Varun sat by the window, his gaze outside. It was past midnight. Owls had begun their hunt for prey. There was also the cry of wolves breaking out from the forest nearby. The small road that led to their house was empty, and the solitary street light was flickering unsteadily. A gentle, soothing breeze was playing at the window. The moonlight was flooding into the house, reflecting off Varun’s pale, teenage face. Of course, he was oblivious to all of this.
One week ago, five army officers had laid down their lives while serving the country. One of these men was Varun’s father, Captain Ahaan Singh. These valiant men died due to a bomb planted by terrorists.
The bomb wasn’t even a nuclear one, but it left a big impact on a place two thousand kilometres away, where Varun stayed with his mother and sister. His mother could do nothing but sob into his arms for two whole days. After that, she had been reduced to a shadow of her previously vibrant self. She sat there in a corner, looking at Varun and his sister, wondering how she would provide for them, because she didn’t have much of an education.
Varun’s sister was a jolly five year old kid. She thought her papa would come home soon and pick her up in his arms. Neither Varun nor his mother had the courage to tell her what had actually happened. Varun was looking at her from the window, as she was peacefully asleep. He wondered how he would tell her.
His father’s death had caused a tornado of thoughts to enter Varun’s head. He had the obvious emotion of hatred for those terrorists, a desire to seek revenge. These emotions were accompanied by immense sadness, a sense of loneliness and a void in his heart that would never be filled. He was on his own, and he had only just begun to realise it. He didn’t think the pension they were going to receive would be enough for the three of them.
Varun was beginning to realise that it was the duty of his sixteen year old self to now take care of his family. He would have to take care of his mother’s medicine, his sister’s school, all while being a college student himself. He had begun wondering if he would be able to fulfil his dream of becoming an Engineering graduate.
The country was singing praises of his father and the officers who he was with, but this meant nothing to Varun. To him, his family was all alone… praised, but alone. He hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep after he heard the news.
With all these thoughts, Varun continued to sit by the window. For the first time in six days, his mother came up to him and said, “Get some sleep. We have to wake up for your father’s military funeral tomorrow.” He looked up at his mother. They did not need to speak to understand each other. Perhaps they both knew that the next few months would be tough, but they would get through them. Varun hugged his mother and then sank into his bed, hoping for a better sleep than usual.

-Himanshu Ashar