War-torn life6 mins 161 6 mins 161
The war was disastrous and cruel to my people. To describe how pathetic we felt about ourselves, this was not even our war nor we participated in it. We were dragged into it. Our small independent village lies in between two powerful and influential countries. The thing about countries and their people is that they only care if you are from the same country. The government of the country is also cut from the same cloth. For their political status and administrative power, the two countries often waged war against each other laying waste to our village in the process. One day, out of the blue they realised the sin they were adding up when a documentary was made on our village which portrayed the atrocities and the evil deeds. The documentary became viral in both countries and people came to visit us often and funds were raised in our village's name. No one saw where the funds went as people say it vanished into thin air as years went by. People moved on when our news became old and the war again started but this time with new restrictions on our village. However, the restrictions were just on paper.
I lost my mum to the war, although not literally, it felt like it. She went missing after the enemy soldiers looted our village destroying everything and killing everyone in the process. Soon the two countries signed the peace treaty to avoid any collateral damage and annexed our village to both of the countries separating the village in two and thereby separating a son from his mother. I was later raised by my adopted parents who took great care of me and I turned out to be a fine photographer. I became a war photographer to be precise although wars have started to become extinct. Six days back I got information from my colleagues about a mother who searches for her son. I am uncertain if I should start to hope this time as the separation happened ten years back. I almost decided not to visit her. The reason behind the hesitation is because I don't want my mum to see me with a stranger's eye. However, my foster parents insisted on meeting her.
The last time I met her was after my school. She was in her worn-out ash grey saree with a small black bindi on her forehead. Her elegant hair would be braided till her knees and her warm smile comforted me though we had little food to eat for the day. I wondered if my mum would recognise me. Later that day a woman knocked on our doorstep and introduced herself as Bhoomika. She was accompanied by her colleague and informed they were agents from the Centre for Refugee's Reintegration and Rehabilitation. Both of them looked like clowns from the nearby circus with heavy makeup and short hair with coloured streaks on one of the woman's hair while the other had a coloured hair clip. The woman informed me that she is a part-time writer and requested to be a part of the experience as she wanted to write a cover story on me and my mother.
I found it hilarious and sad that humans always expect something in return when they provide something. The people from my village have seen the worst nature of humans yet they pretend as nothing happened and open their hearts to outsiders. Until that one pure soul decided to write about our village no one really cared about us. The ones who came after the viral documentary lacked purity in their motive as they knew helping us would boost their social life in multiple ways. How is help justified if you did it with multiple motives? Maybe I am just different and this is what help means, a multi-folded motive with publicity intent.
Bhoomika introduced me to her colleague.
"This is Bhavya and she is my camerawoman who would also be travelling with us".
I waved my hand to the camerawoman who stared at me for a second before she extended her arm for a shakehand which she turned into a hug. We travelled in a caravan to meet my mother and Bhoomika bombarded me with questions on the way.
We finally reached the city where my mum lives. Bhoomika informed me that my mum would be meeting with me near the vegetable market and gave me her mobile number. I excused myself and went to the market alone as I wanted privacy when I met my mum after ten long years. I waited in the market for ten minutes after which I lost my patience and dialled her number. The line was not reachable. I started to become nervous and after dialling the number for the 50th time I knew that I was losing my cool. I sat on a nearby bench and started to wait as I counted numbers to calm myself. I waited and waited till I realised there is no one coming to see me. My heart became heavy when I realised there could be a chance that my mum would have died in the bomb blast which happened seven years ago or maybe she was kidnapped by one of the soldiers or maybe the soldiers killed her and disposed of her body.
"Why would a mother keep herself away from her son for ten years. She is either dead or does not want anything to do with me", I thought to myself concluding my fate and the trip.
"May I ask something if you don't mind Akash?", questioned Bhoomika on our way back to my home.
I nodded my head as tears rolled down my cheeks.
"You said you were separated by your mum for ten years. A lot would have changed in ten years. Would you have accepted her in case she got married or had another kid?"
I smiled and said, "Are you kidding me? All of my life the only thing I wanted was to be with my mum. I don't care if she got married to someone or have kids. She is the sweetest and most caring soul who sang lullabies for her baby while he slept. Do you know what hurts more? I don't even know what she looks like anymore as I could not keep her face in my memory for ten years. It's fine if she does not want to meet me. I just… I just wish I at least saw her once so that I can memorise her face and I would not forget again".
I broke down and started to weep. To my surprise, Bhoomika and Bhavya also cried along with me. I first thought they were mocking me but realised they were genuine when I saw tears well up in their eyes.
"I once lost my boy to a war", said Bhoomika after which I screamed in disbelief and hugged her.
She introduced me to her wife Bhavya and said she was reluctant to come all these years to see me as she thought would not accept a lesbian mother.
I wiped my tears and said,
"A son should be blessed to have a mother by his side. But for me… I feel like I am the chosen one because I am going to be loved by not one, not two but three mums".