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A Number on a Piece of Paper



Before you start reading this short story, a few words about my novel. 

She is a girl of mysterious sorrow, and his sins are haunting him. His actions will determine whether "Men Are Dogs" or they are just "MAD".

Click here to visit Amazon.in for details.
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The lucidity of the sky in the night would give an impression that the moon had made a formation of stars to descend on the roof of the earth and embrace its beauty forever. Even animals and insects would show their respect to the serenity of the night.  At the crack of the dawn, the smoke emitted from the chimneys of the houses would rise in the sky, mingle with the mist, form different shapes, and then disappear with the cold wind taking them away to a different destination. As the sunrays would titillate during the day, the glistening skin would smile as if it has just received a new lease of life.
*
Hidden behind the hazy sky, the moon would arrogantly walk in the sky, feeling proud of its tranquillity, while the gunshots pierced the silence of the night on the roof of the earth. The thick smoke, emitted out of a houses slowly turning into ashes, would overshadow the mist, fight with the wind, and make a layer in the sky. The body would shiver with fear and the spine would hurt with continuous alertness for survival.
*
Ananda had experienced both, while the memories of the former slowly faded away; the latter remained as a nightmare. He was not expecting that a seventy-two year old mind would remember everything, but he was saddened as to why only those memories that at times brought smile on his face slowly evaporated. He had been stuck on a particular page of the book called life. In the quest of life, when the things at times becomes meaningless, everybody hopes that one day the page will turn and the life will throw something new. But for Ananda, life had been harsh. Deracinated long back, he had stopped counting the years now, but it must have been around fifty years since he last breathed the unpolluted air that blessed him after being filtered through the mountains, floating above the uncontaminated water of the lakes, and finally brushing the edelweiss grown in his backyard. 
***
In 1959, while the winter was still resistant and the summer was yet to cement its foot, Ananda received the much awaited knock at his door at the crack of the dawn. The twenty-three year old agile body of Ananda swung up from bed and moved firmly towards the door. The unsettled waves of thought hurtling inside his mind for the past few days finally matured and started nurturing a dream, a dream to see Free Tibet. 

He opened the door and two men with their head covered by the woollen shawl entered. One man closed the door behind his back and stood there while the other one walked a little ahead but stopped at the site of a packed travel beg lying alongside the bed.

‘Oh! You are ready!’ He said with a big smile on his face. ‘I had thought that you will need some more time. We are proud of your decision. Welcome.’ He stepped forward and hugged Ananda. The firmness in Ananda's embrace exhibited the power and determination he had garnered in last few days.

A few days back Ananda had attended a congregation having religious pretext where the discussion mainly revolved around the freedom struggle. Ananda was a silent spectator. After the congregation was over, two people approached him.

‘Can we talk something important?’ One of them asked with a straight face. Ananda was surprised, he couldn’t recognise them, but before he could have reacted, one of them pulled him inside a room. The room was very small with just a bed and a large metal trunk. Just above the bed, a flag having two swords with yellow background decorated the wall. Ananda knew the significance of the flag. The flag belonged to the Chushi Gangdruk Defend Tibet Volunteer Force, which had only one objective, to throw the Chinese out of Tibet. "Chushi Gangdruk" is a Tibetan phrase which means "land of four rivers and six ranges" referring mainly to Amdo and Kham region of Tibet.

‘I don’t think we need to introduce ourselves anymore.’ One of the men said. ‘We need people. You look strong. You can be trained to the highest level; we want you to join the group.’

Ananda was speechless and confused. He had never thought he would be directly involved in the freedom struggle. He always believed that a few Tibetans couldn’t drive out the ruthless Chinese, who outnumbered them.

The men watching him carefully could read his face. One of them came and patted on his shoulder and asked him to sit on the bed. With hesitation, Ananda followed him. The other man opened the trunk, took out a book, and handed it over to Ananda.

‘We are leaving you hear for a few hours, with a hope that you will also be able to see the same dream... The dream we are living with ... day and night.’ One of them said and they left the room.

Alone in the room Ananda kept watching towards the door for some time. He weighed the idea to walk away from there. He didn’t belong to this place. He was just a labourer, working for last four years, in the large field illicitly acquired by a Chinese after 1951. He was the sole bread earner of the family of four including him. His father was partially paralysed after he slipped on the mountains on a rainy day. His mother contributed marginally by growing vegetables in the backyard. And his sister younger than him, confined within the walls of the house, spent the life under the continuous fear of Chinese. No, his situation didn’t warrant him to jump into the freedom struggle risking the future of his family.

Ananda eyes fell on the cover of the book, a Chinese was holding a gun on the head of a Tibetan monk. The patriot in him made him turn the cover, and as he turned more pages, the persistent anger fuelled by the contents of the book, which depicted, with words and pictures, the Chinese massacre, and attack on the monasteries in their motherland, heated the blood inside his body. A tightly clenched fist landed on the bed, this was the only way he could have vented his anger at that moment. Within a few seconds, the two men entered the room. The heat emitting from Ananda’s red eyes, hinted the success of their mission.
‘Keep your energy saved for the Chinese.’ One of them said. ‘You are an asset for us.’
‘I have a family to manage.’ Ananda finally spoke.
‘The whole Tibet is our family. Can’t you see the suffering of our brother and sisters?’
‘But...’
‘Dont worry, we have people here who will take care of the basic needs while you will be on the training.’
‘Training?’
‘Yes, Training. We cannot fight against the Chinese like this. We are carefully selecting people to send them to USA, you will be trained by their CIA. I have heard that the training facility at Camp Hale in Colorado is really good... They take good care of our people.’
‘I don’t want to go outside my homeland. I have never stayed away from my family.’
‘Everybody among us has made some sacrifices. We don’t have option, Do we?... Do you want our future generation to live like this?’ The firmness in the man’s voice had increased. Ananda couldn’t find a word to reply.
‘Give me some time.’ Ananda said before leaving the room.
***
Within one month in Camp Hale, Ananda received the news that the Chinese had attacked Dalai Lama and his Government had been dissolved. The Dalai Lama had to take refuge in India, and he was running a Government in exile.

Ananda was getting restless. The rigorous training procedures and the continuous feeding of Anti-Chinese tirades were slowly turning him inhumane. He was seeking blood; blood of the Chinese splattered on the ground and purify the soil of his motherland.

After six months when Ananda was air dropped by a parachute inside Tibet along with nine other guerrillas, he saw increase of Chinese dominance in Tibet. He was not allowed to visit his family. The guerrilla warfare continued for a few days and Ananda could realise his dream of seeing Chinese blood on the soil, but the satisfaction was short lived. Chinese overpowered them in no time and eight people from his group were brutally killed. Unknown of the whereabouts of the other survivor Ananda spent three days hiding inside a large stack of timber, infringed by termites slowly eating away the wood, in an abandoned timber yard. For those three days, he could keep himself away from engaging in direct combat with the Chinese, but he could not surpass the internal conflict rising with every passing moment. He was right when he had thought that a few Tibetans could never pose a threat to the Chinese. He had not seen his family for many months now. The last he had heard was that during the combing operation of the Chinese in search of guerrilla fighters, many houses in his small village were burned. He was not sure if his family was still alive and waiting for him. As far as he knew, he was the only person selected as a guerrilla fighter from his village. Was he responsible for the devastation of the entire village? Physically he was on the verge of a collapse and mentally he had already surrendered. But somewhere a small thought was still protesting inside his mind. Was his life worst than a termite? Hidden inside the cavities, the termites were eating the wood much larger than their own existence, and within a few days, the wood would be untraceable.

The Chinese Army had already marginalised an earlier attempt of the Chushi Gangdruk volunteers, and they already had information about this second batch. The fourth morning, Ananda woke up with the screaming of Chinese. Holding a gun in one hand and fire torch in other, they were setting the yard on fire. Suffocated by the smoke, Ananda had to come out to face the Chinese, who were waiting for him with the dead body of the other survivor smudged in blood and soil.

Profoundly fed yet the thirsty guns targeted towards him were waiting for a small command from the sinful yet remorseless hands of the Chinese. The end was evident but the survival instinct coupled with his understanding of the debility of the half-burnt timber stack that lay unattended for many days, pushed him to search for an opportunity.  He took a large log in his hands, swung it with enormous pace hitting it hard on a stack. The stack trembled and large logs, still burning, started rolling towards the Chinese. Their guns started growling. Ananda took cover of the stacks and ran towards the far corner of the yard. He climbed on the last stack still unburned and jumped outside the yard into the forest downhill. The dejected Chinese guns were still firing towards him and he was rolling amidst the bushes and trees until his fall was broken by a rock. He was out of the range of the Chinese. He opened his eyes to the piercing sunrays. His head was about the burst with unbearable pain. He lost his consciousness.
***
For almost fifty years now, Ananda, the monk, was serving the temple in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, the first Tibetan refugee settlement in India. He was miles away from his root. Ananda faintly remembered that after dodging the Chinese when he opened his eyes, he was a part of a migrating troop, who had already crossed the border. He was in pain, a metal piece was knocking strongly at the corridors of his brain, and the sword of separation from his family and his motherland was piercing through his heart.

In Bylakuppe, people looked at him with respect and amusement, a person, a freedom fighter, surviving for so many years with a bullet still stuck inside his head was more than a miracle.

From freedom fighter to a monk was not an easy transformation for Ananda, but the disturbing reference of a freedom fighter killed a bit of his heart every time. The thought of the termite was already eating his brain slowly. Ananda had to take asylum at the doorstep of God.

As the years progressed, the hurt of separation subsided. The continuing Tibetan struggle reached him at regular intervals. The thought of going back to his root crossed his mind many a times, but something unknown, not fear, perhaps guilt, restrained him every time. He never set his foot outside the monastery.

In 2008, just before the Beijing Olympics, when the large-scale Tibetan uprising erupted, which also captured the interest of monks residing outside Tibet, Ananda could not hold onto his emotions. A march by foot was planned by monks from India to Tibet, as a protest against the Chinese. The thought of going back to his motherland sent zesty waves inside his body. He was skeptical,  but perhaps he might find reminiscent of his family. His tired old brain started weaving many dreams, very unrealistic considering the prevalent scenario, but that didn’t deter him.

Ananda started his journey with an enthusiasm and a determination that his dead body should receive sky burial in Tibet rather than being cremated in India where he was a just a refugee, where the life was recorded as a number on a piece of paper called registration certificate that needed to be renewed every year.

Just before he could have joined the group to start the march, he collapsed on the ground. Drenched in sweat and holding his head tightly with his hands, he unsuccessfully fought his last battle. The loyal Chinese bullet finally woke up and did its job, years after it was actually destined to. A life, which made unfulfilled promises to his family and then to his motherland, was lived as a mere number far away from his beautiful roots and when the end approached even his motherland refused to accept him.
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If you like my stories, you will also like my novel, MAD-MEN ARE DOGS
If you want to review the book in your blog, please leave your mail ID in your comment. I moderate my comments :)
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8 comments:

  1. Interesting Story. :)

    P.S: have sent a email

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great story. I am not good with vocab but I liked the descriptive words used here. They are so wisely used at the right places. You caught the theme so well with this story. Wish you all the best. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Namrata, Glad you liked :)

      Delete
  3. Amit,

    This is a heart wrenching story. I feel sad for Ananda :( and I hate that bullet which did the job after so many years of waiting.. Maybe, it waited for him to reach his motherland?

    All the best for BAT!

    Someone is Special

    ReplyDelete

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