The Final Flight

1000 feet

Wind whizzes past, rocketing upwards to make room for him. His shirt flutters violently, like a kite soaring high in the backdrop of a clear summer sky. Birds, with their silhouette, would have beautified the scene , but he was otherwise. He was a blot on an immaculate canvas. A tiny speck of dust in the vast blue expanse. A miniscule spot that no one cares to notice, or acknowledge. 

900 feet 

Thoughts rolled. They flowed and ebbed. Here, of all places, he could think clearly. Now, of all times, he could reason. Had he done this before, he wouldn’t have been there again. But there’s no coming back to this place. 

800 feet

He felt sorry for no one, but for himself. A pathetic life that touched no one. It was never his fault, and he never blamed himself for it. If it were, it would’ve been possible to solve, but it wasn’t. 

700 feet

He flushed away memories and stripped himself of feelings. A clean slate. Not to start afresh, but to end it once and for all. 

500 feet

The freedom that this flight gave him was lovely. The frosty wind was invigorating. With no one there to question him or criticize, he innately found peace. He was finally one with himself. He was finally…free.

300 feet

The buoyance was thinning by the moment, much like his resilience over the past few years. It melted off over time and trickled down to this. 

100 feet

His momma once said, “Don’t do  something that’ll you’ll later regret.” He wasn’t.

50 feet

A smile

0 feet

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Hope 3/3

Moments flash. Memories haunt. She has horrific visions of her mom tied to a tree and being pelted with stones to death. Her mom twists and contorts in agony, gathering all that was still left in her for futile cries of help. Her spirit deteriorates with time, and so does her energy. 

Nightmares continue to terrorize the little girl. Sleep was not as pleasant anymore. Ghastly images of her mom covered in blood keep lingering in her subconscious. She remembers the last time she saw her, it was right before her mom closed her eyes. She was blinking, but she was looking directly at her daughter. There was hardly any eye contact, but that transient pleasure seemed heart warming. She willed a faint smile and then gave up the fight.

The little girl wakes up to find Uncle Stan dozing off in a lean old chair, seated right beside her hospital bed. She’s told by the nurse that she’s been there for a week now. She wishes it was all just a terrible nightmare, and then she pinches herself, only to find out that it wasn’t. She tilts her head a little to look at the only family she had left, Uncle Stan. 

Soon after her discharge, she’s approached by a local NGO. They promise her food, shelter, and most important of all, education. Weeks later, she’s welcomed into the orphanage. She receives a cordial welcome from a group of kids who were just like her. They all had nowhere to go and had nothing to lose. 

Things around her had changed pretty fast, but she couldn’t shake things off just as quick. She regrets all the times she had been rude to her mom. She misses her bear hugs. She misses all her soothing lullabies while she cozily naps in her lap. She even misses their petty fights. 

She dearly misses her mom. 

The unpleasant hangover seemed to persist. The new surroundings heralded a new beginning. It was definitely a new start. Of what? She didn’t know. Can she now talk to boys? Now that her mom was gone, would it make them any better? Can she now talk back to elders? Will she ever own a smartphone? She knew not the answers and she knew no one to ask. 

But she eventually began to make friends. Wounds were now scars. The orphanage was the tiny thread of life that she was now hanging on to. In fact, it was the only thread. She was still hurting, but she knew that she was growing. She now had a new appreciation for life. She nurtured the flickering flare that kept the cold away. A ray of light in a world of shadows.  An undying spirit in the face of adversity. She had the will to live on. She now had……….hope. 

Hope 2/3

After a long tiring journey, the bus finally reaches their village. The young girl didn’t know if she was fatigued by the prolonged journey or was just ravenous. It was both.

The young girl’s chest heaves as she embraces the fresh air. Her mother’s face hints a sign of relief. They were finally home, ready for a fresh start. With a new take on life.

They start walking slowly towards the old house they call home. People shoot scornful looks in their direction, she doesn’t understand why. Her mom clasps her by the arm and quickens her pace.

When they finally reach, they find their house much worse than what it had been a year ago. It was more of a rural shelter than a concrete structure. It barely qualifies to be called a house, but it sufficed. No wonder why no one had cared to occupy or demolish it. Nevertheless, it would be their haven now. But God knows it wasn’t meant to be.

A faint knock on the door catches their attention. “We have visitors already?”, they wondered in amusement. The young girl hoped that it would be uncle Stan. He was a long time family friend and had been the pillar of support for their family. The faint knocks stopped and loud thuds took over. Her mom and she were now scared.

She went to the rotten wood door to unlatch it. It was uncle Stan, and behind him was the entire village. An angry mob ready to take charge. Her mom was perplexed, unaware of what was going on. She steps on the front porch and sends the little girl inside to take care of her sister. And then the shouting begins.

“You brought shame to our village”

“You were knee deep in adultery that’s why your husband left you.” Her mom had a sudden moment of realization. “So that’s what Harry told them to keep himself alive?”. The village was more inclined to believe men, so she’d have no use trying. Only uncle Stan knew the truth, but apparently, he couldn’t convince anyone.

“You’re not fit to stay here. Have you no shame to come back?”

“She’s not even worthy of being alive. Better kill the two-faced bitch.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Let’s kill her!”

Then they charge on her. The little girl sits inside shocked at the sight of her mother being dragged away. Her mom’s blood-curdling screams render her motionless. Her mom struggles to look back and orders her to run away. But she was too baffled to move.

“Of what use are these little bastards? Let’s kill them too!”

Some of the villagers rush inside to get the kids. Uncle Stan tries to intervene, in attempts to save them. After all, it’s what her mom would want him to do. He suffers a number of blows but he doesn’t back down. After a long struggle, he feels a little relieved that he could at least save the girl, a redemption of sorts. But that feeling was only short lived. It begins to dawn on him that he couldn’t save her little sister.

The Exhibition

She was hit by a flood of happiness when her dad had said, “We’re going to the exhibition today!”. The remainder of the day, spent in wait for that evening, was all a blur. Lessons taught in school were heard but not understood. Food was eaten but not savored. The hot topic of the day was her exhibition plan and she told it to everyone who greeted her. Every time she told someone, her excitement seemed to grow, proportional to the number of people she had enticed.

 

“Samyuktha! Tell me what’s 4 squared two?” She blinked for a second, regaining her senses as she reeled back into reality. But it wasn’t long before she answered. She was a topper. “Concentrate” her ma’am said sternly and she sat down embarrassed. She wanted to listen, so she did. Five minutes pass, and Snap! She was dreaming again.

 

The vast expanse of the exhibition was vivid in her imagination. The entrance was modeled after the ‘Taj Mahal’, which symbolically tried to suggest, that the exhibition resonated with the grandeur of the monument. Petite shelters were lined up at the entrance and were glowing in pink. Kids surrounding the stands, outstretched their hands over the counter in want of feather like cotton candy. Crowded lanes were all tangled up giving, every passerby stuck in the maze, the impression that the place was way bigger than what it really was. The relentless cries of hawkers and the humorless banter of customers, kept the place lively and abuzz.

 

What little solitude was left in the place, was gobbled up by the squeals of excited passengers on amusement rides. This was the second best attraction at any exhibition, and it was only next to shopping.

 

She imagined herself on every one of the rides. In her fantasy, she had the guts to get on the roller coaster. She was tall enough to drive a bumper car. She had the time to admire the city lights from the vantage point when the giant wheel reached it’s zenith. She would’ve imagined a merry-go-round but the continuous spinning makes her nauseous.

 

Food savored at the exhibition was always the same. Typical. It was always Pav Bhaji, Chole Bhature and Cutlet Ragada. It never got better, but it never got boring either. What happened after that wasn’t quite clear. She didn’t imagine anything beyond the fun part, maybe because she didn’t want it to end. But it had to. Cause the time had come for her dream to come true.

 

She wanted to make sure that she’d do every single thing she had imagined. Like a mental checklist. She filled her head with expectations and her heart with excitement. She couldn’t contain the enthusiasm any longer. The school’s final bell rang. She didn’t have to.

The Sunset Sky

Streaks of purple and tangerine, as far as the eyes can see. Somewhere I see a hint of blue, peeking out from the gradient of colors. Birds are little pecks, wandering about in empty space. Trees are dark shadows, silhouettes against the sky. The air is still, retiring for the day. The atmosphere isn’t electric, but rather melancholic. The sun steals glances from gaps between buildings. And as the orange giant bids goodbye, it leaves behind soft rays that grace the sky.

 

This transitional moment is a magnificent sight. Every moment, is consistently random. Every sight, more beautiful than before. Every day it’s the same colors, the same sun, the same sky. But something makes it unique, every time. The slowly changing gradient accentuates the vastness of the sky. Never in the day is the sky more interesting. The sun keeps setting, leaving all his artwork behind. Eventually, the artist, tired for the day, spills ink over the canvas and rests for the day.

The Old Beggar

Heavy luggage in each hand causes both my shoulders to droop. They have this incessant urge of falling to the ground, as if they’re troubled by their own weight and feel like laying down for a while. The searing pain in my arms is trying to pull my nerves apart. I briskly walk through the crowd in hopes of getting this over with quick.

 

I feel disgusted by the mob and the heat, “Why is the railway station this crowded so late in the night?”. Then my eyes fall upon an old lady sitting on the railway platform. She’s sitting upright with her legs straight out. Like sitting in attention.

 

She looks old and destitute. Her hair’s all frizzy. I don’t know if her saree’s always been brown or if it’s due to the dust and pollution. It certainly doesn’t look new. It’s half torn to reveal her legs up to her thighs.

 

She seems to be searching for something but looks up at me when I pass her by. She can’t afford to miss out on anyone. The rarity of a helping soul who can alleviate her grievance compels her to do so. Her eyes are teeming with emotions. Hope, fear, longing and distress. I pass her by quickly, before she could even begin to beg for help. Before her pleading eyes could bore into me. I’m a hypocrite.

 

I couldn’t help but wonder. Who would care about them? Who would want to help? How long until they get better? Will they ever? Would I be helping her by giving her money that brings her respite? Or would I be helping her by giving her nothing, to teach her to live on her own? I can never answer any.

My First Kill

 

Yes, I shot him. He was after all an enemy, wasn’t he?

I asked myself, am I inhuman for doing my job?

I looked into his eyes, they were moist.

Probably remembering his wife and kids back home, remembering those moments which led him to choose the path that resulted in his death.

So, I asked myself again, am I inhuman for depriving a child of her father, for depriving a wife of her husband?

I looked around and saw mutilated bodies; some were of friends’, some of strangers’.

So, I wondered, would this be my fate too?

All I know is, I’m a soldier and I have to kill and die for my country.