Priya: War Hero

by Reya Nair, age 10
Priya: War Hero Reya is ten years old and loves to read. Her favorite hobbies include reading and playing with her sister. She enjoys fiction and fantasy.

“On my 11th birthday, in 1965, there was a war between India and Pakistan. My father was a general. When I was little, he trained me in Morse code.”

My name is Priya Patel. I live in India. I was born in 1954. It is my birthday. My birthday is also the 51st anniversary of when I helped India. I’m a valued figure in my family. I’m going to cut to the chase and tell you why. On my 11th birthday, in 1965, there was a war between India and Pakistan. My father was a general. When I was little, he trained me in Morse code.

“One day it will be useful.” He smiled.

During this war, my father and brother were generals, so they rushed off to the war leaving me and my mother alone. I went to school. My friends’ fathers were also in the war. I couldn’t pay attention in class. I went home and found my mother weeping in the courtyard. I stroked the tears from her face and spoke Hindi to comfort her.

“Maan mat roo.”

Later, we got a letter from my father’s solicitor. He was dead. My brothers were also MIA (missing in action). I cried and cried. I couldn’t do anything else. I shut myself in my room and cried myself to sleep. My father was dead. My brothers were probably dead as well. It was just me and my mother. We were going to have to take care of each other. There was no time to cry. Our country was in need, and three of our generals were dead. The next day, my mother walked out the door to buy vegetables. As soon as she walked out the door, some men fully dressed in black creeped inside. Before I could react, I was drugged. I don’t really remember what happened after that. I just heard the sound of a train moving across the tracks. When I woke up, I was in a dark room.

I heard some mumbling. “Do not react and you will not be hurt. We are holding you for ransom.”

I then knew why I heard a train. I was in Pakistan. I was terrified, but I was also terrified to react. I shut my mouth and curled up into a ball. I was in the country I hated most, but I had one chance to help the country I loved. In my bag, was a small bag of Morse code equipment. There was also a telegraph pole wire outside my window. I could send them a message that I was captive. But if I stayed here, I would be able to learn about Pakistan’s next army operation and sneak attack on India.

“If I am held here for ransom,” I said. “May I please have the newspaper every morning?”

“I don’t see why not,” the voice said.

A small plate of bread was slid in front of me. I was too terrified to eat, but I needed sustenance if I was to live. I could not sleep. The drugs in my body kept me awake. The next morning, I heard the crumpling sound of paper being dropped on the floor of the room. I finally mustered the courage to look at the man’s face. It was scarred. They were all permanent scars. I looked down immediately and started reading the newspaper. There was nothing useful. It just said stuff about the next big cricket match and the new Polaroid camera. I sat for most of the day thinking of other ways to help my country. But right now, this was all I could do.

The next day, I read the newspaper. Once again, nothing. Finally, on the third day, I found something useful. The headline was Pakistan Plans to Infiltrate Indian Airbase. The man would just slide some bread in front of me and then leave. He did his usual. I was left alone for the day. I grabbed the wire outside my window and hooked up my Morse code equipment. .–. / .- / -.- / .. / … / – / .- / -. / -..-. / .. / … / -..-. / .. / -. / ..-. / .. / .-.. / – / .-. / .- / – / .. / -. / –. / -..-. / – / …. / . / -..-. / .. / -. / -.. / .. / .- / -. / -..-. / .- / .. / .-. / -… / .- / … / . spelled Pakistan is infiltrating the Indian Airbase. I waited. A few hours later, I got a message back. -.– / — / ..- / .-. / -..-. / — / . / … / … / .- / –. / . / -..-. / .. / … / -..-. / .-. / . / -.-. / . / .. / …- / . / -.. / -..-. / .– / …. / . / .-. / . / -..-. / .- / .-. / . -..-. / -.– / — / ..- / ..–.. My message was received. They were asking where I was. I wrote back .. / -..-. / .- / — / -..-. / -. / — / – / -..-. / — / -. / . / -..-. / — / ..-. / -..-. / -.– / — / ..- / .-. / -..-. / … / .–. / .. / . / … / -..-. / .. / -..-. / .- / — / -..-. / .- / -..-. / -. / .. / -. / . / -..-. / -.– / . / .- / .-. / -..-. / — / .-.. / -.. / -..-. / –. / .. / .-. / .-.. -..-. / …. / . / .-.. / -.. / -..-. / -.-. / .- / .–. / – / .. / …- / . / -..-. / .. / -. / -..-. / .–. / .- / -.- / .. / … / – / .- / -. .-.-.- It told them that I was a captive in Pakistan. …. / . / .-.. / .–. / -..-. / .– / .. / .-.. / .-.. / -..-. / -… / . / -..-. / … / . / -. / – / -..-. / .-. / .. / –. / …. / – / -..-. / .- / .– / .- / -.– / -..-. / – / …. / .- / -. / -.- / -..-. / -.– / — / ..- / -..-. / ..-. / — / .-. / -..-. / – / …. / . / -..-. / .. / -. / ..-. / — / .-. / — / .- / – / .. / — / -. -..-. They were sending help right away. I waited.

A few days later, when the scarred man was putting the plate of bread on the floor, another man knocked him out. He was wearing the uniform of an informant from the Indian Bureau of Intelligence. We opened the room next to mine and found my two brothers, drugged into a sleep. Now that one Indian general from the Patel family was dead, if the other two were drugged and kidnapped, India would be weaker. I stayed at home and watched the war happen. India won. The information I had given India helped Pakistan suffer a heavy loss. Only 22 out of the 93 soldiers returned to Pakistan. I was proud of what I did.

About 20 years later, I moved to Pakistan. It had become a peaceful country. I listened to the radio. Another radio priest started preaching.

Suddenly, he started shouting, “Women should not be going to school! Women don’t need education to run a house and cook for us!”

The Taliban takeover had started. I heard screams and gunshots from many houses. I went online and saw this blogger named Gul Makai, which meant cornflower. She was a heroine from an old folk story. I started reading her posts every day. She wrote about how terrified she was of this. I knew that I should also be doing something. I started organizing protests, and I paraded through town with other women. There were many times where I was nearly shot. Benazir Bhutto was shot as well. The minute she set her foot on Pakistani soil, she was shot. Later, I learned that Gul Makai was a girl named Malala Yousafzai. She took a bullet to the head. She was now recovering in a hospital in Birmingham, England.

I finally took my case to the government. I went with everyone I protested with. I yelled at the governor for a full half hour. I marched out with everyone else. Soon, the radio preacher was vanquished.

Women are now slightly more equal with men. That’s my story. Women are not fully equal with men, but I’m still working. My life has given me many hardships, but I got a great story to tell my grandchildren!

 

Morse Code Puzzle

.. / ..-. / -..-. / -.– / — / ..- / -..-. / -.-. / .- / -. / -..-. / – / .-. / .- / -. / … / .-.. / .- / – / . / -..-. / – / …. / .. / … / -..-. / -.– / — / ..- / -..-. / .– / .. / .-.. / .-.. / -..-. / -… / . / -..-. / …- / . / .-. / -.– / -..-. / ..- / … / . / ..-. / ..- / .-.. -..-. / – / — / -..-. / – / …. / . / -..-. / .. / -. / -.. / .. / .- / -. / -..-. / .- / .-. / — / -.– -..-.

What does this say? Try to translate the Morse code.

 

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