Trust and Mistrust: Nations at war

Hari struggled with the large beige shutters. With a mighty heave he pulled it down. The clash of steel against cement shook him. He had heard the sound a thousand times before; each signifying the end of a day and the beginning of the arduous journey from Opera House. Today, however he felt nervous and slightly giddy. He hated this part of the day, the gut-wrenching uncertainty.
To the untrained eye his gait was a sedentary stroll. On closer inspection it could be noticed that each step was measured and each swing of the arm calculated. It was the walk of a man who knew he was being watched.
The motorcycle was an old one. Stuffing spilled out of the seat, the handlebars were rusted, and the tyres were worn out. Yet Shamir loved the bike. He had bought it with his first salary. The owner seemed almost eager to get rid of it. He patted the seat affectionately. This was probably the last time he would see it. Asif had promised him diamonds as payment.
 “Brother this economy is going to meltdown someday. When that happens you’ll thank me. This ‘money’ will soon be redundant!”
Shamir didn’t care about diamonds. He saw them with the bemused air of a man lost to the intricacies of the world. Maybe he could exchange the diamonds for a bike! A good one! He spent several minutes trying to start the vehicle. But this was normal. Maybe this was the last time he would do so. His new bike would start so quickly that he wouldn’t have time to think! Asif had promised that.
Hari felt sweat collect in his clenched palm. The velvet case enclosed by his hand felt heavier. He felt his skin crawl. Something felt wrong. He felt the world close in and draw back, the cold bands of claustrophobia.  The pavement swam in his eyes. His breath came in short gasps. There were too many people.
He spotted an alley, dark and desolate. He staggered to it. There was a cool breeze drenched with the stench of rotting garbage and faeces. He felt better.
Hari suddenly spotted a young man pushing a bike, coming closer and closer. His eyes darted to the white skull cap on the man’s head.
’He will kill me! Kill me with his filthy hands!  These people, they’re a violent breed! Everybody knows that! To deny so is political correctness gone mad!’
Hari could now see the bike. It was old and woebegone. Somehow, inexplicably, he felt a wave of sympathy for the young man pushing the bike. He suddenly felt ashamed for his behaviour. He had to do something!
                ‘Brother! Where are you going’ he said.
                ‘To the Opera House. Asif said I should be there now. ‘
                ‘I’m going there too!’ he said, lying glibly.
‘What does it matter, I will reach home a bit late’ he thought to himself, guiltly.
He felt much better now. He had made his amends. He loosened his grip on the velvet bag. He felt the contents move ever so slightly.
                “You know Asif promised me diamonds.” said the young man, “he said I could buy a new bike with it.’
                “What are you doing with this one?” Hari replied jovially, “leaving it for the beggars?”
                “Diamonds… how much will get me a new bike?”
Hari laughed, thinking the boy was joking. He suddenly stopped when he saw a look of resentment on the boy’s face.
“ I’m a merchant myself. That’s why I laughed. A single diamond can get you a good bike!” he said quickly, instantly regretting it.
‘Now he’ll want a discount!’.
Hari felt the sound before he heard it. He saw a hand, a leg. The velvet bag, he had so treasured seemed meaningless now. The skull cap was a ruby red. Hari felt his body hit the pavement. The last sight he saw was thousands and thousands of diamonds descend from the sky, falling over him, over the young man, over them all.

From the portfolio- That Dusty Path We Walk

If there is one irrefutable fact of life, it is this, the human mind and body is far more resilient than most think. One need not look far for evidence of this fact.
The sun beat down on the city of Baghdad relentlessly. Shopkeepers slept on the verandas of their shops, fanning themselves languidly. Wind swept through the empty streets, picking up dust and paper, making it appear to dance. The hot, dry air swept down the street and into the houses and shops, much to the displeasure of its occupants.
A slow, rhythmic slap of slippers against the ground shattered the silence. A man walked down the street. A child sat on the mans shoulders, seemingly unperturbed by the heat. The mans face was criss crossed with lines of worry, yet there was a noble grace about him. The child's head rested on the mans turban; weary and disheveled, he kept nodding off to sleep awakening every few seconds with a sudden jerk of his head.
The duos worldly possessions were contained in a small knapsack, which the man kept by his side. As they walked past the many shops, the shopkeepers raised their heads or opened an eye to check who had disturbed their tranquility. On seeing the duo they returned to their cots with a half mumbled curse. Unaware, the man and child continued their way down the street. They turned the corner, and walked out of sight.
The sun dimmed. A cool, light breeze ran through the streets; children stumbled out of their homes, laughing madly as only children can. Dogs barked and raced down the street, snapping playfully at the now wide awake shopkeepers, who shooed them away half heartedly.
Light can be seen only in darkness. Good is born in times of evil. Sometimes Hope can walk the streets of despair.


It was time to light the candle again. The old man lay in his chair, covered by layers of blankets. He stared at the candle, his eyes, almost milky white, willing it to light. However there was no sudden burst of light or even a feeble splutter. Sighing, he moved forward, his body creaking with age.
The light reluctantly slanted through his open window. His shadow grew. His feeble hands grasped at the matches. A crippling weakness overcame him and try as he did he could not light the candle. There was an eerie, shortness of breath. If only he could light it. He knew there would be a sea of warmth and light would rush over him.
A burst of laughter echoed in his ears. He son would be back now and his wife would be cooking. But that would mean he was still at the bank. He could smell the fresh notes. The smell of money. He could hear the laughter again. The old man frantically scrabbled at the candle. It swayed and fell off the table. There was a loud crack, not unlike a whip, and then silence. No laughter. No odors. Just darkness. The old man bent down, knees groaning, and picked up the pieces of the candle. He put one half away and lit the other. The room was lit up in an instant. Yet the shadows seemed darker. The man drew his blankets around him, and like a child hid his face under them. The laughter continued. It got louder and louder, until it seemed crazed. He joined in the laughter, maniacally. His chair creaked at the sudden movement of his rocking body.Suddenly, there was silence.
The sun rose and the shadows fled their domain. They fled until the only one that remained was the shadow of a laugh on the mans cold, stiffening face.