At night, when you are minutes away from falling asleep, between quiet breaths, in the moment when you are most vulnerable, what is that soothes your demons? What is it that reminds you that you are no longer the teenager who broke a girl’s heart? What reminds you that you are no longer the young boy who had declared to his parents that he had to leave to fulfill his life’s purpose?
For Ayaan, it was the lost murmurs of the child sound asleep in the next room. She had hid under the bed on which she was now sleeping when he first brought her home. A glass of milk later, they were best friends.
The news channels were divided when it came to their reaction to demonetization. While some were proclaiming it to be the next step towards an economic crisis, others believed it would bring an end to issues like black money, fake currency and terrorist funding, especially in Kashmir.
Ayaan’s lips tugged upwards at the thought. There really had been a sort of lull for the last two days. The firing had been minimal. When he had stepped out to acquire food supplies, shivering despite the four layers of clothing, a little girl in her school uniform was bawling her eyes out in the middle of the street. Picking her up in his arms, he had dashed towards home, aware that the bullets had no regard for age.
The schools were re-opening tomorrow after two days, having shut down anticipating a negating reaction to the change in policies. Bringing him back to his dark room, he heard the child’s voice through the thin walls, narrating the table of 2. When she finished without any error, Ayaan wished she would remember her parent’s name just as judiciously. But she was going to school tomorrow, and she would reach her true home from there. As sleep began to drown his senses, he sent one last prayer to Allah, for whom Ayaan had given up on his parent’s dreams.
Early next morning while he boiled an egg for her, his heart swelled at the thought of parting with her. But he reminded himself of the day he had moved to Kashmir, choosing a room closest to the schools, so he could escort the lost children of Allah back to their homes. The child was not the first, and will certainly not be the last to lose herself in the wilderness that Kashmir had become.
Taking comfort from his purpose, he slipped in a little present in her school bag before taking her hand in his and locking his front door to leave for her school. At the school entrance, Ayaan almost did not let her hand go. When she looked up at him with the clearest eyes he had ever seen and asked,
“I will see you again, won’t I?”
He let her hand go, tightened the muffler around her neck, and said,
“We will meet again.”
Elated, she ran inside giggling with a friend she had found. His heart smiled at her retreating figure. Taking ten steps backwards, he implored the almighty to take care of her and turned his back towards the school. From his pocket, he removed a remote control and pressed a button. The building behind him erupted in flames as he began the long walk back home.