by Abha Iyengar
It was 1941, and the British were fighting the Second World War. They also had to cope with growing demands for Independence from the Indians, whom they had colonized long ago. While Gandhi and the others negotiated, some, like Satbir and I, believed in taking matters in our own hands. We deployed guerrilla tactics to create fear in the ‘goras’ to force them to leave our land forever. Most of our group had died in the attempts, and Satbir and I had been caught and put behind bars. Yet we held our heads high, we were not terrorists, but freedom fighters.
We had no idea what the English had in mind when Sergeant Sanders came to our cell that day. Blue-eyed and blond-haired; his skin peeled in places where the sun had been harsh. He glanced at our taut, tanned bodies with envy. “You are to be released,” he said.
The sun had really gotten to him. We sneered.
“Out!” he ordered.
We were placed on a truck in the middle of the night with others, all able men, but killers, murderers, thieves, or fighters like us. We joined the thousands sent to fight the Axis on behalf of the British in foreign lands. We had created a pain in their ass, and this was a good way to get rid of it.
So here I was, under the hot African sun, in a trench, hiding from one unfamiliar enemy; befriending another whom I hated. Where Satbir was, I did not know. Rifle in hand, sweat on my brow, my thoughts raced. I sought to renew my connection with the ideology I had followed all my life but could not. I had been saved for this, to fight for the British? I could turn the rifle on myself, put an end to this forever.
In the final analysis , life was too sweet. Needless to say, I survived the war.
* * *
I am old now, living in a free country called Pakistan. Being a Muslim, I had no choice but to leave India, my motherland, in 1947. I was beyond heartbreak.
The phone rings shrilly. I reach for it with shaking fingers. Suleiman, my grandson, is at the other end.
“Bade- Abba,” his voice is anguished, ” they have caught me.”
Suleiman is a ‘jehadi’. He calls himself a freedom fighter. It is the fever of youth and misplaced ideology. The flames will consume him.
 In a trench, under a hot sun, with rifle in hand, all I could think of was how to save my life. Nothing else mattered. The reality called life had begun to kick the face of ideology black and blue.
Originally published in Doorknobs and Body Paint #43, 2006.
Abha Iyengar is an internationally published author, poet and British Council certified Creative writing facilitator. Her work has appeared in The Four Quarters Magazine, Muse India, The Asian Writer, Pure Slush, and others. Her story, “The High Stool”, was nominated for the Story South Million Writers Award. Her poem-film “Parwaaz” won a special jury prize at Patras, Greece. She won the Lavanya Sankaran fellowship 2009-10. She was a finalist in the FlashMob 2013 Flash Fiction contest. Her published works are Yearnings, Flash Bites, Shrayan, Many Fish to Fry, and The Gourd Seller and Other Stories.