Back in Turin, I was once the part of a group that was trained by the Italian army to handle captivity as hostages. It involved a simulated hostage situation in which we were ambushed by their soldiers in a bus journey and held captive/killed.
I don’t recollect everything with any great clarity from the exhaustion and stress that we all endured that day. It was pretty much like a real hostage situation and they did everything possible to drain the last drop of our energy and hopes. Threatened, shouted at us, made us kneel on our knees for hours under hot sun, shot us with blanks using AK-47s and made us dig our own graves.
It was exhausting and depressing. I’d never thought mere physical exhaustion would induce welcome thoughts about death. At one point they forced me to lie head down on the grass in the noon sun for a thoroughly long period of time. I spent most of the time studying couple of grasshoppers. The key was to divert the mind from paying attention to physical suffering or mental stress.
I toyed with the idea of escape twice, once identifying a blind spot taking advantage of which I could make run for one of their trucks and if it had the key, I could pull out from the situation. Next was when one soldier was forcing us to run while being attached to each other and we reached a spot far from his company. It was five of us with him alone. But our instructions were not to escape and just bear the experience without attracting their attention as any such antics would have invited harder punishments.
By the end of the exercise they covered our heads with sacks, led us blind to some kind of a grave or pit of some sort, dumped us in it and started shooting like crazy. The bullets were blanks but they sounded very real. Moreover, we had no clue that it was the end of the exercise. A couple of false hopes before had deceived us and a sort of crazy desperation had set in. I started penning down the stuff below in my mind to pass time and keep the desperation under check.
“I could feel the blue sky above, the fluttering leaves in the spring breeze, the teeming life of the wilderness and the damp earth tempting me to burrow. It was fresh air that I took in and the moist winds filled me with an unhinged excitement.
And I decided to dig. Loosing myself to the surreal deception.
The dark milieu of roots surrounded me. The blue sky was no longer the vastness but a fast fading patch I no longer cared to notice. Breathing in the stale air, I panted and dug on. In a while, I felt the damp mud covering me and I still kept going. My grave, I decided, would stretch to the centre of the earth.”
Kept repeating it to myself.
It was quite an experience. Once it was over, we had drinks with the soldiers and all that but I really started doubting whether I’d survive something like that in real life. Got over that bit of immature enthusiasm which used to associate such situations with some sort of a thrill.
Found the passage above in some old folder in the computer today. “The End” by doors was playing in the background. And thought I’d write about it lest I forget it all.
Image courtesy : Brian Jackson (