We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Dr Venkita. S.Suresh our Group Medical Director, a Senior Cardiologist, a voracious reader, an avid writer, and a proud Indian Air Force Officer, for the generous contribution of his stories every month since May 2019. His masterpiece stories have come, not through his imaginations, but through his experiences in the past. His day-to-day acquaintances and their friendships had motivated him to write these stories. Every story speaks about a true incident, which makes the reader feel as though he lives through the story. Kway is indeed very honoured to have published all the stories.

Note From The Author

“Brief history of my time” is the last of my thirty stories, written towards a unique initiative of the Times of India to foster the art of writing short stories: www.toi.in/writeindia.

I thank Kavitha for persuading me to share it, and for publishing them, one by one, month after month, in the KWay.

The story is a tribute to two extraordinary people.

The title “Brief history of my time” itself has been borrowed from the title of the seminal scientific treatise “A brief history of time” written by Prof.Stephen Hawkings. His was the most gifted and productive mind of our times, but trapped inside a body distorted and destroyed by Motor Neurone Disease.

The story itself is a tribute, inspired by the life of an officer from our armed forces who was arrested in a foreign land as a spy in 2016.

He is in the prison of a country ever hostile to us. In 2017 a Military Court Martial sentenced him to death. India represented against the decision at the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

But it is certain that what ever be the conclusion of the proceedings, and the recommendation of the court, this officer shall be executed one dawn at the military prison of this eternally hostile country.

Details are at Wikipedia. Google for Kulbhushan Jadhav.

In my story, the protagonist escapes by the skin of his teeth.

A brief history of my time


The clock had just struck midnight.

I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop.

I was hoping to do just that. I had no other option; my time was running out.

I would be executed some time before dawn.

I was charged in a foreign land as a spy for my country. I was tried and sentenced to death by a military court.

My appeal for redemption to the highest in the land was turned down 4 hours back. The warrant for my execution was issued 2 hours back. It would be read to me in an hour, and then I would be marched out into the inky black night.

The last sound I would hear would be the shots, perhaps just the first one. Military sharpshooters are efficient, accurate and economical with ammunition.

That was military justice. After all, the oldest dictum of my profession was that those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.

But I had not lived by the gun.

What I was doing was a very professional Info-Tech job for my country, quietly, thoroughly, efficiently and intelligently, putting every tool available to the best possible use, intuitively and imaginatively.

I was a product of modern times, of an electric and electronic age, and excited about the endless possibilities of GPS, apps, wearable devises, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. I lived my life and loved my work, by bits and bytes.

I was a loner and a nerd at school and IIT. I became an accomplished hacker and I was immensely proud of what I could do just by tapping my key board or talking to my computer through speech recognition software, like Dragon. I could hack my way into any database, algorithm, program or code. I could corrupt data, alter algorithms, disrupt programs and re-write code!

I also developed a penchant for surveillance. For the fun of it, I created and deployed a squadron of tiny drones which, under my command, were scouting the hostels for interesting work I could hack.

I felt I was as an eagle, soaring high in the sky, flying in long and lazy circles but always watching, to find, strike and hack.

I thus gained a reputation as the whiz kid of electronics.

Some days after my graduation, one night, the Military knocked at my door and made a request that I was not expected to refuse; that I employ my skills for my country, to do what they called as surveillance and intervention.

That was not exactly what the charge sheet read out to me before the military court said though. That called me the Cyberspace Spy.

I did feel a perverse sense of pride in being called a Cyberspace Spy. The hacker’s pride in me was unabashedly thrilled to be recognized for its talent. But I was also labelled a terrorist, which hurt. For me the thrill can never be in a kill. I who never had an opportunity to give life had no right to take one away. I did not blow up with a bomb unsuspecting people going about their lives. I could have never driven a truck into people promenading along a bridge nor can I ever imagine throwing away my life as a suicide bomber, which I felt was a most futile act.

Accessing, acquiring and analyzing information and intelligence were my forte. Satellites were my medium, to which I had long back gravitated from drones.

Advanced reconnaissance satellites provided me continuous surveillance of selected areas of my interest in order to determine the status of a potential enemy’s war or other troublemaking capability. Our team and I could do eavesdropping on any communication going on anywhere in the world. Photo- surveillance providing imaging of earth from space, a survey or a close-look telephoto, was already old technology.

Spectral imaging had become commonplace. We were doing electronic reconnaissance and signals intelligence by intercepting radio waves. We were scanning earth through space-based radar at night or through cloud cover. A high-powered spy satellite capable of distinguishing even the make, model and registration number of an automobile hundreds of miles below was available to me! Such technology made a significant contribution to the security of all nations, not just mine. It also helped avoiding over reaction; often we were harboring fears we didn’t need to harbor.

While my work was exhilarating to my wired mind, there were also disturbing moments and depressing, demoralizing downsides.

There were absolutely terrifying moments after I accepted the invitation and the offer, and walked through that no –return door between my familiar world to the new and unknown one.

I instinctively knew that there can never be safety or certainty in such a life.

It was a dark world in which one’s skills, talent and ability in science had to come to terms with one’s ideology, morality and loyalty to one’s country.

You were operating in a no man’s land that lay bleak, barren and treacherous between hostile players on either side of a bitter conflict.

Inevitably you developed an emotional fragility and social disconnect that was strange and disturbing to you but very familiar to, and expected, by the people and powers that controlled you.

You became a pawn in the intelligence game. You became a puppet, pulled and played through strings held on unseen hands.

Finally, one day, you also became aware of the ruthlessness that runs, quiet and cold, in the veins of intelligence organizations. If ever a definitive moment arrives in your career when you transform from an asset to a liability, you may become dispensable.

My moment of truth, and realization, also arrived one day, when I least expected, or suspected.

I was completely unaware that I had gradually become a ‘valuable asset’ to my country and a ‘major threat’ to the other with who we were eternally in conflict with.

I had gone on a ‘field visit’, to refine some aspects of my surveillance with ‘sleepers’ as well as field operatives. I was fast asleep on my return flight, absolutely unaware that the captain had announced a major technical malfunction in the aircraft and his decision to land at the nearest airport in the country he was overflying.

It was only when a strong hand firmly shook my shoulder, I woke up to the sight of a uniformed officer staring down at me and to the bark of his curt instruction to follow him and his team out of the aircraft. I was confused and dazed and before I could object or break free from his restraint, I was propelled out of the door of the aircraft and down the stairs. Before I was bundled into a car waiting at the foot of the stairs, I had looked up and seen the neon lit sign at the top of the airport which described it as an international airport of the country mine was in eternal conflict with. All that happened within just two minutes.

Interrogation, intimidation and torture followed in quick and predictable succession. In a parrot like fashion I managed to practice a key lesson taught to me soon after induction that, if ever such a predicament arises, my response should be a statement of my name, nationality and profession, repeated ad nauseam. Safety lay in silence.

The tantalizing offer of mitigation of retribution, even clemency conditional to complete confession was thrust in front of my aching head and blurring vision several times.

I was identified as a military officer. In a haze and daze I sat through several hearings of a military court. I was dimly aware of a long and entirely unfamiliar array of crimes I was accused of which included establishing a network of operatives, subversive activities, fueling sectarian violence, targeting key ports for destruction, sabotage of major installations, destabilizing the country and sponsoring terrorism which resulted in the wounding and killing of the country’s citizens.

At the end of that exercise I was sentenced to death by a Field General Court Martial and incarcerated in the maximum-security military prison where I chronicled this brief history of my time.

What I first noticed, and ultimately mattered to me at that prison, was time.

It was no ordinary prison. It seemed more like a well –funded experimental project. Parts of it were obviously built with substantial electronic inputs. It had some sophisticated operations which specifically related to time.

I figured out that time at the prison system was driven by an atomic clock. The principle of operation of an atomic clock is based on atomic physics; it uses the microwave signal that electrons in atoms emit when they change energy levels. It is the most accurate time standard known, and is used as primary standard for international time determination.

I knew that the accuracy of an atomic clock depended on two factors, the first being the temperature of the sample atoms—colder atoms move much more slowly- and the second being the frequency and intrinsic width of the electronic transition.

I noted that the atomic clock was synchronized with every other clock, instrument and equipment in the prison that was time –driven or dependent.

This was a challenge I loved, and looked forward to hack. That thought drove me and gave a meaning to my life and time.

To do that, I needed my personal lap top which was confiscated from me after my arrest.

But the clock had just chimed my last midnight in the prison; the sand in my hour-glass was fast running out.

The door to my cell opened and my last meal was brought in. I had no feel for a meal. But I noted that the tray was kept down very carefully, almost gingerly, as though its contents were delicate or fragile. Prison food hardly merited that kind of ‘handle with care’ treatment, which made me curious.

I lifted the lid, and found my laptop!

I did not pause to think how it got there. I opened and booted it. An instruction in code flashed and said’ We need two hours to arrange your exchange; stop time!’

It took me 10 minutes to infect the atomic clock with a virus and crash it which brought every time-related action in the prison to a standstill.

I sensed the confusion, panic and pandemonium rising in the premises and relished it.

Then all I had to do was to wait.


Dr. Venkita S Suresh,
Group Medical Director and Dean of Studies,
DNB and other post-graduate training programs.