A sense of déjà vu
Ranjita Biswas | @twfindia | 19 Jun 2020
A sense of déjà vu
Watching the news channels on 16 June, a sense of déjà vu overtook me. So the PLA at it again! I remembered our trip to Ladakh in autumn of 2009, the beautiful Nubra Valley through which we drove on to reach Pangong Tso lake, the astonishing play of colours on its serene water and us scanning beyond to the east to catch sight of, unreasonably, some Chinese soldier.

Only one third of the lake is on the Indian territory, the rest falls on the Chinese side, as we know. Our local friend said that shepherds sometimes found stubs of cigarettes or some tell-tale signs of the presence of Chinese soldiers close by.


Well, they seemed like some fictitious story. Watching news clips about twenty soldiers losing their lives in the nearby area in a confrontation that was ill-expected, or should we say- unpreparedness, I remember those stories of the shepherds.


Then again, the reason why I call it a déjà vu moment is because it brings to mind sharp memories of 1962, the year of the ‘ill-expected’ aggression that some tagged as a Himalayan Blunder on our country’s part.


I was a school student in Shillong and didn’t understand much about geopolitics but was afraid nonetheless of something unknown.


There was no TV then, forget about  cable connection; the radio was the only source of information gathered from  government approved press handouts and newspapers,  about what was going on. We were told to tape our window panes with strips of newspapers criss- crossing them in case there was bombing. There were rehearsals of sirens blaring to warn in case it happened.  My mother and her women friends were furiously knitting warm hand gloves and socks to send to the soldiers.


Words nonetheless moved through the human network. My parents were alarmed more when coming to know that the Chinese soldiers were at the doorstep of Bomdila in NEFA, now Arunachal Pradesh. From there it was a smooth ride to the plains of the Brahmaputra Valley.


That meant Tezpur town on the north bank. My grandmother was alone in our ancestral home there. Of course, there were relatives  all around, living  in the community style of old and helping each other.


Then Tezpur was ordered to be evacuated. The first Brahmaputra bridge ,now called Saraighat Bridge, was yet to be built making soldier movement difficult too.


Hearing this, my father took the first bus to Guwahati next day to take a ferry to Tezpur to fetch grandma. When he arrived, he found the town like a ghost town; people even left doors ajar in a hurry to get away. He also found that my grandma had already left with relatives to Nowgaon on the south bank where she had close relatives.


My father again took a ferry to reach Silghat, the river port on the south bank near Nowgaon. Thankfully, my grandmother was safe and well.


Later when I made a trip to Tawang in Arunachal through which Dalai Lama entered India while fleeing after Chinese takeover of Tibet- the Chinese apparently still claims Tawang to be rightfully their territory- we were shown the spots  that memorise 1962 imbroglio, places where brave soldiers laid their lives caught by the ill-expected attack.


Perhaps the word ‘ill-expected’ should not figure in the dictionary of those who to keep vigil on the borders and those responsible for keeping the citizens safe.