As a child, I grew up with the love of army as my mamu (maternal uncle) had gone to join the Pakistan Army. He was the first and the last in the family who had become a fauji (army man). We, the kids in the family, will call him “mama fauji” (the uncle army-man). Although his stunt in the Army was brief as he deserted it in his recruit years, he had earned admiration for being bold enough to go ahead and join the army. I was hardly six or seven years old when he left the Army and came home with some mementos from his uniform days that fascinated us kids on seeing his flask, his backpack, a waist belt, and a knife, and also the word “Azad Kashmir” (where he was last stationed). A man from Sindh going on to join the Army, stationed at such a far and a distant place was back then immense pride for many. The mementos consisting of a knife and a belt, proved to be useful for him during the latter part of his career. From being a fauji, and then a bus conductor, a Pakistan People’s Party jiyala (diehard), and then going to prison for actively participating in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy against Ziaul Haq’s martial law, and then also being a small time drug dealer were the things he did in his life later on. He was a politically conscious man and a voracious newspapers-reader (it was he from whom I borrowed newspapers like Musawat and weekly magazines like Nusrat, Alfatha and Maeear. How many among you know about weekly magazines like Nusrat edited by Mohammed Hanif Ramay and Shahab edited by Kausar Niazi from Lahore? During the last days of Ayub Khan’s regime, Mama Fauji used to take me to jalsas where mullahs and communists would be gathered against the liberal dictator. “Khandani mansoobabandi murdabad” was one of the slogans of the mullahs. “Khandani mansoobabandi” (family planning) was a US aided programme. My first encounter with Army men clad in uniforms was at Cantonment station in Karachi when I would go with my father during summer vacations. It was 1969 and Yahya Khan had taken over the government. My worried father told me that martial law had been imposed I had begun to love faujis and read poems published in their praise in state controlled Sindhi magazines; “Asanaja fauji sher jawan, ho Jamal o, Jin ja cheete jehra chhal; la, ho Jamal o.” (Our army are lions, they jump as tigers leap. Praise the army Jawan”). However, mama Fauji’s stance on the Army seemed to have changed as he often used to say that the Army was not so good as it was because of them that martial law was imposed. I had no idea what martial law was back then. My first encounter with Army men clad in uniforms was at Cantonment station in Karachi when I would go with my father during summer vacations. It was 1969 and Yahya Khan had taken over the government. My worried father told me that martial law had been imposed. Even in my village, Army men were seen parading in the morning. I remember me and other kids calling the irrigation bungalow where their unit was staying as “Fauji Bungalow’ (the bungalow of Army men). We looked up to them as though they were Supermen or something. The trucks on the national highway began to inscribe “Pak Fauj ko salam” (salute to Pak Army), with a portrait of Ayub Khan with a line from a song, “Tere jaane k baad teri yad ayi” (miss you after you left). The funny thing was that it wasn’t just trucks or other vehicles bearing these praises for Army but even on scarification animals had, there were inscriptions of “Pak fauj ko salam” tattooed with mehndi on their bodies. My town was located on the national highway. We didn’t have electricity over there back then. The headlights from the trucks and the huge trees lined on both sides of the national highway, could be seen from the roof tops of our homes that were plunged in darkness on sultry summer nights, that made a combination of spectacular visuals mixed with fear and festive fantasy. My grandmother termed it as a paradox telling us that it seemed as if there were genies, which were dancing. The writer can be reached at [email protected] Published in Daily Times, July 22nd , 2017.