Seventy Years: A Short Story

-Krishna J Nair, I Year B.A. English

 

The first day I saw all the medals arranged neatly on the mahogany shelf, I wondered whose they were. The hometown was distant and mythical to my little brain, but the sight of it lulled me into a land of wild imaginations. The stories that died here, the smallest mischief, the greatest mishap. The mightiest man in the village with the thickest moustache had a story to tell. It was the glory of the hometown. It was the story, always.

The only trophy I had earned was for lip-syncing to a group song; standing beside a dance group, shyly shaking my hands and legs while others committed to it. Looking at it (even now, after lord-knows-how-long) brings the largest brightest smile on  my face, thinking about the things that had to be done to win as much trophies as there were in the mahogany shelf.

“It was your Grandpa’s,” my mother told me that day. “He fought for our country’s freedom a long time ago.”

Until the day that my mother told me about my Grandpa, until it set off a new path for me, my dream had been to become a truck driver. What he earned was to be kept safe, to be never let go of. In the album, he looked sharp in his uniform, the upper part of his lips lonely and his hair shaved off, making his head a barren land. In his eyes, a light that set me free; in his posture, a dream set to motion. From that day, playing shooting games turned from a hobby to a passion; solving puzzles turned from a dead game to the top of the list.

Now, the train is moving many miles per hour. Each passing tree reminds me of the days I never spent at home, in my room. Then I see the smile on people’s face, the calmness reflected on their face. Their days rejoiced with happiness, freedom and of course, a story. “Remember the time…” said one, while “I miss being in…” said another. For all I knew, what I missed was home, where a soldier was born.

The train halts at a station, and soon enough kids rush by the window holding the plastic cut-outs of national flag. The newborns are attracted to the orange, white and green sections with a blue wheel at the center, while those who learnt about the struggles and sacrifices hush them away while muttering about their disturbance. The siren howls again, and the little men run back to their positions like trained soldiers, waiting for the next train to approach; waiting for the next batch to hush them away.

 

I divert my eyes from them and to the fellow passengers, the ones holding their smartphones upright to their face. Their eyes reflect the colour of the nation’s flag, and I realise, they are forwarding their wishes to their friends.

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