Experience in a trench

Experience in a trench

My father was alarmed to learn of our dreaded experience.The celebration of ‘Kargil Vijay Diwas’ last month reminds me of this singular incident: During early 1940s when British India had its involvement in the then raging Second World War, the situation at a particular stage had warranted implementation of ‘Air raid precaution’ to acquaint citizens with disaster and emergency management techniques in the event of possible enemy attack on our cities.

My father was the chief ARP warden for Bangalore covering around 6 to 7 prominent civilian and nearly equal number of localities in the cantonment areas at that time, with a total population of less than a lakh. Each locality was placed under a number of zonal wardens  who were trained to guide the people under their charge as to the actions to be resorted to as soon as the emergency sirens that were mounted on the area police stations wailed with ominous rising and falling note to signal air attack.  

Nearly 15 ft long, 5 ft deep and 3 ft wide trenches were dug in all the open fields and people were instructed to take shelter inside them as soon as the siren went and those in their vehicles and buses were to abandon their vehicles and rush to the nearest trees (which were aplenty in our Garden city then) and lie still under them, face down, to protect themselves from bomb hazards. If it happened to be night, all the lights in the streets as well as in houses and commercial establishments were to be totally switched off to render the city invisible to the enemy bombers.

We, in the primary classes then, were thrilled by the whole concept and terribly impressed by the frequent implementation of this exercise with all the seriousness necessary.

One evening, while five of us children were playing in the nearby field, the emergency siren started wailing and, as instructed, we at once ran and dived into the nearby trench when, to our horror, we were greeted by a 4-foot snake which had probably fallen there a couple of days before - as evident from its sluggish response to our sudden appearance! 

 

We nevertheless panicked and as we were trying to climb out of the trench, the zonal warden passing by in the police patrol jeep spotted us and signalled us with whistles and wild gestures to get back into the trench. For nearly one full hour we kept jumping inside the trench over the slithering snake which was also frantically trying to escape from the horror of so many stamping feet! The long ‘all clear’ siren, which at last came as music to our ears, ended our ordeal as we practically bolted out of the trench.

Father was alarmed to learn of our dreaded experience and he promised to get all the trenches inspected immediately to ensure safety.

After a thoughtful moment he said-“Just imagine the plight of our brave soldiers who have to crawl with their heavy weaponry in unknown hostile terrains to fight the invading enemy, staking their precious lives, to ensure that our country is safe and we sleep in peace!”


That moment, a deep sense of pride swept over us and we felt that our trench ordeal was after all not that horrendous!

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