’, the just and undefeated king Ranjit Singh, built an empire so mighty that even the British Empire at its’ mightiest was vary to take on it. People were happy and equal, religious freedom and justice for all was the order of the day, and the first seeds of democracy at the grass root levels were sown during his reign in the form of village councils. Such was the strength of Punjab under his reign, that even after his untimely death that gave British a chance to take on the Khalsa army, a kingless army routed the British in the battle, only to be in-explicably stopped from completing the formalities by men driven by hatred and politics. The then Governor General of Bengal Henry Hardinge, expecting defeat, ordered all papers to be destroyed. Little did he know that a kingless army’s own generals were leading the army into a battle to get it destroyed, for they didn’t want the widow of the king to ascend to throne. With their gun-powder replenishments replaced with mustard seeds, bridges over the river that separated battlefield from fortifications behind destroyed; a victorious army was left staring at death and defeat, with only bayonets and swords to take on the cannon charge. The brave don’t surrender, so they perish. If they were pushed behind into the river, it wasn’t because they turned their back even for once in the battle, but such was the intensity of gun fire from a re-invigorated enemy. Politics and hatred had forever changed the future of India that fateful day.

 

INS Ranjit Singh, named after the former jewel of India, was the pride of Indian Navy. A nuclear submarine equipped with latest sonar technology and carrying around fifty nuclear warheads, it was built in record time after the start of hostilities that loosely club together as the Third Great War. It’s exploits in the war were as glorious as the legendary ruler himself, and when the mayhem ended, its’ actions as magnanimous as those of the king at the peak of his reign. It relieved the life of the king himself.

 

It first saw action very close to the islands of Lakshadweep. As the Indian and Pakistani Navies battled it out in the Arabian Sea, where NATO forces were involved in an ever lengthening conflict with the Republic of Iran, a Pakistan Navy frigate supported by two missile boats positioned itself close to the islands, threatening the supply route to the ships at sea. INS Ranjit Singh, under the command of Captain Ajay Chauhan, was instructed to neutralize the threat, without any support from any other vessel.

 

PNS Rasul, the Zulfiqar class frigate, commanded by Captain Noor Mohammed was however inexplicably instructed by the Pakistani Naval high command, to withdraw from the waters and return to the Karachi port. Perhaps the naval command was vary of losing three ships in the eventuality of Indian Navy taking a forceful action against it, as much of the Pakistani Navy was pinned down in the Arabian Sea. INS Ranjit Singh however had a clear order; seek and destroy. Due to its’ superior speed and manoeuvrability, the Indian ship pursued the retreating vessels and took out the two missile boats. PNS Rasul however managed to escape. Captain Ajay Chauhan was refused permission to pursue PNS Rasul any closer to the Pakistani waters as the Indian Navy saw no use in risking a premium vessel so close to enemy stronghold.

 

However, as the war waged on and the brains behind the war lost both their patience, as well as themselves, nuclear holocaust finally began. One of the first centres of attack at sea, the waters next to the Arabian peninsula, a small motley crew consisting of a US Frigate and a couple of British patrol vessels survived the mayhem. But they were caught in an environment getting polluted by radiations at a speed quicker than their vessels were capable of achieving to escape the area. The sailors on board the vessels had been exposed to severe radiation levels, and were rapidly falling sick. The area notorious for the activities of Somali pirates was a cause of concern as intelligence reports indicated that few groups of the same have decided to capture the military crafts. Even though the writing of the region was on the wall, or for that matter, the entire world, yet NATO sought help from the Indian Navy in retrieving the vessels from the sea, one of which carried a few live nuclear warheads. INS Ranjit Singh thus set out on her final official military mission.

 

As the global destruction and mayhem headed towards culmination, Captain Noor Mohammed, still incensed at the loss of two ships under his command, forced his seniors to grant him permission to hunt down INS Ranjit Singh. For two days his vessel followed the Indian submarine’s tracks across the blue stretch. When it finally arrived at the scene, INS Ranjit Singh was already stretched to its’ wits end, pinned down by five pirate operated vessels, including the three naval ships.

 

“Just what we needed,” Captain Ajay Chauhan commented as he was informed about the arrival of a formidable foe, “At least the pirates didn’t know how to operate the big vessels they are commanding.”

 

“So what are the orders Captain,” his junior asked him.

 

Captain Chauhan thought for a few minutes, and then gave the directions, “Do not engage the Pakistani ship yet. But maintain a buffer zone.”

 

“Sir, two of the pirate operated military ships are within our striking zone,” the young lieutenant Pratap Singh, manning the sonar informed.

 

“The US Frigate is carrying warheads,” Captain Chauhan cautioned, “We don’t know if the pirates have access to them, or if they can break the codes to arm them, but let us try to negotiate first.”

 

“Sir we are getting a communication from PNS Rasul,” Sublieutenant Shamsher Singh, who was monitoring communication channels informed, “It’s their Captain Noor Mohammed.”

 

Captain Chauhan was taken by surprise, but signalled Shamsher to put him through, “Captain Ajay Chauhan, commanding officer INS Ranjit Singh speaking. What can I do for you Captain Noor Mohammed?”

 

“You can chop your head and send it to me Captain, if you would like to,” Captain Noor Mohammed replied.

 

“A lion’s head carries a price Captain,” Captain Chauhan replied, “This lion’s head comes at the price of your ship. Blow it up and I will send you my head.”

 

“A lemon caught in a squeezer should not joke about the hand that holds it Captain,” Captain Mohammed replied, “Your life and craft are at our mercy.”

 

“You should try auditioning for our Bollywood Captain, for that’s where dreams belong,” Captain Chauhan quipped in return, “What can a hand do when the brain commanding it is handicapped and doesn’t realize it is a rock mounted in the squeezer.”

 

“You have a big mouth. Too bad it is the brain which answers situations that determine fate,” Captain Mohammed carried on, “Who would you like to be taken out by first, the pirates or us? Make a choice about how graceful you want your death to be.”

 

“You were not listening were you?” Captain Chauhan quipped, “But then you never listen. You always follow the advice of those who have designs of their own, and fight those who want to see you prosper as much as they would like their own to prosper.”

 

“Watch what you are saying Captain, my thumb is sitting on the trigger,” Captain Mohammed interrupted.

 

“I don’t watch my words. I prefer the look on the faces they smack,” Captain Chauhan replied back, “Besides an army equipped with weapons donated by others should not judge the bravery of those who never knew fear. The ships we are here to save, they belong to your long time allies.”

 

“A true brave is never disrespectful to his enemies Captain. You seem to be a contra-vision of grace,” Captain Mohammed replied, “We can suffer hunger and under-development, but will never accept the disgrace of donated weapons Captain. We bought them fair and square. It’s time you grew up from being toddlers and complaining about our armament policies.”

 

“Let us get to the point Captain,” Captain Chauhan hinted to get down to the business end of the conversation.

 

“As you see Captain, you are in no position to put forward any demands,” Captain Mohammed quipped, “So why don’t we talk about a peaceful surrender?”

 

INS Ranjit Singh’s entire crew burst out laughing.

 

Captain Chauhan controlled his laughter and replied, “So how do you plan to surrender?”

 

“You think this is funny?” Captain Mohammed was incensed. He directed his men, “Give them the cans!”

 

The guns of PNS Rasul roared. However, the buffer zone maintained by INS Ranjit Singh ensured the vessel was safe from any gun fire. When PNS Rasul fired a couple of missiles, the indigenously developed missile defence system on board INS Ranjit Singh, quickly and effectively neutralized the threat.

 

“So you see Captain, we are not orphans lost in a city,” Captain Chauhan commented on radio before ordering his men, “Time for action boys. Take out the two pirate owned ships, but leave the army vessels under their control intact.”

 

Two torpedos was all it took for INS Ranjit Singh to neutralize two pirate vessels. The event had the psychological impact Captain Ajay Chauhan had expected it to have.

 

“Sir, someone claiming to be the chief of Pirates is calling on the radio,” Shamsher informed his Captain.

 

Captain Chauhan motioned him to put him through to him, “This is Captain of INS Ranjit Singh. You have violated international maritime laws, and taken over a vessel which does not belong to you. You are ordered to surrender immediately or face death.”

 

“Please save us, we are dying,” the pirate chief pleaded in return.

 

“What do you mean? Give us the details,” Captain Chauhan asked, “Where is the crew of the three ships in your command.”

 

“We are all sick,” the pirate chief replied, “The crew of these ships was already half dead or sick beyond working abilities when we boarded these ships. Please help us, we are dying.”

 

“Sir, this could be a ploy,” Lieutenant Pratap Singh cautioned.

 

“I know my Lieutenant,” Captain nodded in affirmation, “But the only way to find out is to check it out.” Captain then thought for a moment before ordering, “Send the raft. Take adequate measures to avoid radio-activity.”

 

A team of INS Ranjit Singh left on a raft, dressed in radio-activity proof vests, to take stock of the situation onboard the three military vessels under the pirate command.

 

“Sir, if the radio-activity levels are so sever out there, what would be the situation on-board the Pakistani vessel?” Sub-lieutenant Shamsher asked.

 

“You are right in raising concerns about the safety of the Pakistani crew Shamsher,” Captain Chauhan replied, “But they will be too proud to seek our help, and would rather perish at sea. Why else do you think their guns have been silent for so long?”

 

“Should we contact them?” Shamsher asked.

 

“It will be useless, but we can always try,” Captain gave his affirmation.

 

“Captain Noor Mohammed speaking,” the voice at the other end was adulterated by heavy and abrupt breathing, but still sounded firm.

 

“Captain, we cannot change the course of future now, for the hara-kiri has already been committed by those whose actions are beyond our questioning,” Captain Chauhan commented, “But we can save all that we can. I have some spare radio-activity proof vests available, and I can send them to you. If you save some of your crew and yourself, I am sure we will be expected to save a lot more people out there.”

 

“Everybody is born to die one day Captain,” Captain Mohammed replied, “It is not ‘when you die’ or ‘how you die’ that matters, rather what you die for.” Captain Mohammed continued, “We left our homes to die for our motherland. And if this be our end, then be it. Do not insult our death by offering us help.”

 

“Captain, your bravery and your men’s bravery needs no affirmation from me or anybody else,” Captain Chauhan replied, “But the question is not what you die for. The question is; can you save someone else from dying.”

 

“We will save as many people as we can, but we will take no help from you,” Captain Noor Mohammed firmly replied. He knew the fate that awaited him and his men, but it was grace which he was concerned about.

 

The war started taking its’ toll fast. As humanity collapsed on its’ knees globally, under the weight of mounting radio-activity, death was the only thing that roamed freely around the globe. Naval commands collapsed world over, with naval fleets left in the charge of their captains and crews. INS Ranjit Singh was free to sail wherever it liked. Its’ men were safe, and information from Antarctica had started pouring in. The coldest place on earth was also the safest now.

 

But brave are not judged by their words, rather actions. INS Ranjit Singh had a name to live up to. The INS Ranjit Singh could have set sail for Antarctica and made it a safe home, but it chose to save as much flora and fauna, and as many people as it could. It travelled around the world collecting viable specimens and healthy people, then leaving them at Antarctica. Pirates and sailors, enemies and friends, all races, all religions were saved. There was no discrimination against anybody, for all creation is equal.

 

The INS Ranjit Singh was instrumental in saving much of religious texts, medicinal records, medical equipment, including the cloning equipment and drugs that were subsequently used by the ‘Hatsu Saisho’ community for centuries. It was INS Ranjit Singh’s efforts that material vast enough to last at least ninety to hundred years was saved. It is another matter that the material lasted well over four centuries, for much of the population killed each other. But INS Ranjit Singh had done its’ job.

 

“Noah’s Ark”, it deserved every bit of that name as it set sail from the Antarctic shores for the last time. It’s entire crew still on board, refusing to settle down for a last few months, as it struggled with radio-activity induced sickness, which had slowly and slowly taken hold of it, thanks to its’ continuous efforts in securing the future of humanity. Like the king, it had to die young. The one eyed lion!

 

 

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