Written By: Tahir Mehmood
It was a long cold dark winter night; and the clocks had already struck half-past midnight. The continuous rainfall for hours and the low clouds surrounding the windowpanes and doors had made the night more sombre and dense. The lone man sitting in the café’s corner was deeply engrossed in thoughts that had made his fourth cup of coffee get further cold. The café in the tourist resort mountainous village was located a bit far away from the population. The café owner himself seemed part of the antiquity that had endured over the decades. He was well familiar with this lone man sitting in the corner for over thirty years; though the familiarity could only break the walls of brief wellbeing exchanges. He would appear once in a while each year for a month-long stay in the village, mostly in winters. Known for his quiet manners and lone long walks over the mountain tops, the man was taken as a peaceful recluse. A black mystery hollow always surrounded him. Somehow it became known that he had once served in the military and had fought a war, too. That night he sat for long, engulfed in some inner conflict, he did not talk even once. The inner conflicts are usually not visible but are often equally dreadful as open wars. His eyes were dull but demeanour rock-solid. He was passing through the agony of bygone years when he was young, and full of life!
In those days he was serving in a military unit deployed in the East Wing of his country. He often missed his hometown located in the West Wing, that was different in many ways. However, like soldiers are famous for adapting to the new ways in the line of duty, he was soon absorbed by the life of the town. There he met her, and overpowered by the destiny, soon they were married. The girl was young and naïve but as beautiful as a wild little white rose. This was a union spontaneous but an act of sheer love. A bit unusual but no one could deny the oneness of the land, blood and souls. They had made it a routine to go for long night errands. In that land of ravines, lakes and mist, they would often lose the path, but then magical power of love would lead them back home. They would talk and understand not entirely dependent on words. In youthful days, heart is connected to the soul in a manner that ‘love’ is personified through each small act of lovers.
A year of happiness had just passed when the war broke out in the East Wing. Brothers started fighting brothers, the blood was spilled without distinction and it further thickened the clouds of death and misery. The love was unknowingly overtaken by hate, and soon the enemy also jumped in. That night he talked to her for very long in a manner that he had never done before. He talked of love, life and perpetuity of conflict. And, then he started explaining the ever-overpowering love for the motherland!
He uttered the words in a low but firm voice, “I have put you in my heart, closed it, yet set you free. We are different but love always does not breed in similarity. Love just happens to someone. It is never chained in bonds, never two shall be one, but the oneness of souls endures the differences. Sustaining distinct uniqueness gives strength to life of individuals and societies. Oneness is a divine attribute and humans are ought to be diverse yet love takes them to this divine bliss!” And deeply drowned in mystique of love and life he mumbled, “the bond with the motherland is nothing but pure divine love.” Overwhelmed by the power of the words he had uttered from deep caves of inner-self, he opened the half-shut eyes. Then appeared the agony of life and reality on his face. The shadows of looming war further thickened the talk. “We learn to know, and then live under the burdens of knowing forever,” again he was murmuring, “All living beings feed on all other living ‘things’. This one-eyed spectacle makes the notions of peace, justice and freedom relative in nature. Man is defined, lost and found by the conflict. Perpetuity is to life, not to peace as contradictions shape and give birth to new conflicts. Peace is a dream that is never under full grasp. There are skies to fly and feet to crawl on the ground. The passionate men of freedom, courage and imagination always delimit the industry of life. They do not look down to find the pitfalls, but act to unknot the limits of the ‘will’. The words without power of action are mere dreams. An idea is hope, half-action is a curse-in-waiting, and persistence is victory.” His words were magical, and the dawn of a new day had already set in on the horizon.
He opened his eyes to the reality and saw the shadows of conflict looming over vast fields of his motherland. It was time for the men of courage and passion to act and protect the godly motherland. And then he uttered the last words with a finality of tone she was not familiar with, “soldiers like us have been groomed to get martyred for the motherland. They are trained hard to stand for the motherland, protect it, fight for it till last. These times are hard, our freedom and identity is the cost, and I cannot shy away from the call! These are the times of valiant fights, struggle and strife, suffering and endurance, and martyrdom! This is not throwing away life, which is a unique divine gift, but standing tall to the toughest calls of duty and commitment. Life and death are both a matter of choice. The tall ones always stand high above the choice. On some beautiful morning of tomorrow, pluck a red rose and you will find me, and only then you would know the price of the blood of a martyr!” The girl could hardly utter a word but her grasp was enough to tell that she shared his cause. The cause of a soldier in the line of duty, the ever unchained love for the motherland! No tear could roll down, but met a silent death in the depths of heart that embodied the virtue of love.
In the dark winter nights, the soldiers embark on the missions that are rarely known to the men living in peaceful dwellings. The deep gorges, fast flowing ravines, snow-clad mountain tops, thick forests and stormy oceans; all witness the resolve of man versus man, and man versus nature. It is ironic but true that peace is sought through wars. ‘Peace and war’ is like a hide-and-seek game between life and death and soldiers play this game. Tyranny could prevail forever if there are no soldiers of peace and freedom. The soldiers fight and endure wars! The soldiers are proud young sons of their old dying mothers. They are the band of brothers who go to war–the valley of death–while singing songs and chanting slogans. Their young bodies and spirits are imbued with love, life and hope. Their old generals are often cold and quiet, as they know the pain and strife that life endures once young ones die in the line of duty.
Since then many years had passed. The soldiers of war, peace and freedom had returned to their homes. The brave ones chose death, the resilient ones fought and survived. After the war, he returned to his native town in the West Wing, and could not go back to the home he had built with her. He tried to locate her, but where love once prevailed, the dust of hatred had taken over. Those who were distinct but one, had been separated. The cause of oneness which they had chosen willingly, had been lost. Often in war, the results do not entirely depend on the bravery of the soldiers. Sometimes the battles are won but the war is lost. Nature’s clairvoyance cried: “the conflict is inevitable. The ready-ones to live in peace, ambitious to wage war, simpleton to be trapped, and charlatans to suffer defeat. ”
In the dark winter nights, the soldiers embark on the missions that are rarely known to the men living in peace dwellings. The deep gorges, fast flowing ravines, snow-clad mountain tops, thick forests and stormy oceans; all witness the resolve of man versus man, and man versus nature. It is ironic but true that peace is sought through wars. ‘Peace and war’ is like a hide-and-seek game between life and death and soldiers play this game. The tyranny could prevail forever if there are no soldiers of peace and freedom. The soldiers fight and endure wars! The soldiers are proud young sons of their old dying mothers. They are the band of brothers who go to war, the valley of death, while singing songs and chanting slogans. Their young bodies and spirits are imbued with love, life and hope. Their old generals are often cold and quiet, as they know the pain and strife that life endures once young ones die in the line of duty.
Lost in the fog of war and bitter memories of separation, he managed once to go back to the East Wing to find her. There he found a demolished home that was once a symbol of life and joy. Nothing was recognisable. The love that united them once, had become a lost cause. He made muted enquiries about the girl that used to live there, but none could tell him about her. He then returned to the West Wing with empty hands, and heart filled with pain. Soon, he left the military and started ploughing the new crops in the virgin fields of the motherland. He had found the shelter and cause in the love of motherland.
Years passed following the unstoppable flow of time and destiny. In the memory of that cold winter night of December, he often chose to visit that mountainous village and spend the nights of love, remorse and pain all alone by himself. He often chose to go for long lonely walks in the clouds. The life had turned into a wasteland without companionship. The nights were painful but days had a glimmer of hope as he could see new crops growing. He had a hope for good days once peoples’ stomach would be filled with the healthy harvest growing in the fields. All was passing like a colourless autumn month that is waiting for blissful days of spring. And, one day, all seemed upside-down once he received a letter from the embassy of the former East Wing of his motherland. It was a letter from her daughter who was born after he had left the house. She had written about the death of her mother after that tragic war. She grew with one of her aunts who on her insistence had contacted the embassy of the West Wing to locate him. Next week she was coming to meet him!
And, tonight he was sitting in the far corner of that mountain café all alone engrossed in deep thoughts. The two weeks stay of his daughter had passed like withering petals of a white rose that rarely survive the next morning of their bloom. She resembled her mother in many ways. She made numerous enquiries about their past and about her mother. They spared most nights for long walks in the memory of the departed one.
She had to go back to the former East Wing due to her studies. He had to stay in his home in the West Wing for the new crops he was hoping to reap one day. It was difficult to reach the decision of parting ways once again, but hope for seeing new crops in the motherland had defined his new life.
The man finally arose from his seat, gave a smiling nod to the café owner, and walked into the mist of life.
Nature breeds life, conflict evolves, and love endures it.