It is rare for a film that begins with dramatic, patriotic dialogue to end on a realistic note that truly questions war instead of glorifying it. Raazi accomplishes not just this commendable feat but also chooses to do so by portraying raw, personal turmoil instead of gruesome, action-packed violence. The focus, which initially appears to be on an individual’s duty to his/her country and the honour embedded in this duty, slowly and gradually shifts to the ethical dilemma of the conflict of war: Is the fight for peace really worth it when the very process to achieve it causes the complete opposite; when, to protect the majority, a few individuals are subjected to the very worst of trauma and suffering?
Yuval Noah Harari, in his book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, explains the concept of imagined realities as ‘common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination’ allowing them to cooperate and work towards a mutual goal. A ‘nation’ is an imagined reality – a notion based on invisible, manmade borders – and so is ‘family’ – nothing more than an alliance or cooperative unit of humans who share some DNA and consequently, some resources. It’s a gross oversimplication without the emotional context, isn’t it? Emotions is where things start to get complicated and that is exactly what Raazi expertly uses to paint a picture of the conflict between nation and family – a conflict of imagined realities. To whom does Sehmat truly owes her loyalty – her motherland or her husband’s family? Her father’s legacy of honour or her own conscience? A terrible moral dilemma, all in the name of patriotism, transforms a young, innocent girl into committing murders and becoming an agent in the death of her own husband who, albeit hand-in-hand with the enemy, is a good-natured and respectable man also committed to his duty to his own nation. His character is a screaming testimony of the harshest truth: every person is a victim in war. The enemy is not a monster – just someone with a different viewpoint who suffers equally. There is no real winner. Misery is omnipresent.
Raazi‘s message is the irony of war – that the very structures that are supposed to provide us with peace, security and efficiency tear apart our lives to ensure their own survival. Sehmat’s screams of anguish are the voice of every war victim’s question: What was it really worth?
I’ve spent so long in darkness that I can’t really see all that well anymore.
I’ve spent so long staying quiet that I don’t really know how to tell you the truth anymore.
I’ve spent so long trying to be normal that I don’t really understand who I am anymore.
They said I can’t tell you my story because you wouldn’t believe it. Because some things were meant to be talked about only behind closed doors. And let’s be honest, I didn’t even have any words to describe it in the first place.
But it’s been too many years and the hand forcing my mouth shut has gotten so old and maybe, just maybe, I’ve learned enough metaphors to wrap the truth in so you’d understand what I’m trying to tell you without me actually telling you.
Words are my courage and fear is my story. The only question now is, would you actually care to listen?
Instagram handle: A Writer’s Cauldron
Imagine what it feels like to push and push and push at a rock, trying to make it budge because your survival depends on it but being unable to move it even a single inch. Imagine the desperation. Imagine the hopelessness.
That’s how you made me feel. Like I was trying to move a brick wall. Like I was stupid for even trying.
You pretended like the reigns of the carriage were in my hands and I could drive it to wherever I wanted but you twisted the roads so I ended up right where you wanted me to be.
You spun a web of lies so realistic that I forgot what real actually feels like. Your carefully crafted fiction was the only truth I knew and for a very long time, I let you read me the same story every night, believing every word you said because I was so scared to do otherwise.
But one day, on impulse, I opened another book and the words jumped out and slapped me in the face. I remember how hard it was to breathe that day. I remember how cold I felt. I remember how I thought the world was ending.
Only it didn’t. It got so much better because that was the day I got over you and I swear to God, I’m never coming back.
Instagram handle: A Writer’s Cauldron
Dear Childhood Sweetheart,
I miss you so damn hard today.
Remember how we used to be? Remember how our relationship, our friendship, could so easily be described by that shared ice cream bar when we were five? It used to be simple and perfect with you. The only expectation I had from you was that you push my swing every day and you did. Every single day without complaint.
Why can’t it be like that now? Why can’t love be as easy as you and I used to be? How did it get so complicated? Expectations, complaints, lies, manipulation… It’s all a bloody mess. And none of it feels real enough. It doesn’t feel like how you and I used to feel.
If only people could be as innocent as five year old children, it would be so much safer to fall in love. But right now, they terrify me with their masked intentions. They make me run away as fast as I can.
And sometimes I wonder how you and I would have turned out to be if we’d stuck together all these years. Would our relationship have held? Could it have stayed as pure and fun as it used to be? Probably not. Even we aren’t that lucky. Surely growing up would’ve screwed us over. Perhaps it was for the best, then, that you disappeared. At least I get to have one perfect memory of love. It’s enough to make me keep trying to find something real.
And who knows? Maybe I’ll find you again and life can be simple again. Just like five years old?
Your Silly Little Ex-Girlfriend.
Instagram handle: A Writer’s Cauldron
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You know that warm, comforting feeling you get when you step onto soft grass with your bare feet? How the blades of grass gently tingle your skin and you feel a kind of one-ness with the earth?
You know that relieved breath of sigh you let out when you step out of your tiring shoes and sweaty socks at the end of a long day and let your toes feel the floor of your house? How the cool, hard tiled floor sends shivers of happiness right up your spine and you feel the majority of your stress and exhaustion just melt away into the ground?
You know that funky, uplifting feeling you get when you let your toes wriggle in the hot sand of a sunny, gorgeous beach? How your feet sink into the sand and you just become a part of the nature and beauty of the place itself?
I really hope you know how all this feels. I hope you’re not like me, terrified of letting myself walk barefoot on the ground for no logical reason. I hope when your toes touch the floor, you’re able to appreciate the beautiful feeling for me because damn, I wish I was in your place.
I guess I’ve got some things to clear up with you. And even more to apologise for.
I know I’ve been acting weirdly and I’m sorry if I’ve made you uncomfortable. I did not mean to stare quite so hard at you, really. But it is partly your fault. You were the one who looked over first. And how do I explain what that did to me?
No, it’s not how you think it is. No, I’m not obsessed with you.
Fate is cruel. And so are your eyes. For they remind me of something. A someone who once mercilessly grabbed my arm and stomped on my already broken sanity. Your eyes have his laugh, Stranger. It knocks all breath out of my body.
It’s so much easier telling the world and even myself that I’m attracted to you because it’s the biggest lie I’ve ever spoken. And I could be a professional for all the lies I’ve told in my life. So that’s what I do. I tell them I’m hopelessly attracted to you so they’d think my abnormal attentiveness to your presence is normal.
Attraction is thrilling. But the shreds of my mind confuses that thrill with fear way too often. And that’s what’s happening between you and me. My own fear is pulling me towards you instead of making me run. It’s not courage. It’s self destruction.
My eyes are fixed on every move you make in a horrified paralysis. My mind is frantic with terror, seeing nothing but that imaginary monster in you and that monster alone. My body is cold with memory for it remembers more than my mind does, even the bits I subconsciously shut out to protect myself.
Dear Stranger, you make it more difficult when you stare back. And I’m so sorry for never looking away. I’m so sorry for hating you for something you never were and never will be. I’m sorry for glaring at you and I’m sorry for the unreciprocated friendly smiles.
But mostly I’m sorry for ever having run into you and dragging you into the middle of my crazy world. You deserve it even less than I did.
That Girl Who Stares Too Much.
I want to be five years old again. Back when colours were just colours and not reminders of people I once used to know. When happiness came in tiny, brightly-coloured packets of shiny candy and wasn’t accompanied with bitter memories that turned my tongue sour. When love was the toys I shared with my friends and not an elusive firefly I could never catch, glowing dimmer and dimmer the closer I got to it.
I want to be eight years old again. Back when games were just games, innocent fun to pass a lazy summer day and this deadly hide-and-seek life now plays with me was still in the future, far away. When my fingers were still learning to grip my pen with ease and not ripping apart notebooks filled with words from a past me. When songs were sung in high, exulted notes and not a voice near breaking for the fifth time today.
I want to be fifteen years old again. Back when breathing was something I did without a thought and didn’t have to think twice about laughing too hard. When a door was just a door with exciting adventures behind it and not a door with monsters lurking in the corners beside it. When life was a road I was yearning to walk, my eyes blissfully oblivious of the weeds that grew further down the path.
I don’t want to be twenty years old yet. I still have to call the people I think of when my eyes catch a certain shade of yellow. I still have to thank everyone who bought me candy when I was eleven. I still need to chase that firefly and seek the future. I still have to tape together the ripped notebooks, still need to try singing that song again because I’m positive, this time I can do it. I still need to catch my breath just so I can laugh some more. Still have to try the knob of every door. And when I’m done with all of that, I’m gonna put on a new pair of shoes and dance my way through all those weeds that lurk down the paths I choose.
It’s a vicious cycle. This endless cycle of disappointment.
You say words I never expected you to, words that sting like a mother. Then I defy you in those open acts of rebellion that are the shining feature of my personality. Stubborn. Irrational. Self-destructive.
It makes you glare at me, my defiance. I can feel the heat of your anger rolling off your skin. Your compulsive need to tame me making your hands itch. I can see your fingers twitching. I can feel the red spots in your vision.
And that is when your hand rises. The end of the power struggle. Your victory over me. Brute strength always wins this battle. Especially when I am right.
You are in control. And you leave no opportunity to remind me of that.
But that is not where the story ends. Because the wounds you inflict on me are the signs of your real failure. Your failure as a man. They are the evidence of how wrong you are.
One day, I shall parade them. One day, when you’ve ruined me enough for nakedness to not bother me anymore, I will parade them. One day, you’ll feel my shame. One day, you’ll see disappointment and hate in their eyes too, like I saw in yours.
My bruises might be hidden for now, protecting you awhile, but one day, the bloody gashes inside my head will give me the ink to write out your doom.
Image Credit: https://agnes-cecile.deviantart.com/art/are-scars-on-body-217843735
The image is blurry, as if seen through a film of smoke. Fading memories – realities slipping through my fingers.
One of them said it never happened. One of them whispered that it did. One of them laughed at my perplexity. One of them shrieked the sordid details in my ear.
Hours pass each day as I think and think it all through. Real or not real, who will ever know?
And how does it matter – my truth or their truth? The universe is all relative and history is written by winners anyway.
Real or not real – they have fucked up my brain. The damage is done now and I’ll never be the same ever again.
Image credits: agnes-cecile on deviantart.com