written on : AUGUST 21ST 2016
SO, we tried our hand at another little competition; the Sunday Herald (weekly from the newspaper Deccan Herald of India) hosts a competition for short story writers and we decided, why not?!
Ofcourse, the results came out, and we actually DIDNT win
But by God, the experience of writing this story was phenomenal! Not only are the two of us very different in our approach to writing things, it was even more of a challenge to sit together and draft what we feel is a perfect story.
Since there was no theme or genre set for the competition, we decided to use one on our own.If you read the story, it'd be obvious, we were inspired by our previous try at the comics competition on the Syrian Disasters.
And though we didnt win, this story is something very personal and cherished. Its our first attempt at writing something together and result could not be more perfect to us.
We hope you like the story too! And without further ado, here it is!
The foam and spray of water choked their eyes and ears. The unbearable nauseous rocking of the boat was nothing, however, compared to the unending scream in their hearts; their child flailed in the water, unable to shout, unable to swim. Water slithered everywhere. Her hand outstretched in vain, towards the small head and arms bobbing on the tumultuous surface. Their shoulders strained on the railing. The small body never resurfaced again. The silence in their being drowned the screaming and shouting of their fellow Syrian passengers, struggling to remain on the boat carrying them to the safety of Italy.
At the window I can see a Gulmohar tree. It’s raining outside. Everything is wet and cool. I can’t see a lot, but it’s kind of pretty. My friends are loud; they are playing in the rain, with the older kids. I can hear them, screaming, laughing, playing. Shilpa Aunty asked me earlier why I wasn’t joining them. I only shrugged at her. Those new children who came into the home today got new toys from Aunty; the other aunties were fussing over them. But I think its okay; those children are nice.
Hugging each other, their loss became wordless. The mother’s bloodshot eyes gazed far into the horizon of the sea that swallowed her beloved child. The father’s firm arms around her trembled as well. The cold wind continued to blow harsh bringing nothing with it. The pair walked ashore the safe land along with the several broken families and individuals who lost much in their run to save little.
Shilpa Aunty is nice. She takes care of me and feeds all of us, gives us comfortable clothes, and puts us to bed. I like it here; I can play and learn. My friends are very different from each other. We call each other brothers and sisters. We have didis and bhaiyahs who teach us games. I like them too. But sometimes I see a didi sitting alone and crying and I feel sad. The older children always seem to play less than us though. They like to sit alone; sometimes with a book, sometimes not. They look like they are lonely. I wonder why.
The mother and father spoke no word. The helpless faces of their relatives bore no comfort that could hold them. In the safe house teeming with brothers and sisters, they had only each other in their world of three cut down to two. Pats and hugs from the old and young could not stop the tears that fell from her tired eyes in to the newspaper in her hand; the headlines reading that her child was found lifeless, washed up ashore the banks of where they left. She whimpered as the father’s shoulders shook around her again.
I have been here for so long. This is my childhood and my life. My fellow roommates have become brothers. My didis have all left for college, and are getting married some day, and I will soon join my bhaiyahs in theirs. Everything is changing. Maybe time spares no one. I see new children joining our Children’s Home. I see their innocent faces, wide eyed, left behind by their parents. Shilpa Aunty told me about myself a few years ago and I felt nothing about it. “This is my home,” I remember saying to her, “And you are my mother.” She smiled; her grip tightened. I am happy here. I have a family of friends. I have shelter, food and education. I am happy here.
The cheerful voice of their child was the only thread of happiness they had when living in the forever unsure danger of Syria, and the hope to leave in order to create a better life for their child was what gave them the courage to climb into the already over-spilling boat of escapees. Little did they know that that would be the last time their child looked up at them with his eyes full of wonder and excitement. That face of innocence haunted them every day since. They saw those beautiful large eyes everywhere.
I was told I was abandoned. At a very tender age when I cannot comprehend why the lady draped in a dark shawl placed me at the threshold of Shilpa Aunt’s Children’s Home and left me behind despite taking the effort of nine months to bear me in her womb. Maybe I’d been a burden. Maybe they didn’t value me. Or maybe I’d been an illegitimate. Aunty told me not to bother. One day she had opened her door to find my infant self crying my eyes out as she watched my birth mother sprint away as fast as she could in her confining saree. I didn’t ask more.
Puddles of rain gathered mosquitoes, the moths relentlessly fluttered under the glowing lamp posts. The faceless faces and the mindless words of consolation fell like rubble on their hearts. They could bear no longer. He saw it in her eyes and she saw it in his. Grief was not an emotion anymore; it was a part of them now, replacing the child they once had.
Today, on my way to college, I saw a little girl cry as she fell on the ground, scratching her knee. Her mother bent down and hugged her, dabbing at it with a piece of clothing. The father came up and gave her a tickle, her whole face lit up. It was sight that made me smile. But then, something tore inside me. The two people in my life who were supposed to help me up when I fall would rather throw me away than bother. The street flooded with people, but the drought continued.
The relatives drew narrowed eyebrows. “You want to leave the city?” they asked incredulously, “Where will you go??” and the father helped his wife pick up their luggage as he replied, “Far away where it’s just us.” Far away where the empty voices no longer plagued them. Far away from the empty cards and bouquets. One cousin had lent his cottage and farmland to the childless parents. And with this, they whisked themselves away.
I was told I was abandoned. Confusion fills me like sand in an hourglass; slowly but surely. Why abandonment? Was I not good enough? Was I so worthless? Did they see me worthless even before I could develop myself? Lady Luck had looked down on me from her nose and decided she’d rather not bless this little infant. What was I, but a grain of rice left behind in the sack?
The sun continued to rise and set. The father made a simple living cultivating from the land, whilst the mother knit clothes for people. They tried to smile, but the bags under her eyes and the creases on his forehead were inerasable. Within their tired and spent souls were pain and guilt that weighed them down, feet dragging on the floor and shoulders slumped, their pace slow, viscous and monotonous. Somewhere in the ground, earthworms inched their way through the thickened mud.
Empty vessels knocking against each other replace the voices. I look at the wall ahead of me but I don’t see it. Maybe if my parents had died; would this feel differently? I don’t know, I guess it would. Because in the end, I didn’t lose my parents; my parents left me. Sometimes I feel like acid is burning up my throat every time I think of them. I’d say garbage was treated better. Just the thought that they know I’m here alive, boils the blood in my veins. Who do you think you are? I feel that even a parentless child is better off than I. The wall didn’t reply; I wonder if it ever will.
He was taking a break. The sun beat down harsh that afternoon, and he drew large breaths, wiping at his forehead, placing the rake at a pause. His young ageing eyes looked around and to his surprise he spotted movement from within the wilderness. He knew all kinds of animals roamed free and wild there but that never scared them; nothing could. He placed his plough aside and went over to the edge of the wild bushes. Daunting high cliffs and terrain cast shadows. Flies swarmed around the wolf pup that lay motionless at the foot of the cliff. Several wolves crowded around the pup. A loud howl reverberated. The mother nudged at the pup and kicked dirt over its corpse. The steely look in her eyes unwavering as her last howl echoed through the foliage. The father gazed on.
I can feel my glare spit fire. My body trembles with rage. I want everything around me to burn with me!! Everything and everyone frustrates me! I need to calm down. Let me go for a walk. Maybe this is all just in my head. I hope so. The streets bustling, buildings packed with people, while some scarcely. Oh, look at you; the one in ruins. I wonder why your family left you. Not hospitable enough? I guess we have something in common then. You were trying to stay put; I can see parts of you where the reinforced concrete exposing the metal, like a wounded limb with serrated flesh showing bone. I can feel your heart beat just like mine. What’s the matter? Did your family think low of you too? Were you too worthless for their time?
As the ocean roars, the frogs continue to croak. The earthworms remain in the mud. The sun continued to rise and set. The father wonders what his purpose was in this vast universe of banalities. Was the loss of a child a mere message? Was his suffering merely a grain of rice in a large pile of dirt? My son was not the only one who died that day. Nor was he the only suffering that took place in the world. A heavy weight dissolved calmly off his chest. Maybe this was the true resolve. The solace in letting go slowly seeped into his soul.
My resolve hardens like molten steel in my veins. And I know for a fact that I cannot walk away from this. You know what? I challenge the family who abandoned you. I challenge all who leave behind that which they deem worthless by fluke. And I will do this.
I smell your fresh paint and lacquer. I feel the new cloth of your chair. I hear the beating soul of this one dying house. I look out the window and only silence envelopes me. I stare at your wall, which stares back at me. Maybe I thought I was proving a point. The crickets are still chirping, and the rain didn’t stop pouring. I sink into the chair further. The house appeals more than it once did. Yet, I feel nothing… but defeat. Why? I don’t know. Either way, I think neither of us can walk away from the past. I guess we are what the past made us. And you know what? I like you anyway.
Suffering is but the shell of an aimless caterpillar slowly crawling across the foliage. When he spins himself in the cocoon of isolation, hiding away, for he knows he must though he doesn’t know why, he emerges a magnificent butterfly that soars through the air. However, can this really provide true freedom from suffering?
Maybe true freedom isn’t the absence of restriction, but the possession of an unshakable conviction in the face of any obstacle.
- Fin -