"There is no point in morality or principals. A Man's only goal should be to better his and his dependents' lives by every means possible. Principals are for the ignoramus masses to keep them in control, to impart an illusion of order to the world we live in, where none exists", rambled Brigadier Arjun Khanna. It was his weekly night of drinks with his junior and protégé, Brijendra.
Brigadier Arjun Khanna, son of a martyred army man himself, had not known of any life beyond the defense forces himself. He had spent most of his childhood in cantonments, travelling across the country with his father and now he was doing the same with just one change. Acutely aware of the upheavals in his life when his father was transferred; change schools, find new friends, sometimes learning new language, he had made sure that his daughter does not go through similar disturbing experiences. He had insisted that his wife and his daughter stay behind in his ancestral home, Chandigarh. The city was clean, developed, provided good education and moved at a leisurely pace - providing for every comfort his family desired. Thus satisfied, he opted for isolated and dangerous border locations repeatedly and on purpose. Every three months or so, either he visited Chandigarh or they came to stay with him for a few days. Over rest of the period, he was a strict disciplinarian with none but one friend and little distractions.
Brijendra was eight years Arjun's junior but they had known each other since childhood. Even as children, they tended to behave as siblings with Arjun being the protective elder and Brijendra as the mischievous younger brother. They had kept in touch over the years but their bond got particularly strong on this posting. Misery loves company and to Arjun, Brijendra was now practically family, quelling loneliness and providing a sense of emotions in this sea of order following human machines.
Once a week, they would sit together on the pretext of swigging a few pegs. It was then that Arjun, after a few fairly large rounds, would share his thoughts and experience with Brijendra. He would begin by teaching him the backdoor politics involved in rising up the ladder or the tricks that must be pulled to get a plum posting. He would then begin about the times he learned it the hard way and regret that their way nobody to train him such. His sermon would then drift to his life philosophy.
This is when their discussion would heat up. Brijendra was an upright, honest, patriotic officer; the kind any defense force in the world would be proud to have. But Arjun was quite the opposite - his principles could be termed Machivellian at best and, Brijendra feared, Quisling at worst. He was only concerned about the well-being of himself and his family, the army be damned. This used to trouble Brijendra deeply. This line of thought would not be surprising for any Indian but damning the army is not like damning the electricity board and could have far serious consequences for the country.
On one such fateful night, Brigadier Arjun had had a few more than the usual and had been tipsy even before they got to the philosophy. He had been pulled up about the increasing infiltration from the area under his command and was taking it out on the scotch, gulping with a vengeance. His jibes on the army were particularly acrimonious today and so was the resulting argument with Brijendra. "Your attitude of self-preservation is not fit for the army. As long as you are in the army, nobody's benefiting, neither you nor the army. Why don't you leave?" poked Brijendra. Arjun was now some time past his last sober thought and began blurting whatever came to his mind, sadly, the truth. He slammed the table and retorted, "The army may not have gained my boy but you cannot accuse me of losing it. How do you think I managed the car, the farm house, the wife's business and the multiple plots?" In his excitement, he tried to stand up, failed, and collapsed on the chair. Between hiccups, he slurred, "You think it's a coincidence that infiltration increases in every location I...." And he passed out mid-sentence but having said enough for Brijendra to put two and two together.
When he woke up the next day, events of last night whizzed past him. He had been out of his senses but he remembered everything, word for word. As he replayed the last scene of the night in his mind, he wanted to kill himself for being so stupid. He immediately called up Brijendra but the phone was switched off. He next called up Arjun's quarter and was informed that Arjun had left about an hour back, dressed in his uniform. He knew where he had gone and now it would be all over. Long ago, Arjun had prepared for such eventuality and knew exactly what he needed to do.
Although hung-over, he set in motion and got dressed, simultaneously informing his team that he will be heading for an impromptu border patrol immediately. The captain, although surprised, heeded to the order. Once there, he took out the map and pretending to study it for a while, pointed to a particular spot he wished to visit. The patrol was flummoxed to spot some men who were certainly not Indians in the precise location. They decided to move slowly and round them up.
It would suffice to say that what happened over the next half hour was the product of one man's anxiety and subsequent bravery. Arjun first gave away the element of surprise by accidentally firing a few shots. And then, as the fire exchange turned in to a deadlock, Arjun went for a suicidal charge, pulling the infiltrators in the open and winning the day, getting fatally shot in the process.
He was rushed to the army hospital where, between gasps, he asked to see Brijendra. Teary eyed, Brijendra entered with heavy steps and sat beside him. He looked at Arjun quizzically, asking for an explanation in the deviation in his actions from his words. Actions that cost Arjun his life. Arjun gestured him to come closer and whispered in his ear, "No country in the world will ever investigate a martyr.", and dropped dead.