Winner – 2nd Position
All India Literature Competition 2019-20
by The Creative Post
–Reading Time – 15 min Approx
Nobody would be impressed at him at first sight. He likes to be subtle in the way he presents himself because according to him, the thoughts in his head were rather radical, and he fears that if he really speaks his mind at all times, he would seem to be impulsive. He is a dutiful person and gives a serious demeanor, but he is not unapproachable as such. His name is Jack.
“I should have known. It’s almost 3pm” he thought to himself, because of the tight traffic in an otherwise quite area, as he walked past the local school. 3pm meant traffic with the children storming out of the school. He was reminded of his school days but unlike many others who long to go back to school, cherishing the innocent and simple lifestyle, He did not long for those days. Not that he only had unpleasant memories or hated studying, but his life just has not been as simple as the others-at least at that age.
He hurriedly dodged the people walking past him, and by his appearance with dark rimmed Glasses on his brown eyes, face covered with mask, any one would assume him to be thinking of something intellectual, but right now all he wanted to do, was to let out a wind or two from his bottom as he had taken much roasted ‘matar’ by the roadside. He soon found himself at the door of his cramped-up apartment. Little one had seen him from the window and welcomed him with his cheery smile. But little one is not really his, for Mr. Jack is not married, neither had the thought crossed his mind just yet. Little one is his nephew, who had come to live with him from another town, his mother often sent the boy away to get herself ‘some peace of mind’ as she would put it. But the truth was, she knew little one needed a father figure.
Elias, whom they called little one, was a posthumous baby. He had seen his father only in the old pictures.
“So, any luck today?” asked little one to his uncle.
Mr. Jack replied “Nay, I’m not sure… but I did get a seat for us, tomorrow early morning. “
“That’s great news” said little one happily.
Mr. Jack smirked and said “I told you, I only got us a seat” as he prepared himself a cup of tea.
Mr. Jack and little one has been hunting for a bus ticket to travel to their ancestral home for days, the tickets are just never enough during the holidays season.
“Are you going to leave me?” asked little one.
Jack, who is otherwise serious to most people, is very loving to his nephew. He shuffled the boy’s mushroom cut hair and said, “Don’t worry, we will get our very own seat, but you have to be willing take all the troubles that come along the way.” – For that is what life is about, Mr. Jack added in his mind.
“How?” asked little one.
“You’ll see” was Mr. Jack’s reply as he smiled to himself, foreseeing all the adventures set before them because little one has never been to a remote place.
Soon it was morning and little one noticed his uncle actually carrying a small stool. Little one understood what it was for. The small stool was to be placed in the aisle of the bus and one of them was to be seated there. It was a common practice whenever there was no seat left in the bus. They crossed the dusty town where people spoke good English, dressed well but the bumpy ride had a whole other story to tell.
As the bus ride to smoother road began, Mr. Jack began narrating his life’s tale to pass time. Little one who has been hearing the “back-in-the-days tales” all his 11 years of life listened with interest this time.
Mr. Jack started: “Your father and I grew up in an exceptionally happy family, unaware of the lives beyond the border of our neighboring villages. When the education wave came in our settlements, Father felt its importance, and he sent us to the town, but we only had little, so we lived as domestic help in a foster family to meet our basic needs.”
“I see that means those people are not our relatives.” said little one, trying to comprehend while recollecting what they have said to him all his life. “
“I was lucky they at least made me attend the classes on most days… of course being in classroom with the other kids knowing that I am servant and being discriminated everywhere was something I never got used to.”
Mr. Jack continued “there were others like us, but many weren’t as lucky… many ran away, some lured to prostitution, some missing… But by hook or crook, I managed to stay in that house-hold. I know too much about them and they know only my flaws… but I have made my peace because I fulfilled my objective.”
Little one smartly replied: “Yes, like you always say –one can decide whether circumstances stop us or mold us.”
Then Mr. Jack added “Yes, but I wish I could do more…… even today there is no vehicular road to reach our village….”
Little one was suddenly alarmed “I thought it was a made-up tale to discipline me, how are we going to reach our village!?”
“God has given us two strong pairs of legs” was his reply.
With little stops, exchanging the seats, discussions and dozes here and there, the 24-hour bus journey came to an end. As they stepped off the bus, an elderly man of darker skin shook Mr. Jack’s hand and thanked him profusely.
Jack had sacrificed his ticket and took the trouble to settle for the extended seat.
“Why?” asked little one.
“They say it’s not really giving until it costs you” was Mr. Jack’s reply.
“But it’s them! He is dark” said little one bluntly.
“You know, little Mr. Elias, this is not even worth calling a sacrifice because of the notion you have in your heart. From now onwards Humanity should come before anything and that includes culture, language and of course, race.”
Little one immediately felt ashamed of his mindset.
“I don’t blame you. It is just how we have been raised. What matters is the change we implement on ourselves whenever a new vision is given to us.” Said Mr. Jack.
With that said, little one felt relieved.
“And remember, as long as you keep your mind open, you will always learn new things no matter how old you become.” added Mr. Jack
They soon refreshed themselves in the town’s inn.
Following a short nap, with their back packs on their back, they headed off to their ancestral home.
Little one had never felt more tired, but the walk turned out to be refreshing. The path they trod was untouched by the industrial human race. The golden grasses and the clear little brooks in every turn, made him forget all the tiredness.
As the evening stars peeped in “look!” said Mr. Jack “there lies our roots” pointing to a small village on the cap of the soft green mountain.
“And see, that other half of the village, that’s Myanmar”.
“I am so happy! I never thought it would be this beautiful “said little one.
“Now let’s run to the village before the wild boars come and get us” said Mr. Jack.
With every ounce of energy left, they raced to the gate, only to find some cars and buses running around the village.
“What!” Cried little one “Tell me you didn’t know about this!”
Mr. Jack only laughed.
“You have tricked me!” said little one, almost to tears.
“Had we taken the main road, you would not have seen beauty and pain together.” said Mr. Jack.
Little one was still murmuring.
Mr. Jack then suddenly pointed to a house and said, “There’s our well-known chef’s house, he cooks in India and sleeps in Myanmar because the house was already made before the division.”
Mr. Jack continued “Yes, sometimes we are ignored and deprived of facilities in our homeland, because we are not in the center but there’s an unknown joy to be free from fast paced world and….
“and …yes not forgetting our entitlement for dual citizenship…This borderline has only remained a line for us and reminds us that our people cannot be easily separated by thing called borderline” said little one with a smile.
That is when Mr. Jack knew little one was growing right.
As the night fell, little one and Mr. Jack slowly walked to their hut, where they were warmly received by their relatives. Little one could not wait for the morning to live it all by himself.