Once a decision is made in life, it’s made; there’s no need to think more about it.Just get on with it, whether the decision is a big or small one. But I have this big problem – before making up my mind, I keep goingback and forth a lot. Then,once I’ve decided, I keep having this dilemma whether it’s right or wrong. Take my decision to become a doctor. It haunts me all the time, and after creating all that trouble for me, it has landed me now again in a lot of trouble.

This man, whose face I’ve never seen, why am I walking behind himwith my eyes wide open in the pitch dark? The truth is, it’s that idiotDinesh,who hasbeen after my life. Just what was I thinking when I got readyon his prompting? And you, Mr. Hippocrates, why are youafterme?Why don’t you let me live in peace like other doctors?


We went inside the hut and saw that the patient was lying on a thin bluejhilli(polythene sheet),with his eyes covered by a bandage. A solar bulb was dangling from a beam above. Even in its dim light, it was clear that place wasn’t worth living in for any person. The farmhands looking after the fields must be sleeping here. The person who has brought me here is named Anand. He placed my medical kit on thejhilli.

I sat down next to the patient and checked his pulse; it was beating normally.

‘What’s the patient’s name?’I enquiredAnand.

‘Raanu’ came the response.

‘Please ask him to show his tongue,’ I instructed.

Anand explained to Raanu in their language. After checking his tongue, I put a thermometer into his mouth and started looking at my watch. Just then, two men entered the hut. They were wearing army uniforms, with AK-47 rifles slung over their shoulders. That’s a rifle that I can recognise for sure. As we exchanged handshakes, I realised that one of them was a woman. Just that her hair was cut short. The two of them introduced themselves as Soni and Seetu. I introduced myself as Kunal, because Dinesh had instructed me not to reveal my real name. Then I took out the thermometer from Raanu’s mouth and looked at it.

As I said ‘Ninety-nine,’ they nodded in agreement.

A 16/17-year-old guerilla girlentered,carrying a thaaliwith three steel mugs filled with tea.

‘Please give dada a biscuit,’ said Soni.

I didn’t refuse. After getting off the motorcycles we had walked for two hours in the dark, and I was completely exhausted. Thankfully, I’d been permitted to use a torch. This was one of those few times when my big build of a body had suffered discomfort. Both the soldiers didn’t have any biscuits, but I put away half a packet with my tea.

Another guerilla entered in a fluster and shook hands with me. She had been treating Raanu until now. Her name is Idime and she had gone to the village to see a sick person. On hearing the news of my arrival, she handed over the patient to her assistant and hurried back.

All four of us came out of the hut.

‘Ok, tell me,’ I looked enquiringlyat all three of them.

Soni and Seetu both turned towardsIdime.

‘A week ago, the company comrades had conducted an attack on the police. During the attack, a bullet hit Raanu close to his eye. The dust particles rising around alsogot into the other eye. After that, he lost vision in both eyes. When he told his friends, they informed the commander, who sent Raanu to the medical team. The doctors promptly cleaned his wound and tied a bandage over it.

Since then, every day, after cleaning his eyes,we’ve been putting someeyedrops. The vision in the eye that’d become filled with dust is a little less cloudy now. But he still can’t see properly with both eyes, and he’s also been given antibiotics.’

‘Was any attempt made to take him to an eye specialist?’ I enquired.

‘We tried, but the police figured out that our comrades were injured in the attack. They’ve put surveillance everywhere so that’s why …’Seetu stopped mid-sentence.

‘To the extent that they’re keeping a watch even around the chemist’s shop. Even when an ordinary patient is prescribed a month’s medication by a doctor, when they go to get their medicines, the chemist has been told to issue the medication for only 15 days at a time. They are told to get the rest at another time,’ Soni explained.

What can I say – can the government really behave like this? But there’s nothing to be surprised about in this matter. After reading the stories about Green Hunt in the newspapers, it seems likely to be true. But by doing this in such under-developed Adivasi areas, the lives of so many ordinary Adivasis are being put at risk.

Idime spoke up, ‘Every day, we clean the wound while changing the dressing.’

With my eyes full of appreciation, I looked at her and said, ‘Idime, you did a great job. Without such prompt attention, the patient would have definitely lost his vision in one eye, and there would’ve been no guarantee for the other one too.’

Idime’s face showed no sign that she’d heard my praise. Looking at her expression, it seemed as if she was thinking, ‘What’s to be done next?That’s what I need to hear,isn’t it?’

‘What all injections have been given?’ I asked.

‘When we put the saline, we also gave IV injections. After that, the injections were given separately,every day. They’ve just finished today,’ said Idime, showing the injections.

These junglidoctors, they are not so backward, this much I had understood. Looking at it in one way, they are actually quite advanced. If these medications and these injections hadn’t been given, then by now at least some infection was bound to have happened.

I took out an injection from my medical kit and gave it to Idime and asked her to give it to Raanu. She made a sign to ask – give it in the arm? I told her to give it in the hip. While Idime was giving the injection, I noted that she was doing it very well! Some RMPs, and even MBBS doctors don’t know how to give an injection properly. I know all about the ways in which they make patients suffer.

‘Does Raanu understand Hindi’?

‘He understands, but doesn’t know how to speak it.’

‘Okay, I’ll ask him myself, and you can let me know his answer.’

I asked Raanu some questions about his health. Idime told me in Hindi what he said. He was physically and mentally well, there was nothing to worry about there – this much I had understood.

I motioned toSoni to come over.

‘Let’s sit here,’ said Soni, moving forward as she spoke. We sat down on the jhillies that had been laid out.  

‘With all the precautions you all took and the treatment you gave, the patient’s eye is out of danger. Actually,I should say eyes, not eye. I congratulate you all. By tomorrow morning all the left-over shrapnel can be removed as well. A small operation will be required.’

‘At what time in the morning?’Soni asked.

‘The injection also has to be given in the morning, so it should be done by 7 o’clock,’ I replied.

Soni and Seetu looked at each other, and then Seetu motioned ‘yes’ with his eyes.

‘Idime and one more person with her will do.’

‘Anything else?’Seetu asked.

‘I will tell Idimeif there is anything else …’ I broke off as just then, someone came up to Soni and said something to her.

‘Bring it here,’ said Soni.

‘What’s it?Is it another patient? We can go to them,’ I said.

Seeing my eagerness to meet the patients, Soni smiled and said, ‘No, not another patient, it’s something to eat for you.’

‘How far? If it’s not too far, we can go there to eat …’ I said, starting to get up.

‘Not too far – let’s go then.’

After climbing down a short distance, we crossed a small stream and went towards the kitchen. Daal, rice, and a curry of sour leafy vegetable. It was very tasty. Usually, I never take a second helping, but today I couldn’t say no to that second offering.

‘What all are you giving the patient?’ I asked Seetu, who was sitting next to me.

‘The same food as this, and along with this, we also give java. We also get eggs whenever we can find them. Occasionally we get fruits. In some areas, the fruit comes from the orchards belonging to the JanatanaSarkar.’

‘And are the eggs served boiled?’


‘Was there no impact of Green Hunt on eggs?’ I laughingly asked.

‘Why not, it has had an impact on everything, but it wasn’t possible for them to close all the routes. At the time of SalwaJudum also, they closed some haatmarkets, but then the people protested against this. The traders also protested – it was a question of their livelihoods. So they had to open the haats … even now in Green Hunt they had closed them but seeing the people’s opposition to that, they had to re-open them,’ Seetu replied.

I realised he was talking about the government when he said they

‘What do you mean by “opposition”?’ I asked.

‘Meaning, marches and ‘sit-in’ protests. They were held in support of the demand to re-open the haats.’

‘Oh,’ I raised my eyebrows as I responded.

Soni, who was standing nearby eating her food, said, ‘There’s also another reason for re-opening the haat markets. He needs intelligence information and he also needs the markets as a way for entering into the interior areas).’

It seemed to me that she was using the word ‘he’ in a broad kind of sense for their opponent.

‘Is it possible that all your supply lines could be cut off?’ I asked.

‘No, that’s not possible, but he will try to do so – he’s calling it the four-cut policy under counter-insurgency. This means cutting off four aspects …’

‘Four-cut – meaning recruitment for our army, funds, information, and supplies,’ said Soni.

‘And supplies also include medicines,’ added Idime, who was standing close by.

‘That’s why Latadidi says that in the coming days, our patients will clean wounds, not with a medical spirit but with this spirit,’Seetu pointed towards his heart as he spoke.

A smile, as if in agreementspread across the faces of all three.

Their courage will heal their injuries too? They weren’t sensing the scepticism hovering in my mind, so I quietly bent my head and continued eating.

Soon after, I went off to sleep, biding them farewell and going with Kaaru, whohad beenassigned with my security. ‘Kaaru knows Hindi, so do let him know whatever you might need, and even if you just want to go to urinate, do take him with you,’Soni had said. In these dense forests, even without those folks telling me this, I wouldn’t have managed even four or five steps alone. I felt as if I was hanging by a thread of trust from the edge of a very high mountain. Looking at the time, I noticed it was just getting past 11 o’clock at night.Kaaru switched off the radio after hearing the BBC.

Would I remain awake all night? With no hint of the news of my stopping the night in the forest, after waiting until about 9pm, Sunita and the kids must’ve slept off without a care in the world …


Someone is tapping on my shoulder. I slowly rolled over.

‘Doctordada, Doctordada,’ Hearing the same call repeated again and again, I abruptly sat up, now awake.

A comrade was saying, ‘There’s hot water in the mug, please get up and wash your hands and face – tea is being made.’

I’d been told his name, what was it – something like a vehicle – Car…Car …, Yes! Yes! Kaaru, it was Kaaru! Glancing at my watch, I saw it was 5:30am. I had thought that I wouldn’t sleep the whole night. What happened then I have no idea –Wow! What a good sleep I’d had.

The tea arrived by the time I finished brushing. After drinking the tea and getting ready as usual, taking Kaaru with me, I went to see Raanu. Idime, Soni and Seetu were sitting there. A small polythene tent had been erected outside the hut. Inside it, a table made of bamboo had been set up like a makeshift operation table, with a sheet spread over it. Just next to it, there was water boiling in a vessel set over a stove.

Kaaru was holding my medical kit. I took out an injection from it and handed it to Idime, and she gave itto the patient.

Soni asked, ‘How much time will it take?’

‘Half an hour, that’s all. Not more than that,’ I replied.

Drawing a sketch on paper, I explained to Idime how the operation would be done, what all things would be needed, etc. etc. She was listening very quietly and with full attention. I explained it to her again and again. She folded the paper and put it in her pocket.

‘Now we’ll talk to Raanu once,’ I said. Then we went inside the hut and explained the operation to Raanu.

‘See Raanu, you won’t feel any pain. This is a very small operation. There’s nothing to fear – nothing will happen to your eyes. But if the operation isn’t done, things could get worse.You won’t get scared, no?’

Raanu smiled as he nodded his head. I couldn’t see any sign of stress in him. Not knowing what to say next, I came out of the hut. I did a check of the ‘table’ they had prepared. It seemed kind of okay,it would do I decided. They had received information about the operation beforehand, and on the way to the forest, I had obtained all the necessary items for it.

By 7:30am, the operation was done. Idimewas very conscientious in her effort to be a good assistant. After making Raanu lie down, we washed our hands and made our way to the kitchen. Two guerillas stayed with Raanu.

‘You’ll need to leave at 5pm,’ said Seetu.

I nodded my head and tried to assure them, ‘I will explain everything to Idime, so you won’t have any difficulty.’

‘You have time till the evening, whatever else you need to explain to Idime, please do it, it will help her learn too,’ said Soni.

‘Surely, we can sit together after breakfast,’ I replied.

‘Kaaru, you know the place where we were sitting yesterday, that jhilli is mine. Please take doctor dada there only. I’m just going to the village, but will be back by 9:30,’ Idimethen turned to me as she continued to speak, ‘Dada, you please rest till then.’

I checked on Raanu once and went and sat down on Idime’sjhilli. Her medical books and kit were lyingscattered around. I rummaged through the books, they were all first-aid books. All of them were in Hindi, and good enough for providing treatment to the guerillas here in the villages. But this war that they were waging, or the onethey were about to wage, are these books enough for that?

All the guerillas drank only hot water. Itmust prevent some diseases. But according to what Dinesh was saying, malaria still is a curse around here. The severe anaemia also makes prey of them. As I closed the books and lay back on the jhilli, my thoughts turned to home.

Like always, Sunita will be expecting me to come by the 8 o’clock train. But I will only manage to reach by the afternoon. Seetu has assured me that I should be able to use my mobile by the morning – the network will be in range, so that should be OK. Once I’ve called her, she shouldn’t worry.

Every Saturday, I take the evening train to Ramgarh. On Sunday, I’d distribute free medications and treat the villagers coming from nearby. After that, I’d catch the night train and be back on Monday morning before the dispensary opened. It was something I’d already planned when I was still a student – that I’d work in a government dispensary and make regular visits to my village to provide free treatment there. Until now this arrangement had worked without a problem. Except for the time when ma passed away, and now this trip, I’ve been going to Ramgarh every week without fail. I could leave the dispensary, but I couldn’t give up on going there. In my mind, Ramgarh held a place as divine as God.

Coming here to the forestwas risky. That’s why I couldn’t tell Sunita, that’s why I couldn’t go Ramgarh.

The day Dinesh had invited me to talk about coming here, that too had been my day to go to Ramgarh. And then too I had told Sunita I was only going there, and I had said the same thing toPremlal, my compounder [pharmacist]. There was little chance that the two of them would ever meet. But if they ever did come face to face, and the truth came out, I’d be able to explain.

There were sounds as if someone was approaching the tent. Idime was standing just outside, looking a little hesitant.

I said, ‘Come in Idime, I was just looking at your books.’

‘Doctor dada, I’ve brought a patient with me …’

‘Do bring them in.’

‘Actually, if you could only come outside, please …’

Icame out immediately. The patient was a 16-year-old boy, and the axe had fallen straight on his foot. Idimehas given some first aid and brought him here. But some stitches will certainly be required. Idime said, ‘I’ve put stitches only once before.’ So because I was here she thought she would bring him back with her. ‘Otherwise I would’ve tried to do it there only,’ she explained.

I asked her then to put the stitches. I told her I will let her know if I see any problem.But she did the job well. I appreciated Idime’s self-confidenceas the boy kept screaming a lot. We didn’t have anyof the anaesthetics [numbing medication] with us. We gave him some antibiotics and sent him back to the village. I didn’t seeIdime speaking any words of comfort or support to him. And the lad who had been screaming so loudly just before, also went off as if nothing had happened. Maybe the Adivasis here aren’t too much in the habit of openly expressing their emotions?

It took Idime just two minutes to quickly put away her books and medicines and give herjhilli a little shake. Then she sat down, a pen and notebook in her hand, just like an obedient student. I had been watching at her carefully for all those two minutes. She had a dark complexion, a smallish plait, is not too fat, but not too thin either.

Nor was she very tall, or very short. She didn’t seem to laugh much.In fact, I hadn’t seen her teeth at all until now. Nothing about her looks was particularly attractive or something that one might remember for a long time; she was quite plain really. But no, I knew her magic was in her fingers.

Looking at this 23-year-old guerilla doctor, I was filled with a sense of immense contentment. As a wave of happiness seeped through my mind, a smile began hovering on my lips.

‘Doctor dada–’ before Idime could ask a question, I interrupted her and said, ‘Idime, first tell me about yourself, how did you join the Party, how did you become a doctor?’

She laughed a little shyly. But she didn’t say anything.

‘Come on! How do you guerillas become doctors? Won’t you tell me?’ I persisted.

‘I studied up to Class 8 at home. Then I joined the Party in 2003. In those days, I was given the work of doctor and teacher in the squad. In 2005, a doctor came from the city and gave us training. At that time, they selected me from our Division and sent me off to the training. After that, I was sent to join our division’s medical team. Now I’ve been in the team for five years.’

‘And the training – after that, did you have any more?’

‘Yes in 2009 – another doctor had come. He stayed on for a few months and as long as he was here, I worked with him. For 20 days he gave training in the camp. Rest of the time he spent touring, and I went with him.’

‘Touring where … in the villages?’

‘Yes, he treated the villagers too, though most of the time he was treating PLGA comrades.’

 ‘How does your team work? Do you travel to the villages to treat people or do you stop at a place and then provide treatment?’

‘Yes, in the villages and also in our campsites, and when there’s an assault, we also go with the PLGA.’ 

‘When Raanu was injured, were you with him?’

‘Yeah! I was the one who gave him first aid. After that when we brought Raanu here on the stretcher, I also helped carry him.’

Provided treatment in a combat zone!I didn’t know what to say next …

I kept staring at her as I thought, ‘Knowing that you yourself could be hit by a bullet, you still provide treatment?’ Then it seemed to me that Idimewas feeling some discomfort, so I turned my eyes away and laughingly I asked her …

‘Now Idime, ask me anything, whatever doubts you might have about treatments.Until theevening, this doctor dada’s time is all yours.’

Idime opened her notebook. She had written something on the last page. She started asking meabout each and everytopic, writing down everything I was telling her. But she wasn’t being able to write at speed in Hindi. Rather, she was writing down each word one by one. Seeing herwriting speed, I also started to speak slowly.

Idime then opened the medicine box and took out some strips of tablets and asked me about the uses of each of them. Besides thelist of medicationsshe had sent for purchasing, there were some other medicines as well. After she’d finished asking what she wanted to ask, I started to ask her questions.

‘Idime, out of all the patients you’ve treated so far, which patient’s treatment gave you the most satisfaction?’

From the expression on her face, I felt she hadn’t understoodwhat I was saying.

‘Imean that it gives more satisfaction when you treat a very seriously injured patient who could have died and manage to save that person’s life, doesn’t it? … I was asking about such a case …’ my voice trailed off as I tried to explain.

‘I feel good about any patient I treat, dada,’ Idime replied.

‘Yeah, that’s right, I will not deny that, I also know that. Okay, tell me how many critically injured patients have survived because of your treatment.’

‘I haven’t treated that many. Once when our comrades mounted an attack on the enemy, our commander’s head was injured. We carried him here. For two days he was conscious and could even talk. But then the next day he went into coma,and in the end he became a martyr.

Wethought we couldsave him but failed. I felt very sad then. At such times,I feel it would’ve helped if I’d hadbetter training. Losing so many good comradeslike this …’ her voice trailed off.

I stayed silent as Idime’smood changed. I had thought she spoke little, but then words just started flowing out of her mouth.

‘Not only this, dada, when we go on an assault, our team carries a few medicines. Earlier, we couldn’t do much preparation or make such arrangements in advance. Now the situation has improved a lot. But even now, many times either we can’t get the medicines we need or we don’t get enough of them. When there’s a sudden attack on us, that’s when we face more difficulty. Compared with before, the numbers of guerilla doctors is much more now, but our doctors are not present everywhere. Another problem wehave is that we don’t have access to the drugs for controlling bleeding, and many other important drugs as well. It’s our rule that we always carry our injured comrades and those who are martyred in the combat zone with us.

But while wecan take them with us, some of them become martyrs because sometimes we haven’t got the drugs to control the bleeding, or we don’t have any first aid supplies. Dada, when you asked about satisfaction, I didn’t understand how to reply to you.When there is so much we aren’t able to do, how can we be satisfied with what we are doingdada?’

I inhaled sharply, shaking my head.

‘We aren’t able to provide proper medical care even in villages. We must have trained hundreds of bare-foot doctors in villages. The JanatanaSarkar has been providing training and even appointing people in villages. But looking at the conditions here, however many doctors there are, they still won’t be enough. In the villages, on one hand we’re providing medical care, on the other hand people are dying of disease. Such news keeps coming every day. One day some villagers came to tell us that a woman was having difficulty during childbirth. I had no experience in this matter. I gave her a medicine that the doctor had told us aboutduring our training. Would she have survived even if I hadn’t given that medicine, I can’t say. But she survivedand delivered a still-born girl-child. We couldn’t save her. As far as I can see, women here die either during childbirth or due to post-natal complications. How can we feel satisfied?’

‘Are you able to do anything in these cases?’ I asked.

‘Very little. What we know, we do and then see. We need training in two areas dada! One is childbirth and all the issues linked to childbirth …then we will be able to save these women. The second is surgery … we could save so many of our beloved and valued comrades. A few of us have learnt how to do blood tests, interpret [blood] group, give blood transfusion, etc. etc. We can even teach someone else all of this stuff. But we desperately need training from someone on these two areas of childbirth and surgery … we are in need of a whole lot of drugs and guerilla doctors.’

It seemed as if Idime was talking to herself, laying out some hard truths rather than expecting anything from me.  I was not in a position to say anymore on the matter.

So I quickly said, ‘Yes that is right indeed.’ Then I picked up Idime’s notebook and started to leaf through it. For each and every disease, she had noted the name, its symptoms, and the names of the medicines to treat it. She wrote in Hindi, and there were some language errors. The names of some medicines were written in English. But her English writing was child-like. I went through the whole book; the matter was written correctly.

Dada,’Idime spoke haltingly …

I lifted my head enquiringly and said, ‘Tell me child’.

‘You had asked about something.’


‘Once we had done an ambush and we trapped a batch of policemen coming on motorcycles. We asked them to surrender.  Among those who resisted, four police men were killed. The rest were injured and fell down. We gave first aid to the wounded. We also gave them the biscuits we’d got to eat while we waited for the ambush. One of them even kept saying thank you again and again. And he was sobbing as he said, ‘Didi you saved my life.’ We explained our rajneeti (politics) to them for a while, and after that welet them go. I remembered their cry of ‘Didi,didi’, their pleading manner and their tears for many days afterwards.They’d said they will resign from their jobsand do something else for a livelihood but won’t stay in the police. But, we don’t know what they did. This was also a way of saving the life of someone’s who is dying. SalwaJudum was in full force that time, that’s why we were all so full of anger when we out on the ambush. But they agreed to surrender, and promised to leave this dirty, anti-people employment, that’s why I liked treating them. The kind of satisfaction I felt that day, I’d never felt before, that experience was of a different kind for me …’

She spoke with her eyes downcast, with her hands busy twisting andunravelingher handkerchief, I had listened carefully to every word that came out her mouth while studying the emotions in her face. When she finished, I felt like giving her a hug.

Instead I said, ‘Idime, I too have treated the police injured by the landmines laid down by your people …,’

‘No dada.We always tell them that you’re also poor folk like us, don’t enter the police force, join in the fight of the poor people, or find some other employment …,’ Idime appeared a little uncomfortable as she spoke.

I sighed. These people know very well this fight is part of their life. That’s why their morale remains high and they embrace death with a smile. ButI felt sorry when I remembered the helpless expressions of the policemen who became scapegoats in a war they were fighting for other people.

Then Idime, looking at her watch, said, ‘It’s time to check on Raanu.’

We both started walking. Raanu was doing well, there were no problems. Soon it was lunchtime. Idime said she would stay with Raanu for some time and then go. So I went off with Kaaru and came back after eating.

I was lying down waiting for Idime to return. Kaaruwas sitting at a little distance, hearing the news.

‘Kaaru, do you have any health issues?’

‘Nothing really dada. I get malaria frequently], andmy feet hurt after a long walk. I had been hit by a bullet before, you see.

I immediately sat up and started to ask him, ‘Really? hit by a bullet? When? Where? How?’

He pulled up his trousers from his right leg to show me where the bullet had struck him. ‘It was during an ambush we did in 2008. Just like that, a bullet entered from here and exited from here, so I wasn’t incapacitated that much. Within a month I was back in my squad.’

‘It must give pain when walking a lot,’ I said.

‘Yes sometimes, after walking about four hours or so …,’ he spoke as if it wasn’t such a big problem.

‘The pain may not be because of the injury you hadsustained thenKaaru. But tell me!Weren’t you worried that your foot might fracture, or that you might end up being lame for the rest of your life?’

Kaaru laughed as he said briefly, ‘Dada, this is a war

‘Yes, it is a war, butwhatif you’re in the situation of not being able to move at all?,’ I pressed on …

Kaaru didn’t reply but he switched off his radio with a smile. From his expression, I felt as if I asked him an irrelevant, inappropriatequestion.

‘When Raanu was wounded, it was his eyes for which I was more concerned. I thought that even if one eye was saved he would be okay. Becausewe need our eyes more than our hands and feet, isn’t it?’

‘If your doctors hadn’t provided first aid treatment, there was a possibility of that happening … now there is no reason to worry Kaaru.’

Kaaru nodded his head ever so slightly. ‘There’s another medical camp about half an hour away where there are patients like me whose woundsare not too bad. Our comrades are treating them there. For such wounds, our own doctors manage to treat them okay. Raanu’s case was more serious, that is why we called you.’

‘What, there are other patients just half an hour away?’ My voice rose in surprise.

‘Yes,’ as Kaaru started to reply, Idime also joined us.

I quickly asked her, looking at the time in my watch, ‘Idime, Kaaru is telling me that there are other patients about half an hour away. Can we also go there?’

It was just past 1:30pm. Idime said, ‘We’ll need to ask Sonididi about that.’

‘Let’s go and ask then,’ I said, starting to get up.

‘No, you sit, I’ll get didi here,’ Idimesaid as she went off to getSoni.

‘Soni, I’ve heard there are other patients, may we go and see them?’

‘You can certainly see them … but …’

‘Do you have any objections regarding my going there?’

‘No, it’s not like that, it will be more trouble for you, you will have to walk more, that’s why,’Soni said gently.

I thought for a minute, and then said ‘No, it doesn’t matter, I can walk.’

Then, Idime, Kaaru and Ialong with another five took off. Based on their walking speed, it was only half an hour. But by the time we reached, it was past 2:30pm. The patients were engrossed in listening to the afternoon Hindi news. In that, we could hear Chidambaram announcing that ‘The Naxalites should give up violence’. I was probably hearing this announcement for the 110th time. The patients were having a good laugh with each of them imagining what Azad dada may writethis time in reply to Chidambaram.

In total there were six patients. I went to each of them in turn and asked what medicines they were being given, what treatment was going on – by the time I wasdone with all this, it was 4pm. Five of the wounded patients there are Adivasis. One of them is a woman named Rukmati. The non-Adivasi patientRanader, was from Hyderabad. None of their faces showed any hint or sign of tiredness, or worry or fear. Everybody there appeared relaxed and happy.

Looking at all of them in this state, I felt that their morale was their biggest treatment. ‘Are their wounds being healed with the spirit of the ‘heart’ and not the medical spirit?’ I thought laughing to myself.

I had already talked to Kaaru on this matter once before. Even then I couldn’t stop myself from asking Rukmatias well about taking part in this war as a woman and getting wounded;about staying firm with no hesitations in the battlefield.Seeing all this, I couldn’t stop myself from asking the question.

‘Rukmati, do you think you people can win this war?’

‘Without the hope of winning, does anyone fight in a war, Doctor dada? The people will definitely win this war. If not us, our next generation will …’Rukmati replied spontaneously.

‘As and when the war starts spreading, the numbers of the wounded will increase. They can also be critically injured in different ways. Will you all be able to cope with the casualties that such a big war will inflict, just by relying on the support provided by your guerilla doctors?

Has the thought ever crossed your mind that if I am never able to walk again, then what will happen? You are all so young. What is your age, 20 years?’ I asked.

‘If I am not able to walk again, I’ll do whatever work I am able to do.  Some of our comrades who couldn’t be part of the army after they were injured are now working in different departments. One of our comrades who wereinjured while setting booby traps nearly died but then survived. He is now working in the agricultural department. A comrade who lost his eyesight is working as a teacher. For those who have become disabled after losing an arm or a leg in the People’s War, the Janatana Sarkarhas other jobs for them. Our Janatana Sarkar will look after all of them,’ Rukmati spoke with evident self-confidencein her voice.

Ranaderthen interrupted her, declaring very quickly in his Hyderabadi Hindi, ‘We are a large family, Doctor saab! There are hundreds and thousands of people in it. Our People’s War will gather each and every one of us, each and everything in its embrace.You wait and see, it will also provide itself with each and every thing it needs.We know it better than others thatour guerilla doctors are not enough as the war escalates. But the solution for that lies in the hands of people like you, yes?’

‘It’s time to go, we’ll have to leave now, dada,’ Idime said.

I wrote prescription for a couple of patients. The others didn’t need them. Putting my hand on Ranader’s shoulder, I said, ‘So you will join the army?’

Ranader smiled as he said, ‘As soon as I can!’

I turned towards Rukmati and asked with a signal as to what was her plan.

She too said laughingly, ‘Ingo’.

Everyone shook hands while wishing melal salaam. Nothing in their manner indicated that there was any big deal about a doctor coming from the outside and treating them.We had hardly turned this way when they began to talk to each other and made their way to their own tents. Ranader accompanied us for a little while.

‘Now stop’, said Idime.

Once again, Ranader shook hands firmly with me and said, ‘With the support of doctors like yourself, we can fight this war with even more courage.’ A tinge of hope was evident in his voice.

I also smiled as I said, ‘Take care,’ and walked away.

We were back with Soni well before 5pm. Soni and Seetu then took me aside. ‘We were hoping to talk to you for at least an hour. With your sudden visit there, we couldn’t do this,’ Soni said.

‘Never mind, let’s see, we’ll meet again,’ the words were out of my mouth before I realised that I could even say something like this. This wavering of mine will not leave me alone for as long as I live. But as mytiny bit of assurancebrightened Soni’s expression, that brightness also quelled the doubt in my mind.

‘If you aren’t able to come, if you can still arrange for our comrades, some kind of training, medicines, and other medical care supplies outside itself,even that will be helpful for us. But if you can come here, even if it is for a few days, that will be much better. It’s rare for our patients to be seen by such a dedicated doctor,’ said Seetu.

Seeing they had so much faith, I felt it was not right to stay quiet.

‘I’ll definitely try, Seetu. Do remember one thing, if a case is serious, if there is a risk of death, in such cases do send for me. And if you people are able to come out, then that would be easier. But if that’s not possible, I have no problem in coming here. Now, I cannot make a bigger promise than that.’

Sonu and Seetu laughed wholeheartedly as they nodded their heads. Then once again they expressed their gratitude. Given that I had agreed to come here only after Dinesh had repeatedly tried toconvince , I felt ashamed to accept their gratitude.

I went to Raanu.

‘What Raanu, you will be going back into the army then, right?’

‘The sooner it can be so, the better,’ he said smiling.

Ranader said the same thing, Raanu is also saying the same thing.Everyone here is saying the same thing.Is it a kind of catchphrase in this area?

I asked him, ‘Are you married?’

‘Yes, she is posted in another platoon.’

‘When will she come to meet you? Can’t she stay here with you right now?’

‘Don’t know, I also didn’t ask – she is quite far away.’

‘You must miss her?’

‘Yes’, the answer came a little shyly.

‘In a week-ten days you’ll be alright, don’t worry,’ I tried to reassure him.

‘I have no worries, you also take care while walking. Falling makes it difficult,’ said Raanu.

I looked down at my overweightbody, turned towards Idime and laughed. Idime was trying to hold back her laughter.

I shook hands with everyone. Soni pressed a packet in my hands to give to Dinesh. From my medical kit, I took out all the things worth giving and handed them to Idime.

‘Doctor dada, we need people who can teach surgery, if we learn that, we will win,’ said Idime as she walked in step with us. This time I detected a pleading-like tone in her voice, and I couldn’t stop myself. Putting my hand on her head, I spoke softly, ‘Take care of yourself Idime.’ She quickly looked the other way as shenodded her head.

As I walked, I started to think. I rememberedthefaces of those police patients again and again. Their poverty, their helpless expressions, their eyes betraying their lack of self-confidence, all of them like scapegoats, the poor things: they had neither any great goal in life, nor any great public support, to light a lamp of hope within them.

Whether these Maoist guerillas will be able to win the war, or not, I cannot say, at least not yet. But again and again, I felt that in another kind of war, they are alreadyon the pinnacle of victory. I could seeclearly  the flame that blazed in their hearts. May be it’s thatwhich will also win over the likes of me? Wasn’t it just this, that Ranader was saying – that the People’s War will embrace all kinds of things, and provide itself with everything it needs?

Ramgarh needs me.But these people believe that we can’t let the lakhs of Ramgarhs across the country remain backwards like this Ramgarh. Thesepeople also need me, and they firmly believe that it’s their needs that will fulfil the needs of all the Ramgarhs.

‘Like so many matters in my life, will I only keep thinking about it until the end? Or will I be able totake a decision?’

This time perhaps,Idime will make it easier for me to come to a decision?

(Dedicated to the people’s doctors who stand firm in the battlefield and the fearless red warriors of the PLGA who are not afraid of being wounded)



daal – cooked pulses

dada– In this story dadais used as a respectful way to address a man who might be older or is a professional (‘elder brother’)

didi – respectful way to address an older woman / older sister

haat – local market that is held every few days

Ingo – yes

Janatana Sarkar – the People’s Government

java – a gruel or porridge made of rice

jungli – wild – used in a derogatory way sometimes

jhilli– polythene sheet

Lal salaam – red salute

PLGA – People’s Liberation Guerilla Army

RMP – Registered Medical Practitioner

saab – Sir, a salutation

thaali – a large flat plate.

(Translation of “Iddaru ‘Sastra’kaarulu”. [Initially published in the name of N.D in Arunatara, January – March 2011] From the collection of “Viyyukka”) –Translated by Nitya from Telugu to Hindi and by J. Neeti from Hindi to English.

Leave a Reply