September 13, 2007 Delhi. It was an unusually cold morning as I opened the window of my room. I observed the city yawning and coming to life. The cold morning wind was beating mercilessly on the window. In the distance, I could hear the sound of birds chirping happily. Birds! I spat out, so free! while I am cocooned in my little world lost in thoughts.
I was just beginning to turn my head away from the outside world when my phone rang and I just said hello in my sleepy voice without even checking the caller. The person on the other line was silent for what seem like eternity and then a small but familiar voice said, " I needed to see you". He then hung up the phone. I was stupefied, could it be Thang?. But then, my friend Thang was not the sort of person who would call early in the morning and that too, in a sorrowful voice. He was a very cheerful person. I felt an urge to look at the call list and I was amazed at what I saw. It was Thang!...
Before I could ponder over the matter, I was running towards Thangs flat. I dint even bother to take the lift as I ran up the flights of steps leading to his room. I was surprised at what I saw. The door was not locked!. I pushed it with the tip of my finger and it creaked and opened. Thang was a prankster, the sort of man who loves to throw pranks at his friends and near ones. The last time, he threw a broom at me which nearly smashed across my face. As his door was opened, I thought that this was one of his sinister ploys to give me a big surprise. But, nothing happened. I checked his private study but he wasn’t there. Could he be......I saw him!!.. He was sitting on the bathroom floor with the tap on and the water rising to his knees. Man are you crazy, I quipped. He just looked at me blankly. I was taken aback at his abrupt manners. I dragged him out of the bathroom and shouted, "what’s wrong!!!?.
He didn’t speak at first.. Then he just said in a low voice, "He dint come back. We were waiting for him". Suddenly, it occurred to me that I had never asked who the photo on his wall was. I could feel the pain of my "brother" and I put my arms across his shoulder. "Tell me more about it"....
The Story began in February 1992 just before the Kuki ethnic cleansing. Mang, the elder brother of Thang was recruited as a rifleman. They were required to pay 10,000 as bribe to ensure his final selection. As they were very poor, they sold their small plot of land for 15,000 when the selling rate actually, was 50000. They sold it anyway as Mang's mother wanted to see his son in the army.
Having secured appointment, Mang was called for service on September of the same year. As they were waiting for the Bus that was to take him to his place of posting, he whispered to his mother, "mom, all our poverty will be over! I will buy you everything that you ever desired when I get paid regularly. Then turning to his beloved brother Thang, he said, " Bawi, kahung pawt doh teng nadei dei kachoh peh di chu o". Mang was the best brother in the world. He would never kill even a fly. That was the last time they ever saw Mang......
My tongue cleft to my mouth, what happened, I asked. His face was expressionless. I was almost choking now. God, I needed to know it I sobbed, damn! tell me, tell me!!!. I was shouting now. He just sank to his feet with the same expressionless face. Then slowly, he said, "He never came back". I shouted at the top of my voice, " I hate you, I hate you, I am gonna kill you". Yet it was useless. It was a cry no one heard or cared. Then something happened, Thang got up and said sternly, "This is the first time I am gonna disagree with you. Our people's prosperous future can only be ensured by forgiving, not revenge!!" It was my turn to sink to the ground. I was ashamed. I learned the most important lesson of my life, the lesson of forgiveness. I cried, God forgive me. Forgive us for not forgiving them enough. Forgive them!!!!...
Christmas eve 1993, three persons were pulled down from a bus heading towards Imphal at Mao gate. Mang was one of them. One could imagine his soft gentle voice. "Bawi, Heno, Pa kom'a ana che masa tange".
The war killed more than 1000 innocent Kukis and more than 350 villages were raged to the ground.
Dedicated to all Kukis who have lost a dear one.
He never came back......Written by wael jalleb