As soon as he stepped into the open field, he slung the minesweeper from his shoulder and pointed its nose to the ground. It was old, worn and heavy, and old and rough, calloused and breaking, and old. The metal between his hands was cold and chilled his fingers. If he was not careful he could step on the very mines he was trying to find. They would have to pick up the pieces of his body and to send the tags home where his wife would cry and hold his son and daughter close with nothing to show them of their father but a piece of metal engraved with "Ajeet Singh".
One sweep, than another.
This war had taught him to never trust open spaces. Open spaces were where the mines were planted, where Prets lay in wait. France was green and damp just like the uniform he wore. It had been days since he was separated from his unit, and now the Allies were breathing on his neck, searching for POW’s, searching for the enemy of which he was one. He wasn’t armed now. After the retreat from the landings, he had lost his rifle, as much as he was willing to go to war, carrying such a weapon never felt right in his hands.
Another sweep, and nothing.
The metal disc ran through the grass like a terrified rodent. His boots sunk into the Norman sod, the stalks of vegetation splitting around his feet. He longed for the sand and mud of Lahore. This mud was different, murky, soaking, rotting like a bad fruit; he longed for the hard cracked earth, the earth that smelled of sweet dust and the soft under-pelt of tanned animal hides.
Remember, tranquility in peaceful, sweeping motions. Peace. Breathe.
Every crack of a twig was no bird but a Brit, every call of an animal was an American. He did not fear the Americans, they might pity him, and they might simply strip him of his garments and send him home. They might laugh at him and treat him like some lesser primate.
Krodh, anger. He had spent so long living in it, that he was sure it was far too late to give it up now. There was Krodh everywhere now. The whole world suffered from it. Lost somewhere between Caen and Bayeux, he found himself willing to accept that this was not the time to repent for such sins.
The Gods didn't paint him brown to have him suffer. Yet he suffered. He suffered in cold and he suffered in rain and he suffered from being so far from home, but he suffered in silence. He had one white man telling him to shoot at another white man, but he was more willing to take orders from a German rather than a Brit. He hated them. He hated them enough to raise his hand and volunteer to fight against them. North Africa had been hot. The POW holding areas had been hot, but France was cold, and he hated that as well.
The beep struck him like the shot of a bullet, blood rushed, his eyes widened. The small trickle of sweat slid down his neck from under his Dastar. The mine rested in front of him.
He kneeled. Careful. Peace. Breathe.
Peeling back the disturbed grass, he brushed away the dirt and soon enough he found the rim of the mine. He carefully laid it open.
His left hand was the hand that did not shake, the right rocked like the legs of a new born calf and the longer he stayed away from home, the worse it grew. It must be the cold, the wet, the fear of death, the thoughts of his lonesome wife and children. If he could defuse this mine, he would be safe, he promised himself. He would go back and kiss the forehead of his young daughter and embrace his son. He would hold his wife at night again, cradling her body under the sheets of their bed. His right hand would be the one to hold her, the left, steady and true, would lift off her clothes with gentle precision just like he had lifted the top of the mine.
Out comes that piece, out comes this piece. Peace. Breathe.
Finally he found it, the triggering mechanism, nestled in the chest of the mine like a beating heart. He would stop it.
He pulled up the wires to it and carefully cut them, the electrical arteries would bleed out and he would be safe. One wire was snapped, then another. Any wrong cut could explode the mine. He was thankful to the Guru for his time on earth, should it end. The new mines the new wave of Allies had brought with them were difficult. Every wire was tangled worse than before, every wire looked closer to the one next to it, every explosive could still have been active for sometimes two triggers were rigged to it. The sweat was clammy on his forehead as he clenched his ivory colored teeth together.
The final wire was wrapped between his fingers. He could feel it, the power that the single rubber encased artery held within it was the power of the Gods. It was the power of life and death, or living as a whole or living in pieces. It was anger, it was greed, it was lust, pride, ego. It was everything he had been taught was wrong and to give up. It was everything that might stop him form being human and yet it was everything that made him human.
He pulled it free and waited for the fire. When it did not come, he withdrew his hand.