‘Baghdad, My Beloved’ by Saahith Shetty (India)

Short story selected for the 2011 New Asian Writing Short Story Anthology

“… Wherever you are, death will find you, even if you are in towers, built up strong and tall.”
(An-Nisa, 4:78, The Holy Qur’an).

Miftah watched as a pigeon picked at the rice leftovers on the dilapidated windowsill. Its eating habit wasn’t what caught his interest; it was its wings. He envied the bird; its freedom to fly, freedom to explore the unseen, freedom to ensnare the whole world within its eyes. But when you’re born in a cage, even the limitless sky seems like a prison; locked of your own accord behind iron bars of throbbing memories!

The moon sang lullabies to the drowsy sun, as twilight surrendered itself to the night. Miftah was shaken by the sudden sound of an explosion from somewhere nearby; he perceived a phantasm of a noose hanging amidst the frightened sky. Death had followed him from the cursed borders of Baghdad, all the way to the realms of India.

The mirrors of his memories reflected images from his past; he missed home. “It is still my motherland,” thought Miftah; “the city that gave me my first wound, the soil that absorbed my first tear, the land that sheltered me from the shadows of solitude. Baghdad, my beloved.”

Miftah, hidden behind the dining room door, had once heard Dr. Akmal say “Lives cannot be weighed against bullets.” Dr. Akmal was his father’s friend.

“Some die of disease, some die of greed, and some die serving their nation. Finally it is for the greater good, Akmal!” his father had replied.

The greater good: the same sacrificial fire of ‘greater good’ that he himself had jumped unsuspectingly into…

The explosions continued. Miftah could imagine piles of dead bodies staring at the olive branches. The thunderbolts of terror had struck even India, a country that boasted purity and peace.

Miftah hid under the cot. “Munna is so short… He can perform acrobatics under the bed,” his mother had once joked. He shivered. The ghosts of his memories hadn’t left him yet; instead, they augmented the fear that had already filled inside him.

26 July 2007: He had crouched under a rotten cot, in the same way as he did today. He had waited for a hand to reach out to him, and walk him towards the gates of freedom where fear did not bloom. But none had appeared. The cursed Karada market bombing, had taken his parents away, along with that of more than a hundred people. It was a truck bomb followed by a rocket attack. He wept alone, with nothing but an acquaintance of loneliness. It took months for a rich and barren Indian couple to adopt him; to bring him to the ‘safe haven.’ But this ‘safe haven’ had now turned out to be just another abode of the devil.

“Fear is a friend that comforts you even in darkness. Do not disdain fear, son; it is the only one that lets you know you are still alive”, his father’s words came to his mind.

He had to face the grim reality, reincarnated in the form of war. Combating fear was the only way to avenge his parents’ death. As he crouched on the perforated carpets of darkness, he saw courage with its million rays replace the gloom. He now had the strength to survive anything.
The livid fumes befriended the air; the reverberation of the explosions hadn’t died yet. Miftah sat building up his entire valour in the darkness; a kid from the neighborhood shouted with joy, ‘Happy Diwali!’

Glossary:

Diwali: Also called “Festival of Lights,” is an Indian festival which involves decorating houses with lights and the bursting of crackers. Fireworks are the most important part of this festival.

Illustration by Alan Van Every

About the author:

Saahith Shetty lives in Bangalore, India. He is a 20-year old engineering student. His hobbies are writing short stories and poetry. His stories are inspired by the works of authors such as O. Henry, Anton Chekov, Saki, and Salman Rushdie.

Are you a short story writer?
Why don’t you submit your best short story to the
New Asian Writing Short Story Anthology?

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32 comments for “‘Baghdad, My Beloved’ by Saahith Shetty (India)

  1. Anonymous
    27/05/2011 at 3:22 am

    Amazing story plot… esp the twist in the end.. and really well written.

  2. Faisal
    27/05/2011 at 11:24 am

    Wow! Great work there. Real amazing quality of writing. A great concept with such a moral depicted so easily and precise yet so new and appealing. No bit of exaggeration anywhere. To sum it all up, very interesting story, with an even fresh way to depict it all.

  3. Ekta
    28/05/2011 at 12:50 pm

    LOVED IT! Especially the thought put into describing little details -lovely! Just beautiful the way it has all been presented 🙂

  4. Sanchitha
    30/05/2011 at 3:43 pm

    Well written!! 🙂 Looking forward for more 🙂

  5. manjunath reddy
    30/05/2011 at 4:29 pm

    altogether amazing work:)

  6. vimarsh
    30/05/2011 at 5:53 pm

    superb work….really liked it

  7. Akshay Biradar
    30/05/2011 at 6:32 pm

    WOW!! Saahith, If i did not know this was written by you, I would be expecting a photo of a famous writer at the end of the story, Its brilliant man. Keep up the good work!

  8. Rohit Udupa
    31/05/2011 at 6:39 am

    Great work Saahith!! 🙂 All the Best for all ur future works… Looking forward to those 🙂

  9. santhosh
    31/05/2011 at 10:40 am

    would have loved to have such stories like this during english classes…keep up the good work

    amazing work

  10. namitha
    31/05/2011 at 1:28 pm

    AWEESOME:):)keep it up sahith:)

  11. Saahith Shetty
    01/06/2011 at 4:12 am

    thank you so much ppl:) means a lot to me:)

  12. Pavan
    01/06/2011 at 10:40 am

    A good one saahith. Always knew ur potential in story writing. loved it. 😀

  13. aditi
    01/06/2011 at 12:52 pm

    Liked the way ur story flows seemingly effortlessly…!!
    Lyrical too 🙂 n nice twist i must say :):) keep up th good work:)
    u keep writing them n vl keep reading them !!
    Congrats on ur story being selected 🙂

  14. Suhas
    02/06/2011 at 7:26 am

    Good writing. Personally, I love the way you have brought about the emotions running thru the main character’s mind.

  15. abhishek
    02/06/2011 at 8:34 am

    great work dude..well told story ..keep it up 🙂

  16. Abhishek jha
    05/06/2011 at 2:23 pm

    This is some seriously amazing stuff..staggering,illuminating..:)

  17. shru
    11/06/2011 at 10:30 am

    WOW !!!! …. That’s a great one . . it carries a social message too .. wonderful thought put in brief.:)

  18. Amulya K
    12/06/2011 at 7:09 am

    Awesome!! So typically you Saahith!

  19. chetan
    14/06/2011 at 4:27 pm

    awesome work maga keep it up :)(Saahith)

  20. Chandan
    14/06/2011 at 4:38 pm

    The quality of fear brought about in the person was just fab… Especially the divert from the deadly deeds to the happiness of the festival. Truly awesome macha !!!

  21. Yadunandan
    15/06/2011 at 4:24 am

    Good one, guess we have to expect more stories from u, best of luck.

  22. supreetha
    15/06/2011 at 8:15 am

    nice one saahith 🙂 the way you have written the boy’s feelings and his desire to become free is really good 🙂 🙂 🙂

  23. Trapthy shetty
    20/06/2011 at 8:41 am

    Lovely piece of work… way to go boy.. looking forward for some more of your work..! good luck..:)

  24. Rahul
    25/06/2011 at 8:12 am

    Great story, a great effort, good luck 🙂

  25. 27/07/2011 at 10:12 am

    Your short story is simply wonderful, quite sad, but wonderful nonetheless.

  26. Saahith
    27/07/2011 at 3:46 pm

    Thank you Harriet 🙂

  27. anu
    07/08/2011 at 2:19 pm

    excellent!!! proud of u saahith 🙂

  28. navya
    15/09/2011 at 1:49 pm

    Good job… the ending came as a surprise to me but the story was just brilliant..

  29. Prajna Rao
    16/09/2011 at 12:51 pm

    Excellent!! Little details here n there were just too good!
    Ending.. undoubtedly the best part 🙂

  30. Saahith
    27/09/2011 at 3:40 pm

    Thank you everyone 🙂

  31. 15/06/2014 at 2:06 pm

    Hey..!! classic one. The way it started I thought it would end with carnage caused by terrorist attack… But it was the battle within throughout…. Alls well that ends well… cool…. 🙂 🙂

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