An unforgettable night

It was a lucky chance this time. We were in a course of an 18 hour long air travel from Brunei to London with joy and zeal within. As soon as our sleeping competition was over, we landed at Hedro airport in London and started a 6 hour long travelling by bus. We were talking and sharing our experiences of joys and sorrows. Someone was talking about his passionate youth and others were piping up with the military life.

I was trying to have more asleep sitting nearby the driver but the nice roads and attractive sceneries of UK were hindering me to have a sound sleep. I was even not willing to speak at all.

“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were quite dreadful for us (Gorkhalis) but all of us were saved luckily.” One of my friends said. “It was not less dangerous in Macedonia last year but god saved us.” The next added. Among those only one had been to Macedonia. He was describing and exaggerating the situation in Macedonia but he didn’t know who of us had really been to Macedonia. I was trying hard to sleep on the one hand and was also being attracted by the word Macedonia. I was enjoying to listening the situation described by others and I thought that the hero of the story was myself.

My friends were discussing and almost quarrelling to put forward their own experiences regarding risks. One of them was elucidating the event. I was delighted more but was listening quietly. I would find mismatches between their description and the reality. But I was still maintaining silence. I found, it was quite joyful to hear one’s own comment and admiration by others. I was enjoying that. At once the former one asked,” Biswas ! You had been there either, hadn’t you?”

“Yes” I replied. His intention was that the guy describing the event was quite obscure and he wanted me spell out the fact. Now I was compelled to speak.

For the liberation of the Macedonian ethnicity of the landlocked country Macedonia from age-long exploitation, injustice and cruelty, an Albanian organization called Liberation Army was fighting guerilla warfare. The guerilla had captured a lot of weapons, some fighter tanks and helicopters. The state of human right was severely impaired when the Macedonian army created horror. All the Europeans were concerned about such a situation within Europe and they compelled Macedonian government and Albanian fighters to have a negotiation. But terrorism was still pervaded there. At that time, a Gurkha company called Parachute Regiment was in charge under British Army. We were working in the company and deployed in Macedonia under Incensiut Harvest Oppression.

We had most challenging responsibilities. One day an English fellow, walking with us outside was stoned to death by a crowd. Our security procedure became more sensitive then. On the third week we had more tough time. We were being sheltered by two helicopters and after 3 hours air traffic by two Chinok Helicopters we landed at Mislodozda village. We started working at our territory. The area was more sensitive from security point of view. We were at the boarder of Macedonia and Bulgaria. My duty was started at 10 pm and it was almost eleven at night. The small village was plunged into total darkness. I was deployed there not to allow any vehicle to enter into the territory. A vehicle with a dimed light arrived very close to me. I ordered the driver to stop the vehicle and greeted him saying ‘jatrawo Kakuste’ (?good night). He didn’t respond but started the vehicle and tried to thrust forward. “We are NATO force; you must stop the vehicle for some time.” I said to him. I found he did not like speaking in English and hated me speaking in English either. As I ordered him to stop the vehicle he cracked–” This is my country, I can stop you, but you cannot stop us.” The one sitting next to the driver was still quite. As soon as they murmured a little in their own language, everyone sitting behind the vehicle cocked his riffle. Once again, I humbly requested him to wait a while but he continued cracking. He tried to enquire me instead. “I am Nepalese.” I said. “Nepal is not NATO, why you’re here?” He responded ” I’m British Gorkha Army, NATO Force.” I replied.

He was more furious, came out of his cabin and showed his anger to me. I gazed at him and found a monstrous giant 7 feet in height in front. Afraid of his attack, I retreated a bit and called my fellow worker Shiva. Due to the disputes, other friends also awake. Still I was trying to persuade him amicably but he was not calmed down. He said–” I have my Cornell with me, he has to reach the camp as soon as possible, we are Macedonian Army, why do you stop us?” Skirmish was enough. The one next to the driver was the Cornell but he didn’t take part in the dispute. I was feeling awkward and frightened that they could have fired at me in the dead dark though I had a cocked riffle in my hand. Now Shiva arrived. The driver cracked on him too. By this time, my other friends were in position in targeting their rifles at them. At once, Dilli, one of my friend arrived with his group and they had captured either sides of the road in array. They were cooled down after observing our force. We stopped them more than two hours there. They expressed their anger by saying that their Cornell had missed his meeting. They said they were returning after patrolling the territory as we were doing. After a long waiting, our special vehicle arrived and we make them reach their camp safe.

I felt, it was a strange pleasure in belling a cat. If the situation had taken a different turn, it is unthinkable what history would be written of the moment. Early in the next morning, many kids from village gathered around. We distributed them chocolates and biscuits. After a while, they brought the same from their home and distributed among us. It was probably because of the uniformity height, size and habit we shared, they loved us much. We were in our duty at the entrance of the vehicles near the village. The local people brought and gave us different edible varieties and said about who prepared that. They also brought the crates of Coke and Fanta and piled in front of us. We tried to hide these things from our friends deployed in other sites. We thought the villagers were carrying the foodstuff only for us, and probably other friends will scold at us for accepting it. So we cautiously concealed and ate it up. After some days I asked one of my friends whether they were receiving things from the villagers. To my surprise he laughed and said “we are doing the same (concealing and eating).” Then everyone came across the reality.

I had stopped a vehicle only for enquiry early in a morning. It was a vehicle moving to sell toss bread. Probably our sorrowful condition aroused pity on the driver, he came abruptly out of his pick up and distributed packetfull of toss breads to us almost by force. What I felt at the moment is that a developed country has a distinctly different situation. We tried to refuse what they would provide since we had everything we needed but they compelled us to accept.

People came to us from different villages. Among them a young fellow called Musad is still one of my intimate friends. He studied in Tetevo College and spoke a little in English. He requested us a lot to go to his home for eating and sleeping. Probably he thought we were lacking food and bed. We could not show him that we had everything. He went back his home angrily because we did not accept his offer. The next day early in the morning he came back with some cups of tea for us. A strange fellow was helping us in our work. We said him we didn’t need his help in our work but he said we were providing security to them and they were helping us in turn. In fact, it was a village in Albania and Macedonian army was creating horror to them. Therefore, they were extremely happy when we were there and felt themselves secured. On the other hand, they were feeling joy of getting equal opportunity and right in army, police and civil services since the talk between Albanian and the Macedonian government had proclaimed it. As such, the Albanians involved in guerilla warfare were supported internationally and had been victories over the Macedonian government.

We packed up our luggage to depart. Musad gave me a cassette of lyrical songs in their language. A small girl appeared with an autograph. We wrote down our names and addresses for her joyfully. We were staring her going back. Surprisingly a maid appeared a bit far and snatched the autograph and looked it over. We noticed that she had sent the autograph in fact. We all were pleased. When we were to depart, many kids were assembled there. We overwhelmed when they waved their hands of farewell. A girl of some fifteen year shook hand with us providing a chocolate to each and said ‘thank you’ in gratitude. We had only a heavy heart and a rifle in our hand and nothing else to give her in turn. We were drenched in slight steep. I wanted to give her something but I had nothing except tired body and a compulsion to reach the destination at time. We thanked them by heart for their love and affection towards us which was even rare in one’s own village. It taught a lesson how much people can do for the strangers at Mislodozda village in Macedonia. I thought kind hearted people were dwelling in a good place or vice versa. I swear I had come across such a beautiful place and kindhearted people never before in my life. It is said that life is a journey. In fact, it was the first journey in such a nice place having such fabulous people. They are thanked for their hospitality and co-operation. Thanks a lot.

12 March, 2004 UK

This article is an essay from Biswadeep Tigela’s book titled Grihayuddhaka peeda,(Agonies on Civil Wars, 2004); translated by Karnakhar Khatiwada into English.