I was only partially conscious when the stench of the prison ground hit my nose and infiltrated my breath. My hands were released from the cuffs but the wrists still ached from the clinch of the metals. How long had I even been lying in here? Last I remember I was being manhandled by some people in the heaviest armours I had ever seen. How did I pass out? I had no idea. I looked around at the four walls. There was no way in or out of them. Then I looked up. I had been thrown into the prison, quite literally.
My eyes narrowed even more while looking towards the only window in the prison cell. A ray of light in the darkest rooms like a ray of hope in the dark times. But, this time, it was rather discomforting. The light highlighted the wounds on my body which were even unknown to me. With a million thoughts crossing my mind, I was beginning to have a mild headache. The cold floor on which I lay, was rather soothing.
I did remember why I’d ended up here. As much as that reason angered me, it also made me laugh. This was the fourth time I’d wanted to laugh hysterically but my jaws hurt from trying to laugh.
The coldness of the weather reminded of how I and my tribe stayed together even in the hard times of winters. Our hamlet was widely famous for its unity and prosperity. Those content days were far better than the recent ones. The unity was nowhere to be seen in this fallout. The people who were once together, now quenched each other’s blood. This transition was a little too sudden. But what was needed, was needed and now to a larger extent.
Over generations, somehow everyone had come to think that the opposite of order, was chaos. I and a thousand others had found out that it was actually freedom. The others, still in order, let their mouths stay shut. I didn’t. And now here I am, lying in a hundred pieces. If only I had kept my mouth shut, it wouldn’t have been broken right now. But something told me it was going to be worth it.
I was a part of a huge civilization that functioned on the dominance of power, like any other. It had its own peace and conflicts at times. It was neither a very ideal civilization nor a bad one. Thing was, the dominance of our rulers had begun growing, lately. An increase of taxations, reduction of certain actions in the name of laws… the suppression made people revolt, following which, the government agreed to have a peaceful discussion. They gave the people two choices:
To either live by their rules and keep their homes in the kingdom or leave from the kingdom in peace with some portion of food to ensure their survival for a few days. Choosing the second option meant leaving the houses and the life of a kingdom to wander until we settled. We chose it. Well, some of us did. That day, the kingdom saw an exodus of more than a thousand families.
With only a few days’ rations in hand, we marched forward. We were just some folks who were looking for liberty and we knew that at this very moment we felt free. We were no longer accountable to anyone, nor were we expected to do only a particular kind of work. For days we walked towards the horizon, we followed the sun and marched ahead. Celebrations were prominent at first. Every night was a festive affair. However, as they say, good times do not last. We were walking endlessly, with no direction in mind and that was the biggest mistake that we all had made.
I was hardly 20 years of age when this had happened. And at that age, during this event, I learnt some things.
Money was an illusionary concept. It was something that governments had introduced to us to keep us in control, to work for them.
When we were running out of ration, we settled in an empty grassland situated beside a forest. The physically stronger people chopped woods and the fast ones hunted and brought meat. We cooked it. Every person got an equal share of food and what did they have to pay for it? Nothing.
The woods were then further cut and houses were built. Everyone got their houses in that empty grassland. What did we pay for it? Nothing.
The lack of resources and the abolition of suppressive order had brought us in harmony. We realised our needs for each other and everything was built on the foundation of being helpful. We were free of rule and rulers. We were going to be together, we were going to be free. Helping each other in this initial stage of attaining liberty was an overwhelming experience.
But, Help, Assistance, and Cooperation, these terms only hold value when both the parties understand its true meaning. If one party feels that a task is a burden rather than an obligation, then the differences arise.
And since the ‘change’ was not accepted equally by everyone, feud founds its place. It started with minor issues. When the woodcutter returned home tired but was mocked for getting the lesser quantity of timber.
And as the issues increased so did the brawls. It had indeed become a daily ritual. However, Ruhan and his group of wise men meddled in between and helped in resolving the problem, thus maintaining the harmony.
Ruhan, the eldest of them all, to get rid of these daily trivial issues, made a decision. Since he was the eldest and the wisest, everyone agreed to him. He said that no woodcutters and hunters would work for free from that day on. Now that people had settled, they were to pay them something in return. A part of food or clothes. That day I had my first hysterical laugh. Some eyes looked at me with a fit of slight anger in them. I ignored.
The intra-community disputes began decreasing but what went unnoticed was Ruhan’s superiority. People blindly followed his decisions and accepted the solutions that he provided.
I was beginning to have a Déjà vu and this time it was for real.
Soon, he allotted some people to look after the trades and the houses. They eventually started getting addressed as ‘Ruhan’s men’. A month later, he had them dig up a few pits and wooden grills attached to them. He told his men to use them like prisons. He thought this would instil fear in the people and they’d stay in the discipline. Of course, some didn’t. People wronged. Trials were held out. People were found guilty and thrown in prison.
One day, Ruhan was found dead. People came to the conclusion that he died of old age, but the ones close to him didn’t agree. They suspected foul play. Then came Mahidi. Physically, the strongest man in our little settlement. “We need a new leader,” he announced. “I’m happy to take the place.”
Some of us raised questions as to why him. His sister then stepped up and spoke to the people, “You need someone fitter and stronger to watch over you. Ruhan was wise but fragile. His death is no surprise. My brother is strong. As for wisdom, I’ll work for the welfare of you beside him.”
And so, Mahidi and his sister became our new rulers. The first thing they did was convince people to give them and their men some of their food as they left their work and houses to work for the people. The taxes were imposed. I laughed my heart out that day.
I had been an onlooker all this while. Over the years things kept changing, and I just observed. I was not someone who would become a rebel and influence people with my thoughts about freedom. But to some extent, I did.
I had a habit of noting down minute details of the changes happening in the society, in my journal. This was something I had inherited from my father, capturing every detail and transforming them into words.
A few days later, after the new rulers had set their foot, robberies started taking place. Every day, a few things would go missing from people’s houses. Sometimes they were valuables, other times it was eatables. One such robbery happened at my house. I lost my mother’s jewels, some vegetables and surprisingly, my journal.
I wasn’t worried about it much because no one would ever try to peek into an old rugged book written with shabby handwriting.
The next day, I was called out to the ruler’s abode and confronted. I had no idea what all of this was about until I saw my book lying on the side table of Mahidi. So, these were the people who were hiring robbers to steal things.
The only thing I could sense was that the rulers felt threatened. By me. By my words. This was the third time that I laughed hysterically.
The next moment I found myself partially conscious on the cold floor of the prison.
They’d even felt threatened enough by my laughter that they broke my jaw before throwing me in this pit.
How would I not have laughed? The order was a funny thing. All the while living the kingdom, we kept thinking it was keeping us suppressed and bound. To an extent, it was. All of us wanted freedom from that. We got it. But the freedom was not only from suppression, but it was also from being kept in check.
A society can never last without order. Not until it is rid of indiscipline. Because the ones causing it would always have to be kept in check. And the strong will always misuse the truth of it.
Following the trend of human society, we come to know, that only the dominant of the fittest shall rule.
The spare piece of parchment that I always carried in my robes has finally come to use. This might just be my last entry in the journal, for I do not know what Mahidi and his sister will do of me. For now, I’ll sleep.
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