The cold, ruthless war had been going on for far too long for the Colonel to remember. They had been fighting endless battles out on the rugged, bloody fields and in the shattered plains of their minds. Yet, they had no regrets. They knew that this was their destiny. Their motherland had been disgraced, plundered and conquered by foreign invaders, and it was a son’s duty to fight for his mother’s pride and dignity. Their valuable resources had been exploited and their people enslaved under the shackles of alien rulers. And so, they fought fearlessly with perseverance to win their homeland back. Each day drudged on, accompanied by gunshots, booming cannons, and overwhelming chaos. Each day went by with the Colonel having to witness the broken minds, bodies, and souls of his fellow soldiers. He wouldn’t offer words of consolation. He wouldn’t shed tears. He strode forward with only the thought of victory in mind, ready to overcome any obstacles that stood in his way. By dusk of another doomful day, the written declaration of the enemy’s defeat reached the hands of the Colonel. The emotions that he had banished to the depths of his heart came pouring out. He laughed and he cried. His mind flooded with images of the pale, lifeless bodies scattered across the battlefield. The muddied, cracked, yet bold faces of his troops. The people of his country praying and hoping for their return. As the sun set, marking the end of another day, the Colonel sank down and pressed his forehead against the cool earth with honour and pride. Freedom at last.
Sameera stood in front of a selected audience, amidst prolonged stares and hushed whispers. He stood opposite from her, his eyes penetrating hers with the same callousness that she had come to familiarize with after all these years. The fury lurking on the sharp features of his face was evident, but for the first time in her life, she did not look away. All these years, she had been subjugated, stripped of every piece of dignity and respect she had. This was her day. The day she would be served the justice that she had been denied ever since he had tied the knot of servitude around her neck. She needed no advocate. The dark circles underneath her bloodshot eyes and the purple bruises adorning her fragile body were more than enough to convince anyone of the suffering she had gone through. Gone were the days of hiding herself within the darkness of the house she was supposed to turn into a home. Gone were the days of suppressing her pain and frustration and her muffled cries into the comfort of her pillow. As the judge ruled the verdict, Sameera looked at him once again, not with a plea for mercy but with eyes filled with victory. She walked out of the courthouse with her head held high like never before, and let herself bathe in the radiant rays of the sun. Freedom at last.
Priya had lived her life having everything decided for her. It felt like the play of her life had already been written and all that she could do was be the puppet who danced to someone else’s commands. Boundaries, restrictions, black and white lines that were now grey to her - this seemed to be her fate. Her family was very orthodox and they were expected to uphold the prestige and social status. This was an attribute that was inherited by various generations of her family as if it were a priceless heirloom. It had been very difficult for her to convince her parents to let her work. After several pursuits, they reluctantly agreed, but on the condition that she would be working at their family company under the surveillance of her uncle. Now, three months later, it has been decided that she is to stop working and get married to some foreign businessman who wants a petite housewife. According to her parents, it is a match made in heaven. Priya looks at her reflection in the mirror, the red bridal lehenga flowing till the floor, her jewel adorned her neck, her perfumed hair, her red lips, and her charcoaled eyes. She couldn’t accept this as her future. She strips herself of the bridal getup, gathers her belongings and slips out through the back door of her house. She runs, she doesn’t know where she would go, but the rush of adrenaline guides her. The first showers of monsoon rage as she stops to look up at the sky. She smiles as the drops of rain prickle her face. Freedom at last.
Rehan looked around the icy interiors of his cell at the engravings he had made on the concrete walls when the demon took over. He tried to recall the last time he had laughed genuinely and not because of hysteria, but that, just like the rest of his memories, took him back to her. She had been the light of his life. The light that got extinguished before it could spread its glow to the rest of the world. It seemed as though when she left, everyone else abandoned him too. They couldn’t take his screams late at night when he couldn’t accept her death. They couldn’t take the excited gleam in his eyes when he told them that she came to visit him every night in his dreams. They labelled him as paranoid and “someone in need of help” and dumped him in a mental asylum. It was here that the demon in him awoke. Rich currents of electricity were pulsed through him periodically to take away his dreams. His body and mind were drained of every emotion that he ever experienced, only to end up creating a monster out of him. He laughed weakly thinking about the irony and then began to sob. He longed to see her again, but the paralyzing shocks had even robbed that luxury from him. He began shrieking and banging his head against the walls like he quite often did until he heard the familiar ringing in his ears. The numb ringing that soothed him into the state of unconsciousness where he could get away from his agony. But this time, the ringing seemed to be reaching out to him as he heard her voice after so long. ‘Come to me’, she seemed to be saying. And that was the only encouragement he needed. His hands found the medical tablets he had been collecting over the past months. ‘I’m coming to you’ he whispered and swallowed the tablets all at once. He leaned his head back against the wall, took in his last breaths of air and closed his eyes to see her white silhouette walking towards him. Freedom at last.
-Archana Vipin Nair