17 DECEMBER 1949
It’s the year 1949, and all around the world, people have finally started to hope. That they just may be able to have peace in their time.
But it is not true for many people. Soldiers who were fortunate to return alive now possessed wounds and memories they couldn’t rid of. Their families had lost those who they had wanted to spend a lifetime with, whether they were alive or dead. Yet in 1949, the time I currently am observing, while many are still adjusting to this new world they now live in, there is now a general sense of hope amongst many. The Second World War has been a huge field of study for people, and the waves of violence still ripple through the world and its affairs nearly a century later, which is the time I am from. Being an avid fan of history, I had assumed that I had considerable knowledge about the chain of events. But none of the books I read had mentioned about this post-war phenomenon of hope that had faintly sparkled across the West. Hope that this storm of destruction they witnessed will have sated the people who thought of war as salvation. Hope that now they won’t have to hear about the hundreds of dead and missing countrymen reported every week. Hope that their sons and fathers and brothers and husbands and friends won’t have to die before it was their time. Hope that their children will now want a better future for themselves. It really was quite beautiful to behold.
Of course, it wasn’t the same for all the people. Entire countries watched the war from the sidelines, particularly in Latin America. I sometimes saw it with them while they were watching. While I did remember a little Spanish from my school days, the language was an obstacle. But it still was possible to get the gist, since I already knew most of the details. I was mostly interested to see the events from their point of view. But while these people belonged to observer nations (a term that incidentally hadn’t been coined yet, and by ‘yet’, I mean before 1945), that didn’t mean they were entirely unaffected. They watched and breathed and groaned and prayed and cheered as if the world was a stage and in front of them was the greatest show of their lives. I suppose in a way, it was. And after the end of the Second World War, the world saw a rise in the thoughts of sovereignty, nationalism, and the dangerously volatile notion of freedom, and it was changed forever.
It is 1949, and I have now seen the world. I’ve seen Germany on its knees, its people both horrified and grief-stricken for the soldiers they lost and the crimes they committed before dying. It seems it really was true that most people had no idea of the atrocities that the Nationalist Socialists had carried in the name of ‘strengthening Germany’, even though many claimed to be devoted followers. I saw Dachau and Auschwitz in front of me on their worst days of cruelty, and there were many of them. Had to see it from a distance, because I neither look German nor speak any. If I’d been seen, they would’ve probably thought I was a gypsy and matters would get complicated.I was in Hiroshima on D-Day. Of course, I had to time it quite precisely, or I would’ve been dead. It was probably the stupidest decision I’ve made since I started traveling. I’ve seen the United States reach unprecedented heights of power, and this year I saw them baffled; suddenly facing a new challenge in the Soviet Union, who tested their nuclear bomb in August. I saw the end of colonialism; countries freeing themselves from the clutches of Europe, ready to create a future for themselves, and I’ve further seen other countries having a problem with that. I’ve seen wars around the world that have been happening since 1945. Some have been happening since the beginning of this century, and some of them that are to start in the years following 1949. They will start and they will end. A new one would then start; sometimes on its own, sometimes a consequence of a war gone by. People will die, along with the hope many had nurtured; again and again. A few of these even stretch to the time where I’m from: either direct or indirect consequences of the violence of the past, still claiming lives in the present and strengthening its grip over the future. The hope was a sham. Anger, violence, and hate are far superior travelers than I can possibly wish to be. Surprisingly, that doesn’t matter much to me. One has to do what one can do. Nothing more can be done, and certainly can’t be asked by someone. Then why am I doing this?
Because while I’ve enjoyed this privilege of observation, it wasn’t for this reason I decided to travel. I was interested to see all this of course, but these were side benefits. That is because on a certain day in a certain year, I had an idea; an idea that became a wish, a wish which then turned into a quiet thought, which then turned into desperate longing. I decided on that day that I shall see the family I’ve never met, but only heard stories about.Those who never met me, but have loved the idea of me, when they thought of their children growing up and having their own.I want to tell them how loved they are, even decades after they are no longer alive. And give them a little hope about their family. Maybe this hope will persevere.
Childish, I know; I am talking about hope just after declaring that it is a sham. But isn’t what drives most people childish in general?
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