Story Contest 2019 #1 - Highly Commended Stories »

Highly Commended Story - The Paradoxical Paradise

“The Paradoxical Paradise” by Payaswini Singh, O.P.Jindal School, Savitrinagar, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2019.

Payaswini is an optimistic girl, currently studying at O.P.Jindal School, Savitrinagar Colony, India. She prefers reading non-fictions. According to her, stories are about feeding one’s emotions and feelings into the characters of the story and that is the factor which makes her story look more realistic. She is inspired by her English teacher, who changed her perspective towards literature and readily helped her out of her curiosities. Payaswini has an inquisitive nature and wants to pursue journalism. She dreams of a world without conflicts, violence, war and differences and she will pick her pen for the same!

The Paradoxical Paradise

“Agar firdaus bar roo-e-zameen ast hameen asto hameen asto hameen ast (If there is a paradise on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here)” declaimed Aalif’s father with shining bright eyes. Aalif, who was part of this paradise for nine years always adored this couplet.....Yes, they lived in the beautiful valley of Kashmir. “Paradise!!!!” wondered Aalif whose life was as uncommon as a common child’s in Kashmir. The only ‘paradise’ he knew was his beautiful home, which shielded him from all the bullets, pellets and stones, where he lived with his al hafathah (guardian angels), his abba (father) and ammi (mother).

It was the month of August, a beautiful day in the very ‘paradise’ of earth. Aalif was exhilarated and electrified, charging up all around his small ‘paradise’ (his home) and the reason was obvious... the approaching Eid.

“Waiting for your Eidi (money given to children as gift on Eid), son? Or is it sewaiyan (a dessert) which makes you much excited?” mocked Syed, Aalif’s father.

“Well you my consider them as some good reasons” approved Aalif with a smile “but” added Aalif “I like Eid because that’s the only day when I don’t witness much of the protests, bullets and violence, and moreover I am allowed to go out of the house and run on the streets....why can’t all the days be like that?” Aalif was confused. Syed burying his pain deep inside, smiled.

Gazing at the window pane Syed still wonders of the injustice the beautiful valley has been experiencing since the last few decades. The reminiscent of deadly massacre and exodus which the valley has witnessed shakes him up. He doubts whether this jannat (paradise) deserved the ‘hell’ like conditions.

Dragging himself out of the incessant thoughts, he looks back at his 9 year old son who was looking much attractive in his pheran (traditional clothes worn by Kashmiri), deliberately waiting for an outing, which he was promised.

“Just two more days, abba” Aalif’s chirping voice revealed his restlessness.

Aalif with all his agility, strength and enthusiasm stormed to the only bus stand of his village. Syed and Aalif boarded a public bus from their small village of Jalsheri to Baramulla, the nearest town. Aalif as usual rushed to the window seat while his abba was still getting the tickets. A steady but gentle breeze touched his cheeks, an experience which Aalif always longed for. His inner joy was interrupted when he saw a half demolished and abandoned edifice. “That neither looks like a house nor like a mosque, abba what’s that then??” Aalif asked, pointing towards the edifice.

“It’s a temple! Son” Syed replied.

“Temple??” asked the less experienced, whose life was confined in a small Muslim majority village.

“It’s a place of worship like mosques!” answered Syed.

“But I never saw a mosque broken or demolished, then why this temple?” asked the inquisitive boy.

“The care takers left this place years back, son!” Syed replied.

“Why did the caretakers leave this place??” the curious cat continued

“Because they found better opportunities and a better place to live” said Syed with least confidence and almost no eye contact. Although Syed managed to satisfy Aalif with his lie, he was much reluctant to reveal the worst face of ‘humanity’ to his 9 years innocent son.

“Empty? Because so many fled, ran away,
and became refugees there, in the plains,
where they must now will a final dewfall
to turn the mountains to glass.” Syed could feel Agha Shahid Ali’s pain and deep sense of loss. The lines he often used to recount, thinking of Kahmiri Pandits. Neither the reservation or does the money could compensate the fate they suffered in 80s and 90s. All the violence and injustice he witnessed in this valley stirred him up.

“Baramulla!” shouted the conductor breaking Syed’s deep meditation. They got off the bus and Aalif shopped for the best of attire from his favourite shop. On the way back home he was already tired and felt asleep on his angel’s lap.

The next morning, Syed left for Srinagar early to sell off his produce before Eid. On the other hand, Aalif picked up a mild fever, was it the result of his long tiring day or a premonition??

The sun set but Aalif’s fever did not. Tasleema who was busy taking care of his son realised that it was too late for Syed to return. She enquired her neighbour Wasim, who was Syed’s good friend. It was 11 midnight and Wasim could hardly get any information about Syed. And after some time there was a phone call which shook them all. One of his friends in Srinagar informed that there was a tussle between army and stone pelters in Downtown Srinagar after the Friday prayer. This incident claimed life of 5 civilians, Syed being one of them. Tasleema could not believe her ears.

The next morning, it was drizzling. Aalif wore the same clothes he bought for Eid; the only difference was that, he was going to the graveyard rather than the mosque. Though he was with his father, this time his abba did not answer his questions neither he was going to come home back with Aalif.

Syed’s face hardly explicated peace; he bore the guilt of not being able to do anything about the ‘paradoxical paradise’.

Aalif lost his angel who left his ‘paradise’(his home) forever and was all ready to rest in soil of the ‘paradoxical paradise’ and his soul slept on the lap of His angel who was all set to take him to His Paradise.

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