Am still looking at that portrait of Jay on the wall. A train of thoughts had taken me 20 years back in time. I realise it was a life in which the unpleasant things weighed a little bit more than the pleasant ones. And the final nail on that was hit today evening when I saw the news on the TV that Sammy had brought in last year. It showed images of the dead bodies of 3 young men covered with a white cloth. I went numb when a photo of the 3rd man was displayed. I was too shocked to scream out. I dont know how long I stood there staring at the screen. I heard the news anchor uttering words like 'educated','terrorist' etc and in between a name called 'Sam' too. Thats when I realised that the word 'service' meant something different to him. I began thinking on where it all went wrong. A little boy who was proud of his father and his country wouldn't get transformed into a cold-blooded criminal overnight. Its not possible to wipe away all that feeling of nationalism in one single moment. I somehow felt that I had failed as a mother and as a citizen of this country.
Having seen many such images in recent times, I was almost sure my son had ended up in a place where he was least expected. Then itself I made the decision to disown him. I didn't want a terrorist's body to be buried in the same land where Jay was laid to rest. I was more angry than sad. If I had one more chance to see Sam, I would've asked him the question, "Why?". At this moment, all my affection for my little Sammy vanished without a trace. I cursed myself for having borne him in my stomach for 9 months and for being his mother for 25 long years. I hanged my head in shame at having played a part in letting down my motherland, for which my beloved Jay had laid down his life. He might be watching from heavens and wondering if he's slipping into illusions even there. Still, even after all this, I would be lying if I said I didn't have even a bit of sadness. Which mother can hate her son with all her heart, whatever be the intensity of the crime he has done?
The next morning, I was startled by the sound of the gate opening. I saw a long line of school kids streaming in, all of them familiar to me from Sam's tuition class. They all had roses in hand. Two of them held a banner which read "We salute you, Sam". I was confused. Why would they hail a terrorist like that or are they just showing their love for their teacher? Thats when I saw the newspaper lying there at my doorstep. The headline read..
"Students storm terrorrist's lair"- '3 art students carried out an attack on a secret camp of terrorists near Anantnag in Kashmir. About 14 terrorists were killed in the attack carried out with grenades and country pistols. In the process, the 3 of them ended up losing their lives. The amateurishness of the attack signifies the fact that this is a sign of common men taking it upon themselves to do a clean up act rather than expect the Government to do something about the growing incidents of terrorism. This incident has struck a chord with lots of youngsters, raising a possibility of more such incidents....."
Before I knew how to react, I saw the kids placing the red rose flowers in front of the tuition room just to the left of our house. I saw tears in some of their eyes and a sense of respect in some others. I cursed myself again for all those thoughts of disowning Sam. How could I, in a fit of confusion and without knowing the facts, brand my Sammy a terrorist? How could I think that of my child who used to say proudly "My father is a soldier. He protects our nation." Why didn't I even give a second thought? As questions started piling up in my mind, a crowd was building up outside our home. As I sat there, I was reminded of that day 20 years back, when we waited for that ambulance. Then, I had little Sammy to fall back on. He was the hope which kept me alive all these years. Now, I have no one to wipe my tears. And I don't have to wipe anyone's tears too. I just have to wipe the dust from two portraits instead of one. They say, 'Every father is a hero to his son'. Jay was more than a hero to his son. When he died, a part of his soul stayed back inside Sam, without leaving earth. Through him, Jay fought on and also kept me company.
I was confused whether my life is a blessing or a curse. A blessing for having a husband and son who sacrificed their lives for the country. A curse for having to live a lonely life after the premature death of my husand and son. But, whatever be the case, I decided then and there to live on rather than to succumb to the lure of a suicide. Jay and Sam will never forgive me if I surrender my life so meekly. I will live on to see more Jays and Sams doing selfless service to their country. I will live on to keep their memories alive. I will live on to tell others "Never quit living". And I'll live on to tell the story of my husband and my son...A father and son who went on to stay alive even in death. As I walk inside, I hear one of those kids asking to his friend "How many enemies did he kill?". Yes, the same question that Sammy asked his Daddy, 20 years back...
PS- So, that was the end of my first story writing endeavour. A big thanks to all those who encouraged me with words of appreciation as well as to those who gave me some constructive criticism. I got the idea of this story after I read the news about a mother in Kerala who said "I don't want his dead body" after her terrorist son was shot dead in Kashmir. I was deeply touched by the courage of that mother who saw the country above her own son. But I didn't want this story to end in such a negative note of a patriotic child turning into a terrorist. So, I built up a fictional story of a father and a son with this plot weaved in between. I dedicate this story to that mother, her courage and her patriotism.
your crusader Praveen