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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Other Side of Virtual Reality

I switched my PC off and thought too much of virtual reality can be as agonizing as the reality itself. Although quixotic folks like me, and trust me there is a slew of them out there, who breath virtual reality - for they cannot bear the brunt of reality – in fact they only live in virtual space and in doing so, some of them lose touch with reality. But it doesn't matter, because an “Ultimate escape” is a goal long-desired.

If "Don Quixote" teaches us anything, it is that one can choose and exist in a reality of our own making, though in his time many believed he was out of wits. Nowadays, it ain't considered eccentric, and with all the modern tools around, they even encourage you to create and live in your utopia. 

Having said that, not many of us realize that in the search of semblance of peace, we keep running away from reality until we have engrossed deep in this phenomenon called virtual world. Don't get me wrong, I am not here to philosophize about virtual reality’s cons for it never fails to secure me from the fangs of reality.

I'd been living nine days, 17-25 September 1944, of Market-Garden in Arnhem for the past four weeks, over and over again. Fighting Jerries in the streets of Arnhem-Nijmegen, house by house and room by room. I felt how General Urquhart, commander of the 1st British Airborne Division, might have felt when he was stuck in a garret surrounded by Germans, who didn't know the brave Scot could be killed or captured. Or later, when he conveyed to the General Browning that his Division due to lack of food, ammunition and medical supplies, was on the verge and could be annihilated. 

I realized the disappointment of Colonel Frost, commander of the second battalion, whose men - after braving the severe might of II SS Panzer Corps for four days - were overwhelmed, leaving 2/3 of his Battalion in wounded and dead. For he knew Monty’s pledge of getting the second Army to Arnhem in 48 hours would never be materialized. For he knew the plan of Market-Garden was flawed and Germans’ strength was greatly underestimated. But he held the northern-end of the Arnhem bridge in over-optimism in the face of inevitability. 

As always is the case that great optimism spawns enormous disappointment. Upon return, one soldier of 1st British Airborne Division couldn’t help shouting at the second army’s, who despite their best effort only made to Nijmegen, just a couple of miles away from Arnhem where 1st British Airborne Division fought one of the bloodiest battle of the WWII, “Where the hell have you been mate?" shouted the disgruntled soldier, who waited eight days for the help of Monty’s second army.

I sensed the emotions of Captain Eric Mackay, who occupied a school building with his fifty men just a hundred yards north of the Frost’s perimeter. Under the rain of mortars and artillery fire and losing three-forth of his men, when a Jerry with a white hanky came out and uttered a single word “Surrender”, he was astonished. He thought Jerries want to surrender, though it was a bizarre thought because Mackay’s men were hemmed in. But such high was the morale of his men, that surrender never crossed his mind during the course of firefight. So it was believed Jerries want to surrender. Mackay looked around the building, their hideout, was half-destroyed. They didn't have space to lay their dead and wounded. He shouted back “Go away, you bastards, and fight. We are taking no prisoners,” and there his men erupted a barrage of fire with their small fire arms to echo their captain’s resolve.

I perceived the fright of an unknown young lad, who was laid in an attic with a pile of dead and wounded. Upon seeing Chaplain Pare, the shocked young trooper said. “Pare, will you tuck me in? I get so frightened with all the noise.” Pare had no blanket but he pretended to cover the trooper. Two hours later a medic told him the about lad, he said prayer with, just died and he wanted to tell you he couldn't stand the noise outside.

I pictured another soldier Signalman Stanley Heyes, whose company suddenly found themselves under the screeching mortars, exploding in air bursts above their heads, hurling deadly fragments in every direction. In the pandemonium, Heyes sprinted towards the woods nearby. After orienting himself, he felt another body laying beside him. He realized it was a young German, frightened and wounded. They cleaned each other wounds and remained there. Later Jerries took over the area and Heyes was taken prisoner.

By now you might be thinking I have one hell of an imagination. But if you had read a few accounts of second world war, especially Cornelius Ryan’s The Last Battle, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far, the most authoritative books about WWII, and had been playing this game, I'm sure you would have felt the same way provided you have an imagination.

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