By Tahir Mehmood

The parting moments were unexplainable to both of them. They were sipping coffee, gazing around, and occasionally talking. It was a cold dark night of misty December. He was to catch a train scheduled for departure to the front at midnight. There would be many like him sitting in the train leaving behind life that was no more to be their fortune. His mind was divided between her thoughts and those who would soon join him. She wanted to tell him that life would be barren without him, and she would be continuously waiting for him each passing day and night. He too could not tell her that parting had made his soul empty. They both could not say to each other that love was making them weak and, their souls were praying for each other’s safety and happiness. He had always appeared a brave man to her. He was composed, occasionally deeply quiet and often laughing loudly. Tenderness had been successfully hidden in the deep valleys of two hearts. The demeanour of a soldier made him rock-solid in appearance, both in life and in death. She asked him to take the food regularly as he was always casual in eating. He advised her to re-join the university and complete her studies. They both laughed, briefly embraced each other and left the place. A nearby lone tree uttered few sighs, called rustles of the wind, and shed tears of love; mostly given the name, dewdrops. Soon he was among his comrades on the train and found everyone laughing. In a moment he understood the cause behind their laughter, hurriedly hid the swallowing sadness, and laughed loudly, too. They all joined his loud laughter. Suddenly there was a loud thunder outside and rain started pouring down heavily. The train blew the whistle and started moving in the night towards a destination far off. The soldiers’ loud laughter could still be heard! The tears of rain were still pouring down and absorbed by the thirsty womb of the land.

It was first day of the new year and an air of festivity could be found all around. Actually it was a HQ premises surrounded by high walls and barbed wires. It was eastern part of the city of a war-torn country that had been secured by the soldiers of peace from many nations. With the advancing human civilization, rehabilitation of the citizens had become part of the war norms, though humans still remained unable to get free from shackles of conflict and misery. He was part of the soldiers who had come from distant lands to enforce peace there. She was working in an aid agency and living in the same premises. The HQ had arranged a marathon race as part of new year festivities. The participants were to cover the distance in shape of many rounds of the vast compound building. He was standing along the roadside amidst the cheering crowd. She had passed him few rounds and every time he yelled encouraging words to her. The moment she finished the race, he came forward with a bottle of water, and also gave her a candy. “Sorry, I had only just one left,” he said sheepishly. She gave him a bright smile and moved towards the victory stand. It did not take them long to find out that they both were from the same land, though her family had left the homeland many decades ago and had settled in a new country. The singularity of Motherland became the cause of frequent union of the two in the following months. One day she told him that she had not thrown away the wrapper of the candy he gave it to her at the end of the race, and preserved it in her notebook. He was amused to the soul, and held her hand firmly. They both giggled and started walking on the long empty road.

He had gone to the front again. This time the war had engulfed his own homeland. It was such a devastating simmering war that it had lasted for more than a decade. She was passing days and nights in company of hope and courage. He should have been back by then after completing his tour of duty, but the intensity of the war had further thickened, and absorbed many young mortals. The life could have passed on this pattern had it not been revealed to her by the doctor that her life had come to a sudden end. The long bouts of coughing for the past few months finally compelled her to go to the doctor. “The disease has prevailed over a period of time and the tumour has spread to many parts, cure is almost impossible,” the doctor said briefly in a flat tone. All seemed lost to the destiny including the unconquerable will to live. One night she suffered a severe bout of cough mixed with blood. She did not take long to understand that parting moments had come and were not far away. That night, she mustered the left over courage, and started writing a letter to him. She picked her notebook and selected a page to write. The letter to a soldier who had been a marvellous companion but was part of a war that seemed to have no end. She wanted to write everything: her broken dreams and lost hopes, her darkened future and shattered life. But she could not write except how much she loved him and had prayed to spend the whole life with him. She could hardly scribble few more lines that a fresh bout of severe blood coughing overpowered her. She hurriedly tore the page and sealed it in an envelope.

Inside the envelop, she did not forget to put the candy wrapper!

On that dark night when love was parting, a companion was dying, a soldier was fighting, the gales of wind sang through the trees uniting the two souls; whispered Lord Byron:

When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow –
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o’er me –
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well –
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met –
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee? –
With silence and tears.

Far away from life, in a field hospital, a soldier’s leg was amputated as the only option to save his life!

There sat four friends in a field under the open sky full of stars. They were: a poet, a teacher, a farmer, and a soldier. They lit heavy fire and sat around as it was a cold December night. It was their routine to sit and talk for the whole night and depart at the break of dawn. They were to define four different lives on the coming day with a new hope for the land. Mostly their talk was abrupt and followed no pattern. However, every man stood his ground and shared what he had lived so far and wished to do in coming years. The poet always narrated tales of a new land that would not bear any traces of human sufferings. He desisted any signs of injustice, inequality and exploitation prevailing on the land. The teacher would often tell them about the power of a “construct” that how minds could be shaped using particular “frame of references”. He often unveiled the mysteries of cognition and behaviour. To him, a new life was possible by shaping the phenomenon which is called “education”. The farmer usually orchestrated his talk around types of land and crops. He was of the opinion that every land has a power to yield new crops but it is up to farmers to identify and sow the proper seeds. Having done this, the land would never disappoint. The soldier was plainest in his talk. He would remember his comrades who lost their lives and limbs in the battlefield. His stories were painful but his voice was full of hope and resolve. He could eulogise the Motherland for the whole night without a glimpse of tiredness or lethargy. While talking and giving them lessons “to fight till end”, he would never look at his amputated leg!

All four joined in unison, “Friends! Rise to construct your own world. Do not only point fingers and complain. Have the will to lose, to find new meanings of life. Do not wait for the brave ones to deliver for you, be the doer of deeds, and keep doing! Acquire the wisdom to pursue achievable goals, cultivate dreams but not the ghosts of velvet wishes. Rise, and be defined by act, and be not the merchants of hollow words. Work, produce, and distribute! There is always ‘new’ to construct. It is a tough task or calling but men of self-worth do embark on journeys to hitherto unfound lands.”

It was break of the dawn. The new sun was on the horizon. They all shook hands and together left for a new destination. A gradually diminishing noise of the crutches of the man with amputated leg could be heard for long. The shadow of ‘work’ was following all four!

The journey of life would continue. There would be a girl, a soldier, a candy wrapper, and a story. The womb of Motherland is too vast and warm to absorb the sufferings of all. Its only claim is ‘unconditional love’.

(The writer is a traveller and student of human history. He can be reached at

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