Story 29: Mission Impossible
The mountain air is crisp, the sky a brilliant blue. Michael Pendegrast is in awe, drinking it all in. The Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks where he loves to go hiking and rock-climbing are pygmies, when compared to these green valleys, and majestic mountains. But, lurking under the surface of this Paradise, is the darkness of greed and politics.
“We are freedom fighters,” says Hameed, a young man in his 20s, an active member of the Liberation Front.
Growing up, Hameed felt ‘different’ from the rest of his countrymen. His grandfather, and his father, were both secret supporters of Azaadi (independence). Meetings were often held in their home, on the pretext of a daawat. Fragrant pulao would be served, along with lamb stew but the real agenda was where to procure weapons from, and how to enlist more young men in the Resistance.
Every year, in the month of August, Hameed’s school celebrated ‘Independence Day’ – which was when they had got freedom from British rule. But to the little boy, ‘that’ flag was not his flag. He refused to salute it and got a reprimand. Hameed came home with the slap from the headmaster visible on his pink face. And that day, another freedom fighter was born.
No one wants to bring up their children in an atmosphere of violence, and hatred. But sometimes, there is no choice. When your home, which enjoys the bounty of nature, is exploited by outsiders. When it becomes a pawn in the hands of greedy politicians. When people in the mainland do not understand who you are…
“I want a better future for my children,” says Hameed. A future he knows he may never live to see.
Hameed’s wife Bushra is a delicate woman with long black hair and green eyes. She is only 19 but expecting their second child. Living in this strife-torn and underdeveloped region, Bushra didn’t get a chance to complete her schooling. The reporter in Michael wonders what she feels about her husband’s dangerous obsession with azaadi. But he wisely keeps his mouth shut.
When Michael set out for this assignment, his editor had warned him not to judge the people he met by Western cultural values. As an undercover reporter, he would be dealing with many challenges. The last thing you want to do is antagonise your contacts. Things could get tricky and even the consulate will not be able to help, if you get into trouble…
It is the month of May, when the snow is melting and the brooks gurgling. This is an excellent time to strike. Hameed and his fellow fighters are planning something big. An attack on an army convoy.
To inflict maximum damage, they plan to ram a truck with IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The more soldiers killed, the bigger the news headline.
Michael watches as Hameed says goodbye to his family. His eyes are determined, and they are dry. Bushra watches him from a distance, betraying no emotions. It is Hameed’s 2 year old son who runs after his father, tugging his pajama, imploring him not to go. The fighter lifts the little boy and holds him in his arms for what seems like eternity.
Gently, he puts the boy on the ground and wipes away his tears, and his own.
“Be strong for your mother,” says Hameed, and then, he is gone.
That night, Michael is unable to sleep, he is waiting for the news. As he tosses and turns, he wonders, is it worth the pain and the sacrifice? How many more must die in vain?
There are no answers, only more and more questions.
2 days later
6 Pakistani soliders were killed in a deadly attack on an army convoy by members of the Balochistan Liberation Front.
GEO TV reports, “The Prime Minister of Pakistan has blamed the foreign hand. India denies any involvement.”
In a small village, in the Sulaiman Mountains, a young woman is now a widow. And yet another freedom fighter has been born.
Don’t miss the audio file below: Inside the Author’s Mind – Why I wrote ‘Mission Impossible’.
Also sharing an article I once wrote about the haunting poetry of Ghani Khan, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s son, who was educated at Santiniketan:
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7 thoughts on “Story 29: Mission Impossible”
Rashmi – it is a lovely story but the question in my mind is about Michael. Does he not have a responsibility to prevent such large scale massacres? By keeping silent he may have a good story but it does not seem right.
That’s how journalists are… they record, they don’t participate in history. Also, as a guest in a strange country I don’t think he would have much agency. They might kill him too?
Wasn’t aware of your home on Medium. Visited it and read few articles… Liked the one on “Gani Khan”…. Thanks.
I haven’t updated that in a long time. Somehow just didn’t happen.
It is like the independence we are enjoying today is because of those unsung heroes behind it.We don’t often remember the FREEDOM FIGHTERS except the Independence day. Very thought provoking one ma’am ?????
Nice story that brings vivid memory of people like Seemant Gandhi that was Abdul Gaffar Khan. A thought provoking story involving complex issues with no simple answers.
I love the detailing and the backdrop of this story. It’s heartening to listen to a writer say why she chose to write the story – gives so much voice and reciprocation to the words! Thank you!