Highly Commended Story - A Quest for Peace
“A Quest for Peace” by Ibtihal Iftikhar, International School of Pakistan, Kuwait, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Ibtihal Iftikhar is a curious and energetic girl, fueled by her passion in writing to produce beautiful poems and stories. She is inclined towards art as well, and has a knack for public speaking. She loves spreading her poems and stories, and tries to incur good morals through them. She is enthusiastic about learning, and loves reading like no other, her favourite books being “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, and “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Exploring different topics and venturing on various venues of knowledge and learning are her favourite pass times.
A Quest for Peace
June 22, 1757
The wind laughed in my face and screamed in my ear. That moment is all I’ve to live for. But strangely, the empty feeling I expect isn’t there. There’s content, even staring at that wreckage. Sometimes, the journey teaches you way more than the destination...
9th June, 1755
Today is a memorable day. For I’ve found a way to give vent to my feelings.
Today, I begin my diary. My life is pretty common, ordinary things that happen to timid homemakers and mothers like me. At least, they think I’m timid, but in truth I’m really adventurous. France, however, is not a good place to be adventurous. It’s the age of change, the industrialization age. As part of a wealthy family, my kids and I have everything we could possibly ask for, except content. Say what anyone might but living with children who held triumph in the suffering of others, and are more or less overwhelmed with luxury, certainly isn’t my idea of well living. Knowing these children are raised by you obviously makes it infinitely worse. This is getting way too much for me.
September 5, 1755
I’d a dream today, something holding great significance to me. I held the voice of the sky inside me, materialized, seeing it my mind’s eye as a tangible thing.
“Journey to the land of the river Indus, and find your ideal life.”
I started, to the bleak light coming through the crack of the shutters and into my room. The river Indus....
I’ve immense respect for dreams, but I’m not going to go across the world seeking a land the sky told me to seek. It might not even be real. I know as much that dreams are a manifest of subconscious wishes of the heart, and this is certainly something I’m wishing for.
I don’t have time for these conspiracy theories right now. There’s a party I have to attend. An evening dinner for the elite class members of the society. To tell the truth, even I don’t know more than this.
September 6, 1755
The party came and went, like other things in life. I was tired, of endlessly looking at people who only gave a shrug of their shoulders to everything in life. Where’s the fight? The will? The stairs to climb? They’re those, who after reaching a landing, never bother about the extra floor. My kids’ father, thanks to heaven, is at least milder in such aspects. I certainly consider myself lucky. But he too, is caught up in the material life; I know it’s for our best.
October 9, 1755
I desperately need change, and he can see it too. Today, I spoke up. I told him, I needed to go somewhere, anywhere, just away from this country suffocating me. The dear man gave me the means freely, the only question was... where?
Where do I go?
Then it hit me.
He keeps telling me, it’s hardly ideal, the journey’s much too tiring to be ideal as a holiday. I persisted.
I prepared for the journey. The land of the river Indus. Where I’d see peace.
I am determined.
It’s going to be difficult trusting people along the way...
October 15, 1755
Oh! inevitable tragedies, those that leave a drastic mark and interrupt countless journeys.
Paris has been shaky ever since the division of classes became the basis of ruling.
It’s resulting in many drawbacks. Like the bank crashing. I kept my money. I’m not going to let go of my dream, not now. We’re moving to smaller home. The kids are unbearable. I’m eager more than ever to find my peace. But I’ll have to wait...
June 16, 1775
Finally, after a year, I’m able to resume my journey! Though things are getting worse in France, English industries are expanding rapidly, and the means of crossing the ocean to the East Indies have become much easier.
June 19, 1775
I embarked upon the ship; a pleasant journey awaited. The sea breeze was exceedingly refreshing.
It was a glorious holiday resort style journey, but I wasn’t prepared for the devastation I met at “The land of the Indus”.
I’m a year too late. A lot can happen in a few moments, let alone a whole year. There are gaunt and haggard faces everywhere, working like slaves under British government. The invasion has come to pass.
I am forced to spend a few days at this land which completely baffles me. Never again will I believe in dreams. Not soon anyway.
June 22, 1775
Today something horrifying happened. Today occurred what I call ‘The Battle of Devastation’. It started out as a peaceful protest, and as fate would have it, in the particular area where I hold temporary residence.
It turned into a bloody fight. It lasted just a few minutes, the troops having the upper hand, and in a matter of minutes, devastation reigned the streets. It was awful; words fail to describe it.
And there I was all alone, kneeling among the wreckage, when I saw him. The little boy. His father just died fighting alongside the British troops. It’s not for me to say which side is on the good and visa-versa, but this boy has nothing to do with it. He’s just the aftermath of such doings.
I’ve taken him in, and learned through him the meaning of my dream. He tells me his parents resided here when the land was free, and there was content all around them. People were enjoying absolute freedom, much of the time had their basic needs and weren’t spoiled by materialism; it never reached them till yet. He was a happy boy, alone with his father.
Now he has no one...
He is a darling little boy. What should I do?
June 23, 1775
Today, I took the biggest decision of my life. I went to the French consular and legally adopted him. I know my family won’t mind, and am reassured by the replying telegram.
Needless to say, I have found my peace. It is within me, and within the boy. He could really teach my kids a thing or two, as a great elder brother.
Peace is created from within. Though sometimes I still feel, some outside cooperation wouldn’t hurt too.