Tuesday, March 01, 2005

My first attempt at a short story

The Governor

The applause at the amphitheatre was overwhelming. Colonel Mathew stood up to face his distinguished audience. The anchor on the stage announced "Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Colonel Robert Mathew, Winner of this year's Peace Prize for his monumental work in campaigning for peace in the sub-continent.". The thunderous applause took nearly two minutes to die down. The colonel could discern the members of his former battalion in the audience. He gave a quick bow to them. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am here today before you not because of what I did but because of human faith and compassion of the highest kind. It is the same faith that enabled me to garner the strength of my battalion members even when they were mortally wounded. It is the same faith that aided me in stopping the bloody civil war in my country.... It all began due to a particular incident .. one that I can never forget ... one that has been the cornerstone of my life for so many years and will go on to be..... Let me share it with you all... "

It was a cloudy day in February about forty years ago. The sun was totally engulfed by a massive mountain of snowy clouds. The few rays that somehow penetrated the barrier illuminated the courtyard of the prison. The moss grew like a fur coat over the high walls making it very slippery. The interior of the prison was quiet. One could hear the water dripping from the tap in the restroom. One could hear the flies that endlessly buzzed around the kitchen. Almost every inmate in the prison was assembled at the courtyard. Every eye was fixed on the boy who stood alone at the front of the gathering. He was a twenty year old. He was staring at the ground in silence. Behind him, the execution stage stood harrowingly with its noose as if waiting to gorge its next victim.

High above from a sheltered seating, the Governor watched the boy. The jail warden who was standing behind the Governor looked at his watch for the twentienth time in five minutes.

He grudged, "Why do the last few minutes always last a lifetime?". This was his the first execution since his five months at office. He wanted it to be done impeccably. He had reviewed all arrangements made to the most minute detail. "Nothing could possibly go wrong", he thought, "The boy would be hung in a few minutes and it would all be over".


The Governor stood silent and erect looking at the solemn congregation in the courtyard.

"What did you say was the boy's crime?", the Governor asked suddenly.

The warden was astonished. This was the second time in ten minutes that the Governor had asked the same question. He looked at his associate, and motioned to him to bring the file which contained the details about the boy.


The Governor turned around to face the warden and said "Could you read it aloud please".

The warden flipped open the file and started to read, "David, son of farmer, doing his electrical engineering, Crime ... Murdered his classmate who was outscoring him at academics in college ......".

"The details?", the Governor pressed on, "Read on..".


"Details ... Called his classmate, Ram to a desolate lake about sixty kilometers from Delhi. Drowned him in the lake after inviting him for a swim. Returned to the city soon after that and went to college the same day. Phoned the police and reported that his classmate was missing... probably as a ploy to take suspicion away from him. But the CBI found incriminating evidence that David had gone with Ram to the lake. David denied his involvement in the crime. Said that he did go to the lake by some instinct. Said he saw something wrong happening in his dream. He finally broke down after intensive interrogation . In a sporadic outburst, he accepted that he had killed him."

"Your opinion of him?", the Governor asked the warden.

"Well, in the five months at office, I have seen him as a sort of a revolutionary. He has raised many demands and brews up a lot of trouble by getting the unions to support it. One of his outrageous demands was to release the high-profile prisoners from the underground into the normal inmate quarters. He spent a lot of time in the underground quarters talking to the prisoners there. I guess they like him. Naturally, birds of a feather flock together. Do you know, the inmates intended to boycott this ceremony if the underground prisoners were not allowed to attend it. I did not want to start a massacre, so somehow I have managed it. You can see the high-profile prisoners on the left. Don't worry, security arrangements are much above normal standards .... I have found it extremely tough to handle his demands. Better off with him gone soon."

The Governor looked at the sober group on the left, one of the prisoners looked up into the Governor's eyes. The Governor thought he saw the reflection of a tear in those glassy eyes.

"Bring the boy here", the Governor ordered.

"Sire?"

"I said, bring the boy here."

The boy was brought to the room. He looked at the Governor and gave a weak smile.

The Governor eyed the boy for a moment and then ordered, "Everybody leave the room, I want to talk with him alone.". Nobody moved, the Governor looked at the warden knowingly and then towards the door. The warden had no choice but to obey the orders.

"Everybody out! Come on!".
The doors closed leaving them alone.

About five minutes passed, the warden started to worry. He did not like the thought of the convict staying alone in the room with the Governor. Drops of sweat flowed down his throat right upto his stomach. Just then he heard a loud bang inside the room. Instantly, he undid the safety catch of his pistol and rushed towards the door, pushed it open and charged in with the guards just behind him.

He saw the governor on the floor, his chair had been knocked down. The convict sat calmly on another chair beside him. The guards seized him and took him back out into the courtyard.

Above, the warden kept telling the Governor "Sire, I warned you that he was a maniac."


"Set him free. I have pardoned him", the Governor said quietly, still a bit dazed from his fall.

"Sire? Did I hear you right? Set the maniac free? After all that he has done? I must ask ..."

"Are you the governor ? or am I?"

"Sorry Sire. Your orders will be carried out!"


Colonel Mathew paused to survey the audience, there was a gripping silence all around.

"That boy was me!"

Gasps went up in the audience.

"I know that you are all dumbfounded that a former convict is now the holder of the Peace Prize. I am not worried about losing this prize but what I do treasure is the everlasting revelation that I experienced that day. I shall cherish it throughout my life."

One of the reporters from the press section raised his hand.

"Yes?"

"Sir, what exactly happened in those five minutes that you spent with the Governor?"

"Well,...He pulled up two chairs and arranged them facing each other. We sat facing each other. The first minute or so, the Governor and I just gazed into each other's eyes. Both tried to gather the thoughts of the other person. That silence brought back all that I had dreamt of doing in my life. The Governor seemed to be in sync with me. Gradually, the dreams faded way into the desperate situation that I was in at that moment. A burning anger was again growing within me, the same that had made me accept having committed the murder even though I never committed it.... At that precise moment, the Governor said, 'Anger blinds your dreams.... your dreams are big and they require a big heart.... Do you believe in yours dreams enough to avert what's coming ....'. A tense silence followed during which I saw my dreams again, this time with a stronger mental disposition that I would achieve them no matter what. Then, I looked at the Governor again and smiled. The Governor still waited 'Well?..'. I knew I was being tested by the Governor who was waiting for a strong answer to his question. That was the moment I kicked his chair and you know the rest...."


The reporter sat down. The colonel still remained on the podium. The audience shared the silence with him. Tears welled into the colonel's eyes. He continued "........... Infact, I got to relive that magical experience again several times in my life... when I lay wounded along with my battalion members surrounded by the enemy...... when I sat in my house with my family during the riots............ Faith in one's dreams is a power beyond anything you can imagine. Don't question it just believe in it. Thank you."