“Come what may, today I must write the letter. I was told that Idumaal dada and others would be leaving within two days,” thought Pojje while going for her 6 am sentry duty. She was not yet twenty.
She stopped at the camp ‘B’ tent that was on her way and looked for Sajonti. But she did not find her. “She hasn’t returned from her sentry duty yet,” replied Reena to Pojje’s query.
“Will you please inform her that Pojje would come to meet her at 10 am after her sentry duty?” asked Pojje.
“I will if I come across her.”
“Oh, please Reena, not if you come across her, find her and tell her,” said Pojje pleadingly.
Reena smiled and said, “Ingo.”
Pojje was satisfied and began climbing the hillock on which the sentry post was located with a smile on her face.
‘It’s been only one year since I left South Bastar and started working in Maad. After four months I wrote a letter home informing them that I was okay and that was it. I did not write again thinking there is nothing much to write, everything is routine. But after listening to Idumaal dada’s report I thought it would be better to write. When I told Sajonti, she also suggested the same. We both belong to the same family and to the same Panchayat level Janatana Sarkar. She is familiar with my dada too. Both of us should discuss and write a nice letter.’
Since the day she listened to the report, whatever she may have been doing, the one person who was always on her mind was her dada – her elder brother.
*** *** ***
As soon as her sentry duty got completed at 10 am, Pojje came down the hillock with some anxiety wondering if Sajonti was there or not. Just then Sajonti had finished the literacy class (school) she was running for the PLGA comrades learning to read and write and came out of the tent. Pojje beamed upon seeing Sajonti.
“You don’t have any duty now, do you? Remember? We thought of writing a letter to my home” asked Pojje.
“I had been waiting for you for the same. I have been asked to go for an ‘APT’ (appointment) at 11.30,” said Sajonti with a doubtful expression on her face.
“There is not much to write actually….” said Pojje in a voice filled with a bit of hope and lots of disappointment.
“Okay, let us start writing then. It may be dark by the time I return. If we cannot complete it now, we will finish it at night,” said Sajonti as she understood what was going on in Pojje’s mind.
“Ingo.” Pojje removed her weapon from the shoulder, kept her kit at the place shown by Sajonti inside the ‘B’ tent and tried to sit down.
“Not inside the tent. When the sun goes up it heats up.” Sajonti led the way to a tree and spread the small jilli that she uses for sitting while attending meetings.
“Even I never like being inside the tent. I always like it under the trees,” Pojje said with a laugh. She placed her notebook and pen in Sajonti’s hands and sat down.
Sajonti opened the notebook to a blank page and looked at Pojje with a look that encouraged her to start.
Pojje smiled shyly but did not say anything. How and where to start?
“To whom shall we address?” asked Sajonti.
“Let us write addressing mother and father, shall we?”
“But you said it was about your brother?”
“Yeah, that is true, so how shall we proceed?”
Both of them thought for a few seconds.
“You had already written once to your mother and father, so shall we write to your brother?”
“But if brother had migrated for work, who knows when he will return?”
“Okay then. We will address the letter to mother and father and in the same letter we will write to your brother. If he is at home they will give it to him. If not, we will write asking them to give it to him when he returns.” Sajonti looked at Pojje enquiringly.
Pojje nodded her head with a smile.
Sajonti wrote – “Dear Comrades” as was the habit and lifted her head and smiled at Pojje.
“I wrote comrades.” Both of them laughed heartily.
“Okay I wrote – dear mother and father. What next?”
“I am fine. Hope all of you are fine at home. I sent you a letter after I came here. Hope you had received it.”
Sajonti wrote it down. Seeing Pojje thinking, Sajonti suggested, “Your poor mother’s health was not good, your elder sister Maase had a child, shall I write about these things?”
“Yes, yes, please do,” said Pojje. She was looking with wonder at the words pouring out of Sajonti’s pen.
‘That is why I took Sajonti’s help. Though she had been transferred here three years back, she knows about the happenings there. She is very patient. How nicely she is writing! Her handwriting is beautiful and she is writing so fast too. Don’t know when I would be able to write like that’ thought Pojje.
In the same vein they both discussed happenings in Pojje’s home and wrote about them. By then Reena came and said, “Sajonti, you are still here? Comrades going for the ‘APT’ are eating in the kitchen.” Sajonti looked at her wrist watch and handed over her notebook and pen to Pojje.
“I will come to your tent at night as we do not know when we will be back.” said Sajonti and took her plate and ran to the kitchen.
*** *** ***
Pojje reached her ‘C’ tent, placed her kit in her place and looked for Vasanti who is in-charge of allotting sentry and other duties.
“It seems they found some root. You pound it and put it in the water and the fish come to the surface. So Vasanti and others have gone to the pond,” explained Raju.
‘It will be lunch time within few minutes anyway and the pond is on the way to the kitchen,’ thought Pojje and walked towards the pond carrying her plate.
There were several comrades inside the pond. They folded their pants till the knees and are catching the fish that were coming to the surface after mixing the pounded root in the pond. Lot of hullabaloo was going on. Pojje spotted Vasanti but she was afar.
As soon as her Platoon Commander Mangtu spotted her, he called, “Come, come, Pojje! Catch the fish.”
Pojje showed her plate.
“Oh, you can eat later. We have to eat too, there’s still time for lunch, come, come,” urged Mangtu.
On any other day she would have voluntarily joined the hunt. No self-respecting Bastarvasi worth her salt would wait for an invitation for catching fish. And refusing when Mangtu dada was inviting? Never. But somehow Pojje’s entire mind was abuzz with the letter she had to write to her brother and she did not find interest in anything else.
“You are refusing when the commander is asking you. My! This is against discipline.” Mangtu did not let go.
She looked at him searchingly to see if he was being serious? Then she detected the laughter in his eyes and burst out laughing.
Mangtu laughed and nodded his head as if to say, ‘Go.’ She stood there for a few minutes, appraised how many fish they were catching and then went to the kitchen.
Pojje ate her lunch and waited for Vasanti. She did not want to idle her time and so took her knife out of her ammunition belt and began helping Santi who was shredding karku (tender bamboo shoots) that is to be cooked as the curry for the night meal.
“Santi! Did you write your letter to your home?”
“Yes. I wrote it yesterday itself and gave it to Idumaal dada’s guard. What about you?”
“I haven’t completed writing yet. I should finish it by today night. Sajonti said she would come to help me.”
“When I used to be in Sajonti’s section, she used to help me write letters too.”
“Now I write on my own. After writing, I show it to Asumati. If there are any mistakes, she corrects them. Then I make a fair copy and send it.”
When Pojje detected the satisfaction that spread on Santi’s face as she said this, she felt good and smiled. Santi smiled too.
“I don’t know how many more days it will take for me,” said Pojje pausing her shredding for a moment.
“You must write daily in the notebook for practice. You should pay attention in the school and put in hard work. Then it would not take much time.”
“How many days did it take for you to learn after you got recruited, Santi?”
“I have learnt a bit at home, so I took time mainly to write without mistakes.”
“Did you go to school at home?”
“No, I learnt when I joined the militia.”
“Even I started learning when I was in the militia. But we did not have any gurujis like Sajonti there. Those who knew more taught those who knew less. Then I got recruited and came here. Even here we can’t attend school daily. We have our duties to fulfill….”
“Yes. But our duties are very important. We are PLGA comrades and the better we do our duties, the more our struggle advances. We should never lag behind in that. But if we have to do our duties in a better manner and if we have to develop further, of course we have to be educated. So we must plan to carry on both…”
“Yes, of course we have to do our duties. Our Mangtu dada always tells us not to underestimate ourselves because we are still squad members. He says if we don’t work well, it would impact all the works in our revolution. Our Vasanti also sees to it that we are mostly free to attend the school, she plans our duties accordingly. But when there are less persons and more work, what can the poor thing do? Santi! If we had learnt at home it would have been definitely different, it doesn’t take this much time.”
“True, but what can we do? Even now in so many areas our schools are not present. In the midst of Green Hunt operations we are not even sure how long the existing ones will be able to function too. There were no schools in our areas when we were children. By the time the Janatana Sarkar schools started functioning we were at the age where one gets recruited into the militia. Then, we came here,” laughed Santi.
Pojje too laughed. Then she spotted Vasanti. Wiping her knife and securing it in her belt she went towards her.
“Vasanti! When is my next sentry duty today? Do I have any other chores?” asked Pojje.
“You may have sentry at 8 pm. Why are you asking?”
“Sajonti said she would come. I have to finish writing my letter to home. Will it be possible to go for my sentry at 10 pm?”
Vasanti thought about it for some moments while eating. In the one year since Pojje arrived she had never asked for anything like this. Whatever was expected of her, she would do it promptly. Vasanti has already assigned to herself one extra sentry. She saw Pojje looking at her anxiously and thought, ‘Okay then, let me do a third sentry too if necessary.’
“Comrades from our Platoon have also gone for the appointment. We have less people. Anyway, we will do something about it. But if they return late from the ‘APT’…”
Even before Vasanti could finish Pojje interjected. “Then even Sajonti would not come and I would attend the 8 pm sentry. What else for today?”
“Would you like to go to gather some mushrooms?”
“I will go.”
“Saroja and others are going, go join them.”
*** *** ***
It was almost eight pm. Those who had gone for the ‘APT’ hadn’t returned yet. So Pojje went for her sentry. She came back at 10 pm and sighed, ‘Now the letter could be completed only tomorrow’. She dusted her jilli with the kal kapda (cleaning cloth) and lay down but could not sleep.
‘When I was at home, my dada also worked in the militia and was active. When I told the family that I would like to get recruited into the PLGA, he did not oppose my decision too. But why is he trying to move away from the movement now? Why is he not even thinking that I am now in the Party? He used to love me a lot. I even asked Idumaal dada separately. He said – nothing particularly happened. After the BJP came to power in the state and the centre, Green Hunt operations have increased and so some people were distancing themselves from the movement unable to bear the repression. Maybe he would think about it if I write him a letter. Let me see. Till now I had no worries at all and was learning everything so well in the Party. For the first time something is gnawing at me. I wish my dada has not resorted to this kind of behaviour.’
These thoughts buzzed inside Pojje’s head till she fell asleep. But as always it did not take her much time to be in deep sleep.
*** *** ***
“The meeting for which this camp was organised has come to an end. The flag would be brought down in the evening. Tomorrow all of us would be traveling to our respective areas. So today we have to do camouflage work. Duties would be assigned. We also have to attend an ‘APT’. Vasanti would announce the names of those who would be going later. Is there anything else you want to say?” asked Mangtu during the morning roll call.
Everybody said, “Nothing.” Mangtu dispersed everybody from the roll call.
There were no exercises too today. Everybody went away to attend to their assigned duties. After finishing her duty, Pojje ate her breakfast and went almost running to meet Sajonti. She met her on the way.
“I was coming to meet you. We came back very late at night, so I could not meet you.”
“I know. Some comrades from our tent too went with you. So what now, shall we write?”
“Idumaal dada is going away tomorrow. So he asked me to come to have a chat. As soon as it is over, I will come to your tent. You would be there, won’t you?”
“Yes, I would be present. Please ask him about my brother too one more time. Though I have also asked him….”
As Sajonti sauntered towards Idumaal’s tent, Pojje stood on the way for a few seconds contemplating what to do next.
‘Who knows, maybe if dada doesn’t have much time to spare, Sajonti may return soon. I better be available in my tent,’ she thought and turned back.
By the time she returned the literacy class was already running. Pojje too took her books and joined the school.
By ten the school was closed but still there was no trace of Sajonti.
‘Wish I could take bath, it’s been two days and tomorrow we would be traveling, so I wouldn’t have the chance. But what if Sajonti turns up just after I have gone? Oh, till this letter business is over, looks like I can’t concentrate on anything else.’
She spread her jilli under a tree and began reading the letter that they had written yesterday. And then Sajonti appeared.
“What is it that dada talked with you about?” Pojje asked curiously.
“Nothing much. You know, it has been three years since I came here. So he just enquired about my well-being, how far I have developed and what I am thinking. Nothing more,” replied Sajonti looking happy.
Pojje also felt happy that dada has asked her these things and smiled.
“How many days is it since you knew dada?”
“I knew him since I was at home. After I was transferred here, he would meet me and talk whenever we met. Not just with me. He talks with everyone who has been transferred from our Division to various places and enquires about their development.”
“Even in his report he spoke in such detail about everyone’s family. My! He is so patient.”
“Oh yes, there is not one family that dada is not familiar with. I don’t know how many years it has been since dada came to work in our area, but even old people recognise him. It seems then the Party used to camp inside the villages most of the time. Thus they knew every home, every person in every home in those days. To whichever Division he goes, he assembles the comrades recruited from our Division and tells them about the developments in their home division for one or two hours at least. Not just dada, all the higher committee comrades do this. Though we get transferred to various Divisions we should know about the latest developments in our home Divisions, don’t you think so?”
“Ingo. We should definitely get that information. They must definitely inform us. This was the first time I heard such report. This was the first time dada had come to us after my transfer.”
“Yeah, he came to attend the meeting. He also enquired about you. I told him you were good. He said next time he would definitely speak with you as now he does not have much time.” Pojje felt very happy.
‘Pojje should be helped a lot to find her feet inside the movement. We are getting reports that she is a good comrade. All of you should help her by teaching her things’, he had said to Sajonti. But she did not reveal this to Pojje. Such words are not to be repeated, they are meant to be kept in mind, meant to be implemented.
Those who got recruited earlier help those who get recruited later just like they had themselves been helped in their early days and this is something that has become something like an instinctive response in everyone in the more than thirty years of the movement’s experience. But when somebody like Idumaal dada expresses the same, it is an inspiration. Even Sajonti was not aware that the new found zeal that was spreading inside her was a result of that very conversation.
Guessing even the question that Pojje did not ask Sajonti said, “I asked about your brother too. He repeated what he said earlier in the report. Most of the people are good. Just a handful of them are distancing themselves due to the repression.”
“That is what I don’t understand. How would it be without our movement? What would they do? What is the point in being like that?” Pojje’s voice was full of surprise and disappointment that what is so crystal clear to her is not being understood by people like her brother.
“Exactly. Okay. So what do I write?”
‘What should I write to make my brother understand? How much can one write in a letter?’ Pojje was silent, thinking of these questions. Sajonti patiently waited for her to speak.
“You write. There is no difference whether it is you who writes or me,” said Pojje at long last.
Sajonti nodded and wrote some sentences and read them to herself once. Then she turned towards Pojje and said, “Listen now – Dada! How are you? How is your health? It seems you are not being active in the militia nowadays. You know very well that without the Party and without our struggle we poor people do not have anything. So why are you behaving like this? I want you to work well in the militia.”
“Hm, it is good,” said Pojje and after thinking a while added, “Shall we add something like this? ‘The repression on our Party by the looti sarkar is going to increase and is never going to come down. So, all of us will have to fight harder. If we become frightened, even those things that we have gained through lot of sweat and blood would be lost. You know that we have to continue our fight till we poor people gain political power. You had already been working for the movement for many days by the time I started to work. You know everything. So please think again’.”
“Yes, let us write that, it is good,” said Sajonti and wrote it down. “What else?”
“What more to add? Whatever else we write would just be a repeat of this.”
“Yes indeed. So do I sign off then?” asked Sajonti. Pojje nodded. Sajonti added two more sentences and read them aloud.
“If you receive this letter, do reply. Look after our mother and father well. If there are any spelling mistakes please excuse and try to get the meaning by reading them properly…”
As soon as Sajonti stopped reading, Pojje added laughing, “With revolutionary Greetings….”
“Yes, With Revolutionary Greetings your little sister Pojje,” wrote Sajonti joining Pojje’s laughter.
Sajonti read the entire letter one more time to herself. She was doubtful about the spelling in some places. She looked into Pojje’s tent to see if anybody is present to clear her doubts. Nobody was present.
‘Anyway I had written about the spelling mistakes at the end of the letter as we write in every letter of ours, so it must be okay,’ she assured herself.
She carefully tore the paper from the notebook and gave it to Pojje. Pojje put it in her shirt pocket.
“Where is everybody?” asked Sajonti getting up.
“They must have gone for camouflage work and dismantling the camp. I told Vasanti about the letter, so she gave me permission to complete it and then join. I should be going.”
Looking at her watch Sajonti said, “You can eat and then go.” She started for her place.
Before she could take a few steps, Pojje called, “Sajonti, Sajonti,” and came towards her.
“We haven’t written about our martyrs. Sanni who got recruited from our Janatana Sarkar has been recently martyred too.”
“Oh, yes. Give me the letter.” Sajonti extended her hand.
She took the letter and pen handed by Pojje and looked around for a boulder to sit and tried to write, but it was inconvenient.
“Get me the notebook.” Pojje ran and brought it in a jiffy.
Sajonti looked for some space at the beginning of the letter where she could squeeze in the words. But she did not find any. The words were too densely written. The paper was filled up on one side but on the other side only a quarter of it was filled, the rest of it was blank. There under the signature ‘Pojje’ she added the following.
‘Let us pay red homage to our martyrs. Let us fight to fulfill the lofty aims of our martyrs. You must have known that our very dear Comrade Sanni who was recruited from our Panchayat level Janatana Sarkar and gone to work in Odisha had recently laid down her life while bravely fighting the enemy forces. Let us never forget the sacrifice of Sanni. Let us learn from her. We had conducted a memorial meeting for her here. I hope even you had conducted a meeting about her there.’ Sajonti read what she wrote.
Pojje nodded as if to say ‘It would be enough’.
“Good that you reminded Pojje. Otherwise the letter would have gone without this,” said Sajonti with a note of approval in her voice.
“Yes, I felt we were missing something but could not put my finger on it. Did you meet Sanni?”
“Yes. Four years back before she went to Odisha, she was not even twenty then.”
“Vasanti requested computer Rajesh for my sake and got me this printout of her photo,” said Pojje and carefully took out a photo printed on a palm sized paper out of a plastic cover which she kept in her shirt pocket.
“It is so good, I wish even I could get one printed out for me.”
“I could ask. But I think all the equipment must have been packed by now. This was a meeting camp, so we had the computer. When we go to our areas we won’t have access to it. So, will you take this instead?”
Like every squad member in PLGA, Pojje’s kit contained one set of uniform, a bed sheet, a jilli, notebook, pen, slate, chalk pieces, thread, needles, soaps, oil and such daily usage items and did not contain anything extra that can be ‘gifted’ to anybody. Very rarely do they get photos like this. As they are of martyrs they are even closer to the heart. But Pojje gives away even such precious things as she feels, ‘even they must want them so badly, just like me’. It was because of this trait that she asked Sajonti if she wanted Sanni’s photo.
“No need. Keep it with you. I will get it printed out later when it is possible. Now I am late, I should rush, we planned to have our Platoon meeting, and off I go.” Sajonti hurriedly walked away looking at her wrist watch.
Pojje wondered if she should read the letter once. But it would take some time for her to go through it. Everybody is engaged in fulfilling their duties. It would not be proper for her to take more time for her letter, she felt.
She thought, ‘I will read it at night. I can give it to Idumaal dada tomorrow,’ and put it inside her pocket.
*** *** ***
By the time all of Pojje’s duties, combined study and some small things she had to attend to were over, it was already 10 pm. Pojje came out of her tent to read her letter and selected a stone to sit.
The forest was silent and was spreading calmness all around. Only those insects that come out during the dark for food could be heard making small sounds. Even those cannot be detected by everybody. Fireflies flocked in their thousands on some trees. Those trees were glittering as if all the stars from the sky had descended on them.
The moon also came out of the clouds as if pleased to see, Pojje and generously gave away his light. Immediately every leaf, shrub and blade of grass began shining with an out of the world beauty. Though Pojje did not bathe in the evening, she just washed her hair and now she left it loose without tying it with a band. The gentle breeze was playing with her curls. She pulled them back and looked up to see why the moon was so bright. She understood that the next day was a full moon day.
She looked at the moon as if to say – so you have come to the ‘APT’ on time – and then just went on with her reading without giving him another thought. The ‘Chaudvi ka chand’ was a bit upset at this, but his curiosity gained the upper hand. He wanted to know what Pojje was reading in such an absorbed manner with her torchlight on.
Pojje read the letter once. She again browsed it once from top to bottom.
‘It is looking good enough. Looks like I covered everything. Oh, when would I get the opportunity to see Maase’s baby! It doesn’t seem like I would be traveling home to see them anytime soon.’ She folded the letter and put it inside her pocket.
“Pojje! Not asleep yet?” Mangtu who was just returning from a meeting questioned her.
“No dada. I was waiting for you.”
“Why, what’s the matter?”
“I wrote a letter home, I wrote to my brother too. I wanted to give it to you. It will go with Idumaal dada tomorrow.”
“Give it to me. I was anyway going to pack all the letters of our Platoon now. I will put it inside that pack.”
“Just go through it once and please do the packing, okay?” Pojje handed over the letter.
“Ingo. Did you mention in the letter that we had an ‘encounter’ recently?”
Pojje laughed gaily and shook her head to say ‘no’.
Actually it was not an ‘encounter’. At night the sentry saw the lights of hunters and all were alerted. The villagers had earlier sent word with a squad member that they would be hunting that night and so they need not be alarmed when they see any lights, but he forgot to inform and that led to the confusion. Remembering that entire episode made Pojje laugh. On that night though everybody got up from sleep and there was confusion, Pojje had carried without fail all the common equipment belonging to the Platoon. Mangtu was always fond of Pojje but after this incident his respect for her increased a notch above.
“Did you write that when you first looked at the Maad Mountains you were afraid that you may not be able to climb them?”
She again shook her head to say ‘no’.
“Okay then, I will add it at the end,” he said looking seriously at her.
‘Would he really?’ Pojje looked at him with widened eyes. Then she detected that his lips were quivering because of the laughter he was trying to control and understood.
“Why would you write so dada? Now I am not at all afraid. In our South Bastar there are not many mountains like this, so I just felt like that when I saw them for the first time,” said Pojje and laughed again.
Mangtu teases her whenever he comes across her just to see her laugh so. Her laughter gives him a very pleasant feeling.
“If I am not to add it to the letter, you should fulfill a precondition. You must agree to go to work in an area where there are even higher mountains,” said Mangtu trying still to look serious.
‘Will they really send me to such a place?’ Pojje was unsure. But she also remembered – ‘for the sake of the movement I must go wherever there is requirement’.
“Why are you thinking so much? You are forgetting what we discussed in our combined study Pojje!” Mangtu was keenly observing the passing feelings in her face and deliberately assumed a slightly accusing tone.
“No dada, I haven’t forgotten. You told us during the study about so many of our comrades who had gone to newer areas to work and some have even died there. But I am not as educated as them, so I am just wondering how I can go so far and work…”
“True Pojje. In the early days educated dadas and didis had gone to newer areas and worked. But now our numbers have increased and the numbers of such didis and dadas has decreased. If our Party again expands in other areas, may be their numbers would increase once again. But if we have to extend to other areas, it is we who have to put in the hard work. So you now see that whether literate or not, it is us Adivasi comrades who are now going to newer areas and working and learning and spreading the movement.”
“Yes. I remember you saying that once comrades from Telangana and Andhra had come to our Bastar and Gadchiroli to work and now comrades from Dandakaranya are going to work in Telangana, Andhra, Odisha or wherever the Party sends them.”
“Not just from DK, even from Jharkhand comrades are going to Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bengal or wherever the Party is sending them to work. Even in those areas it was educated comrades from Bihar and Bengal who had come to work in the early days.”
“But dada, we had seen you people leaving your villages and even Divisions before us, and so it was not difficult for us to leave our homes to work elsewhere. But I wonder what you people or those who worked earlier than you felt when asked to leave your areas and get transferred. Maybe you felt as if you were going to another country when you left your areas or Divisions, isn’t it so?”
“Yes, you can’t even imagine. You know the saying – ‘if we leave our home maybe even the cat will bite us’. We were that scared. We did not like to leave our native villages and places. Then we thought that if those dadas and didis had not come to us, we wouldn’t have learnt so much. We also thought – we say that we want to liberate the whole country, but if we are afraid to go to a neighbouring area where people speak our own Koya language, then how will we achieve our goal? Now as you can see, even comrades younger than you are going anywhere they are sent and working. AND you are saying that you will not go if there are higher mountains,” Mangtu reverted to his teasing mood.
“WHEN did I say I would not go? You did not even ask me,” countered Pojje a bit alarmed.
“We are not sending you anywhere. How will our Platoon function without Pojje?” It was then that he burst out laughing showing all his teeth putting a stop to his banter. Pojje too laughed thinking, ‘This dada always talks like this.’
“But we will never win our war without expanding our movement. Remember this Pojje. And if you want to go wherever the Party sends you to work, you should learn everything very fast while you are in our Platoon, got it? Okay now, go and sleep.” Mangtu ended the conversation and walked towards his jilli.
Pojje nodded her head like an obedient student, dusted her jilli and lay down to sleep.
Pojje thought about nothing but her brother and the letter she had to write to him in the past two days. But now that it was done it took a back seat. There are so many goals that she had to reach, so how could she be thinking of such things anymore?
‘No, this time I would write my own letter. I must learn to read and write fast. I must utilise whatever time I have efficiently. If everybody is like me we will never win the war. No, no, I must develop quickly. Otherwise if Idumaal dada meets me next time and asks me how far have you developed, just as he asked Sajonti, what would I say?
So many Adivasi comrades who I personally know are going to newer areas and working. They are learning many languages the names of which I do not even know. And how can I be without learning to write in Koya?
But it would be good if more and more educated didis and dadas come to work with us. Then we can learn faster. If comrades like Mangtu, Sajonti and Vasanti have to bear the burden always, it would be difficult for them too, poor things. But whether anybody comes to work with us or not, we have to continue fighting. So I should develop faster and help them.’
For a while she assessed the goals she had to attain and charted her plans to achieve them and then fell asleep. Like always she fell into a deep sleep soon.
Vasanti came back from her sentry at 12 o’clock and when she tried to walk towards her jilli using her torchlight she found Pojje. Half her body was on the jilli and half on the bare earth. Her mouth was open a bit like that of a little child.
‘She is going to be twenty soon but still is like a baby, so innocent, don’t know how she would shape up in future,’ Vasanti wondered with some bother mixed with fondness. “Pojje, get up, come sleep on the jilli, you are getting muddied.” She got Pojje to sleep properly in the jilli and went to her place and slept.
The moon who could not control his curiosity and had read the entire letter of Pojje earlier when she was reading it, laughed knowingly at Vasanti and turned to the other side admonishing himself -Why are you always loitering around these girls? Go and give company to Raju who is in sentry at least for some time, man!
PLGA – People’s Liberation Guerilla Army;
Jilli – plastic sheet;
Ingo – Yes, Okay in Koya;
Krantikari Janatana Sarkar (KJS) – Revolutionary People’s government in Dandakaranya (DK);
Dada, Didi – terms used to address comrades or people meaning elder brother and elder sister;
Guruji – teacher;
Division – geographical divisions made by the Party for organisation purpose;
Party – CPI (Maoist);
Looti sarkar – exploitative government, a reference to the Indian State used to distinguish their own KJS from it;
Chaudvi ka Chand – the moon as it is seen one day before the full moon.
[Originally written in Telugu and published in the March 2016 issue of Arunatara, the organ of Revolutionary Writers Association.]