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Spurti Spurti

Drama Tragedy Others


Spurti Spurti

Drama Tragedy Others

Dragons And Daring

Dragons And Daring

10 mins

 “Dragons aren't real. They do not exist. Stop dreaming about mindless things, and get to your studies. You have an exam to study for!” - retorted his mother when Axial asked her about these fictional creatures for the hundredth time. Axial looked down in dejection. Axial was a sweet kid. He had no unreasonable demands, and he rarely ever troubled his mum. He just had a curious fascination, one that began in his early years of childhood. Axial loved dragons! Nobody knew what caused the beginning of his infatuation with the mythical beast, but ever since he could remember, he had loved listening to Chinese folklore. He also had a penchant for drawing dragons, and colouring them green, red, and orange.

Suzy was seated at the swing in the balcony. The steaming cup of tea lay untouched at her side, as she looked out into the wilderness. She unknowingly twirled her hair as she looked out into the horizon. Just the way she had been twirling it the day they met. 

The day they met…

It was a supremely dusty day. And this group of journalism students from Steven's College had arrived at their destination. They were to interact with Army members and experience living life on the edge. Suzy didn't know whether to be excited or repulsed. She loved her course of study, but she wasn't too fond of the physical labour that Journalism took, much less being among very few women in the midst of hundreds of men. She knew she had no reason to worry. But hundreds of prying eyes made her wary, and she realised that a lot of these men of those eyes could be lusting after her. She raised the collar of her jacket and zipped up completely. Her long black hair was interspersed with streaks of red, a sightly mess, and her face, a picture of concentration. She was a student leader, and it was her job to keep her group of 15 organised and alert. Suzy wasn't a gadget freak, while other students always recorded their info and learning in tablets and laptops, Suzy still found that a hard bound leather journal held more appeal. She had researched extensively and enlisted a whole lot of concepts to cover.

Once the group of 15 were shown to their quarters, Suzy and her mates got busy unpacking and freshening. Their stay was to be short and eventful, just as efficient as the people who had planned it. They had all been allotted dormitories in the officers quarters. It had everything they would need, nothing less, and nothing more. Precisely 45 minutes after their arrival, they were invited to tea, and they were told that they could begin to interact with the officers in the enclave.

An enthusiastic yell was considerably muted down owing to the disciplinarian surroundings, and the students walked to the officers' mess. Their faces hardly concealing their excitement. On their arrival in the hall, they were introduced to the fourteen officers present, all of whom smiled genially in polite acknowledgment. Suzy assigned groups to all her students and gave a quick round of introductions. She saw to it that all her group mates found an officer to begin their interviews. As she waited for her turn, she walked to the end of the counter and picked her cup of tea, and made a small diary note, one of self-satisfaction. She had a habit of gulping tea, steaming hot. A habit acquired by her mother. When she turned to face the room, she saw that there was a new officer-entrant, standing near the long French windows scrutinising the parade ground. She realised that this was her chance to get started on the project, and she rushed forward. 

She noticed the slender yet muscular figure even before she approached him. The dusky hands, clasped at the back were rough and steady. "Excuse me, Sir? Would you care to sit down for an interview with me?". Jae turned swiftly and did bow his head, "But of course, Madam. Shall we?" Suzy was momentarily disconcerted. Never had a man had the audacity to look straight into her eyes while conversing. This was new. Boys usually fawned over her, and twiddled with furniture, their clothes, or their hair while talking to her.

As they sat at the small table, she studied his face. He was not too fair, and had a slightly sun-burnt complexion. His chin was held high, managing to remain authoritative yet not arrogant. She suddenly realised that he was younger than the other officers. His personality had a certain smartness, that she hadn't encountered in men of his age. He had addressed her as madam. She found that oddly disturbing.

"What would you like to start with, Madam?".

 "How old are you?!" She burst forth before she could control it. "Oops" She added with a grin. 

His unusually serious face turned into a grin. "Ah, we're playing this game are we?" 

"No, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to.. Please don't answer that." she whimpered, embarrassed. 

"I'm 29. And it's a perfectly normal question to ask. A man should have no problem with his age."

"Ah, I'm 24" said Suzy with a smile. She wasn't really sure why she did that. Her mind had just blanked out. This was rare. When no response was forthcoming, she opened her leather-bound diary and began to look for her questions. She was fiercely confidential about the journal that she maintained with a lot of care. 

Jae couldn't help but notice leaves, petals, and a few lines of poetry. "Tell me about your role here," said Suzy. Jae gave her a well-rehearsed response. Suzy took notes about relevant points and smiled. This wasn't what she wanted. She realised that she'd really need to gain his trust if she wanted the story she was looking for. Jae's voice faded and she realised he was looking at her twirling her hair. She blushed. She knew that if it weren't for her journalism background, he'd hardly have any patience with her. 

She looked around to make sure that her teammates were doing all right and looked into Jae's eyes. "It's too stuffy in here. Can we step out, please?"

“ Of course. I'd be happy to show you around our campus.” She noticed a certain pride in his voice.

They strolled towards the barracks, the ground, and the bunkers. She was genuinely interested and her curiosity took the better of her. Jae was only happy to answer her doubts. After what seemed like a long time, Suzy asked him what was really on her mind. "Why did you join the armed forces?" This time, there was a pause. She noticed the shift in his posture, he strained to look over the horizon where the sun was beginning to set and said matter of factly, "Both my parents were in the armed forces. They died in service. I couldn't be anywhere else, but here." The sincerity in his voice called out to Suzy. "I'm sorry for your loss" was all she could muster.

They soon turned back to the officer's enclave, where they had a buffet dinner waiting. Suzy was now introduced to all the other officers, and after selecting the food, she took it to the farthest corner, close to the window and sat. Her mind was abuzz with emotions. She was pleasantly surprised that Jae was walking towards her table, more so when he took the seat next to her. 

"We don't have a lot of civilians coming in. I'd be more than delighted if you told me about your story" he stated. Suzy grinned. "There's nothing more than meets the eye. I was born into a family of teachers, and always lived in Bhopal with them. I studied well, got into a good college, and here I am, pursuing my hobby."

"I see that you're not addicted to smartphones. Isn't that rare for your generation?" he asked.

"I'm afraid, we belong to the same generation, Siir", she added for good measure. He chuckled in admission.

 "No, I don't like the idea of smartphones. I'm a fiercely private person. The fact that I've nothing to boast about has always prevented me from being in a relationship with phones, much less people. But I do have a basic phone, that serves its purpose well". Suzy said, matter-of-factly.

Suzy was woken up from her reverie when Kiki, their cat, clambered over the swing and knocked down the now-cold cup of tea. She cursed and shooed the cat away. She'd have to find a rag and clean the mess. She was a stickler for cleanliness. For order, discipline, and all things uniform.

No wonder then... 

Her mind flashed back to the day she met him. Over the course of dinner, they seemed to have acquired a steady interest in each other, and the conversation kept flowing. There was a point when two groups of people looked indulgently at them, afraid to disturb, as dinner had fast approached midnight. The parting was brief. Suzy couldn't stop gushing about Jae, but she never confided the sudden feelings she'd started to have. She had never believed in soulmates. She still didn't. But there was a nagging feeling, that soon, she would. 

The next day passed in a blur of activities, what with the lectures arranged for the entire group from the head of the contingencies. She met Jae only during dinner and they had a long walk in the grounds after. She appreciated the distance and decorum maintained by this fascinating man. This was her last night at the camp, and her mind was torn. As the moon began to hide under thin wisps of clouds, she turned to face Jae in his eyes, and asked him the question that would decide her fate. 

"Will you marry me, Jae?"

There was not a moment’s hesitation in his voice. He must have mulled over it too. "I will, But you need to know, that I'll always be a soldier first, and then a husband".

Their courtship was brief, and after getting Jae to meet her family, they settled in on a simple ceremony. The twenty third of March was a special day for both of them. Although Suzy's family wanted a wedding of grandiose scale, the couple insisted on a court marriage, and simple reception. On the night of the reception, Jae surprised everybody by pulling out a horde of sky lanterns. This was his surprise for the evening. All the lanterns were of a feisty red colour, and had a 5-clawed dragon of green, yellow, and orange running across it. Jae's eyes lit up when he explained the significance of these. "The sky lanterns are the earliest memories I have of my parents. Mom and I had accompanied Dad on a trip to one of his army programs, and they joyously taught me to light and float these into the sky. We lit plenty of them that night, and stood gazing at the sky long after we let them fly. It was a beautiful sight, and a beautiful memory." Suzy caressed his cheeks and held the base of the lantern as he lit it. Together they held hands, and let out the lantern into sky. The guests followed suit, and the sky was a pretty picture of bright floating dragons. 

Those were the days.

The reverie was broken again. Suzy finished cleaning the tea stain and sighed. "You never spoke about being a father, Jae. What role did that fit in?" She wondered in her mind, as she looked at his photo. 

He still looked handsome and smart. A few strands of greying hair adding depth to his character. He really hadn't changed much, except that the frame was now garlanded, and a paste of vermillion applied to his forehead. His smile, a resolute reminder of his service to the nation.

For him, the nation had always come first.

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