Paucity of time. This is not going to be regular.
My name is Bianfu Tang. I am from Mojiang in Yunnan, a mining town. My family is very poor and I had no option but to enroll in the army. The default posting for any person from my area is Western Tibet. It is a happy job.
All we need to do is go there, pass time for two years and come back. There is one more important thing. You get dong chong xia cao very cheap there. In fact, during summer, that's how we pass time - by growing it. It doesn't look good but tastes really well.
Every soldier coming back from Tibet brings at least 5kg dong chong xia cao and makes a fortune out of it. In fact, that was my life's dream as well - to help my family by earning as much money. But, this time, when I walked to the recruitment centre, something was amiss.
I didn't see the usual number of recruits. There were very few people. And surprisingly, there were no tests as well. All they did was to ask us walk. I didn't understand why it happened. I believed it was because of the floods. How wrong I was!!
When I reported after a week, there was no training. We were asked to get into a bus even before we were given uniforms and the bus left off in the direction of Tibet. At the first stop, we were given uniforms and other military things. Something felt wrong amongst all this.
After five days of journey, we reached Xigaze. In the Xigaze stopover, we saw some injured soldiers - some because of frostbites and surprisingly, some because of weapon wounds. Weapons in Tibet? Something is not adding up.
My commandant ordered me to bring water. That was my chance to know what's happening. I went to the kitchen to fetch some water. I saw three soldiers gossipping there. I asked them what's happening and why are these many people injured.
One soldier said, there is a war happening with India and you people are going to the frontlines. Those who came back from Ruthog today went there only one week ago. The glass fell clattering to the ground from my hand. I am here for dong chong xia cao, not war!!
I want to go home with all my bodyparts intact - no lost fingers, broken bones!! I am scared now. The one who spoke with me beckoned me to his side and told me one thing - the lesson of my life - never allow an Indian near you when you are fighting him.
He is very strong and all he needs to do is to make a hole in your shirt to give you severe frostbite. It's better to flee from an Indian and fight him from a distance than trying to show your manliness.
There are rumours of an Indian soldier who threw four Chinese soldiers into the freezing river below him, came back with a broken neck, killed eight more before dying. These Tibetans talk of an Indian General whom they worship like god near Purang.
When the end came, it was that cold that their skin stuck to their swords and they fought even then, killing at least a thousand before falling - 200 of them killing the great Qing, not just the useless Tibetans.
They believe he can't be killed with an ordinary bullet and golden bullets were used to kill him. These Indians are devils. If you want your dong chong xia cao, don't ever go near them. I am scared. What should I do? I went to my commandant shivering, with his glass of water.
Shivering is a well regarded sign in Chinese Army. You are supposed to shiver and make yourself small before your officers and especially before the Zhengwei. My Commandant didn't even look at me when he took the glass of water and I scurried away.
I made a few friends on the bus but Wang Ping is my best friend. I told him what happened. In no time, the whole unit got to know what happened. Lucky for me, before Wang Ping thought of telling to someone else, the same information was received by many from my unit
and it turned out that Wang Ping is the last one in the unit who knew of this. When we boarded the bus, all were crying and singing -
We are the only children for our dynasties
Our ancestors will become orphans if we die
Will we die today or will we have a long life
Is dying in honour better or living a long life?
The Comrades of Old shed their blood to make China
Why should we be the instruments to undo it?
The Communist Gods of China, come to our rescue,
O Mao!! O Chou!! O Deng!! Guide us in these times
O Great China!! Help us in our endeavours
My Commandant Liu was not like the other ones. Had it been anyone else, they would have ordered us to wade in the chilling waters of Yalu for what we did.
But, he stayed silent. When we reached Rutog, we were packed in smaller buses and sent to a lake called Bangong. It's very huge - not exactly huge but narrow and long. The day before I reached there, Indians occupied the hills and surrounded our camp at Moldo from all directions.
But, what can we do? If the Indians attack, we will be sleeping bats. Our army, which we always believed is very powerful didn't inspire much confidence. The lake has salty water and we can't drink from it. We people from the plains are not able to stay in that high altitude and
that too, in such cold. When I was coming to Moldo, I was really scared. All the Indians need to do is not to attack us but the attack the mud hills behind us. If our routes are blocked, where can we go? With nothing to eat and even drink, how long will we last?
They are saying they will use drones to bring us fresh food. I am not yet two days on the frontlines, even I can understand what sort of a joke it is. The wind here is crazy - if the driver is not careful, his bus will fly. What are these people thinking?
A 3 kg drone will bring food to us? And that too, with people noticing my shivering skills, I am not given military training but I am assigned to serve water to everyone. With my personal experience, I am telling, you can't carry warm water for more than 100 yards.
It will simply freeze. And this is just start of winter. When the winter starts, I am sure the water in flasks will also freeze. And they are thinking of bringing food in drones. I don't know who came up with such stupid ideas.
Another devastating news. During the last Indian advance, our men fled the frontlines, running for their lives. In the confusion, they left all their belongings in the camp which the Indians simply burnt. The most important thing we lost was our stash of books(you know right?).
How are we going to pass time then? It's not as if you can do whatever you want to do in the open. Your bodyparts will simply freeze. People who smoke outside their tents are losing their hands and tongues, what can you think of we boys playing in our own ways?
And two months, I don't even know what we will eat. I am sure that apples and apricots will be enough to attack Indians who will be attacking us. Finally, I am given military training. I didn't even know which side of the gun to hold.
It was the hardest thing in my life. After six hours of hard training, I was able to fire my first bullet. They are issuing no more than three bullets for us for practice. What if the Indians come? And guess what? Do you know the exercise we are having these days?
We need to search for the bullet we fired. Some times, it took hours. In fact, it's a good practice. Just to ensure we won't search hard, we learnt how to shoot bullets at the target. We were longing for more bullets, but it was fun. Some reason, the Indians are silent.
Our men are talking with their people. I should not say this, but I heard my Commandant say that the Chinese are literally begging the Indians to give them a honourable exit. All because of the orders from the top, we are stuck here. The Indians are having massive strength and
I heard that they have at least five airbases as near as Hotan. And to insult us Chinese, they named their base in Depsang after a Han Vasssal - I learnt that Daulat Beg Oldi means Daulat Beg Died. How insulting it is to us!! But, I don't understand what is a victory for us.
Indians won't go back and we came here with all our toys to connect with Pakistan. Unless Indians are forced to lose a few hundreds of kilometres, there is no victory for us. I don't know how deep their troop build up is, but I know this for sure.
While coming from Xigaze, I saw Chinese units going in different directions trying to stop the Indians. Purang, Ali, everything is threatened. Everyone is scared, through which pass Indians will pour through and attack us. In fact, Xigaze base itself is fearing an Indian attack.
I heard about one theory. Even I didn't believe Indians are that strong. But, who knows? North of Daulat Beg Oldi, they can cross the passes and reach Ali-Kashgar Road. What if the Indians attack us from the back, locking us in this godforsaken place with nothing to eat?
But, we should say one thing. Our government really thinks well of us. Today, we got a new batch of water bottles. Our officers said that these bottles can be used even in December. A big relief for me. My water carrying will become less painful from now on.
Our people are celebrating. We successfully stopped the Indians from attacking us. The Indians have agreed for another round of talks with us. I will pray to my Communist Gods for my dong chong xia cao and a safe trip back home. Tomorrow, we will be taken to an excursion.
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