Casualties of War – Sami Goes to WWII – 1

Chapter 1: Sami joins the Army

“War is a severe doctor; but it sometimes heals grievances.”
Edward Counsel, Maxims.

It is night-time in an open war field somewhere near the Mediterranean Sea, in the mid of December of 1941. Soldiers were told that it is the Battle Area of Operation Crusader. The heavy noise of rounds of BL 60 Pounder Gun, Short Magazine Lee-Enfield and M1 carbine can be heard frequently as the British soldiers face off with the Japanese, both sides firing at will. With Bristol Bulldogs racing above, and red flares illuminating the skies, the atmosphere is filled with foul smell of gun powder and blood.

Sami is present on this battlefield, fighting alongside his company unit at the British Army. Sami’s platoon is at a secured dugout and awaiting orders. They have been waiting for the past two hours, waiting for the moment when the heavy artillery has been exposed. The company commander is busy scavenging the area with his binoculars.

“What a day today, eh Sami?” Kashif, Sami’s comrade and a friend in the army say.

Kashif: “Who would have thought we had a dinner invitation from the devil this morning. And the main course would be us.”

Sami: “You’re joking! I have yet to meet a person with as big appetite as yours! You could eat up the whole devils army and we included! That too without a burp”

Both Kashif and Sami burst into laughter.

Sami: “Look, the commander is signaling Ahmed, he’s got the phone. I think the time has come.”

“Charlie 5 to Delta Over!” shouts the soldier in charge of communications, operating a MAN Timisioara telephone. He was tasked with the responsibility of updating the company commander and receiving orders.

“Subject Second wave insight! Awaiting orders, Over!” Having the enemies in sight, the company commander had asked the communications officer to request order for launching the attack on enemy. The original mission of this company was to counter attack the enemy foot soldiers after the enemy’s aerial offensive.

Sami lying down on his back takes a deep breath as he prepares himself mentally. It seems as if he had contended himself of the possible and most likely fate. He knows that in situations like these, there are no survivors. Their company is going to take the bulls by its horns literally; they are to intercept and engage a charging army said to be at least double their size. In moments like these, one has a reflection of his life’s precious moments in the span of a second or two. Sami remembers the time not so long ago when he was at his home. It was just a week or hardly ten days ago that he was looking for a job to start making an earning and a new life. He remembers the faces of his mother, his brother Wasi and his fiancé, Nayyara as he reflects on the latest events of life. Nobody was happy for Sami when he joined the Army expect him or so he thought he was happy. In fact it was the compulsion that drove him towards this decision, the compulsion of taking responsibility of supporting his windowed mother, his brother who is a student and compulsion of marrying Nayyara who’s father had been waiting for marry off his daughter to Sami for two years at the least. He had known that he had to marry her since as long as he could remember.  Funny how the actions you take in order to full fill what is expected from you, always results in regret and condemnation; Sami wonders, sitting laid back in his bunker. What else was he supposed to do?  he asks himself. He received the most condemnation from Nayyara father who also his uncle, Abid Sahib. His mother, Raziya Begum was supportive of his decision but he knew better when he looked her in her eyes as he broke the news. Nayyara of course was also not happy with Sami but for different reasons then her Father. Sami drifts down the memory lane as he gets lost in his thoughts.

“Abid! Are you listening? Aye Abid! Come down here, your nephew has found a job by the grace of Almighty ALLAH! Come down, Sami has brought sweets for everybody!” Raziya Begum is ecstatic as he announces Sami’s new job in the house, standing at the staircase and calling upon her brother in law, Abid. Sami is sitting in the lounge nearby the staircase with box of local sweets and confectionaries on the table.

Abid and his wife Shamima come down the stairs.

Abid: “Adaab Bhabhi. What happened? Bhabhi, you look extremely happy, Masha ALLAH!”

Raziya Begum: “Aray didn’t you hear me? My Sami has found work by the grace of ALLAH. He has got a government job now. Insha ALLAH he will be earning his independent money from now on!”

Abid: “Really? MashaALLAH MashaALLAH! ALLAH has listened to our prayers!”

Shamima: “Yes, this is the best news that one could ever wish for! Shukar ALLAH!”

Raziya Begum: “Aye Shamima, don’t get me started, ALLAH has bless us. I had been praying all the time and finally my prayers have been answered.”

Shamima: “Without doubt, without doubt! We all had been praying. Thanks to ALLAH. My mannat1 has been fulfilled.”

Raziya Begum: “Come, and have some sweets. Sami has brought sweets for us. It is first job and MashaALLAH such a reputable job. He has joined the Army.”

Abid Sahib and Shamima Bibi look awkwardly as each other hearing this as Raziya Begum reaches for the sweets for them. Abid Sahib did not like the English and his fore-fathers were known to fight against the British forces in the past. He’s disapproval of Sami’s new job is now evident on his face and Shamima looks on with a worrying face.

Raziya Begum: “What’s wrong Abid? Why have you put on a glum face?” Meanwhile Nayyara also comes down and joins the family. She finds the atmosphere in the room has turned sore for some reason.

Abid: “I am sorry to hear that Sami has joined the white men’s Army. I am not happy to hear this at all.”

Raziya Begum: “Abid? What are you saying?”

Abid: “Bhabi, We all had high hopes for Sami. Did he give even a moment’s thought to the honor of his fore-fathers before joining the British army? Did he not bother to even think about his great grandfather Rasheed Ullah Khan before serving these evil English rulers? The same people who used to bow down in front Rasheed Dada.”

Sami gets up from his place and moves towards his room in aggravated mood.

Abid waves to Sami to stop: Sami! What will you get out of fighting the white man’s war? If you survive you will be called the English poodle, and if you die, you will die a dog’s death! You can never be a Ghazi or Shaheed (Martyr) fighting the white man’s war!”

Sami annoyingly listens to his uncle, without uttering a word. Nayyara is standing at the bottom of the stair case, listening to her father’s arguments with misery on her face.

Abid: “Look Sami my son, do not get upset, we have all that the Almighty has given us. You should make your family proud and always think about the name of your father and his father’s before making decisions in your life. Your younger brother looks up to you; you should be a role model for him. What is the benefit of doing something which will give you nothing back except of shame in front of your own people?”

Shamima Bibi intervenes to de-escalate the emotions: “Abid sahib, what are you saying? Sami has always made us proud and insha ALLAH will live up to all expectations.”

Raziya Begum is not impressed by Abid’s arguments: “Abid Khaan, Sami has finally got a job after much toil and here you are being ungrateful? He has been accepted as a Soldier in the service of British Royal Army and I will not hear any of this non-sense! They run the government here. You cannot deny or change that fact or can you?”

Sami: “No Amma, Chacha saab is right. This service is really a disgraceful job. I had better offers from our good relatives, the Bajwas. Bajwa sahib asked me to look after his cattle and clean cow dung at the barn. Or how about your cousin’ offer; he was kind enough to offer me a place in his home as a house keeper and offered extra benefits if I could cook as well.”

Abid: “Sami that is no excuse for you to join the Army. Think about your family’s honor!”

Sami: “Chacha saab, where is this honor that we hear so often about? Why can’t I see any honor in this old broken house, broken chairs and doors? You cannot afford to send Nayyara to school and don’t know whether your two sons will be able to continue their education next year. Honor will not fix Furqan’s damaged eye. Tell me Chacha saab, why can’t I see the Honor of our fore fathers? Maybe because there isn’t any left….”

Abid sahib cannot believe the audacity of Sami to utter such words.

Sami: “ …nothing left except us and our miseries. Honor won’t give me a job Chacha sahab. This opportunity is for the betterment of our family. With time, I can fix everything. People will truly respect me now because I am a soldier. They won’t think about offering to clean cow dung out of pity of this… invisible family honor.”

Abid did not expect such words from Sami. He moves up towards his room with a disgusted face and slams the door behind him. Sami also leave the common room and goes outside the house.

As the days go by, Sami had formally joined the Army and reports daily at the Army training center.

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Casualties of War – Sami Goes to WWII – 0.2

Series: Casualties of War
Story: Sami Goes to WWII
Chapter 0.2: Synopsis

“War is not a life: it is a situation, One which may neither be ignored nor accepted.”
T.S. ELiot, A Note on War Poetry.

This story is from a period during the Second World War (WWII). The families of Abid and Qasif Ullah Khan, live together in a double storey house, situated in Samanabad, Lahore. The upper portion is occupied by Abid sahib and his family which includes his wife Shamima Bibi, his young daughter Nayyara, two younger twins Furqan and Gibran and a mute daugther, Fatika, who is the youngest in the family. The lower portion is occupied by Raziya Begum and her two young sons; Sami and Wasi Ullah Khan. The house is shared by the two families, who have been living together since as along as they could remember. Abid and Qasif Ullah both inherited some property, two double story houses and a Mango garden, left to them after their father passed away.  The family house, is being utilized jointly by the families and the other one was given away on rent. The garden was also given away on rent to a local fruits retailer. The money earned from these two properties is shared among these two families. The earnings are just enough to run the house and bear expenses of both the families, which Abid sahib does with commitment and responsibility. They are also able to make little savings from the earned money.

Raziya Begum is the widow of late Qasif Ullah Khan, who died while Sami is still a young boy at the age of 12. Sami was unable to continue his education and helped his uncle Abid sahib in running the family business. Sami was only able to learn up to fifth grade. His brother Wasi, however, is a student at tenth grade. Sami supports his brother and wants him to pursue as much education as possible. Sami help Wasi and his other cousins by tutoring them in his spare time. Wasi and Nayyara are about the same age and go to the same school together. Sami and Wasi think of Abid sahib as their guardian after the death of their father. Raziya Begum, who is also an elder cousin to Abid, as well as his sister in law, is respected as the eldest member of the family. Usually her consultation is sought by the family in all serious matters.

Abid sahib wants to Sami to marry his daughter Nayyara, but Sami wants to start earning his own living before the marriage. Abid sahib argues that he can find a job after marriage as well and in the mean time look after the Mango Garden, but Sami is desperate to find a job as a clerk or office administrator. Sami and Nayyara are students and go the same class.

After several months without luck in finding a job, Sami joins the British Indian Army as a non-commissioned officer in compulsion, as he could not find any other way to earn money. Abid sahib does not like Sami’s decision to join the Army.  He is a staunch detractor of the British Empire and believes them to be an evil regime occupying his homeland. Sami is adamant in his decision as he believes this is the only opportunity he has to prove his worth to start an independent life in which he is able to raise a family.

Casualties of War – Sami Goes to WWII – 0.1

Series: Casualties of War
Story: Sami Goes to WWII
Chapter 0.1: Characters

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
Leo Tolstoy

Sami-Ullah Khan – Sami is an under-educated but confident young man determined to prove his worth and start an independent life. Sami tutors his younger brother Wasi and his cousins in a makeshift class to help them study.

Wasi Ullah Khan – Wasi is Sami’s younger brother, currently studying in tenth grade. He is supported by his brother to pursue education. Sami wants Wasi to succeed in his life by getting high education and a job. Sami is eighteen months older than Wasi.

Raziya Begum – Sami and Wasi’s Mother and a Widower of late Qasif Ullah Khan. She is the eldest in the family. All family members usually seek her approval and advise in their daily affairs.

Abid Khan (Abid Sahib) – Uncle of Sami and Wasi, Brother of late Qasif Ullah Khan. Currently looking after the properties inherited by his father, Abid sahib is responsible for bearing all expenses of the family. He is the leader of the family.

Shamima Bibi – Wife of Abid Sahib.

Nayyara – Nayyara is Abid Sahib’s elder daughter and Sami’s fiancé. She is also a student at the tenth grade and goes to the same school as Wasi. She and Wasi are of the same age as well.

Furqan and Gibran – Abid Sahib’s younger twin sons and are studying in fifth grades. They go to the same school as Nayyara and Wasi.

Fatika – Abid Sahib’s youngest daugther and are studying in fourth grade. Fatika is mute by birth and goes to the same school as her other siblings.

Qasif Ullah Khan – Deceased father of Sami and Wasi and elder brother of Abid. Qasif and Abid shared their father’s inheritance. After Qasif’s death, Abid took upon himself the responsibility of running the house and treats Qasif’s children as his own.