An Unsolicited War

There I was, bright and early as the beams of the sun lit up the path, walking to get breakfast. Hoping I was not too early, I slowed my pace and looking around as I walked to appreciate the environs. Although I have seen the trees and the canal a million times before but never at this golden hour when the sun was at its happiest and the birds singing it tunes.

As I continued on this tranquil stroll, it wasn’t long before the tranquility was cut short. In fairness, when has tranquility ever been uninterrupted. I stumbled upon a can, immediately I knew for certain this had to be a littered can of beer as this was certainly not the first time I tripped over beer cans. Before I continued along like no big deal, the corner of my eye had captured an image of what this beer can was, a tear gas canister.

The tear gas canister disguised as a beer can

“Are we at war?”, I thought to myself as I bent over to pick it up. The fear took the better of me quick, I felt my weight drop and the shivers down my spine. I had in my hand a tear gas canister, but I could not feel it, my hands were numb with the fright in me, however, the panic in me soon wore off as I realised that this was an exploded canister. This was a first for me, seeing and even holding one, previously I only ever heard of it in the news reports in the most distant of towns hundreds of kilometres away. Never would I have thought it would eventually reach my doorstep within yards.

I checked my rickety cheap watch through the shattered glass, the time was 8:05AM. “Time does fly fast”, I thought to myself, just 5 minutes ago it was 7:50AM as I remember, not realising that I was so invested in this can I had discovered. Tossing it aside and walking towards bakery, terrifying thoughts ran past the back of my mind but were only fuelled as I walked past a dozen more tear gas canisters ahead. “Are we really at war”, I thought to myself again, this time out loud. This was my bubble of thought till I set foot into the bakery.

I greeted the baker with a slightly despondent hello and asked for the usual, a loaf of unsliced bread, the cheapest option for my family. I picked up the loaf of bread before handing him Rs. 100 and then proceeded to walk out. “It’s 170!” I heard the baker yell behind me. “Since when?” I asked confusedly but it did come off in a defiant tone. The baker then explained that the price had skyrocketed since last night, but I had to explain that I only had what I had given him.

Understandingly, he let me off as I was a regular expecting me to return the balance I owe him, but deep down I knew I had no way of doing so neither did my parents. I headed back home, well some called it a shed, but it was still home to me. I opened the decaying old wooden door made off a tabletop. I stepped inside into the square all-in-one shed and explained the price concern.

My home – a shed to someone else

I saw grief in my parents’ eyes, the grief of not being able to provide for their children, the grief of being in a war they never signed up for, the grief of skyrocketing cost of living and the grief of knowing that they cannot sustain this household. We were stuck and we had no where to go. The paddy harvest that we relied on did not exist and savings were draining fast. I could not stand seeing the suffering of my parents as their soul ripped apart day by day.

As I munched on the bread I just brought with a side of nothing, flying in came a can of beer. Again, it wasn’t. In a matter of seconds, I could see nothing and I was tearing up like I had never before. All I could hear were screams of a war that was happening at our doorstep, a war we never signed up for and a war I could only pray to come out of safe.

Penned By: Rtr. Ibraheem Rifthie (Co-Editor 2021-22)

Edited and published by: RACSLIIT Editorial Team 2021-22

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