Aftermath — A2Z (Fiction)

“Welcome, brother.”

“Hello.”

“What do you want to buy?”

“I am looking for a pair of shoes.”

“What size? Uh, 9?”

“Yes.”

At the counter, he asked how much he needed to pay.

“Only 400 rupees for you.”

“But the price here says 2000. And even with the 50% discount…”

“Don’t bother about that, brother. This is a special price for you. Thank you for all that you’ve done.”

“Oh, thanks.”

He beamed, paid the bill and walked out with the shoes. The sun was going down for the day. His youngest was with him.

“Papa, papa.”

“What, kiddo?”

“I want an ice-cream.”

“Okay dear, let’s go have some.”

At the ice-cream parlour, the seats were all taken. Three customers immediately recognized him and got up, offering him their booth.

He thanked them and sat down. Then he ordered a vanilla cone for himself and a chocolate sundae for his daughter.

By the time they returned home, the night had camped. He noticed he had guests.

“How are you, guys?” He sat on the sofa.

“We are fine,” one of them said, before adding, “We came here to meet you.”

“Sure.”

“How are you, daughter?”

“I’m fine, uncle.”

“Wah. Very nice.”

She went to the bedroom as her mother beckoned her.

“So, brothers, tell me what I can help you with?”

“We are having a meeting of the bravehearts who fought for the community. We want you to come too. After all, you’re one of our biggest fighters. Even ministers acknowledge that,” the person said, pointing to a 16”×20” framed photograph hanging from the wall opposite where they sat. The photograph showed a senior minister garlanding him.

He couldn’t stop himself from beaming with pride again.

“I surely will join. When is the program?”

“Next Tuesday.”

“Okay.”

“Why don’t you fight for the ward seat?” The paanwalla asked.

“Yes, yes,” two others chimed in.

“Next year, maybe.”

“Why don’t you tell us the story of that night, uncle?” A scrawny kid, not even into puberty properly, asked.

“Oh, haven’t you heard it yet?” He asked.

“I have. We all have. But it’s always great to hear it again.”

“Well, let me have my zarda paan first.”

He chewed on the paan and started. “Look kid, when it comes to the honour of your community, everything is fair. If you need to give your blood, you do that. And if you need to take blood, you do that too. Tradition and valour demand that we stand up for ourselves against the enemy in times of crisis. That’s what I did. That’s how it started.” He smiled, his paan-coated teeth mirroring the shine in his eyes.

There were some 8-10 people at the shop then, and the numbers grew to 20, or maybe more, as he narrated the story of that night two years ago. That night in these same lanes, this same city. The scene was the same at every gathering he attended, whether impromptu or planned, social or religious – rapt attention from everyone.

“I’m going upstairs to study,” his elder daughter said as she saw him come into the house. They had summer vacations. The sun was high in the sky and there wasn’t much else to do besides watching television and tiktok videos. And yet, the moment he returned to the house for lunch, she kept the remote on the sofa and turned on her heels.

He looked at her going away, before keeping his helmet besides the television set. His wife and younger daughter, the other two current occupants of the house, stayed put.

“Mummy made us panneeer today, papa,” she said. His wife smiled and went to the kitchen to fetch lunch for him.

“I’ve already lost one kid. Am I to lose another?” He asked her between morsels.

“It will go away. You know how teenagers are like.”

“Guddu isn’t a teenager though, is he?” His voice started breaking as the fingers stayed dipped in the food on the plate.

“No.” A firm reply.

“He hasn’t talked with me in two years now.”

“Hmm.”

“Two years, two full years.”

She rubbed the tip of her nose with the back of her hand.

“All the love I have for him, all the investments I made for his studies there in the US, and this is how he’s repaying me?”

“Please finish the meal. The food’s getting cold.”

“What wrong did I do?” He gulped down another morsel.

A few minutes of eating in silence ensued before he talked again.

“Father would be so proud of me. I followed in his footsteps. Out of his 6 children, only I had the courage to emulate what he did.”

The sadness had vanished from his voice, replaced by something more primal, more forceful.

“Kuki, go and see whether your sister is ready to have lunch.” She asked the kid, throwing an angry glance at him. That kept him quiet for sometime.

“But mumma, I’m watching Shinchan.”

“You can continue that later too, kiddo. Mumma is hungry na? Go call your sister.”

“O kay,” She hung her head and got down from the chair, pouting as she walked up the stairs.

Later that night, the wife’s sleep was broken by a sound. Groggy, she opened her eyes to see the now-familiar sight of her husband panting, drenched in sweat as he lay on the bed.

“Go back to sleep. There’s nothing here,” she muttered, closing her eyes and turning the other way.

“I offered blood to our family sword. I made my father proud.” He groaned.

She grunted, sleep miles away from her eyes now.

“I did God’s work. I offered blood to our family sword. I’ll get salvation.”

“Blood…God…sword…” he drifted off.

The End.

I would love to have your views on this story. So please offer your unfiltered opinions in the comments section.

P. S. – This story, a work of fiction, is loosely based on this news report.

Featured image courtesy.

Thanks for reading.

9 Comments

  1. The dialogues are crisp and the story flows seamlessly. Yet, without the article, I was lost on the background of the story (the inciting incident). Well written slice of life style story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is based on the news report and made great reading. It really is terrifying in its gory details and what is happening in our country currently is indeed alarming.

    Liked by 1 person

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