A Quiet Corner Of The World

I’m supposed to be happy. My life’s purpose fulfilled, and my vows lived up to in their most glorious vehemence. But I do not feel so. I don’t understand this. I don’t understand this at all. Why? Why not the freedom yet? Where is the light? Where is the glory?

Where are the celebrations of joy?

It was only yesterday when I was walking. Was it yesterday? I was walking down a park. I do not remember things very clearly anymore. I dont know which city it was, I don’t know which nation this time. Even as I look back, reminisce, through my own eyes, the vision is hazy. It blurs around the edges, as if a camera could not but capture only what was ahead. It is like a video recording. I cannot turn my head.

I was walking down a park. My senses choose to remain it seems, with the memory of sight. It was a cobble stoned path, and I liked the light sharp sound my shoes against its surface. The grass was trimmed, and a fresh green. My own feet, as my head looked downwards, appear long and ungainly. I remember being teased in childhood about large feet.

Childhood. Those memories are scarce. They were scarce even before everything changed about the world. Those that remained were of violence and smoke and ashes. Long ago I had learnt that all was ash once the dust settled down. Nothing mattered. Nothing at all. Running feet. Shouts. Gunfire. Laughter. Those were the other memories, slipping one past another.

Laughter? That couldn’t be. I never remember laughing. Not in those days. It was always sorrow and tears and the dry emptiness once tears vanished. So…what was this?

I stopped walking. The laughter was here. A group of children playing together. I looked at them, but they didn’t notice. Children don’t notice you unless you matter to them. They have it easy. Easily lost in their own minds, and its inventions. So easily staying outside the world they will bow before soon enough. They were so happy.

I wanted to break them. How could they be like this? They ran around and around and leaped over each other and at each other, the laughter never stopping. It rose and it fell, it moved without form and without pattern. I know no music, but it could be a symphony; it was so beautiful. In this foreign land, there were surely some wonders. No threats. No dust. No blood on the sand beneath. Just green grass to play upon. I could live on the one patch of grass forever.

No. That was foolish. How did that come out? Where did it come from? My vows bound me. My oaths had been given. My life was delivered already to the Great Lord. I had no business here. I walked on. In my mind, I repeated my vows. I chanted them faster and faster, harder and harder, until it was a buzz in my head that drowned out all else. I closed my eyes, to absorb it into myself.

Everything passed across my closed eyes. In flashes. The first time I saw a man bleed. The first time I saw how everything would reduce to ashes in the end. My first inference: Nothing was worth anything. Everything is ash. The first time I reduced something to ash. The first time I prayed after that, and achieved tranquility with my brothers. Prayers. My mind went backwards. The first time I visited a mosque. The first memory of holding my mother’s hand and running to a market. The first time I kicked a football. The first time I laughed till my sides hurt for absolutely no reason at all. The time I rolled on the floor of my house, laughing and giggling with delight, without any cares or fears. The first gunshot, the next day. The ashes again. The dust that has never left me since.

I opened my eyes. I didn’t realize I’d been panting. I calmed my breath, and looked around. One of the kids was here. He was looking at me, peering as if I was some kind of monster. Seeing me watch him, he ran off. Some kind of monster? Yes. That’s what he probably thought. Its what I would have thought at his age. An age of monsters, magic, green, blue, winds and…and rolling on the floor without a care in the world.

Was I the monster then? But –

Are you going to just stand there, or come over already? Itna wakt nahi hai ab. Hand me the bag.

He unpacked the contents and with the efficiency of a professional, which he was, set it up in under two minutes. The countdown read 30 seconds.


We knelt before it. Now we had to pray. That’s all. In very little time, everything would be over, and our cause completed. Our parts in the grand scheme of the war would be finished, and our glory infinite.

We knelt and began to pray.


Was I a monster really? I didn’t want to be. I had never thought it like that. I hadn’t wanted that. I hadn’t really wanted anything. I only wanted to live on those green patches. I hadn’t wanted anything before. And I wanted to laugh. So long since I’d laughed. I envied those children, born in a nation without strife, without trouble. No riots? No fighting? No mass murders? Well, none until now at least. This would bring them to that. This would tear them and their laughter and…and…make them like me.


Like me? Like me? Oh God. Oh God!


I remember running. I don’t remember getting up, in the middle of prayers, an act worthy of death by itself. But I remember running. And screaming at the top of my voice. I don’t think they understood me. At times such as these, every person reverts subconsciously to his native tongue. But I remember I screamed – I want to live! Please. I want to live!

But things aren’t like that now. I am here. Above the devastated remains of the park, I float. I don’t know if I’m alive. I don’t know if I ever died. There’s my patch of grass. It’s still green. Maybe I’ll lie down here for a while. All this noise of cars, ambulances, the screaming people, the weeping injured I do not like. I’ll just lie here awhile, and try to stay forever. It’s quiet in my corner.

Nishant Jain