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  • Writer's pictureIshfaaq Peerally

The Birth of Tragedy - Part One

and if only I have a choice. As I stand here in this dark cavity, the cold winter earth biting through my shoes, and a profound sense of inevitability envelops me, as though all roads have been leading to this moment. Is this really happening? It's too soon, too early in my life for this. Yet, here I am, powerless to alter what lies before me. Can’t this be just a nightmare? Perhaps it’s all just a dream, a nightmare, and hurting myself would wake me up. But what if it’s not? Punching the walls of soil will only bring it crashing down upon the white-shrouded body below. Won't the shroud be soiled eventually under layers of earth? Inescapable, isn’t it? We all end up here. Such is the inevitable end, the unyielding truth for all: we bury our dead until it's our turn to join them. And the soil, obeying the relentless laws of the universe, always falls, indifferent to the lives and stories it covers.

Just like these indistinct, countless soil particles, we, too, are bound by the inexorable laws of nature. What, then, leads us to believe we are somehow different? Perhaps it is our capacity for thought, our acute awareness of our existence, that imparts a feeling of uniqueness, a sense of distinction from the mundane. Yet, our lives, so infinitesimally brief against the vast canvas of eternity, could cease at any moment. We are, in essence, mere dust, destined to return to dust. Is our perceived difference because we can connect with other collections of particles, creating structures and legacies that outlast our fleeting presence? Or are we merely deluding ourselves, ignoring the inevitable decay and destruction even of these creations? 

The soldiers and generals of bygone eras, with their now-crumbling empires, seem to echo a daunting truth through History's annals – perhaps, in the end, it is all for nothing. Consider the young conqueror from Antiquity, who hailed in his time as the embodiment of greatness, swept across nations, and left an indelible mark before his untimely demise. How much of his story was truly his own creation? Was he a master of his destiny or merely a fortunate son of circumstance? He tamed the untamable, but was it his skill or merely the absence of fear as the horse gazed at a young and harmless boy? He later inherited an army from his alcoholic father, more a warrior than a ruler, who was assassinated at exactly the right time to pave his son's path to leadership. It was not of his own making but the result of fate. Was he truly a leader of unparalleled prowess, or just the luckiest man, perfectly poised to ride the waves of History? Cities were founded, bearing his legacy, now little more than forgotten ruins. A great library, a beacon of knowledge, reduced to ashes by another so-called god of war. Lost were countless works of art, literature, and philosophy, and with them, the names of those who thought they penned History. The sacrifices of many in pursuit of the visions of a few. From a war that we stopped counting the years after a hundred to one that had to be renamed after it was replaced by a greater one, we never learn the lessons of History, and we keep repeating them. In our own era, the story repeats. The trenches are back and filled with faceless souls caught in the tide of events beyond their control. Innocents continue to fall in conflicts, echoing the unending cycle of human struggle. It's as if History, in its relentless march, seeks to remind us of our fleeting presence and the illusory nature of our grandeur and permanence.

He wasn't destined to inherit an army, nor had he ever tamed a horse. He was merely a soldier, yet within him, too, burned dreams and aspirations of greatness. At just fifteen, he found himself in a trench of his own, caught in a personal battle, a war that was uniquely his. From that day, the purity of boyhood was stripped away, replaced by the premature skin of manhood. As he lingered over the body of an innocent, he became acutely aware of life's fragility. Since the harrowing events of the last two days, time seemed to have frozen, trapping him in a prolonged, surreal moment. A deafening silence enveloped his mind, muting the surrounding chaos. The soil continued to fall in a steady, unyielding cascade. Each grain, unnoticed by him, served as a poignant symbol of time's relentless march. The shouts from the men above, issuing orders to move the body and contain the soil, barely penetrated his internal world. They were a distant echo, insignificant against the weight of his internal struggle. In this solitary moment, cradled by the earth's cold embrace, the uncertainties and paradoxes of existence that had once been distant, philosophical musings, now became painfully immediate. They etched themselves deep into his young consciousness. This stoppage of time, this engulfing silence, it was his alone to endure. If he were to survive in this harsh world, he knew he had to overcome them. In the depths of that trench, he made a silent vow – not just to endure, but to forge his own path, to seek out his destiny amidst the relentless march of time and the indifferent gaze of History.

I'm not the first to be in such a situation and certainly not the last. Why now, why me? It happens to countless others. Somewhere around the world, someone is in the same situation as me, and somewhere else, someone probably in a worse one. It’s not fair. Too sudden, too young. My life is going to change forever, and there is nothing I can do about it. Is this what destiny feels like? Just a puppet in some grand play? I have no choice but to accept my fate. Whether I am the master of my own destiny, I do not know, but at this moment, I certainly am not, and it doesn’t really matter. God’s plan... but why this plan? It’s all God's plan, and all I can do now is work hard and make her proud. I’ll see you again, won’t I? In heaven, maybe. There will be a day, in heaven, when I meet her again. Where we will all be united again, and I can tell her about everything I did in my life. Did you know, did you know it was time? There’s certainly a God up there who knew why He had to call her so early. She wasn't sick or anything. At least she didn't suffer much. A small mercy, right? Isn't it all part of grand plans unknown to us, mere mortals? Her body is almost completely covered with the planks now. Only one last one is left. This is it, the final goodbye. I have no idea why this ritual has to be done, and I'm sure she wouldn't have approved of it, seeing it as a silly superstition. But she is dead now, and her opinions don't matter anymore. She won't be able to contribute to the world anymore. Before placing the last plank, I press her foot as hard as I can once again, hoping against hope. Wake up, please. This can’t be it. It has to be some mystical or scientific misunderstanding. A miracle is going to happen. Nothing. Mother is dead, and this is the last I will ever see of her.

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