Reveling In The Wind

(Mount Everest base camp, Nepal | mkslalove Google Maps)

Thick milky white clouds obscured the snow-capped mountain. Whistling winds buffeted the fluorescent tents housing intrepid mountaineers eager to summit 8,848 meters of imperial splendour. Resembling the mournful howls of a pack of scheming wolves, the wind cut like ice whenever they found an opportunity to escape the protective clothing of the climbers before making contact with a patch of exposed skin.

Holding a mug of steaming soup in her gloved hands, Ashita stared intensely in the direction of her destination. As far as the eye could see there was an explosion of white. Clouds, Snow, Ice.

“Why such an obsessive passion towards mountains?” Venky had once asked her.

“It was and never will be an obsession.” Ashita replied thoughtfully. “Mother Nature issues a clarion call to her children to assimilate themselves in her beauty, to absorb her lessons and admire her workings. I just obey.”

True that.

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw

For the complete list of entries, please click HERE

The Bell’s Dome

Sunflower Dead

(Photo Credit: Crispina Kemp)

Low Siew Kuan’s eyes brimmed with tears. Tears of fury, futility and forlorn hope. Siew Kuan’s prodigious professional career as an environmentalist and cultural anthropologist was made and marred in equal measure by locking horns with the beacons of crony capitalism; running from pillar to post fighting to obtain project funding, which even after securing legitimate accord seemed to be obscured in a myriad mish-mash of obstinate bureaucracy and obnoxious paperwork; and driven to exasperation by a media which danced to the tunes of corporate largesses and diktat.

Now her worst fears had come home to roost. The beautiful but rare species of flower called “The Bell’s Dome” was at the last leg of its grandeur on Earth. The ominous pre-conditions of extinction, in the form of brown caterpillar like appendages had begun ravaging the Dome.

“We do not deserve Nature” cursed Siew Kuan wiping tears that now flowed hopelessly.

(Word Count: 150)

Written as part of the Crimson’s Creative Challenge #15 More details regarding this challenge may be found HERE.

Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War II

Image result for The Big Week

While the whole word extols the exploits of Normandy, waxes eloquent about the siege of Stalingrad and gasps collectively at the recollection of the Battle of the Bulge, there are a few battles – which even though, indispensable in influencing the final outcome of the War itself – have been relegated to the confines of obscurity. One such battle is OPERATION ARGUMENT. Popularly known as ‘Big Week’, the operation had at its cornerstone a relentless round-the-clock pummeling of German armament factories and strategic manufacturing bases. Targeting locations at Leipzig, Berlin, Schweinfurt, Hamburg and many others, the very gestalt driving this strategy was breaking the spine of an already demoralized Luftwaffe and thereby giving the Allies, a definitive air superiority. Mr. James Holland in his riveting book, “Big Week” recreates the exploits, endeavours and enervation surrounding OPERATION ARGUMENT.

Mr. Holland’s marvelous recreation of the deadly dog-fights in mid-air between the Messerschmitt and the Mustangs, B-17 Fortresses and B-24 Liberators makes for some hair raising and horripilation inducing reading. Sitting within the confines of a claustrophobic interior, the brave pilots, co-pilots, navigators, gunners and bomb manning personnel boarded their flying beasts, with neither complaints nor consternations. It might not have been a comforting thought for these courageous airmen to learn that their birds were also commonly termed “Flying Coffins.” Braving the deplorable English weather, which made visibility a mere hope inducing icing on the instruments, warding off annoying German fighters and having to contend with the intransigence, insouciance and inchoate decisions of the people commanding the Allied Air Forces, Mr. Holland’s airmen are deserving of more than just platitudes.

The U.S. Eighth Air Force by the third week of February 1944, was engaging in flying missions over the Continent from bases in Britain. Mr. James Holland pieces together a very interesting piece of contrast in relation to the bombing sorties. While the preference of the British was nighttime area bombing, the American philosophy rested on daytime bombing. The American logic being such a strategy would lead to better precision and assured destruction of the designated enemy targets. But it could not be denied that this option also exposed the Americans to the rabid German defenders. As Mr. Holland painstakingly details, in the initial phase of the battle for Ariel ascendancy, protection for both British and American bombers was provided by fighter escorts. Known as “little friends” these fighter aircraft would however only escort the bombers only part of the way. This was because of a severe limitation in flying range that plagued the fighters. Once bereft of escorts, the beleaguered bombers, attracted the attention, ire and fury of the German fighters like bees attracted to honey. The bombers were hounded, pounded and tormented till such time the escorts came back to their rescue. This situation however underwent a dramatic shift with the advent of the Mustang aircrafts. With an enviable range capable of escorting the bombers all the way to their target and back, the Mustangs titled the scales definitively in the favour of the Allies, and in the process stubbing out the last vestiges of German hope.

Yet another significant landmark point of inflection was attributable to Brigadier General Jimmy Doolittle. Brig. Gen. Doolittle who was at the forefront of the post-Pearl Harbour raid, completely reinvented the role of the P-51 Mustang. Cutting to shreds the accepted notion that the role of the P-51 was to act as escorts to the bombers as the latter went on their bombing raids, Doolittle conceptualized the P-51 going full tilt and all fury in taking the Luftwaffe head on and decimating them both in the air and on the ground. This decisive decision ensured that while the P-51s ran riot rampaging the enemy, the Luftwaffe’s morale was all but incinerated (along with their hapless and ill-trained pilots). Taking recourse to personal notes, diaries and detailed interviews, Mr. Holland provides a memorable, heart-warming and at times heart wrenching account of the extraordinary emotions swirling around the airmen as they readied for battle.

When the dust finally settled on OPERATION ARGUMENT, the final chapters in the fading book of the Luftwaffe’s must vaunted history had determinedly taken shape. The Luftwaffe lost over 500 German fighters and nearly as many irreplaceable pilots. “In total, some 3,300 bombers from the Eighth, over 500 from the Fifteenth Air Force, and some 2,750 from Bomber Command had attacked the main German aircraft industry targets outlined in POINTBLANK. Together, they had dropped some 22,000 tons – 4,000 tons more than had been dropped on London by the Luftwaffe during the entire eight-month Blitz.”

“Big Week” is an indispensable addition to the collection of every World War II aficionado. The interlacing of personal accounts with professional detachment is the telling feature of this book. The supreme sacrifices made by the indomitable warriors on both the warring factions makes one muse, philosophise, rant, rave and introspect about the futility that is war. Some of the notable protagonists meriting mention in Mr. Holland’s book include the Oscar winning actor and bomber captain Jimmy Stewart, German ace Heinz Knoke, and Donald Blakeslee, Acting Flight Lieutenant and the recipient of a plethora of distinctions, including, two Distinguished Service Crosses, two Silver Stars, Legion of Merit, eight Distinguished Flying Crosses, eight Air Medals and a Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom).

OPERATION ARGUMENT has been tended to be generally overlooked when compared with the attention given to some of the fierce battles in the European theatre of operations. But Mr. Holland decisively, firmly and flamboyantly ameliorates this dichotomy with “The Big Week.” The bravery of the remarkable airmen and their sacrifices should never have gone unheeded and with the publication of “The Big Week”, never will. For this we all need to join together in thanking Mr. James Holland for his yeoman service.

A Portrait Called Ash

(Photo Credit: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields)

“What colour is your parachute?” Ash taunted Venky placing yet another artificial rose in the gleaming glass vase.

Venky in a show of controlled restraint remained stoically silent all the while never taking his eyes off the lithe and languid visage of Ash. She seemed to glide through her chores.

“Or is it one of your six thinking acts?” the teasing continued.

“Red for love; yellow for persistence; Maroon for fear and white for hope”, Venky replied in one breath. As Ash paused with a flower held in mid-air, he continued, “colours of, for & by my Ash.”

(Word Count: 98)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

 For the complete list of entries, please click HERE

Crevices Of Deliverance

Along with necessity, nooks, crannies and crevices are also the perfect mothers of invention. If hiding something to find it later is the second most delightful pastime of adolescence, finding something that has been hidden – unquestionably – is the first! Aren’t the two acts in question the same? Please allow me to explain why they are not. While the nexus between them is inextricable, the link is neither predictable nor continuous. A cigarette hidden haphazardly and hastily behind a line of rarely perused books, provides a sense of indescribable relief. However, this event, due to the larger hustle and bustle of worldly schemes might be totally forgotten, until one, day either disastrously (if your father finds the cigarette), or thanks to a fortuitous bolt of realization (congratulations! Time to puff away without knowing the art of inhalation), the offending object is accessed for further consumption. The feeling in the latter case, is then one of pure exhilaration!

Replace the cigarette with say, a banned book, a love letter, and substitute the back of the bookshelf for the rusty aluminum briefcase in a cobweb adorned attic, a makeshift pit in the garden, or even the cramped albeit dry space between the float and the flushing mechanism of a Western Commode!

The most memorable secret places are the ones visible in plain sight. Acts of ingenuity and spontaneity contrive to make them caches and vaults!

(Word Count: 233)

#TellTaleThursday with Anshu & Priya

To access all the stories for this week, click HERE

Song of a Wandering Soul

(Songxicun, China | Gao Shian, Google Maps)

Ashita gingerly unslung her back pack and took out her high powered Sony A7 III full frame mirror less camera. With a 3 inch tilting touchscreen this new gadget was her soul mate. For her closest friends this obsession didn’t come as a surprise. Just like every picture produced by the click of shutters knew neither bias nor prejudice, but only narrated consequences, Ashita neither pandered to praise nor was cowed down by threats.

Hence when she set out to Songxicun on a solo soul searching trip, the two most overworked companions were going to be her feet and her eyes. Ambling through a stone paved alley, with dilapidated buildings abutting its sides, Ashita stood staring impassively at the bricks uncovered by peeling paint and worn down cement.

Taking out her notebook, she wrote her first entry of the day, “in material deprivation lies true education and the depths of character.”

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw

For the complete list of entries, please click HERE

Dante’s Promontory

(Photo Credit: Sue Vincent)

A flaming sky provided an accidentally breathtaking backdrop into which the two silhouetted figures stared fixedly. Seemingly. Resolutely. Inevitably. The magnificent orb that was the setting sun slowly began plunging down but not before lending a marvelous hue to the surrounding sky. But for some random, asymmetric and isolated chirping of birds calling out to their flock, the silence was deafening. The promontory on which the couple was standing sloped up from the ground like the broad back of a humpbacked whale.

“The clichéd flight of time has finally touched us too” said Venky with both hands on his hips.

Without taking her eyes off the sky, Ash replied, “Time stands still only for calamities and celebrations.”

“Isn’t this a calamity for me and a celebration for you?” There was no hiding the stirrings of sarcasm in his soft albeit determined tone.

“Since you claim to be an avid reader, wasn’t it Shakespeare who said ‘One man’s meat is another’s poison?” Ash wondered out loud.

“It was Lucretius, the Roman poet and philosopher. He peddled his intellectual wares in the first Century BC.”

“Good for him. Did anyone end up ‘buying’ what he plied intellectually?” Ash attempted to bring in a hint of misplaced humour.

“This is about neither poems nor proverbs. It is about us.” Tension filled the air. It was so taut one could cut it with a knife.

“It is not about us. It is about me going away to carve out a new future; a new hope (forgive the corny analogy to Princess Leia) & a new beginning. That is it.”  

“That is it? That is just it?” Venky’s voice rose an octave (or two).

“Stop screaming. You are polluting nature”.

” Ok. If this is what you really want, then so be it. But I will wait. Wait for as long as it takes for you to be ready and to be back. For as Nuala O’ Faolain said, ‘The wait is long, my dream of you does not end.’ “By now Venky had more or less reconciled to the fact that there would be no turning back for Ash.

“Waiting is the hobby of an idle mind” responded Ash.

“Was it Mary Gordon?” Venky’s eyebrows were now raised.

“No. It was me just now.”

The hills echoed with their laughter as they slowly treaded their way back down to the small rectangular patch of grass where her even smaller Peugeot was parked.

This is a response to the #writephoto Prompt – New curated over at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.