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We are casualties of the war”   J.P Clarke, The Casualties

It was my first day of the two weeks leadership training program, I wasn’t sure how I felt about leaving home for the first time. I had a lot on my mind… couldn’t be bothered with the fuzz. I walked past some cars at the parking lot. I saw families -crying and hugging, others laughing.  Some parents were giving the usual talks about ‘remembering the child of whom you are’. I didn’t even realise I hadn’t bade my mother goodbye. Typical of her, she had left before I made it back to the car.

We were gathered at the conference hall with our luggage and had to wait for registration to commence. The instructors came and soon the registration began.

Part of the registration requirement was to join a group (this was the hardest part of the registration for me), after a thorough survey of the groups available I settled for the Literary Republic. I had lost my muse for literature and hoped this will help revive it.

After what seemed like forever, registration finally came to an end. I couldn’t wait to get back to solitude.  I walked to a corner of the room -unnoticed as usual. I stumbled on a collection of poems and opened to no page in particular.  The poem “The Casualties” by J.P Clarke struck me.

As expected everyone was paired in groups- some of twos and others threes- chatting and connecting ( with few exceptions like me). Their faces bore different expressions- hope, expectations, smiles, relief, worry, fear, anxiety, curiosity, – a greater number; a puzzled look.

The induction ceremony soon began. I wasn’t sure I made it past the introduction-of-names stage before I brought out a pen and paper. I started writing. I guessed I was getting my groove back.

War! War! War! we are all casualties of  its unseen force.
 A mental picture of the concept brings with it images of- guns, bombs, grenades, dead bodies, uniforms, red cross, etc.
Surprisingly, that’s only about 1/10 of it.
The typical war scenario fails to capture the other side, fought with more powerful tools money cannot buy …’

I saw Abdul already ‘setting P’ with a babe (the girls beside me were dying of envy). I couldn’t have been happier; I had not seen him smile that much in forever. I was his neighbour and perhaps the only one who knew his mother was losing her battle with cancer.

We were past the introduction stage and were being assigned to a mentor.

…It has “shot” out the war within.
It fails to capture the physical and emotional battle resulting in  and from  joblessness, being diagnosed with an incurable diseases, failing a course after two or more attempts, being the skinny kid everyone called anorexic, pillows soaked the night before, loud wailing of battered mothers, screams resulting from rape, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, regrets, rejection, being the “psycho” molested as a child, “had I known’s” and the feeling of loving something death can touch…’

I received a message from my mother about how sorry she was that she couldn’t wait to say goodbye. And that she loved me. I scoffed at the ‘idea of love and being sorry’.

The same words she had fed me with over the years. It began when she got a divorce from my dad, because he lost his job and could no longer afford the lifestyle she was used to. She was quick to apologise for missing by graduations and forgetting my birthdays.

She definitely wasn’t loving up each time she took sides with her husband (my..step father) even when she knew the truth.

We had gotten to the last stage of the induction.

‘…We’ve fought the war of the past; we’re fight fighting the war of the present. We can only hope never to fight the war of the future”.

The bell rang; it was time to dispatch for lunch.


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