Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 9:52 AM
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Short Story

To what end?

Published : Saturday, 13 January, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 74
Dr Rajib Sanyal

(Continuation from previous week)

As was his daily evening ritual, Haruto, after taking a bath, entered the prayer room wearing fresh, clean clothes.  He sat down on the floor, on a bamboo reed mat, to meditate, pray, and pay respects to his ancestors and the gods.  Sora peeked in to say, "Don't let the news get to you.  Dinner will be ready soon."
This evening, though, Haruto closed his eyes and tried to recall that evening nearly seven decades ago when his brother, Hisato, older to him by just over a year, announced at the dinner table to them, that at his pilot training school, he had volunteered and had been selected to serve on the tokkotai (special attack unit).  The dinner had been completed in stunned silence.  All knew what it meant - Hisato would be a kamikaze pilot.  Their father had gotten up and said, "Be brave Hisato - for the Emperor and Empire - loyalty and honor until death!"  Their mother, without saying a word, left the room for the bedroom and closed the door behind her.  Harutostayed silent, not fully comprehending what he had heard.
Hisato did not return from his mission.        
A photograph of Hisato in his aviator's uniform, his teenage face looking straight ahead, a hint of a smile on his lips, was on the altar beside those of his parents.  He had penned a note for his mother.  An envelope, a silk string tied around it, lay below the pictures.  
Haruto removed the string, opened the envelope, and carefully pulled out the letter, still well preserved.  He read it, his hands trembling, eyes squinting in the dim light of the temple room.  It was a short note.
"I am so happy to have the honor of being chosen to be a member of the Special Attack Force that is on its way into battle, but I cannot help crying when I think of you, Maa.  When I think of the hopes you had for my future …  I feel so sad that I am going to die without doing anything to bring you joy.  Love, Hisato."
Sora interrupted Haruto's reverie.  "Dinner is ready.  Come out.  I told you not to dwell on it.  At this stage in our lives, we don't need to be worrying of matters long past."
"You are right, Sora. I am coming", replied Haruto, as he put the letter back into the envelope, slipped the silk string around it and returned it to its appointed place on the alcove and heaved himself up. He continued, "I don't get it.  Hisato's suicide attack did not achieve anything - except to cause all of us a lifetime of grief.  The attacker in Paris - what a waste!  There is nothing that his suicide will accomplish.  Only people are left to mourn. Won't people learn?"
Sora was already sitting at the table waiting for her husband.  As she poured out warm sake in to two small ceramic chokos, she mused, "As the cliché goes - history repeats itself".

Dr Rajib Sanyal is Dean of Robert B Willumstad School of Business at Adelphi University in Long Island, New York

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