“Hey, WhatsApp is down.”
Those were the first words she heard as soon as she hit the hostel bed, plopping down
with a tired sigh. The setting Sun added a fiery red glow to the otherwise glumly painted
worn down walls.
She took a few seconds to marvel at the apocalyptic hues before replying
monotonously, “Try turning it off and on back again.” Lately that was all she seemed to
Phone not working? Adult life not working? This trick works just fine.
“Tried that, no luck. Any other ideas, genius?” Came the dejected voice of the
roommate who didn’t know what else to do with her life now. How will the rest of the
world know that she had ordered from the best restaurant in town?!
The next half an hour went with the two of them trying to throw bread crumbs at each
other in turn and trying to catch it mid air with their mouths.
More time lapsed before the two of them got fidgety and agitated. Assignments,
studies, entertainment, everything was brought to a standstill. It wasn’t just WhatsApp
messages now, Instagram, Twitter, and every other platform had suddenly crashed.
Upon making a few phone calls, they knew it wasn’t just their hostel internet that had
started acting out.
That night during dinner everybody joked about how they felt like cavemen without the
internet for a few hours. Some said the day had to be noted down somewhere so they
could boast to their progeny about how they survived the day. While some others
realised the need to start appreciating the blessing of internet while they have it.
“If only we had this kind of appreciation for the trees.’ Someone said.
“Yeah, if only it had given us something so precious like oxygen so that we felt the need
to protect and cherish it.” Another added.
She and the roommate soon retired to bed, the events of the day putting them to sleep
quickly. There was nothing worth staying up late for anyway.
She, however had half a mind to call up her mom and apologize for yesterday. She did
not particularly like the way they left things during their last conversation. But like every
other time, she thought she could make up for it the next day. Not a big deal.
Just as her eyes closed taking her to the land of oblivion, she felt something loud go off
in the distance. Didn’t these children find any other time to burst their silly crackers?
“Hey roomie,” She said before sleep completely took over, “don’t fuss over it, the love
of your life, Mr. Internet will be back by tomorrow. Everything’s gonna be fine by
tomorrow. Just sleep it out.”
The next day, she woke up disoriented due to the sudden vigorous tug at her shoulder.
“Wake up!” Her roommate yelled.
“It’s alright, you head on. I’m missing the first hour.” She croaked.
“No! WAKE UP! Look at this!”
She took a second to adjust her blurry vision to the light as she sat straight. She read
the bold headlines on the local newspaper thrust on her face.
“BEGINNING OF A MILITARY OCCUPATION?”
Her face painfully scrunched more with every line she read forward.
A new war?
The words burned through her eyes making her skin crawl.
“Is this for real?” She asked her breath hitching in her throat.
This cannot be happening. This was not something that could happen to them. This was
what happened in books and movies or even in the newspapers. These were stories that
happens to others. This was not supposed to be happening to them!
“I’m afraid so. A few girls who went out today told that they had seen men in arms
outside the campus and near the city centre. It would also explain the internet blackouts
and…the noises we heard yesterday night.”
Maybe those weren’t party crackers and happy screams after all.
The world suddenly seemed to spin a whole lot faster.
The very next day, the calls stopped going through for most. And those very few who
still had access feared to say anything as they were probably being tapped. Nobody
wished to risk anything. It was all part of the initial paranoia that hit hard and fast.
Groceries and toilet papers were hoarded in abundance. Everybody felt on edge with
Citizens far away from home had no means of communication with their loved ones.
Slowly, they took the action to the streets. Protests, rallies and campaigns steadily
increased. But their efforts were throttled long before they could soar high enough to
spawn anything bigger. This furthered the widespread panic. If the brave ones were all
beaten up and jailed right even before their activism could see daylight, what chance
did the others have? Perhaps that was the reason they allowed them to unfold their
wings, only to cut them down as a show of power.
Then came the worst of the problems, the rumours that added fuel to the already raging
wildfire. The line between fables and truths blurred. Anybody who took a stand where
rumoured to always have a bloody ending, usually with a missing limb or two. The
power of these stories only amplified when the local newspapers were cut off it’s cords
too. Everything that came out was adulterated and manipulated by the media.
Started with the internet blackout, the fear and the panic, the aggression, finally
culminated in withdrawal, hopelessness and despair. There was nothing new anymore.
Day after day, they were made to dance to same oppressive beats.
Nothing and nobody in or out of the state.
And just like that, they were completely shut off from the rest of the world.
“Hey, you wanna come with me for a quick grocery run? You haven’t been outside in
more than two weeks. Remember what the Sun looks like?” The roommate asked one
day, trying to lighten the mood. “You can’t change your mind later, in another hour–“
“Yeah, the curfew. I know.” She sighed. Curfews, no assemblies, no meetings, and a new
restrictive rule that curbed their rights every alternative day was no news now. “Having
an extra wrapping on my head only makes me an easier and more enjoyable target for
those sick freaks.” She said and almost immediately regretted it. What if they could hear
them? “So no thanks. I prefer a few more days of life over some Sun.”
Free will and freedom were long out of the equation. All that was left was fear and hope
“Come with us. I swear anything would be better than spending another day in this
hell.” The roommate said running around the room packing only the essential items.
In response, she looked on helplessly. “I.. I can’t..i don’t know..I just.. ”
They had a plan. A few of her college mates were planning on an escape mission. They
had hotwired an old, abandoned military van that would help them blend in. They knew
their chances were slim, but it felt like a risk worth taking.
But she didn’t have what it took to take that step ahead. She had always felt like she had
reached an impasse even before thinking about the problem. This time was no different.
She’d rather be safe than die a brutal death. She didn’t know how long she could last
like this, but atleast she wouldn’t have to be staring at the end of the barrel by midnight.
“Tell my mom I’m sorry..That I love her.. And tell her I’ll fix everything once all this dies
down. Tell her I’ll be back soon.” She said composing herself.
“Tell that to her yourself. Com with me!” The roommate said pausing in her steps.
“What are you gonna do all by yourself here. You know you are more in danger here
than I am!”
“I don’t know.. Wait it out maybe?”
“This is not right, what’s happening here. And we can’t change anything while hiding out
here. We can’t be their puppets!”
“I know..I know…” she said exasperatedly, “But what you are suggesting scares the life
out of me. We can’t play with our chances like that. We don’t have a proper strategy.
We aren’t lucky teenagers on TV who escape and overthrow the government. This is
real people and real lives we are talking about! Forgive me for preferring life.”
“And that’s what I’m asking from you…to live whatever is rest of our lives with pride.”
Roommate responded, her eyes softening. “We can make it. Trust me, or atleast we
don’t die as their slaves here. Come on, what say?” She asked with hopeful eyes.
“Goodbye Vanya” She said hugging her roommate in response as her own eyes filled
Tears of hope? Longing? Desperation? Maybe all of it. Maybe none of it.
“Bye Yasmin.” Vanya said swallowing the lump in her throat. “It’s gonna be alright. I
Had they known that this was the last time they’d see each other, they’d have held on
to each other a little longer, hugged a little tighter, parted with a lingering bittersweet
smile and cherished the little things they didn’t know they had.
It had been days since she had eaten a proper meal or even had a two minute
conversation with someone she knew. She barely left the room. The supplies had run
out quicker than she had anticipated. Could she risk another night out to get some
supplies without being shot to death or questioned to death because of her identity?
Pain. Blood. Death.
Words that once made her want to crawl into her blanket made no impact now. These
words lost their power on paper the minute they came to life, haunting every second of
Was it only a few weeks back when the Sun shined annoying them to wake up for
college to complain about their perfect life? Feels like a lifetime ago.
A different person. A different life.
Her pathetic boring old life looked like a dream now from where she stood.
Her stomach grumbled. A single dried bread crumb left there from a lifetime ago looked
at her from the floor, tugging at her heart’s strings. She sighed turning her attention
back to the window.
Some days she wondered as she sat alone, what life felt like before all this. She could no
longer remember. This was the new normal. She wondered what lay beyond these four
walls and what stopped those outside from lending a hand.
How could their own kind be that cruel to watch on as their brothers and sisters burn
while they hide behind the walls of ignorance and bliss? Did they know? Would she have
done the same had the roles been reversed? While everything was burning around her
own species, would she still keep a closed eye and indulge in her own vain desires?
Maybe. Maybe not. She didn’t know anything anymore.
She could see the Sun slowly rising above the horizon. Despite everything, despite how
hollow and lifeless she felt inside her shell, she didn’t know how she still felt something
warm move inside when she saw the dark sky slowly merge into the dawn. She watched
with a dwindling sense of hope.
And every day she told herself the same lies as she welcomed the darkness to help her
escape the monotony and the uncertainties that haunted her.
Maybe tomorrow would be a different day. She thought yet again, closing her eyes. Yes.
Tomorrow, it was all gonna be fine…