After the War – by Kirtan Savith Kumar (High School)
When I was little, Ma would recite to me a tangshi every night before bed, sing me songs her own mother sung to her.
Standing here, looking at the destruction surrounding me, I can’t help but recall one by the poet Bai Juyi. I don’t remember much, but I knew a part of it went something like this:
My heritage lost through disorder and famine, My brothers and sisters flung eastward and westward, My fields and gardens wrecked by the war…
I feel like crying, standing here, surrounded by the remains of war, surrounded by memories of my childhood, now torn apart and lying in shreds on the ground before us.
We, the villagers, had fled the moment the soldiers entered our village. Some of the men stayed back, to protect us as we fled. Their fists were, however, no match for the soldiers’ spears and shields.
Now, everywhere I look, I see death.
Some of the older villagers had shrouded the broken bodies of our martyrs in white silk, where they lay on the ground, awaiting burial. Surrounding us are the charred remains of our homes.
I am standing in the middle of a ghost town.
What’s worse is that the plants, the flora that once surrounded our hometown, now lay wilted and burnt on the ground. Most of the bamboos, banyan and Angsana trees have died in the fiery blaze that had consumed our village too. The few that remain are covered in soot and droop miserably in the arid soil.
That’s when I notice something strange.
Small, spherical, soapy bubbles float around the villagers. We all stop and gaze at them, wondrous. They dance in the air, catching sunlight and turning hues of blue, yellow, pink.
Their source? A girl, around three years old, clad in a snow-white jacket. She plays merrily with her bubble-blower, blissfully unaware of the demise and debris around her.
She looks at me and smiles, a toothy grin.
For the first time in forever, I smile back, knowing, just as she had, we can make our village beautiful again.