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The Meaning of War

Updated: May 13, 2020

‘Most people just exist, and then they try to find love because they have heard that love gives meaning to life. And when they find love, without learning how to live, they grow frustrated and kills the very love that would have salvaged their lives.’

We walked up to the lake and sat down on a bench near the frozen water.

‘Yesterday you asked me what purpose wars serve,’ I said. ‘Well, let me tell you what purpose they serve.’

‘Why is this relevant now, when I am struggling to win my fight against love?’ She said.

‘Trust me, it is relevant.’

She nodded her head.

‘I would like to hear.’

‘During the Second World War, when the Nazi Germany declared war on the USSR, the Soviet Red army decided to halt the Nazi blitzkrieg in Stalingrad; the major Russian city located on the banks of river Volga.

‘But there was a problem. The Russian Red army was ill equipped to take on the modern and mighty armed forces of Nazi Germany. The Russians were all essentially banking upon the heroics of its soldiers to stop the Nazi juggernaut.

‘If Stalingrad falls, and the Germans could cross over the Volga, then the war was essentially over for the Soviet Russia, and would perhaps change the course of not just the war, but of human history as well!

‘At that crucial juncture, only exemplary bravery and ultimate sacrifice could have inspired them to keep fighting.’

Beauty of talking with Tanisha was that she’d listen patiently, even if the conversation doesn’t seem connected. As always, she was attentive.

‘It was the year 1942, 23rd day of August,’ I continued, quoting the exact date. ‘The Russian 1077th Anti-Aircraft Regiment was stationed near the Stalingrad Tractor Factory. Their job was to protect this tractor factory from the Germans, which was also the tank manufacturing facility of the Soviet Russia.

‘The initial attack came from the northern side of the city, which took Soviet Russia off guard, as they expected an attack from the south of the city, and hence was heavily fortified there.

The north was where the tractor factory was situated. The unexpected attack left the 1077th Anti-Aircraft Regiment with the duty to face the first onslaught. They were without any infantry support. They had just thirty seven Air Defense Guns with limited ammunition, while the Germans attacked their post with the 16th Panzer Division; the same Division who had conquered Poland and France before this battle.

‘The 1077th were not trained for any ground attack, whereas the German Division was battle hardened and equipped with artillery guns, sub-machine gunners, rifle regiments, many thousands of motorized infantry, hundred armored tanks and air support. However, the 1077th took up the responsibility and lowered their anti-aircraft guns to the lowest elevation possible and began to attack the advancing German Division.

‘For two days, the 1077th stopped the entire German Division from advancing. After the end of two days, when their guns stopped blazing and the Germans captured their position, they were shocked to see the dead bodies of the Russian forces among the rubble.’

I slowly turned towards Tanisha and looked into her eyes.

‘All the dead bodies were of young Russian girls, most of them maybe studying in high schools!’

I stopped. There was an expression of disbelief on her face.

‘The entire regiment was made up of girls?’ She asked, still with an expression of surprise.

‘Yes, all were young girls who had laid down their lives for their country. At an age when a girl thinks about love and starting a family, they gave the utmost sacrifice with courage, even when they were under-trained, ill-equipped and without support.’

‘Unbelievable story,’ she said.

‘Yes, but only that it was not a story.’

‘Didn’t they all have the excuse of not fighting and giving up?’ She asked.

‘But they didn’t. During war, mankind witnesses both courage and cowardice. And during war, mankind can see the purest form of love that consumes. The love for the motherland becomes so great that to give up one’s life seems trivial. Love for comrades become so great that they jump into the firing line to save a dying friend. During war, love shows its most intense and intimate face; the love sans lust.’

‘Is that the only purpose of war?’ She asked.

‘Wars don’t happen, they are planned. But during a war, a soldier not just encounters the purest form of love but he also discovers something else.’


‘Not exactly, Tanisha. A soldier discovers the magic of living each day, each moment intently, because the next moment might be the last breath. She is not scared of anything or anybody. Society, which scares us for better part of our lives, ceases to be anything more than a mere word. She lives and lives, and never just exists.’

I let a moment to pass before I spoke again.

‘Most people just exist, and then they try to find love because they have heard that love gives meaning to life. And when they find love, without learning how to live, they grow frustrated and kills the very love that would have salvaged their lives.’

‘Yet each man kills the thing he loves,’ she said, quoting Oscar Wilde.

‘This is my story, Kabir,’ she said again.

‘No, this is what I have learned from my life.’

-An excerpt from my fiction ‘THE BRIDGE’ written in 2017.

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