Fiction

The Morning That Changed Everything

Written by Pratyosh Gogoi

Nellie

8:30 AM

18th February 1983, Nagaon, Assam

 

The banks of the Brahmaputra had never seemed better. The sun was finally up with all its might and the day was shaping up well. With the blissful spring just around the corner, the banks of the mighty river wore a different look. Shedding its weary, sandy look, it was now greener. One could see a flower here and there. It wasn’t too cold anymore and the sun wasn’t too harsh. It was just perfect. The perfect time to write a poem…

“…You walk into my dreams every night,

With your smile, shaking me to the core;

And as I wake up the next morning,

Your smile resonates on my face…”

            Akram had been to his favourite spot on the banks many a times in the past one week, but poetry eluded him every single time. He’d sit there, staring into the void and not one word would come out on paper. The thick patch of grass was now lean, owing to his endless hours sitting and lying down there. However, today was different and he’d be late to school.

It was after so many days today that he was able to write. And it felt good. For his mission was to complete a notebook of poems, to be gifted to his beloved. The next day was their anniversary and he wasn’t getting anywhere with his goal. Today it seemed to be the perfect day. The ink flowed over his notebook the way the waves ahead of him were recklessly eating up the bank’s sand. This erosion felt good. The pages in his notebook were finally being eaten up. And, happily so.

“…Sans you, my hopes scream in despair,

And the sap of my life gets lost!

If I die today, let your voice

Be the last tune to my ears…”

The writing went on, till screams could be heard at a distance. Those were not screams of joy or jubilance. Rather, he could distinguish two different shouts. One of anger, anguish, death; another of fright, despair, surprise, death… His curious mind wanted to go and check but his most recent poem was nearing its end and it seemed a shame to stop writing. He continued…

 

9:15 AM

Engrossed in his poetry, the shouts were almost inaudible. With that broad smile on his face, he was lost in his own world when someone’s footsteps could be heard at a distance. On looking back, he could see someone from his village. But, his face was scarred, clothes torn, body bleeding profusely from everywhere and it seemed he’d collapse any second now. He got up in an instant and went towards him. The person had fallen down before he reached him.

“What happened, chacha?” Akram enquired.

“Run!” was the only word he could utter before closing his eyes.

Akram could not cry. He stayed still for a moment. Nothing made sense. The numbness was gripping him and all he could do was stand still and do nothing. And suddenly, there was this urge to run. And that he did. As fast as his 16-year-old legs could allow him to run, he ran. And he did not stop, not for fatigue, not for thirst, not for anything. It felt as if his throat had his heart and his heart was sunken dry. But he kept running, not looking back once!

 

3:15 PM

He’d run a lot into a direction he didn’t know. And now he was walking back to his village. Unsure what’d hit him, he had shaky legs, exhausted long back, and he almost crawled into his village. It had a deserted look on it, something that never was the case. There were bodies lying everywhere, all drenched in blood. He puked once, maybe twice. The shelling of a bullet hurt his leg and he fell down once. And after getting up, the long walk to his home was the toughest part.

There were just too many emotions going through his head. Fear, helplessness, loneliness, pain, nausea, not knowing, hoping for the improbable… The road leading to his house, the one he used to take long amounts of time to traverse, intentionally, because it was so beautiful had a look he hadn’t imagined in his wildest dreams. Pools of blood here and there; scattered remains of flesh and three bodies welcomed him to his home today. On other days, it’d be the rant of his mother for his coming home late after the evening cricket match. He almost closed his eyes incessantly. He could not see this anymore.

Behind the tall bamboo and ‘tamul’ trees, today he could see his house no more. It was brought down to the ground. There were flames no more, just black ash and scattered smoke. It was all gone. He picked up a bucket from beside the well in his compound and poured a bucket of water on the remains. He does this a few more times. And then, he fell down on his knees.


Finally, he cried.

Rabindra Bhawan

6:30 PM

18th February, 2015, Guwahati,Assam

 

“I was engrossed in poetry that morning. It was our anniversary next day and I had to make it special. I had the Brahmaputra ahead of me and her face in my mind. It was a happy morning. But the day shaped into one I will never forget. I won’t say those images haunt me. They are a memory. And I don’t really want to forget this memory.”

The audience, 500 strong, wore a surprised look.

“She still makes me write; I see her face every day. Not her decapitated head I saw after I went looking, but the one I had in my mind when I was penning down those lines. I went back to the river bank that night. The pages were dampened with dew drops. And many lines were gone. But they were still fresh in my mind. That notebook is the only remembrance I have of my past.”

Pausing for a sip of water, he continued, “Being the one survivor of my village, I guess I deserve to know what’d actually hit us all, hit me. But, the report of the Tiwari Commission is still concealed. I still don’t know what killed my family, my love. And that hurts. But that hurt makes me write and that is why I am here today.”

 

Akram Hasan stopped speaking to a tremendous applause as he completed addressing the gathering at his first book launch.

 

Uzan Bazaar

6:30 PM

19th February 2015, Guwahati, Assam

 

“…Sans you, my hopes scream in despair,

And the sap of my life gets lost!

The day you went away, a void appeared,

And till this day, I search for you

Maybe somewhere, you too share with me,

These lonely afternoons…”

 

The Brahmaputra looked beautiful. Akram sat there, looking into the void. Feelings clouded his mind as it does so often. The last sunrays were merging with the city lights and the sky was amber. Fatima was what he could think of. Far into the horizon, the first star of the evening had just woken up.

About the author

Pratyosh Gogoi

Pratyosh is currently pursuing his Masters in English from Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi. Someone who lets his pen speak for him; he is an ardent debater, writer and traveller. Hailing from Assam, he brings in a touch of the oriental in his write-ups. None of his close friends leave without a poem on a tissue when out with him.

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