The stooped old lady was almost blind with cataract but then she did not need eyes to find her way to the martyr's graveyard, she had tread this path too often.
She hobbled along on a cane resting frequently on the way.
There was a big crowd today. "Martyr's day…Martyr's…" she muttered to herself, a wistful smile on her face. The word had always been central to her life. A couple of years before her birth her eldest brother had fallen to bullets outside the central jail.
Though of course she had never seen her brother or the event of his martyrdom she heard so much of these from her parents and siblings that with passage of time she felt as if she had seen him real close and even actually witnessed his matrydom. She didn't even remember when she had started visiting his grave where even in her childhood days she would purge her own personal sorrows by letting the tears flow down her cheeks. People would see the little girl; shake their heads in commiseration, and talk of the sacrifices of the martyr's.
Just then there was a great deal of excitement in the graveyard, people started running in a particular direction shouting slogans. "Sheikh Sahib has come!" she muttered to herself and then she shook her head and cackled with laughter as she remembered that he was dead, buried in a well guarded tomb elsewhere and that anyway it had long ceased to be about him. Her mind jumped to those heady days when a tall leader had captured the imagination of a nation. The lines of her aged and wrinkled face softened as she recalled those rallies and processions that she would invariably be a part of. Those were revolutionary times. The Leader's photo adorned their single room dwelling and her husband would excitedly discuss his meetings with the Great Leader.
His words captured her rustic imagination and she would be proud of him. Suddenly things changed. Freedom again became a dangerous word, a seditious concept to be spoken of in whispered tones. The Lion was caged and so were many of his associates. The Lion returned finally as the Lion King and so did many of his associates… but not all of them. Her husband was one of those who didn't. "Your husband laid down his life for the qaum. He is a Martyr," the mohalla president of the Lion's party had told her when he visited her home for the first and the last time.
"Martyr's…" she seemed to be obsessed with the word and kept mumbling it over and over again. Her son had also talked of freedom and justice. His eyes shone with a strange fervor, reminding her of her dead husband. He was a teacher by profession and a preacher by his own volition. Later they said he preached dangerous ideas. There were again raids and searches. She was confused because these were the times of the Lion King… the same Lion who had once held the promise of freedom! There must be some mistake, her simple mind concluded. She talked to her son urging him to meet the Great Leader, the Lion himself.
"No mother! He is a tame lion now… quite afraid of his ringmasters. Lions were never meant to be tamed that is a characteristic of some other species…," he had said. These were dangerous words, perhaps he always spoke like this. That's why they took him away a couple of days later dragging him by his beard. She ran from pillar-to-post but couldn't even get an audience with the Leader.
They broke his spirit. God is merciful; the poor fellow lost his reason much before he lost his life. He would roam the streets and occasionally laugh out loud. He flew into a rage one day as he saw a policeman beating a woman with a rifle butt. The mad fellow lunged at the policeman and tried to grab his rifle. The bullet, which the authorities later said was fired accidentally as a result of the scuffle, pierced his heart. People called him a mad-martyr…
"The blood of the Martyr's will bear fruit one day!" They had shouted while taking her grandson for burial to the 'martyr's graveyard'. She had sent him out to buy medicines for her. A grenade had exploded somewhere along the way. Caught in the 'crossfire' her grandson had been stopped, stripped, beaten and finally shot through the head.
"The blood of the Martyr's will bear fruit one day!" she repeated to herself.
Someone shouted at her for obstructing his path but she never heard him. She had gone increasingly deaf with age. She almost heard nothing nowadays, not even the ever-changing slogans and she certainly never heard the talk about 'changing realities'.
Not that she missed anything for hadn't she heard it all before!
(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at firstname.lastname@example.org)