Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Conflict

He sat outside the door of his small two room house and stared directly at the setting sun and couldn’t help comparing his life with it. Both were nearing their end and everyday were in a conflict.
Far away army bunkers and watch towers were casting long shadows. It had not always been like this. Born on the other side of the barbed wire, not too far though, he remembered running around the open, unhindered fields without a care in the world, lying down in the open at night and playing in the mud when it rained. But then there was a conflict, he never knew why. The same grounds - his beloved fields were raped repeatedly in front of his own eyes. The result was an undesired, illegitimate child – some called it simply the fence and the others Border.
The conflict took away everything. He had to mature early – the only school of the village which was walking distance earlier was too far away now. Every day became a struggle when running from pillar to post to save whatever remained of his fields. He recalled the delight, the enthusiasm and fervor with which people had celebrated on that special day. There was also a speech he heard on radio and its various translations later. ‘Tryst with destiny’ they called it. Reliving those moments helped in times when he had to stand in queues, wait for the babus to ignore pleas to let him be on his fields. The short stature didn’t help either – it became too easy to overlook him. His walk was like a joker in circus, whole body swaying from side to side as he walked. The dense growth of beard helped hide his thoughts – and pains. They were visible only through the light brown, intense eyes. But who was bothered to look in the eyes of a 5 feet joker.
His son’s voice broke his spell. Thinking about the past seemed more pleasant. His struggle to get the fields back was still on but the energy seemed to wane away now. But the hope was still there in his eyes. His son had then sought to renew the effort. The prospect of getting his fields back made him happy but not the approach that the son sought. The rebellion streak that was absent in the father had caught attention of some people.
He didn’t approve of the path chosen. The belief n the voice in the radio was still there – the passion and the love for the nation it had evoked was fondly remembered and cherished. He would never do something that would be unapproved by what that voice stood for. The time will come – the belief in the system was intact. But in a corner of his heart, there was also that fear that time taken may not be too long. He wanted to run on his own fields one more time and to die lying down there, peacefully staring at the stars. May be his son would be successful.
But after many years, his son had suddenly appeared today – on the run. The dream had gone awry and he needed a place to hide. Only his father could help. The same short height and joker like walk once people made fun of had become respectful - may be pitiful and believable when the beard turned grey and then white.
Again he was jolted back from the past. The sun had set and it was dark now. He had been summoned to the police station for an enquiry about his son. They had got news that he was in the area.
It was Hope against the Belief. Today, with his son accepting defeat the Hope had died. For the belief to survive he would have to confess about his son’s whereabouts.
At the police station, the officer had his usual questions but like everybody he didn’t bother to look into the eyes - Eyes of the 5 foot joker, which always revealed the truth.
He walked back slowly to his house having done what his son did – killed. Today, the beliefs had died too.
He took out a pot of mud from his trunk - saved from his fields. Its smell was invigorating. But today he took it to the roof and spread it out there. Then he stretched his small body over it and lay back staring at the stars. It was strangely peaceful.

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