Tuesday, 5 May 2020

City night lights [AR] 15/11

Author's Notes: I wrote this post after 26/11 incident of last year. I was watching a documentary on that and remembered this story. So here it is.

It was a chaos that they had never seen before. Yes, they had seen it in movies, in television and sometimes even on streets, but they were never a part of that chaos. They were witnessing the aftermath the terror that had shook the heart of their city. The city had a life of its own; vibrant, colorful and continuously humming with dreams of millions of people. The entire group was having lighthearted fun at a nearby restaurant marking an end to a hectic day. Half way through the dinner, all of their pagers had beeped. It had startled them and once they checked their message, they were whisked back to a harsh reality. The sight that awaited them at the hospital had been heart breaking, overwhelming and truly disheartening. She clutched his palm not caring for anyone who could see and was relieved when he gently squeezed her palm back. They offered each other broken smiles and separated to tackle their respective responsibilities.

After sixteen hours of saving lives, losing lives and barely made it lives, she felt both emotionally and physically drained. She had lost more than one life today on surgery table. When a man had flat lined, she felt had felt bile rose to her throat threatening to come out even before the tears could spill from her eyes. She had ignored the senior doctor's insistence words of announcing time of death. She had dashed out of surgery in a hazy retreat and emptied her stomach in the nearest bathroom. At that moment she had not cared for the protocol that her job demanded nor had she felt so lost and hopeless.
This time, she had taken refugee at the back exit of the hospital, which was used by hospital personnel to take out medical waste. The back alley was dark, dimly lit and it lacked cleanliness in every sense. She thought the place suited her mood perfectly. Her mind had started to calm down after going for an emotional overdrive when she felt a presence behind her. It was him, of course.
"Why are some people so evil, Armaan?" she asked. Her voice was hoarse with incessant talking.
"In all of us there are two natures at war; good and evil. As and by a child grows to the man, these two natures vary in their proportion. Being good or being evil doesn't happen overnight. It's a gradual build up that starts from nurturing in the early age to teaching while being adolescent. When a man is convinced of reasoning for a cause, then it is not a matter of good or evil; it becomes a matter of choice."
"Is it a matter of choice to believe or not to believe in reasoning for a cause?"
"I believe so, yes."
"But can an idea, can a feeling, can an emotion can be so strong that one can give or take away life? Are those things more important than humanity itself?"
"Yes, they can. There are things which are more important than existence Riddhima; like freedom, like love for a country, like love for a family, like doing the right thing for the next generation, things like that. We have policemen on our operation table today because they believe in a cause like that; the love and respect they have for our country and an unquenchable protective instinct to shield people of this country from any evil forces."
"So isn't it the choice of a cause that decides if people are good or evil?"
"In a way, you are correct. We cannot claim to be good and pure when our choices show us otherwise; nor can we claim flagship of morality when the basis of our moral argument itself is flawed and biased." Was this how innocence was lost? He wondered. She was very intelligent and an excellent orator but her perception of the world was clearly demarcated into black and white. In her world, there were no grey areas. Her innocence and her purity were what made every member of their group to run to her seeking a healing touch. He now understood why her sister always insisted that Riddhima was innocent. It was never from the perspective of social aptitude; it was about Riddhima's perception of the world and humanity in general. On this day, the last shred of her innocence was lost. He felt a bitter taste in his mouth by just thinking about it.
"Come with me", he asked his arm extending towards her. She stared at his open palm but did not dare a move.
"Trust me, Riddhima", he said in a hushed tone. Before her brain could formulate a response, she found herself walking hand in hand with him, towards terrace. When had her body got attuned to his voice and his words that it overruled her neurological response and took a decision on its own? His warm hands slowly warmed her clammy ones. She wished she had wiped the perspiration of her palm on her scrubs before. Her musing was broken when she found herself wrapped in a cool blanket of pre-dawn air with the lingering scent of the dark night.
"Look around you Riddhima. Tell me what you see", he gently cajoled her. It was still dark outside and the city looked like a bridal sari under neon lights; bright, spectacular and full of energy.
"It's the most beautiful sight that I never get tired of. A city, like mother earth herself, has taken pain so many times in the last few decades. With every last sigh of a dying man and with every last stopping heart beat of a young-ling, this city bleeds and dies a little. I see flames touching the skies at one part of the city, an ugly reminder of the deed performed while the other part of the city cries soundlessly. It hurts Armaan." At that moment he wished he could pack her away to a faraway island, away from everyone and everything and see her eyes reflecting the light from ocean; and then perhaps, he would try to truly understand her. He had claimed that he knew her, but on this night, he felt he was getting to know for the first time, what his girlfriend was truly made of.
"In two thousand years of human history, I don't think a single year has passed by without a war going on in some parts of the world. I guess over the years us humans have been perfecting the art of hurting each other. In the beginning, the reason was food and water, then it was territory, then it was land, then money and now, it could be anything. Jews died in that holocaust not because they were Jews, but because they were not something else."
"Are you saying things are not going to change Armaan? That acts like these are going to be repeated every now and then?" There was pure horror in her voice. He was immediately at her side and mentally kicked himself for making her think this way.
"Riddhima, every act like this one, is going to have a deep impact; on us, on our culture, on our economy, everything that makes us, us. I know that things cannot go back to beginning, to the way it was, but I only hope that things don't worsen further. I can always hope right?" They both fell silent. They had both felt the need to process each other's words. They watched the vast landscape that the city offered, when her voice broke his thoughts.
"Thank you Armaan. Thank you for not telling me that everything is going to be OK and thank you for not telling me that everything is going to be fine because it's not going to be OK and fine. When things like this happens something shifts, something changes and they are the things that no one can ever undo. I am hurt and I am bleeding; but I am also mourning for the loss of human life in some cases and loss of humanity in some other. Once the hurt has taken its course in my body, I will start to heal and then try to cope with the losses. In coming days I will be hopeful, I will be strong and then I ready to face the world." Her voice was clear and crisp which had lost earlier hoarseness. There was confidence and there was hope. For a moment he wasn't sure if she was talking about herself or she had just personified this city itself, speaking what this city might have said. As she started to descend the stairs, he took one look around to see the city slowly getting bathed by dawn break. City lights were off; morning was here. On his way back he thought about superheroes that he read in comic books so often.
"Superheroes that we see today don't come in fancy costume or in a long cape. They are not celebrities nor are they vigilantes. They are people among you and me. People enlisted by government whose job itself is to save people are real superheroes. An anonymous young man who helps local police to evacuate a building during crisis is a superhero. A man carrying another man, perhaps twice his weight, to nearest safe place from the place of terror, is a superhero. A woman in scrubs who doesn't eat or sleep for several hours just to ensure that every injured man in this hospital is first attended to, is a superhero. The common denominator for all these people is – they have no super powers, but they are ready to sacrifice their normalcy today so that tomorrow, humanity can smile."


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