The Children of Conflict (A fiction)
The temple bell chimmed early in the morning. The sun was slowly trying to take the height towards the cerulean sky leaving behind the mountains that were escorting it. The glinting dew drops in the compound were bidding farewell to the grass on which they had rested overnight. The chime of the bell and the swoosh of the leaves by the early morning breeze woke him up. He wiped his half closed eyes, stretched the limbs and with his limp legs ambled towards the window to part the curtains. He then trudged towards the table where he had left the bottle last night with some wine in it.
Captain Kotay took a long swig from his bottle. He then lit a cigarette, threw his torso in the chair and yelled out to the constable.
”Yes Sir”, the constable opened the door with a clank.
“How many rounds did they fire last night?” Captain asked the constable.
“Some eight rounds sir”, Constable Mohit asserted, looking downcast.
“Bloody eight rounds”, Captain muttered and took a long drag of his cigarette.
“What do you think would be the result of those aimless shots every night we fire in the air and waste our ammunition?” He asked Mohit.
“I don’t know, Sir”, Mohit blurted quickly.
“Yes, how could you, bloody illiterate. Go and bring my breakfast.”
Down the Karewah in his modest house, Faiz woke up early in the morning. One hour early to his routine. He was happy as it was Sunday. Another reason for his felicity was a cricket match which they had planned last evening. He and his team mates were elated and overjoyed. They were collecting the cricket equipments and packing their lunch boxes for a day of cricket. The cricket ground was a fifteen minute walk. It was actually their school ground. A ground flanked by an army camp on two sides. It was dotted with beautiful and bedazzling walnut and apricot trees with a mosque on one end and a defunct temple on the other. The school buildings and washrooms stood scattered along its contour. They are shaded by the majestic chinar trees. Chinar, the pride of Kashmir, keep changing its colours from amicable dim green with the onset of Spring to the ferocious amber red in the wake of Autumn. The change reflects the downtrodden history of Kashmir. But the children playing and prospering under the shade of these majestic legacies stay unaltered with evergreen, eternal and immortal spirits.
Amid jubilation Faiz and his team mates reached thirty minutes early and began to practise. After half an hour, the other team came and the match bagan amidst noise of claps and cries to brag one’s team mates.
”Who the hell is making noise?” Captain Kotay rose from his chair in anger. The wine from the bottle splashed a bit and fell on his trousers.
“Children sir”, the constable answered from the door with his hands entwined as he glanced outside.
“Children? But I guess it is Sunday.”
“Local children sir”, the constable took another glance towards the ground with an acute smile on his face.
“Local children eh! Go and tell Raghu to take their class.”
The constable nodded and left, leaving the door ajar.
”Bloody Idiot, he again left the door open”, muttered the Captain and began to wring his trousers.
The children were busy playing. They were toiling hard to give their best. Amid claps, they heard a whistle and discovered that they were being surrounded by the men in uniform. One of the army men gestured them to run to him. “Hurry up”, yelled the other. The children complied the order and in the next moment they were all huddled around with army men surrounding them brandishing their weapons.
“Did you take the permission from anybody among us to play here today?”, one of the army men with long moustache enquired.
The children murmured something to each other.
”Loud”, yelled the head constable Raghu.
The children looked towards each other but nobody dared to speak.
Regardless of the age every boy was slapped on the face and bumped with the barrel of the gun on the arse by the ferocious army men. They were forced to chant some weird things which they were not familiar with. They were told to keep the smile on their faces and run away.
In the evening, Captain Kotay drunk again, was lying on the bed grabbing his bottle and agonising amidst deep thoughts. He had heard about the bullying of children in the morning and the episode had perturbed him a bit. He was lost somewhere in deep weird thoughts looking towards the white coloured ceilings and examining the web of a spider in the corner of the ceilings where a housefly had stuck. He was jostling and striving to escape the trap like the unfortunate people stuck in the web of ‘Integral Part’ and ‘Jugular Vein’ woven by the inscrutable politics of two nations. Captain Kotay was intently watching the scene and thinking with tears at the corner of his eyes. He was perhaps thinking about his son and daughter back home and comparing the ambiance in which they study and prosper with the children who were bullied in the morning perhaps with a sympathetic heart.
The rumble of the aimless gunshots continued outside. He tried to shun everything and get some sleep. He then closed his eyes but the tears slowly dripped from his eyes and drained towards the ears.
“Dinner sir?” The constable entered the room and noticed the tears.
“No, not yet”, Captain Kotay promptly wiped the eyes with his hands and thrusted a smile.
“You crying sir”! Surprised constable asked.
“How many times I told you not to enter the room without knocking. Bloody idiot.” Half drunk, half furious captain rebuked the constable and then with a soft voice told the constable to sit down.
“How many rounds did they fired so far?”
“Three”, he repeated.
“You know Mohit, a time will come when these children who are wallowing in this turbulent ambiance amid prospering under the rumble of gunshots and our day to day torture will get used to all this shit.”
“Then they would not be afraid of our bullets.”
Captain Kotay paused a bit, glanced towards the pale face of the constable who was curious enough to acquaint himself about the consequences, mocked a smile, picked the bottle from the table and left the room swaying and reciting.
“Blood would be here and blood there
Seeing the morass nobody would care
Bullets would pierce every soul
Be it a toddler in festooned fair
Pellets would shower to mutilate the future
Matter large or matter mere
Sisters would suffer and mothers wail
Children would wallow in immense fear
Pain would transcend and scars fester
Widows would sob with silent tear
Graves would be unmarked and protests gory
Humanity in shame and humans in sear.”
The author is working on his debut novel ‘The Ensnared Childhood’. He is presently pursuing bachelors in English literature at Aligarh Muslim University and hails from Frisal Kulgam Kashmir. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org