ORCHESTRA OF THE GUNSHOTS

Myself Bir Jung- a mild-white average teenager. I was probably in the best days of my life but never realized it. As a teenager, you’d expect freedom, peers, movies, dating, drinking, and having sex, exploring sexuality, falling in love. Hallmarks every teenager experiences, but the conditions are not the same all around the globe. Especially when you’re born at the time when civil war has been rooted into the nation and is just growing bigger and wider; all sorts of those delights seem taken away. When you have to spend your whole day in fright, and you have no idea how will you survive tomorrow, you’ll realize what life is all about. Conditions are even worse for the people who have lost their loved ones. And there’s hardly anyone that can adequately understand it all rather than me.
Things were not the same before but all those terrible experiences have taught me the real values of being alive. I live in a place which once used to be a central socio-cultural hub of the state but now is ruined as hell. Most of the people have shifted away. And those who live there are just like me, broken in each and every part that makes us a human. I mean to say a real human with real human ethics, not the clones or robots with no feelings. I live in my house alone and I am practicing to survive on my own. And to tell you I’m just sixteen years old. I don’t have friends and, the neighbors I have, we don’t talk usually. Through years I’ve learned to enjoy the days, find thrills in the midst of emptiness and to stand firm on myself. Just because you belong to that place doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Each of my days passes with something creative and fun. I now love the way I am and the way I’m going through, the conditions I’ve to suffer through. Every evening I go down the hill, to the river bank, to spend some minutes, lift up my soul and return back home.

As usual, walking up the hill, I saw something totally unusual and a rarely possible action for a normal human being. Down the highway, a man in a wheelchair was giving all his effort to ride it past the tunnel. Though I was far and my sight was blurry, I could still feel his determination and self-courage. I stopped for a while and gazed upon his spunk. Despite being physically disabled, he was at least trying and not giving up. That time, I realized that we are never bound by abilities, we are bound by courage. But by then, nocturnal bells had already rung up and the door of the tunnel was closed. He turned his wheelchair towards the emergency way. While turning, one of the wheels slipped and got struck by two solid rocks. Next to it was a 30 feet deep gorge.

I got restless and ran immediately down the hill to the place where he was striving for life with all his might. When I reached out to him, he acted as if his life was in my hands. His state of mind turned immediately from fright to total relief. It was the first experience for me seeing somebody that conscious about me being by his side. I took his wheelchair out of the rocks. I could see fresh scars and stains of blood all over his body. I decided to bring him home.
On the way back home, light rain flurry and the icy gusts of wind tickled pink my nerves. The view of the first drops of rain striking the ground and the smell of earth hitting my senses was so satisfying. It’s not that I had never seen a rainfall before or smelled the earth, but this case was totally different. For the very first time, I was there as someone’s ultimate hope. I had never experienced how it feels like to be somebody else’s guardian angel until now. Looking at him so relieved, anyone could feel the vibes floating around my nerves. With mixed sentiments of pity for him and self-gratification for myself, I finally ended up being at home.
Eight in the night and we were on the front door of an old house battered with the vibrations and sounds of bombardments. I opened the front door, turned on the lights and brought him in. Seeing no one inside the home, he got amazed or rather confused. He tried to discover about me but I thought he needed primary cure first. I gave him a hot bath. I then applied some home remedies to the cuts and bandaged them. I served him a cup of hot soup. He was a little relaxed then. Seeing him so comfortable lying on my bed, I, at a moment, discovered it was nicer to be with someone rather than being alone. Well, people say “No man is an island”. I knew that well. But what can you do when there’s no one for you.

To tell you more about myself; I was never the person I am now. I once had a small loving family. I was the only child of my parents. My father was an army officer. My mother was a housewife. Before civil war began, life was going great. We lived a standard life. My father used to come home every Saturday leaving barracks and we used to have loads of fun in the parks and in river banks. The places were usually crowded but they didn’t look ugly; rather they looked colorful and attractive. The river bank was famous for birds. Every time we went there, we used to hear their songs. It was when I was about seven years old. Even though my father couldn’t be with us every day, we shared a tight bonding as a family.
And then the war took its wheel. My father got assigned in a war field. After those days, life never remained the same. He would barely get some time to spend with us. Even though his salary was good, it couldn’t give us the protection and love as it was in his presence. Life was going smooth but there always remained a void; a scarcity of his presence. Years passed and it became habitual.
When I was about to begin my tenth year here on earth, the war pedaled its accelerator. Not even a single day passed without the sounds of firing. A place where once birds held their orchestra was now having concerts of gunshots. People had already started losing their loved ones. It was pretty deep for a child like me. As my birthday was coming near, mom wrote a letter asking my father to come home for the celebration. But the day before my birthday I got a surprise gift at my door; a six-foot long wooden box decorated with medals and flowers. My mom couldn’t handle that big surprise neither did I. She was unconscious for days and I cried a lot. I didn’t even know what to do. I was alone there, afraid and helpless.
As the days passed, the trauma we got that day slowly healed. But still, it was not something we could easily forget. My mom got a chance to work in the barrack. She had to clean the rooms, grounds and other stuff. It was hard for her. Just for me, she took it all by herself. I couldn’t even help her. Being an army’s wife and a single mom, she had to suffer severe emotional harassments. Some of the informers of the terrorist group were keeping an eye on her. We knew it and it was so frightening. We used to cry a lot holding each other. We have worn out already and the war scenarios made us even wearier. I was still a child but I wanted to help her. I too wanted to work. But who would give a ten-year-old boy a job? I had started feeling frustrated already. Everyday life was so hard and unmanaged. We were not living, we were just surviving.
A particular day, I returned from school and mom was not home. I checked in the barrack too, she was not there either. When I asked a neighbor, her eyes were full of tears. She put her hand on my head and so pitifully grabbed me in her arms. I became restless. I was told she got kidnapped and nobody knew where she was taken. I fainted.
When I opened my eyes, I was in one of the child care centers inside the barrack. There were many kids like me. You’d expect noises, fun when thinking about a hall full of children. But in reality, there was a pin-drop silence. Nobody talked. Our little mindsets were so devastatingly hit by the situations. It was like a prison for me. I sobbed and mourned for my parents for days. I wished I had died earlier, or rather even not born. I spent my days in regrets and frustration. Slowly I was changing into a person that loved loneliness. I didn’t want to be there in the crowd. I hated it, I hated everything.

One day I escaped the care center and rushed towards my home. It was abandoned and carelessly left. I did clean the house and went in. There was nothing we left, not even a single memory. I lied down there feeling so heavy. After seeing me living in my own house, my neighbors appealed to the barrack and provided me with the things I needed. I started living on my own. An eleven years old kid that didn’t even know how to cook was trying to survive alone while other children of my age were afraid just to sleep alone. You can guess how tough I had been built. I was following no one but my inner voice alone. A month passed; nothing to gain, I felt I was living in vain.
Life is not just about being born, letting your days somehow pass, waiting for tomorrow and finally dying. You need excitements to live on; you need somebody to lean on. And I was an idiot trying to live for nothing. There was no driving force that encouraged me to live; for whom I had to live? And everything around me was screaming out loud that death was the only remedy. I thought those who died in war must’ve been happier than me. As these thoughts were playing in my mind, I decided to end up my life. If there’s no outcome, why investing your life at a place where you’ve lost everything. I decided to end it all; all the sorrows, heartbreaks, everything. I was glad to go, finally, there would be no more suffering.
On a particularly cold evening when I was searching for the ways to end up my life, I suddenly thought of my family. I remembered how my father served the nation. Everything was flashing in front of my eyes like a movie. I had seen him leaving all of his belongings and serving people. Giving all of his life, even sacrificing his family; he did it all for us, for others. And there was a different happiness in his eyes. I saw my mother working with all her might for me, for our future. I questioned myself, “Did they live their life for their selves, alone?” I got only one answer and that was telling me ‘no’. Even the terrorists were fighting for a change, and it was not just for them. They thought it was for everyone. I asked my heart if at this point I died, will I be able to make my parents feel proud. Didn’t they bear everything on their own for me, for our better future?
I was constantly dreaming of my death but now I knew death was no dream at all. “What good will it does if I died now?” I asked myself. I had already lost everything. I had nothing, that’s why I had got nothing to lose. From now on if I lived, there was to gain and gain alone. Because I was already empty, no one could take anything from me. Many didn’t get a chance to have this life I was living. Even my father wanted to live. He had plans for our future too, but he didn’t get to live. But I’m here alive and well. I suffered all those things and stood firm and after bearing it all why did I have to die? I acted bravely through those heartbreaks, but when all of it ended I was going to act so cowardly.
I decided to live. I decided the rest of my life to make the best of my life. I wanted to be the one carrying my parents’ dream, the one who lived for others. There I understood the value of life. I wanted to explore humanity. I wanted to become a better human. All of a sudden I was filled with positive vibes. I got overwhelmed with satisfaction. Without even having my dinner, I slept. After ages, I slept well.
The next day, as I had decided to live didn’t mean the situations would change. There was still a war going on. People still were mourning and grieving. Life was still tough. But this time I had an utter will to live. So I moved on. I started exploring myself, exploring nature and exploring humanity. And luckily I had got a chance to work. At least I got a way to spend my days and keep myself busy. I always wanted to help people but couldn’t. I knew I was in the process of being molded. I believed a moral man was coming out of me. Years passed and a brand new ‘me’ was born.
Life was once again going normally until the day I met the man in the wheelchair. That night we had a little introductory conversation. His name was Agni. He didn’t tell much about him. He was injured and seemed like he had got bullets fired in his leg. But it was nothing but a normal case for a war zone. I let him rest.
The next morning, I gave him breakfast. He wanted to know more about me. I opened myself and told him about everything I experienced in the past days. He just couldn’t cry but I felt his heart being so heavy. I too asked about him but he didn’t tell. I took that easy.
But in the noon, he called me to the room. He said he wanted to tell more about him. As I had been true to him, he also told me his truth. And you know truths are always bitter. He was one of the commanders of the terrorists. According to him during a firing, he got shot and was kept in army’s control. He was somehow able to escape along with some of his friends. But his condition was worse already, he couldn’t walk. They provided him with a wheelchair and all of them parted ways. He wanted to leave the city but couldn’t. His life was in my hands, literally. He too knew it and told me to behave with him as I wanted.
I was silent, rather empty. I couldn’t decide what to do. I asked him what they wanted. With tears, he started sharing his story too. He was a normal man. He had a family with kids like me. But the autocratic government had oppressed him for being a lower class person. He couldn’t help himself neither could he see his family suffer. He took a big decision. He joined the rebel force and ignited a war that would bring freedom as he thought.
We both were somehow on the equal ground. The war had affected everyone, even those who started it. He and I both were alone struggling for life. We both had our own agendas to live for others. We both were striving for a better future, for freedom. We both had deep cuts inside our hearts. We both had wanted peace and equality. But the ways of approach were different, completely opposite.
I didn’t want to surrender him to the army. I wanted to let him free from my hands. That day was a heavy day for me. Never before had I been placed in a situation like this. I didn’t know if I did it right, but I had followed my heart.
Early in the dawn next day, the army raided our place. He got caught. I couldn’t help it. I knew he was going to die or sentenced for a lifetime. Later on, I discovered he was the one involved with my father’s death. I got torn apart again. At a moment I hated myself for helping a person who killed my father. But later on, my conscience told me I did right. The human ethics I had discovered through the years told me I did what I needed to do. I felt bad for him; I really did. This was not the ending I wanted for him. I wanted him to live, to be free. Because somewhere in the other corner of the state; a child was going to cry for his father’s demise, a woman was going to suffer as my mom did. I didn’t want his children to experience the things I did. I was empty again. With a heavy heart, I watched him being out of my vision.
I wish it will all end one day and I will be able to breathe in peace. As after the dark night comes a bright morning; I wish the country will rise once again. I pray that the river banks will be filled with the songs of birds again. I wish people will find a better solution to the problems. I wish generations after me will never experience it. But they are not just going to be a wish, they are going to happen; I wish.

Even to this date, many cities are being destroyed by war. Many lives have been lost. And there are still millions of children like Bir Jung all around the globe suffering from that trauma.

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