Our member, Mrs Monjusri Das, shares one of her most spine-chilling memories with Mousumi Gupta.
Squadron Leader D.C Das was posted in Ambala when this unforgettable incident happened. Sqn Ldr Das was authorised with reconnaissance (recce) to the boarder areas of Patiala, Nabha, Ropar of Punjub. Mrs Monjusri Das said, “My husband often took us with him during his official tours. My daughter was around one and half year old when he was asked to do recce the Ropar area.”
She seemed to be reliving the experience as she narrated the vivid memory, “We set off in a three-tonner vehicle (Shaktiman truck) driven by an airman in end February/early March time. The journey was trouble-free until we reached Ropar through a dirt road. With no villages or street lights, it was dark miles for around. Suddenly, the vehicle’s wheel got stuck deep in the mud. Even with the best effort, it Just would not budge! As it became darker, we couldn’t see anything but the vast agricultural field engulfing us. Soon, my daughter started crying in hunger. With no help in sight, my husband decided to go to the nearby village for help. As he walked off I could only see the flickering light of his torch moving farther and farther away before it disappeared completely.
The wait in the chilly, pitch dark night with my daughter on my lap as I sat inside the vehicle while the airman waited outside were two of the most agonising hours of my life. Eventually, my daughter grew tired from crying and fell asleep on an hungry stomach. The night became hushed and dark. Around 10.30 p.m. I could see a tiny bobbing torchlight again—this time coming towards us. Soon, I could see my husband walking this way with a tall and bearded middle-aged man. The bearded man, instead of checking the wheels, shone the torch on my face and shouted “Oh! Janana hai!” A chill went down my spine till I understood that he wanted to verify if my husband had told him the truth about his family accompanying him.
Then, the man checked the wheels and said that it was impossible to bring the truck out without a tractor. Saying this, they started walking back from where they came, and once again I was left in the darkness. They came back with a tractor after an hour and tried to pull out the truck. Closing my eyes, I fervently prayed to god…soon to my utter joy and relief the vehicle started to move.
It being almost 2 a.m., all the roadside dhabas were shut. We had no choice but to remain hungry that night. We reached the nearby village where we were given a big room with two khatiyas (cot) to sleep. We had to hang my sarees around as instead of walls, the room had glass all around. After a cold and sleepless night, next morning the airman got tea, hot water and mathri for us. We wanted to put an end to the ordeal and wanted to leave that place as soon as we could, the vehicle betrayed us again. The mud inside the wheels had solidified and choked it. We had to wait there till 1 p.m. in the afternoon when finally, it was cleared and we were ready to move.
Many years have passed but I still shiver remember every second of that frightful night. The rest of our journey was comfortable and without any further problems. The care, help and affection we got during our stay in those villages, from the village pradhan, was really appreciable.”
Photo courtesy: By Unknown or not provided - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17335409