The bullets rained down from the sky and the bombs went off like firecrackers. A helicopter spewed fire, throwing out more bombs like a confetti paper in a celebration. The elite commando team were ticking off the remaining resistance members like flies.
The resistance folded like house of cards. Expect for a small neighborhood located five minutes in from Asan, where a team of five whippersnappers still wet around the ears made their guerrilla tactics teacher proud, nearly all areas previously controlled by them had fallen into the enemy hands. It was over 36 hours and they were still in control of the area.
It came with a heavy price, however. They were low on everything – the ammo stash was getting cold, and the team leader had to restraint the trigger fingers among them; on the last check the grenade piles had reduced significantly and a stray bullet had sullied their water container. Basically they were down to their last luck. And they knew it. For all it was worth, the team wanted to go out with a bang. Even my mother who was heavily pregnant with me at that time wanted to do so…
Ah, the wonderfully surreal world of dream. The landscape that inspired Dali and melted his clocks (I nearly wrote a word that is the masculine noun of a hen. But I didn’t. Don’t let that stop you imagining what I originally meant. Don’t giggle while at it though). Weird shit like this can only happen in dreams, thankfully.
The resistance leader, my father, was dead against it. Few months earlier, he would’ve been the first in the line to do so. Caught between his hate towards the state, and what could only be called concern towards his wife and his unborn, he sacrificed few precious seconds juggling between these two conflicting stream of thoughts. This indecision cost the team big time.
The elite commando who were monitoring the hideout very closely stormed in like an avalanche. In close quarters, their years of training triumphed over the ragtag team of rebels who excelled at hit-and-run-and-hide but fared poor when the landscape couldn’t come to their bidding. It was the main reason they were losing ground in Tarai, all the while winning more grounds in the mountain.
I couldn’t sense all the reasons for only a team to be present for the glorious last stand (my kid like imagination here is automatically linking the adjective ‘glorious’ to the bloodbath that is the last stand – the crass movie messaging over the years probably is sipping inside my cranium, it seems). The omnipotence of the narrator was denied for me there.
What I know for sure is out of the five remaining rebels, they were able to corner three, while the remaining two fell. No songs were ever recorded for them, no obituaries mentioned their name. Their rights to glory ended there, swiftly; it was expertly written with a bullet in their head. The rest of the team were tried in the court of law (well, and I am speculating here. My omnipotence as a narrator was again denied in this important conjecture).
Something interesting occurs after their arrest – time skip: the mother of all plot device, best friend of all storytellers caught in a lurch and don’t know how to advance the narrative anymore. It’s been used (mostly abused) by writers caught in the crevasse and the deep blue sea everywhere- the best examples are the writers of tv soaps who rely it more than the paratroopers relying on their parachute. My time skip conveniently threw me few years after this commotion when all the heat had died down.
The leader of the resistance, whom now you know as my father, got the blunt of the sentence. Don’t ask me what; my snooping pass was denied again. I’m beginning to suspect if I’m reporting my own dreams. Or am I just narrating the dreams of a butterfly? Of that I am not sure.
Back to the story – my father was pulverized with the yoke of sweet justice. Newspaper the next day were awashed with his photos; editors wrote angry editorials arguing about capital punishment. Basically his arrest put food on table of all the armchair criminologists/writers for a some time. His side of the story ends there, I’m afraid. I see a blurred images of a courtroom, and it cuts directly to my mother. She was, for some reason, considered heavily pregnant to be incarcerated at that time. She was left to her devices.
Throughout, the dream mechanics are dictating my move. I’m aware of that the set of people I’m dreaming are indeed my parents. I sense my disembodied presence in the narrative and I am telling this tale. I’m seeing things from my POV as it were. Does it make sense? I’m not sure. I’m glad that it’s all a dream.
My mother was sent down to live with her sister in Naghal, the same neighborhood where they put up a great resistance. The house had been restored to its old glory – it creaked when someone sprinted or applied pressure to the wrong beam, the entire shebang. Every second in that infernal house reminds my mother of what ifs, and what could’ve been.
She restlessly paces around the house, yet the every corner catches her unaware. On every turn is a faint whisper of nostalgia crucified to an unadorned wall. The daalin leaks memories, it trickles down even when it’s not raining. The staircases groan and the mirror reflects bygone days. The radio constantly harps about the bravery of the state troops against the rebels. The batteries have run dry a long time ago, yet its honeycombed speakers refuse to listen to reason. It harps late into the night. Sometimes late in the night it picks up ghost trickle of police radios and wails like a banshee.
In her makeshift garden (my mother loves gardening, it’s how she connects with herself; it also reminds her of home. It reminds her of the Tarai where she grew up scanning the horizon for sunset. Once she landed in Kathmandu, the clusterfuck that is our capital invaded her horizon. All she can see now is the miserable lives of the people who migrated in the valley answering to the lullaby of bright future. She wants to change the view, switch the channel, but the same story is played out in the windows of all the old rented homes. The rich sahujis have moved out to the suburbs where there are more parking spaces for their SUVs. They leave behind their crumbling ancestral houses to the dazed and confused souls, and charge hefty rentals).
My mother lost her interest in botany ages ago. Had she been cultivating it, she’d probably compare Kathmandu to a pitcher plant. Kathmandu’s a parasite, she feels. It radiates with strange, hopeful lullaby and leeches the gullible dry. Once the vessels are not a party to the life sustaining fluid congress to RBC and WBC and which we commonly refer to as blood, it crunches their bones. She knew many of such poor fellows, her relatives and her uncles who answered the primal call of Kathmandu and was consumed in the end. Now she can add herself to her list.
I leave my mother as she’s standing outside the mouth of the crooked gulli. She’s got vacant expression in her face, and is looking way past the big building right in front of her. She’s searching for her horizon.
If you felt this was a weird read, spare a moment to feel what I went through as I woke up.
I sat on the edge of the bed, with a riddled expression on my face. I’ve dreamt some weird dreams, we all have. This came close to the top spot in my dream inventory, but no cigar. I once dreamt about the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. I was in the cockpit when the fire gnawed at it, exploding like a thousand radiant stars. It takes the cake, the icing sugar and the self rising flour, the whole nine yards.
Maybe some day I’ll reel in that story. Maybe.