Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Road called Life

Historical Fiction

I will soon be thrown into the mass grave along with the naked corpses of the other soldiers.  I am Colonel Chabert, not just an ordinary soldier, Colonel Chabert who led a whole regiment of soldiers to many a victory for none other than Napoleon himself.  I have been famous when the blood still ran in my veins reddening my cheeks with the zest for conquests.  But now I am no more than a body going to be thrown into a mass grave with very ordinary bodies. 

The Battle of Eylau
Death makes you a mere body.  All bodies are equal and ordinary.  What makes you different is life, your life. 

My last battle was the toughest.  The Battle of Eylau.  Our brave French soldiers met the equally brave Russian soldiers in the most inclement of weathers in Arctic conditions.  The fatal wound I received runs from the nape of my neck to just above my right eye.  You can still see it.  My blood stopped running through my veins.  There was little blood left for the veins to carry.

No wonder they thought me dead. 

The distance between life and death is just a moment.  The other day I happened to watch a man with grey hairs but a face suffused with vitality buying apples from a wayside seller.  The man looked as if he would live another twenty years, hale and hearty.  Just as he picked up his basket of apples and got on to the path again, he staggered a little and collapsed.  He was dead in a moment.

Marshal Murat dispatched a whole battalion, no less than 1500 horsemen, to rescue me when I lay wounded and dying.  Napoleon himself sent two of his best surgeons to save my life.  Napoleon needs me, I know.  Every conqueror admires brave warriors.

Heroes admire heroes.  Have you ever noticed that?  It’s only the weak that harbour petty feelings like jealousy and distrust.  I didn’t say heroes love heroes.  No, love has nothing to do with it.  It’s admiration.  It’s an acceptance of the other’s abilities and skills.  Napoleon admires even the youngest of his soldiers provided he is brave.

I can feel life oozing out of me.  I will soon be dead.  And thrown into the mass grave, another body among many bodies.  Body.  That’s what I will soon be. 

Nothing.  That’s what I will be a little while from now.  The body will vanish, eaten by the soil and its maggots.

The whole rugged path I travelled from the time I was born is visible to my mind’s eye as I lie giving up my soul.  Every life is a journey.  When you are born, a road is also born.  Your road.  The road that you will travel inevitably.  It is up to you how you choose to travel that road.  You can simply walk along without noticing what’s on either side.  You can choose to kick away the pebbles on the way and beat down the brambles on the sides.  You can admire the fragrance of flowers and the music of the birds.  You can conquer the lands on the sides.  You may even erect barriers on the road, your road!

Whatever you do, in the end, you will be a body, lying dead on some cold mountain, ready to be forgotten.  Don’t count on the memories of people whom you consider beloved.  Love has little to do with life.   Other people have their roads still stretching ahead and they have to travel it – inevitably.  They cannot mourn your death forever. 

Even Napoleon will be a body one day.  To be buried and forgotten.

My spirit is giving up.  I can feel it.  I can see the end of my road.  Oh, how pathetic!  Like the culmination of the French Revolution!


Post ScriptThis is not a story about negativity.  Far from it, I love life and it abundant excitements.  My road is much different from Napoleon’s (and other conquerors’), however.



27 comments:

  1. Nice read as always, but didn't quite feel like a fiction though. I mean, fiction is always a different touch. Isn't it?

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    1. Yes, I agree that it doesn't read like fiction. It's rather an interior monologue. But where lies the dividing line between fiction and non-fiction? Between fiction and reality, to put it a little more precisely?

      I must also add that I've been inspired by Javier Marias's latest novel, 'The Infatuations', while writing this. Marias's style is mimicked in a humble way here.

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  2. Thought provoking to say the least :)

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    1. Thanks, Aram. I wish you had continued beyond the "least" :)

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  3. Wonderful post ! I loved the way you have brought the character to life and of course,death.

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    1. Thanks. Your comment comes as a kind of consolation. I was thinking the post was too dark to be appreciated.

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  4. A great idea put into words that made it a great read.

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  5. Great thought! It was nice read..

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  6. Let me share a few portions which I loved so much..
    1. Death makes you a mere body
    2. When you are born the road is born. Having said that you have written many ways by which a individual could live. That was top notch of this draft I would say..

    Overall its fabulous draft.. congrats.

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    1. Thanks, friend. I know it reads more like a treatise on life and death than a story.

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  7. Let me share a few portions which I loved so much..
    1. Death makes you a mere body
    2. When you are born the road is born. Having said that you have written many ways by which a individual could live. That was top notch of this draft I would say..

    Overall its fabulous draft.. congrats.

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  8. If love has little to do with life, why do we live? For fighting, eating, enjoying, and acting smart to outlive others? Is it a sheer waste to live and die without any hope (even when you are alive!). I enjoyed reading the historical fiction. Real-life one!

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    1. This is from the point of view of a soldier, a colonel, and that too Napoleon "the Great's" heroic warrior. For a soldier of that stature, love plays little role in life. For ordinary mortals, well, I really don't know what role love plays!

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  9. Wow!!! I simply loved it. It's so true life is a journey. I fully intend to enjoy the flowers and the trees on the side of the road while walking it :)

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    1. That's a wise decision, Pankti. I too live that way. I enjoy the nectar of the flowers more than their fragrance :)

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  10. This is a great piece sir. I loved reading it. Keep sharing such nice reads sir.

    However, sorry for going off the topic. But when I visited your blog this time I was expecting a piece on recent unfortunate incidents in U.P. to be precise the horrific riots.

    Since, my last interactions with you I came to know u as a concerned citizen, activist and blogger on such events I just thought I might get some of your views on this topic. Anyways, may be the piece I am expecting is on its way. Apologies.

    Again, I loved this historical fiction read a lot.

    Thanks.

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    1. Thanks, Prateek. I was much troubled by what happened in UP recently. But I desisted from blogging about for 2 reasons: (1) my professional life has taken such a turn that it's turning me into a ruthless cynic and I'm struggling to put a rein to that condition; and (2) my present situation affords me little more than 10 minutes to read newspapers and absolutely no time to watch the news on the TV which means I don't possess enough facts for writing a balanced blog on current affairs.

      I look forward to better days: both for the nation and for me.

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  11. Love has lewd associations only for inferior mortals, not the ideals who equate it with admiration and a sense of awe, respect and regard for the other person's qualities and abilities.

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    1. My dear wings, your recent comments make me feel that you are merely reacting to my writing because you bear some grudge against me. No problem in that. But why not start responding instead of reacting?

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. I'm holding the string, waiting for you to tell me so that I move forward, not because I depend on you but because I always regard your wise counsel. Because I cannot pretend as if I know everything. If that is wrong, tell me so that I keep myself away as I'm doing now. I can't hate.

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  14. Here is my response that I had already kept in my work document:
    Love is equated with admiration - admiration for and acceptance of one's genial qualities and abilities. For ordinary mortals of course, love has lewd associations, but not for the ideals.

    Love is a genuine concern for anyone, say a friend or a relation or even a neighbour who is so kind. Love is never a barrier on anyone's road. It is there to make the journey more rewarding and meaningful. It is a silent whisper which says, "Go ahead, you can travel this road yourself. After all you and I are two different souls who met on the road of life."

    Love should not lock anyone into a cage. Rather it should set them free to view the whole world with compassion and understanding. It should never make your soul so petty to harbour any evil thoughts like jealous or distrust. It never happens in a loving mind.

    Napoleon can not show any concern for love. He is a warrior. Yet revolution is the ultimate result of love for humanity and hatred for evil.

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    1. Wings, this post is a story and not a treatise on love or admiration. Moreover, it is narrated from the point of view of a warrior for whom conquests meant much more than relationships. There are too many people in the world for whom relationships are subordinate to their conquests (positions, fame, etc.) I was trying to portray one such character. Napoleon was one such person. He admired bravery. But today we come across people in power who admire nothing more than "my", "mine" and "I". That's what motivated me to write this story. I think you took it all in some other light.

      I don't usually write about love simply because I don't understand it much. In fact, I try to avoid that theme. I can't write about what I have not understood and internalised personally. Whatever you've said about love above sounds like good platitude to me. But I won't question your convictions and feelings about love. They are yours and I respect them.

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