Highly Commended Story - Senior Category
“Live And Let Live” by Adithiyan Rajan Indira Saravanan, JSS International School, UAE, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2018.
ADITHIYAN RAJAN, a 16-year-old, is an exceptional student and an environmentalist at his core. He is a true, responsible citizen of tomorrow, who constantly and tirelessly works towards accomplishing his life mission of achieving environmental sustainability and international peace. Being a natural leader, he has taken various steps, from planting trees, speaking to over 4500 people about sustainable development, writing newspaper articles, organising donation drives for the needy and volunteering his time and money to various charities in order to make his dream a reality. He has won THE INTERNATIONAL DIANA AWARD, a prestigious global award.
Live And Let Live
That day I realized that loss is the greatest pain of life.
I had known him since our childhood, which I dearly cherish. He was a boy of unbounded bravery. A man who defines the fine characteristics of a man. His name was synonymous with utter virtue. He was a man of plain goodness....!
I always had a strong but uncomfortable feeling that he was just too good to live on such a planet that is filled with jealousy, greed, and sorrow. And once again, my instinct turned out to be bitterly true when we received the word of his death during his service as a soldier.
I rushed to his place to find his wife sobbing and his two little kids staring at her in confusion. My friend’s mother, who was the strongest woman I have met in my life, was very uncharacteristically staring into the darkness in anguish. I watched as the children’s grandfather tried to simplify the demise of their beloved hero. The girls burst into tears even before the old man could complete his polished explanation. “I am sure that no bullets would have hit him as hard as his daughters’ tears.” None of them could cope up with such horrific news and it didn’t look like they would recover from grief in a hundred years. The house was suffocating with despair, grief and naïve shock. How the house had changed from what it used to be!
That day, I understood that war doesn't just kill people or knock down buildings. It internally destroys those related ones who live on afterwards. In fact, it is those dear ones who suffer more than the soldier himself.
I recall the time we coincidentally conversed about all this before he was conscripted. “In truth, it is just legal genocide,” he said, with such seriousness. “Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger, they do not have to fight the war. They merely have to sell the war to a public who's willing to send their soldiers to die. And then you have men who are willing to kill and be killed without second a word, almost like emotionless machines.”
As time passed, his wise words made more sense. In one of his letters addressed to me, he described how certain people profit from human suffering. “All they care about is expanding their wealth and controlling the world economy,” he wrote. “We soldiers now realize that we have more in common with our opponents at war than we do with the people who send us to this cursed battlefield.
My heart still sinks deep inside when I think about him. Occasionally, I even lose myself contemplating about him for hours. Oh, how I miss my dear friend! Yet, from time to time, I feel that such a man was better off dead. If he were to live, I know that he wouldn’t find peace. He wouldn’t have the heart to be happy knowing that he had killed thousands and thousands of innocent lives for no apparent or logical reason. He couldn’t live with the fact that his actions traumatized children, tormented mothers, drove away families from their homes, tortured men, destroyed cities, antagonised people and killed sentient human beings.
Another parade was held in the city to celebrate the grey victory. The people that gathered didn’t have the slightest idea of what war meant, yet they came. When I saw our soldiers marching, I thought about their families, hopes, dreams, their future and how all of that would mean nothing if war beckons them. What was the point of victory of a nation at the cost of the defeat of mankind and disappearance of humanity?
As I walked down the road, I saw a family, filled with joy in their eyes, celebrating the victory of the country. At that moment, I thought of how peculiar it is that mankind’s selfishness extends to the mourning dead too. We only depress ourselves with our own losses without the least concern of others. Maybe if we did not lack this essential quality, all wars would come to an end. Even better, peace would prevail.
Although it was true agony, that day taught me things that no other experience would have. It woke me up and made me realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land. They're not some people whose names we don't know or religions and cultures we don't understand. The real enemy is the system that encourages ignorance and greed while suppressing the elemental virtue of morality. Our enemy is not many miles away, it is right here inside our heads. If we clean our thoughts and open our minds to the idea that all of humanity is the same, that suffering is as painful for others as it is for us, we can undoubtedly stop all violence and war. We can genuinely create a brighter and better world. Mankind’s failure will not be due to his disability to find solutions to new problems but it will be the fact that he creates more and more problems while rejecting simple solutions.
Now I realize that ignorance, greed, ego, jealousy and arrogance are the greatest sin and the loss of lives because of these sins is the greatest pain of all. The best way to overcome this would be to live and let others live.