I Want to be a Foot Soldier

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

Juggernuat's day camp experience with his school civics teacher turns into a memorable event in his life.

I want to be a Foot Soldier

Subba Rao


Mr. Raju taught civics and social studies at the school.  He was a tall lanky person with faint pock marks on his face from small pox attack in the years past.  He conducted Sunday camps for students interested in outing and self defense skills. Juggernaut along with several others students signed up a for the Sunday camp.Mr. Raju developed his own philosophy on equal justice and morality along with self defense techniques.

On one Sunday, members of the camp gathered outside the school yard in khaki shorts, white shirts and canvas shoes to march to the camp site, a nearby vacant government land. Mr. Raju wearing the same uniform marched in front taking long strides followed by the members. On reaching the camp site, the students were lined up in a large circle with Mr. Raju standing in the center.  He developed a salute look more like a oath taking ceremony with left hand folded behind the back and right hand stretched forward with palm facing upward towards the sky as if begging for forgiveness. Then everybody chanted in chorus “We believe in equal justice irrespective of religion and caste. Jai Hind, Jai Hind; Jai Hind means praise India.” Then the members were allowed to squat on the ground around the circle for deep breathing and stretching exercises. Mr. Raju spoke eloquently on civic duties to become a better citizen and borrowed several stories from Hindu mythology to emphasize the need for truthfulness and righteousness.

After mid afternoon break, Mr. Raju announced that the members would reenact the battle of Mahabharata from Hindu mythology an epic war between good and evil.

“Who want to be an elephant and a horse raise your hands,” instructed Mr. Raju. Some students raised their hand.

“Those want to be foot soldiers raise hands.” Juggernaut was one of the members raised hands.

“You Juggernaut will be a either a horse or an elephant not a foot soldier,” shouted Mr. Raju.

“Sir, I love elephants, I could be an elephant, what an elephant doin the battle?” Juggernaut was curious.

“Well, on a battle field, elephants were the first line of defense carrying the warriors on their back followed by horses and then the foot soldiers follow into the fight.”

“Sir, with my flat feet, bow legs and drooping shoulders I am not physically fit to carry a warrior on my shoulders and fight,” appealed Juggernaut.

“You will be either an elephant or a horse and that’s the command you have to obey on the battle field,” Mr. Raju spoke like a real commander on the battle field.

Each student was given a slender bamboo stick around 5 feet long as weapon to carry with strict instructions not to hit a  person but only in stick fight to create a  sound effect.  A line was drawn on the ground at the center of the circle with warring fraction standing on either side around the circle.  Mr. Raju with a large pink conch shell and a boy with brass symbols were stood near the center line.  Mr. Raju announced that he will blow the conch as a signal to start the war, then the elephants carrying the warriors would enter the battle field fist followed by the horses and then the foot soldiers.

Though Juggernaut protested vigorously, he was designated to be a horse to carry a worrier on his shoulders. The boy selected to ride the horse albeit Juggernaut was big, When Mr. Raju blew the conch as a signal to start the war, the elephants entered the battle field carrying the warriors with sticks in hand towards the center from both sides followed by the horses; but Juggernaut had tough time getting up from the ground with a big boy sitting on his shoulders and needed help to get up; two foot soldiers came forward to lift Juggernaut from the ground and pushed him into the battlefield. Juggernaut with his week wobbling legs stumbled on to the field and immediately lost control while moving forward with a big boy sitting on his shoulders and fell to the ground throwing the mounted warrior to the ground as well. Juggernaut was immediately disqualified and pulled to the sidelines since a fallen horse cannot fight as a foot soldier, with no stick in hand to fight, Juggernaut had no choice but to stand on the sidelines.

With loud crashing sounds from the brass symbols and high pitch intermittent sound from the conch; the warring factions started fighting with sticks but without separate uniforms to distinguish between the warring factions, the warriors fought randomly among themselves.  After few minutes into the battle, Mr. Raju stopped the battle declaring that good won the war over evil. Except for the sounds of crashing brass symbols and conch, the event was more like a pandemonium rather than battle. As the evening sun setting in, Mr. Raju called off the camp to march back to the school yard. Again all the members of the camp stood in a circle and made to salute with right hand stretching out. Mr. Raju blew the conch for the last time as a signal that the members at the camp were dismissed. Mr. Raju took every opportunity to blow the conch shell as if he enjoyed blowing the conch shell the most.

After a horrible experience as a horse on the battle field, Juggernaut decided not to participate in any Sunday camps.Mr. Raju with patriotic zeal decided to contest the local elections on a platform of less government interference in peoples’ lives; his philosophy was more like of present day Libertarian party in the United States.  Juggernaut asked Mr. Raju whether he could work in his election campaign as a foot soldier.MR. Raju erected a bamboo shack not too far from the school as a campaign headquarters. In the evening after school hours, Juggernaut with few school mates gathered at his shack to distribute pamphlets to the pedestrians, few received and others refused to accept them. On a colorful pamphlet, Mr. Raju’s picture was depicted as a statesman with one hand stretched forward just like his signature salute and the other holding a large pink conch shell near his mouth as if he was blowing the shell. He was standing on top of a podium with ten steps with each step carrying a bold command, a total of ten commands for good citizenship were printed in bold. At that time an American movie 10 Commandments was showing in a local cinema theater.

On election date, Mr. Raju received a handful of votes mostly from his fellow teachers at the school.

Though Juggernaut fell flat as a horse in the battle between the good and evil, he was happy to be a foot soldier in Mr. Raju’s election campaign though he failed to get elected. Mr. Raju kept his day job as a civics teacher and declared moral victory though lost his deposit.



Submitted: August 10, 2013

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