Chapter 1: Coming into Existence – In Quest of the Last Victory

1
Coming into Existence
I
t is the 16th of July 1973. The place is an army hospital set up in
military barracks in Delhi, the capital city of India, till then still
known around the world more as the great colony Britain once
had. The day is breaking over the freshly whitewashed, pale-yellow-
coloured structures with loose reddish-brown tiled roofs, half covered
and camoufl aged by huge trees. The smell of smoke from the chimneys
of coal stoves in soldiers’ cookhouses (kitchens) rises and permeates
gently through the freshness of the morning air. The chirping of
birds which began by dominating the day break, after seeming to
ght with it for a while, gradually succumbs to mingle with the noise
and the light of the day. A loud siren goes off somewhere in the dis-
tance, indicating the beginning of working hours. A cloud of dust
rises as the sweeper, dressed in khaki-coloured overalls, uses a big-
handled bamboo broom in a rhythmic, continuous, rowing motion
to sweep the mud and dry leaves off the road. A few soldiers, wearing
khaki shorts and white vests, are jogging and a few are walking around
engaged in some maintenance work here and there. It is a routine day
at the army hospital in the Delhi Cantonment.
The female nurse in a neat and tidy white uniform stops before
crossing the road, to let the noisy, olive green, semi-truck type army
2 In Quest of the Last Victory
ambulance of World War II vintage, with big red crosses painted
on all sides and the bonnet, pass by. The nurse gives a blank absent-
minded look at the approaching vehicle, waiting for it to pass, which
makes the soldier driver smile. The approaching ambulance and its
noise pass by and after slowing down around the corner for a few
brief moments, speed up to fade into the distance. Register in hand,
head slightly bowed, eyes focused on the path right in front of her,
the nurse walks with quick steps towards the maternity ward of the
hospital to take charge of her day duty.
I am to be born this day. I have been fl oating in my silent watery
world for a little over nine months now. With my eyes glued shut,
crumpled and folded forward onto myself inside my mother’s womb,
I am just getting induced with the energy and motion of life. As of
now, an occasional fl icker of movement, now and then, is the only sig-
nifi cant indication of my ‘alive’ existence. Cell by cell, nerve by
nerve, moment by moment, I have been gradually and continuously
taking form, a physical manifestation of the very concept of my own
existence.
If miracle means the happening of a near impossible
event, then maybe life is the biggest miracle that
ever happened.
My coming into existence does not have a time-stopping signifi -
cance. It is just one of the moments in this infi nity of space and time.
Finally the clock on the wall shows 11.55 a.m. with a certain degree
of expected accuracy in it and I am born into this world. My brain,
which was till now shut up in a world of absolute dark and motionless
silence, suddenly has itself thrown open to an almost chaotic world of
sound, smell, sense, sight and motion, my sticky eyes barely opening,
that too in fl ickers, tries to adjust to the blindingly extreme brightness
of daylight, with a near-vicious hurry. Before my brain can even