Updated: Sep 8, 2020

He was shocked into silence, unable to move or react to the devastation all around him. The rucksack on his shoulder, gifts in his arms all slipped, as he stood helplessly. The young captain Ajay Pratap Singh Rathore back from the first war, flushed with victory as his unit had crushed the enemy, who after a relentless fight had finally called for truce, when they realized that they were overpowered and out-numbered. Ajay was lauded for his bravery and was granted a two day leave. Victorious and elated he decided to visit his family which was not too far from the border. Family was Retd. Lt. General Rudra Pratap Singh Rathore, a highly decorated officer, father Retd. Brigadier Veer Pratap Singh Rathore. Mother, who was constantly praying to keep the family safe and God could also not ignore her fervent prayers when all her three sons had joined the army. Born into this family Ajay was the baby of the family and he had dutifully followed the family tradition. First, boarding school, then NDA and finally commissioned in the army as the entire family watched the passing out parade with pride and joy.

While the boys went from one place to another wherever they were posted, his parents and grandfather had decided to settle down in their ancestral home. Close to the border, surrounded by natural scenic beauty with the sound of a clear stream gurgling away and tall deodar trees standing like guards to this beautiful village, uncluttered by tourists and plastic bags.

Coming home was always relaxing and calming. The only sounds to be heard were the chirping of birds, the men folk going about their daily tasks and women busy with household chores. The cheerful laughter of the children in the nearby school sounded beautiful. Ajay's father and grandfather had settled here, back to their roots after a glorious army career and enjoyed the leisurely pace of the village amongst the bounty of nature.

It was on his last visit to the village, when Ajay was taking a stroll, that he saw the most beautiful apparition step out of the bus. He could barely take the eyes off her and followed her at a discreet distance as she walked towards the doctor's house which was not very far from the highway. Before she could raise her hand to knock at the door, it was thrown open and she was enveloped in the big bear hug of Dr. Manmohan Batra, very swiftly Mrs. Batra came behind him, tears of joy flowing down her cheeks, then came the twins, shrieking with excitement as they took the bags from her and ran inside the house.

Ajay stood in a shocked silence as realization dawned on him, so this was Rishita, aka Gudiya, doctor uncle's daughter with whom he used to play as a kid and tease her mercilessly as he pulled her hair tied into long plaits by her mother. How could she have grown into such a raving beauty, he still couldn't believe his eyes. He walked back towards his home, brooding and kicking all the stones in the path.

On reaching his house he realized that there seemed a suppressed excitement as Ma and Bhabhi e