Tit for tat

This is my first attempt at a short-story. All readers are requested to be forthcoming with their views, good or bad.

There he was on his wheelchair, sitting in the park right under the Gulmohar tree reminiscing the good old times he had enjoyed there. With Rafiq, Umar and his childhood sweetheart Gul, Amin had made the most of his war-torn childhood. Although there was conflict all around him, he had always found happiness and joy in the company of his friends, and more so with Gul. She always seemed to bring out the beauty in the nature around him. With her, the roses seemed redder, the sky bluer, the grass greener, the birds chirpier.

Looking back at those days, Amin felt that Gul probably was the only person he was living for. He had never known Ammi, as he would be told on his ninth birthday, she had been killed when he was not even a month old. A victim of crossfire between the peace-keeping forces and the jehadis, Ammi had not been around to see him take his first steps. Abbu had taken to liquor after Ammi’s death leaving him in the custody of a distant relative. These people, although samaritans, simply did not have it in them to bring up a child with all the love and affection it deserved, probably because they lived in constant terror of the jehadis using their home as temporary shelter during most of the winter months.

It was one such winter that Amin met Gul. There she was, a breath of fresh air in the claustrophobic climes of his life. She had moved in next door with her uncle as both her parents had been killed in a fresh round of shelling by the Indian Army. She was just about Amin’s age and probably did not realise that she would never ever see her parents again. If ever there was love at first sight, one wouldn’t need look any further than Amin and Gul for proof. From the moment that Gul caught Amin stealing chickens from her uncle’s house, the two of them were inseparable doing everything together. Alongwith the two other usual suspects, Rafiq and Umar, these children lived their days in gay abandon, without a care in the world.

It was just another summer afternoon as usual, with the sun playing hide and seek between the mountains, casting long shadows on the ground. This time around, it was Gul’s turn to count when the three ‘men’ would find hiding places. Amin, from the safety of his high hideout on the Gulmohar tree, could see the trucks rolling down the road to the park. But then, he’d been so used to the sight of armored vehicles since his childhood that he did not care too much for them. Little did he realise that his life was about to be changed forever.

While the three boys were well hidden from the open, Gul found herself out in the park searching for them. That was when the firing began. As the jehadis were cooped up in the guard’s hut on one end of the park, the Indian commandos began to come across the park in small teams of 3-4 each, firing their weapons in short bursts, throwing the occassional grenade. Collateral damage was permitted, and in most cases necessary for these commandos to justify their existence in the valley. As fate would have it, today’s collateral damage would be the death of one innocent nine year old girl, right under the very tree that her best friend was hiding.

Amin was shaken out of his memories by the sensation of a dried Gulmohar leaf falling on his face. 15 years had passed since that fateful day, but he could still hear Gul calling out his name, running towards him below the tree. At times he had wished he had never met her. That way there wouldn’t be the pain or the absolute sense of helplessness that he experienced. His thoughts went back to that fateful day again, when he’d held the bullet ridden body of his childhood playmate, her blood all over his white kurta.

It was that day that Amin began to run. He didn’t know what he was running from, the memories of Gul, this meaningless bloodshed, the independent Kashmir rhetoric, the jehadis, the Indian commandos, all he knew was that he had to run. And run he did. It took all of two weeks for Rafiq and Umar to find him in the cave that he hid himself in, to fight out the sounds of the bullets and tanks that seemed to bother him even in his sleep.

After 15 yrs of insomnia, Amin was alerted by the sound of Rafiq’s cycle bell. That was the signal that it was time for action. It had been decided by a draw of straws that Amin would be the chosen one. He’d felt that it was Allah’s way of giving him a chance at correcting what had happened with Gul. He slowly pushed the wheels of his wheelchair to propel himself directly in the path of the convoy of army trucks passing outside the park. While the first truck screeched to a halt, Amin jumped out of the seat of his wheelchair to hold on to the front railing of the truck, at the same activating the 4 kgs of explosives that he’d strapped on to himself. This would be his way of getting back at the people who’d killed his beloved Gul.

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8 thoughts on “Tit for tat

  1. Hmmm. Awesome narration and flow, but deep and sad at the same. Didn’t expect our hero and heroine to die within the 10 mins time. Btw, any inspiraton from Kannathil muthamittal/Roja?

  2. The first few paragraphs are beautifully narrated. The climax is way too predictable though. I would have preferred less of words in the last para. Something like the one below (only deletions from your narration) would have implied the same without stating the obvious. Cinematic way you could say ;)”After 15 yrs of insomnia, Amin was alerted by the sound of Rafiq’s cycle bell. That was the signal that it was time for action. It had been decided by a draw of straws that Amin would be the chosen one. He slowly pushed the wheels of his wheelchair to propel himself directly in the path of the convoy of army trucks…. Amin’s way of getting back at the people who’d killed his beloved Gul.”

  3. Good One! As someone pointed had maniRatnam ‘s touch and also a bit of Fiza. It must be the names, the setting, a bit o storu… what else eh? :-)) I was surprised to find my link here, thanks!

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