The Division Committee (DVC) meeting was over and everybody was making preparations to go back to their areas. As every other DVC member, Pusu was terribly busy too.

Pusu was planning appointments (‘APT’s) with the couriers. He checked if things to be taken and given had been exchanged properly or if something went missing. He wrote some important letters that had to be written, in the last minute. He tried to spend at least some amount of time with the comrades who had come to perform ‘protection’ duties for the camp from different areas and with whom he was quite familiar.

‘Who knows which of them I will be able to meet again and who may be martyred?!’

He planned his journey with the comrades who were accompanying him and tried to make it faultless. This time comrade Raimati of the higher committee was also accompanying him. So he tried to make the team understand the significance of this and the need for taking more precautions than usual. With all kinds of such tangible and intangible work he did not even have time to breathe.

Maybe the most difficult thing in the world is to understand how the human brain functions. Because even amid all this, Pusu’s brain was grappling something else! It was wrestling with only one question since it was confirmed that he would be meeting Somaru dada within two or three days.

‘How do I face him?’

Somaru dada’s village was on the path of their journey. They definitely have to stop there for a day to complete their planned work. And if they stop, they are bound to meet Somaru dada. It was not only inevitable, but Pusu necessarily had something to talk with him. He had been waiting since six months for this opportunity. But even so, it was disturbing to Pusu.

No comrade who had ever worked in the area or is working at present would believe if told that Pusu was disturbed about meeting Somaru dada. Because meeting dada was always a happy occasion for everybody. He loved the Party so much and is deeply affectionate towards the comrades.

Long back Pusu had an encounter with the police and he was injured in his hand. After the injury healed, it became a habit for Pusu while sitting, standing or walking to keep touching the mangled skin just beneath his elbow where the injury had been. He did it so unconsciously that he was not even aware of it. His mind was similarly sub-consciously occupied with the matter related to Somaru dada But if someone had asked him, he would have countered, ‘Who said I was thinking of him?’ And it would not be a lie.

“Pusu dada, that is the Lal Salaam whistle,” reminded his guard Sukku. Pusu hurriedly packed the letter he had just completed writing and wrote ‘To Comrade Neela’ on the pack and handed it over to Sukku saying, “Hand it over to Birsa dada.” Sukku said, “Ingo,” and put it inside his pocket.

‘Huh, even this time I wrote the letter hurriedly, sorry Neela,’ Pusu tried to apologise to Neela in his mind, got up, folded his small jilli, took his weapon and kit and looked around to see if he had by mistake dropped anything like pieces of paper. He could see none. Thus satisfied he walked behind Sukku.

After everybody shook hands and said, ‘Lal Salaam’ to each other in farewell, the Division Committee Secretary Sukiyari walked towards Pusu.

“Be careful where you have to cross the road…the Green Hunt operations…and with Raimati didi…”

“Don’t worry, we will take all precautions…”

“It is not just that, her ill-health…”

He did not let her finish the sentence. He just took her right hand into his and smiled.

Sukiyari looked at him as if to say, ‘Why do we speak of such unnecessary things’ and she too smiled. But both of them knew why. It was due to the anxiety that accompanies the moments of parting.

That is why even after the official Lal Salaams are over, some comrades shake hands once again in the last moments. With that small gesture several things that cannot be expressed in words are conveyed to one another.

 Sukiyari did not withdraw her tiny palm which nestled comfortably in his large, firm palms. “When you meet Somaru dada, Raimati didi would also be there,” she said as if to give him some comfort.

Pusu never thought that it would be good to have somebody with him when he met Somaru dada. He didn’t even think that talking with dada was a big deal. He just hurt inside. If at all he wanted anybody with him at that meet it would be Sukiyari. They had been working together for the past ten years. In the past two years since he was elected into the Division Committee, she understood him better. Somaru dada also knew her very well. Raimati had just recently taken over the responsibility of their Division. She came to their area for the first time.

Pusu did not say anything. He just shook her hands firmly. She looked at him fixedly for a few moments and turned back after conveying a ‘goodbye’ with her eyes.

Pusu looked at her retreating back till she disappeared as if to capture the image in his eyes forever and thought, ‘Our Secretary reads me like an open book.’

***                                          ***                                          ***

After walking continuously for two days taking breaks just for breakfast, lunch and sleep, Pusu, Raimati and the team with them stopped for one day in a village. They had to finish some ‘dump’ jobs there and then walk for another four days to reach their destination. Pusu and the comrades who accompanied him had left early in the morning after drinking some gruel for the ‘dump’ job. They were at it the entire day. They brought some lunch in their boxes and ate it in the afternoon. Though Raimati was in the dera she was busy too – taking bath, washing clothes, reading some necessary documents, writing some reports etc.- and wasn’t free even for a moment. After she completed all her tasks, she started translating a China Long March story into Koya for the PLGA comrades. She had been planning to translate it for many days. Now she found the time.

Raimati and others ate by 6.30 in the evening and changed the dera. The commander decided where their ‘covers’ were to be and everyone spread their jillis accordingly. By that time, Pusu and co arrived too. The team commander showed them where their ‘covers’ were and left. Pusu and all the comrades who were with him ate the meals kept aside for them in utensils and left for their respective resting places. The militia sentry was on in the village and the area was also a relatively safer one. So all the comrades turned on their solar lights and started studying.

Pusu was dog tired and wanted to rest. But he had to meet Raimati first.

Raimati who was writing in the light of the solar lamp smiled at him and made place for him to sit by pushing aside the translation papers and the lamp.

Pusu recognised the story book and asked happily, “Are you translating didi?”

“Yes. Ever since I told them the story, Siyabatti and others are after me. They want the translated version.”

‘Don’t know how didi manages to do even such work despite having so much work burden!’ thought Pusu admiring her effort. He informed her about the tasks that were completed that day.

“That means we can start tomorrow as previously planned, right?”

Pusu nodded “Let’s get up early and start at 4 am. Our dump jobs should be completed by tomorrow evening there. If we complete that and walk without stopping for the night, it would be easier on the next day. We will send a small team ahead of us in the morning and cross the road by night.” Pusu repeated the plan they already made just to confirm to her that there has been no change in it.

Raimati nodded. She took out a magazine from a plastic cover and handed it over to him saying, “I picked this up for you.”

“Oh, Hindi?” laughed Pusu. Pusu was from Telangana but he did not come from those areas where he could have learnt Hindi. Though he had been working in Bastar since many years he still did not have much grip on the language. He listened to the Hindi news, read the Hindi newspapers and the party magazines published in Hindi. That was all.

“Of course, because it is in Hindi,” said Raimati laughing. “No Pusu, you must get a better grip on the language. This is a magazine published by our mass organisations in North India. The language is lucid. That is why I selected this for you,” she added.

In fact, Pusu was one of the few comrades who learnt Koya language the fastest. After he was transferred to Dandakaranya (DK), in the earlier days he would particularly spare time to sit with elderly persons like Somaru dada to learn the authentic Koya language that is not adulterated with Telugu, Marathi or Hindi words. He used to tease the new generation Koya youngsters saying – ‘What’s this Koya that you people speak? The real Koya is with the older generation.’

Pusu remembered how Somaru dada’s eyes had lit up when he said this and now a smile played on his lips.

‘But somehow I am not able to concentrate on Hindi. Maybe because of the fast growing responsibilities I cannot find time…’ He got into the habit of defending himself over this lapse with such arguments. So without thinking much he blurted out the same in this half sentence.

“I always think of sparing some time. But always there is something to attend to…”

“You are an educated man and if even you hesitate, what can one say? Your responsibilities are increasing. If we want to organise all classes of people in the areas we are working in, learning Hindi is compulsory. How many more times are we going to write in our reviews that there are lapses in organising vast sections of people? You tell me. Whatever you don’t understand, you ask me, at least during my stay with you,” said Raimati firmly as if brushing aside any or all excuses. “If you don’t learn, this time you will be tasked with writing that review,” she added teasingly.

‘Oh, she caught me at my lie.’ Pusu smiled shyly. He called Sukku who was talking with Raimati’s guard Siyabatti sitting a few feet away and gave him the magazine.

“Enquire if Sukki and others who have gone into the village are back,” he told Sukku. Before he could finish, Sukki appeared.

Sukki handed over a cloth bundle made from a big kerchief to Pusu. He opened it and saw leafy vegetables.

“See, I told you, if we search earnestly we will find everything but you were like – where dada, where would we find the greens?”

He called Siyabatti and handed over the bundle to her. “You and Sukki have a daily duty to perform. To whichever village we go, both of you should go in search of greens, collect them and cook them without chilli and with very less salt for Raimati didi. And you are forbidden to say – ‘where dada, where would we find them?’

If you say so, I will come and show you where to find them and everybody would laugh at you both,” said Pusu laughing.

As they had been born and brought up in the forest, Sukki and Siyabatti felt amused that he was challenging them both and burst out laughing.

“And tomorrow it is to Sukki’s village that we are going,” reminded Sukku.

“Fantastic! So you will know what all will be available where. See if you can get some bitter gourds. We can dry them under the sun and store too. People say eating bitter things is good for stomach ailments,” said Pusu.

All the three younger PLGA comrades nodded their heads and took away the cloth bundle with them to pluck and prepare the greens for making curry the next day. Raimati was a bit embarrassed but watched these happenings with a smile. She had an infection in her intestines and her health was affected seriously. Almost nothing is suiting her stomach. So she is forced to take some precautions regarding her food.

“Did Sukiyari instruct you?”

“Yes, but even if she didn’t, I too..”

Raimati who never liked her health being a discussion point did not let him finish and changed the topic asking, “Sukki’s village means Rainu’s village too, right?”

“Yes, and tomorrow we will be meeting Rainu’s father Somaru dada too…”

Raimati was silent for a few seconds and asked hesitatingly, “Are you tired?”

Pusu looked at her, surprise written on his face. Raimati understood. ‘There is no question of my being tired when there are things to be done’ is what it meant.

 “No, it is just that I do not know in detail about that incident where you slapped Rainu. We were all discussing very important things and then there was the pressure of the meeting, so I did not get the opportunity to ask. So if you can sit for some more time, I would like to listen…”

Pusu lowered his eyes. He was silent for a few seconds contemplating where to begin.

“Rainu and Sukki belong to the same village. Both of them worked in the militia. There is not much age difference between them too. It’s almost as if they grew up together. Both of them became full-timers. Both of them started working in the same squad. Rainu had a liking for Sukki.. So Rainu proposed to Sukki but she did not accept the proposal saying she had always thought of him like a brother. Everybody knows this story. Everyone thought from then on he would withdraw.”

Pusu stopped speaking and just sat like a statue. He was not even aware that he stopped speaking.

After waiting for a long time, finally Raimati prompted, “And on that day…?”

Pusu came out of his trance and said, “Oh yes, on that day I was with their squad. Sukki and Rainu were doing sentry jointly. I do not know what he thought, but he began pressurising her to rethink. It was a mistake to talk during the sentry. Moreover, pressurising her when she had already refused is another mistake. Sukki could bear it no longer and came to us after threatening him that she will inform everyone. By then he must have realised what he had done and must have been scared. He placed his weapon near the sentry and began running. It was night and everyone was asleep. I and the commander were awake because we were discussing something. As soon as Sukki came and informed us, three of us ran to catch him. We could hear him running. We could even see him in light of the torch. We shouted for him to stop but he didn’t. I was very tense and angry with what Sukki told us and by the fact that we had to chase him by lighting the torch in the midst of such state repression. Finally I caught him. Even then he was trying to wriggle out and run. It became impossible to get him under control. So I lost control and slapped him once. Only then did he stop. By then the commander had arrived too and both of us brought back Rainu to the dera. It was for that slap that I am doing self-criticism.”

Both of them were silent for a few moments.

“ How many days after this did Rainu quit and go home?”

“He accepted his mistake and apologised to Sukki and to the Party. He said he would change. This time we felt he was sincere. He realised his mistake. But what we did not understand at that time was that he had already decided to quit. He waited with the hope that Sukki would accompany him. But as things turned out in this manner, he did not stay for many days. He said he wanted to go home and quit. I knew him since his childhood and the family is also very close to us. So I spent lot of time and energy to convince him to stay. I had already self-criticised for slapping him. He said he would work for the movement while staying in the village. When we go there tomorrow we will know to what extent he is working. Even I do not have any report lately.”

“Huh, in spite of our giving so much education about respecting women’s opinions, one or two such incidents keep coming to our attention. The strongest impact would be that of our women comrades’ resistance to such things. That would be the biggest anti-venom, don’t you think so?”

Pusu nodded.

“I wonder what the real reason was behind Rainu’s decision to quit?”

“That is what I do not understand still. Some of our comrades say it may be because there is more discipline here than in the militia. It seems he used to have problems with following discipline even there. People say he had changed a lot by the time he joined the squad.”

“Without discipline how long can anyone continue even in the militia? That too in the midst of such severe repression! There may never be one reason for quitting, Pusu! Several factors influence it. Anyway, why am I explaining this to you?”

“It is okay didi, please do. Just because I have been working for some years doesn’t mean I can understand everything. After some days, some new angle always crops up. Your experience is far superior to mine.”

“Anyway, what’s there to discuss afresh about something that had been reviewed in the committees. You people must have discussed it from all angles. The reason for my asking is not just with a curiosity to know…”

Pusu understood.

“No didi, now I do not think that he quit because I slapped him. Earlier I thought so and was troubled a great deal because of it. We have reviewed….”

Raimati did not ask him why he was feeling so disturbed to meet Somaru dada if that was so. But he could see that question in her eyes.

‘Are my feelings reflected in my face like in a mirror? Then it was Sukiyari and now Raimati. Or Sukiyari must have told Raimati. Yes, that is what must have happened,’ thought Pusu.

But he was not in a position to talk. He was himself surprised at his feelings. What could he explain to her?

“Okay didi, I will leave, don’t be awake for a long time, we have to walk such long distances tomorrow,” said Pusu getting up.

Raimati wanted to discuss things for some more time with him. But she hid her disappointment and said, “Ingo.” And she had no intention of sleeping yet. She pulled the translation papers towards her. ‘If I don’t finish this during the journey, I will not find time later.’

***                                          ***                                          ***

Pusu lay down on his jilli but sleep eluded him.

In the past few years, they had been recruiting full time members into PLGA after assembling the entire village, inform them about it and also take their opinions about the recruits. This had become the practice. They followed the same procedure when Rainu, Sukki and others got recruited from that village too. On that day the happiness on Somaru dada’s face was something to be seen.

Somaru dada had been a comrade who had stood firmly with the Party since its activities began in that area. He was very active in the DAKMS in his younger days. As old age advanced, he retired. Now he is a pillar of support for the Krantikari Janatana Sarkar, and a most reliable comrade for the Party.

All this was at one end. On the other end was the bond that developed between Pusu, who had worked as a commander in that area and later continued his work as the DVCM in the same area and Somaru dada. It is true communists do not have any private property or families. But the kind of bonds that develop between them and some families and some persons in the areas where they had worked in their early days or as commanders go very deep. It would almost seem as if only those who had experienced it could gauge their depth. It is because those bonds are closely interlaced with the development of those comrades.

The bond between Pusu and Somaru was similar. As Pusu was also present on that day of recruiting, Somaru dada had shared with him the pride and happiness he felt at Rainu getting recruited as a professional revolutionary. In the village meeting too he gave advice to Rainu and those who were getting recruited along with him by reiterating several times that the Party was like a mother to them and that they should not quit the struggle till the poor gained political power. And the villagers pointed out Rainu’s lapses in matters of discipline. Everybody was so content that the meeting went so well.

At the end before dispersing Somaru went to Pusu.

“Did you decide where Rainu would be posted?”

“No dada, it would be decided in the meeting.”

“Would you send him too far?”

Pusu felt amused and also sympathy for the old man. In an attempt to lighten the atmosphere he teased him with familiarity, “In the meeting you encouraged them so much and now you are worried that he would be sent to far off places. Tell me, dear dada, how will we win the war if we don’t expand our movement?”

“Good heavens! That’s not the reason for my asking. They have to go wherever the Party sends them. I am not worried about it. I just feel he may turn out good if he is posted near you and works under your supervision …”

“Any of our comrades would put good effort to develop the newer comrades, dada…”

“No, no. That is not what I am saying. You know Rainu since he was a boy. He is a good lad, but sometimes suddenly something goes wrong within his head and he goes out of control. That is why even the villagers spoke about his lack of discipline…”

“As far as I know there is no plan of sending him anywhere. But you know very well how the needs of the movement influence decisions. That being so, any of us would have to go wherever we are sent. As far as possible, the Party allows the persons to work for one or two years, assesses them and only then transfers them to other places.”

But Somaru dada was not yet satisfied. His face reflected it clearly.

“Oh dada! Rainu is not going anywhere, nor am I. I will keep a watch on him not with one eye but both eyes. Just don’t worry. He will develop into a good comrade. But you should also realise that all this is a collective effort and is not achieved by individual efforts alone. More importantly Rainu should feel internally that he should develop into a good comrade and serve the people selflessly. You had listened to the philosophy class, did you not? You know no chicken would be hatched by sitting on a stone….”

It was only then that Somaru dada’s face glowed. He even laughed at the idea of hatching a stone.

“Ingo. I understand. My only wish is he should develop to be like you,” said Somaru dada and happily shook hands with Pusu and with a Lal Salaam took his leave.

Whenever he thought of Rainu in all these days, all these things had been going around in Pusu’s mind in a confused manner. Though he had explained about collective effort and internal causes to Somaru dada, he had actually accepted in his heart a responsibility for Rainu. In fact, this is a responsibility he felt for every comrade. But as he had slapped Rainu, this had become more of a personal issue for him, however much he tried to avoid it. Reviews, assessments, discussions with Sukiyari were all over but somewhere in his heart of hearts he thought – ‘I have not kept my promise to Somaru dada. And I contributed to Rainu’s decision to quit the Party’. He was not able to get rid of this thought.

‘If Somaru dada also thinks that my slapping Rainu had contributed at least a bit to his decision to quit the squad, then what?’ This was the question eating away Pusu’s mind.

‘If he really thinks so, what explanation can I give him?’ It is one thing to review with Party comrades, but it is quite something else to explain things to dada’, he thought. ‘What can I say? Dada wanted Rainu to develop so well inside the Party, he was so confident that I would help him in that task!’ This was the thought to which Pusu returned repeatedly.

When Pusu was transferred to DK, comrades had informed him right during the initial days that Adivasi women and men look after their children with lot of love and that they don’t beat their children. Whenever he found men carrying toddlers on their hips and going about their chores just like women, Pusu used to be fascinated. Though Rainu’s issue was completely different, he was reminded of that too. There were moments when Pusu also felt that he was thinking in an individualistic manner but he was not able to overcome it.

After all those events, Pusu was going to meet Somaru dada for the first time only now.

He thought, ‘Maybe that is why I am feeling like this, once I meet him and talk and present my self-criticism to him, this burden I am carrying will become lighter.’

His mind wandered to his partner Neela.

‘When she needs me I am not present, and when I need her she is absent. What to do? Wonder what she is doing now? I won’t be meeting her till another two months….’

Thinking of her with some disappointment and some love, he tossed and turned and finally slept at around 2 am.

***                                          ***                                          ***

By the time Pusu and others returned from their dump job on the next day, it was already evening. When they approached the dera, they came across Sukki who had come there to collect the cut pieces of bitter gourd that she had kept there to dry under the sun.

“Oh, so you succeeded. What else did you get?” asked Pusu walking alongside Sukki.


“Did didi eat?”

“She ate along with some gruel.”

“Good. So what did you cook for the evening meal?”

“We had collected lot of greens. There is lot of extra curry, so we kept aside some for you too.”

“No, I don’t need it. But Rajesh who came with us is down with fever. Send it to him. And yes, didi’s curry does not have any chillis, so put some chillis and heat it. What with fever he may not feel like eating without chilli.”

Sukki nodded and left. Pusu found some villagers near the dera, so he went and shook hands with them. After some small talk he and Sukku went towards the kitchen to wash their hands and feet. And there they found Somaru dada sitting on his haunches and sipping black tea. As soon as he saw Pusu his face opened up like a flower and he got up to greet him. Both of them shook hands. As always a feeling of great warmth spread itself inside Pusu as soon as he saw dada.

‘How does he manage to love all comrades from such depths of his heart! Half my tiredness is gone, what with his smile,’ Pusu could not help wondering.

“Prepare black tea for Pusu dada and others,” Somaru dada was enthusing PLGA comrades who were decades younger than him. Then he turned towards Pusu and asked, “How many of you are there dada?”

It did not seem like the squad’s dera, nor did he look like a villager who came to visit it. It looked like his home and the squad members were his guests. It seemed as if a father or a grandfather was asking them to do some chores. It wasn’t at all surprising. This was just one of the several such scenes one naturally encounters in several villages of DK.

“Twelve,” answered Sukku.

“No, it is eleven. Rajesh has fever and I told our squad doctor to prepare some milk for him,” said Pusu.

Mangli was in kitchen duty and saying, “Ingo,” she poured water into a vessel for the decoction.

By the time Pusu and Sukku came back after washing their faces and feet, piping hot decoction was ready and they filled their mugs. A bit of decoction was left. So Mangli poured it into her mug and gave it to Somaru dada. He protested but she said affectionately, “It doesn’t matter, drink again, it is winter,” and he relented.

“Dada, come, let us go to our dera,” said Pusu and made him get up.

“Sukku! Don’t forget my mug. After dada finishes drinking, bring it back to me,” shouted Mangli at their backs.

“Ingo,” replied Sukku and Pusu at the same time. Even after so many years Pusu never lets go of a chance to say ‘Ingo’. He is fascinated by the manner in which this word jumps out of their mouths so involuntarily. He also liked to observe the various meanings this word acquired on different occasions, apart from the usual ‘Yes’ and ‘Okay’.

Dera meant nothing but the place where their ‘covers’ were located. They spread their jilli nearby. They were anyway going to start their march after eating, so there was no need to make any sleeping place.

“How is Budri didi? How are you? How is your health?” Pusu enquired.

“We are good. But nowadays I am not able to see so well after dark.”

“Oh, that’s bad. Our doctor is nowadays testing eyes and prescribing glasses. But he is not in our area now. If he visits, I will ask him to conduct eye tests and prescribe glasses for you. But we do not know when he will come, it may be late…”

“It is better than nothing.”

“If he comes, bring Budri didi also to him for tests.”

Somaru nodded. After some such small talk both fell silent. They needed those silent moments to come to the real topic.

“How is Rainu doing dada? How is he?” finally Pusu asked breaking the silence.

“He followed our comrades’ advice and is working in the militia again. He is being good at home too, doing his chores, helping. We also made him talk with Sukki’s family. They too advised him to be good and were good to him. If you had come earlier you would have met him. Their entire team went for patrolling and sentry outside the village just before you arrived.”

The difference between what Somaru was feeling and what his words were expressing was apparent. His voice betrayed his disappointment. If it was just disappointment Pusu would not have been surprised. But there was a feeling of guilt in it.

That went beyond Pusu’s comprehension because he was waiting for Somaru  to get angry with him, accuse him, question him or demand an explanation from him.

Just then Raimati arrived and Pusu introduced them to each other. Usually when a higher committee member came to the area, Somaru used to talk and get acquainted with them with lot of enthusiasm. Due to his experience even they would sit with him for some time, ask about his past experience and the details of the movement in his days which he happily narrated passionately. But today none of it was there. This was breaking Pusu’s heart.

“Dada, do you know how everything happened regarding Rainu…”

“Yes, our comrades told me. I expected he would develop well. At least he could have stayed in the squad after he admitted his mistake. But no, he had to come home.”

Maybe Raimati also felt his disappointment unbearable. She intervened and said in a tone offering solace, “It is not impossible for him to join again after working for some days in the militia dada, there have been some past examples.”

 Somaru slowly nodded his head but his heart was not in it. It was very clear that he did not have much hope about such a thing happening. It was just a remote chance in his view.

‘Will it happen soon? Would I be able to see it? Fat chance.’

Pusu was still trying to find a way tobring up the topic of his slapping Rainu if Somaru doesn’t bring it up. It was obvious that dada was not much bothered by it. Pusu was now in a dilemma whether he should mention it or not.

‘No, how can I not mention it? Unless I place my self-criticism in front of him I won’t find solace’he thought.

Unless Rainu’s topic gets out of the way even Raimati felt there is nothing she could do to turn the conversation to other topics. So she also kept quiet.

Finally it was Somaru who spoke, “It has been six months since Rainu came home, I have been waiting for you…”

“Dada, you know how our work is; even I wanted to meet you so much….” Pusu felt a lump rising in his throat.

“I have become old. All these days I thought Rainu was there to work in the Party. But since Rainu came back I have been thinking that I made a mistake. I felt first of all I should have got recruited. I will get recruited now, will you accept me? My Party membership is intact. You give me tasks that I am capable of fulfilling and I will carry them out. I have discussed with Budri too.”

Raimati and Pusu were shocked to hear this proposal that came out of the blue in such an unexpected manner. ‘Did he discuss with Budri didi too? Does it mean that this is a serious proposal?’ The same questions arose in both their minds.

But Somaru was looking at them very anxiously. Pusu was till then only thinking of how to bring the topic of his self-criticism into the conversation, so it took him some time even to grasp the real meaning of what Somaru was saying. He sat there just staring at dada. Raimati understood his state of mind and said,

“Dada! You live in the village and are like a pillar of support for the Krantikari Janatana Sarkar and this is in no way to be underestimated. The experience of your generation of people is very valuable to the next generations. It is not that everybody should join the squad. You have done whatever you could in your time. It is never valued less. And then Rainu is not your only child, just look at the squad comrades here. They, the Janatana Sarkar and the mass organisation activists are all like your own children. You must share your experiences with them. You should teach them why it is important to be with the Party and the struggle and to not abandon them, ever. This is a very big task,” Raimati explained trying to soothe him.

Somaru dada now turned towards Pusu as if he understood that it would be difficult to convince Raimati.

“Pusu! You tell our people to recruit me. I will do whatever work you give. I will go wherever you want me to go. Where is Naaranna? You tell him, he knows me from my earlier days, he would definitely accept,” Somaru dada was pleading.

It was then that Pusu came out of his reverie and said, “No dada, don’t take so personally what Rainu had done…”

Somaru dada intervened before Pusu could finish. “No, no. It is not like that. Whatever I thought was not because of it or only concerned with it. Maybe I cannot run around like you, as actively, but definitely there would be some work that I would be able to perform. You are the leaders, you think and tell me. Where is Sukiyari didi? She is also closely acquainted with me, she will definitely recruit me…”

Somaru’s voice was shaking. Even as Pusu and Raimati were looking at him, tears rolled down his wrinkled cheeks.

Whatever preparations Pusu had been making all these days to face the situation now turned utterly useless within seconds. And the explanations he wanted to give? Words, they are nothing but mere words. Now they are not worth even one paisa. Somaru dada had turned everything upside down. Somaru dada is causing a tumult with his words.

Pusu slowly got up, sat near Somaru dada and held him close to his bosom. As always, solace led to more tears. Pusu felt as if those tears were pouring over the innermost recesses of his heart without sparing even the remotest corners and washing away all kinds of murky things left over there.

Pusu’s eyes were smarting too. He looked at Raimati through the tears welling up in his eyes. He did not find any sign that she was trying to control herself like him.


Division Committee – a Party committee;

Party – CPI (Maoist)

Lal Salaam (red salute) – the act of shaking hands, raising one hand in a fist and uttering Lal Salaam, done both as a greeting when comrades meet and as a farewell when they separate;

Jilli – plastic sheet;

PLGA – People’s Liberation Guerilla Army;

dada & didi – elder brother and elder sister respectively

terms used to address villagers or each other;

dera – camping place;

dump – Party related material kept in secret hiding places.

Cover – the place where each comrade is supposed to take her position to fire on the enemy in case of an attack, usually a boulder or a tree bark, something that can offer ‘cover’;

DAKMS – Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, the peasant-laborer organisation;

Krantikari Janatana Sarkar – Revolutionary People’s government.

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