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Categories: - Short Stories for Sustainability

Dusk to Dawn

Concept, Idea, Content – By Debashis Chakraborty



They are barely six years old. Well, maybe seven, but that's it.

The two boys are playing. Not with toys, but with pieces of stones and woods. Actually, describing their engagement as playing in strict sense would be glorifying their action. In practice, they are trying to escape the scorching sun and the flying dust particles by pretending to be engaged with some physical actions. The neighbourhood, full of worn out people, seem to be far too obsessed with their own struggles for securing livelihood to take any notice of them.

It is just not possible to keep the pretence of playing for long. One of them looks up and says, 'hey, let's go for mountaineering.'

The other joylessly nods, more likely from the sheer lack of alternatives than from the possible excitement.

They move towards the outer gate of the rundown colony. The homes on both sides of the ally are literally made of pieces - plastic, wood, stone, metal – whatever the scavengers could get from their surroundings have been put to good, okay – manageable, use.

They arrive near the river, reduced to a canal now. Water is difficult to spot though - mud, loads of poisonous chemicals and plastics are rather visible.

A few grown-ups are standing near the rickety bridge and busy quarrelling. An old man is angrily saying, 'For how many times do I need to implore you people to stop releasing the waste in the river? Let's dig a deep hole and we can put -'

One roguish looking person laughs loudly and rebuffs him, 'Hey Grandpa, spare us the lesson on this so-called MRS – morality, responsibility, sustainability. I'm tired of it. Frankly, I really do not believe that by adopting your so-called sustainable practices, we can reverse the climate scenario prevailing today.'

Others loudly cheer for him.

The two boys do not stop. It's everyday affair.

They cross the bridge and step into the ghost town. Skeletons of the big buildings are standing there and thousands of cars, air-conditioning machines and other electrical appliances are piled against them. Without electricity, they are useless now. Nobody lives there anymore. There is no e-waste processing facility either. So, rainwater carries all the harmful chemicals to the river and other water bodies.

It's scorching heat for the last seven months. But before that for more than two years, it has rained continuously, with snowfall in between. This dingy colony has lost all their solar batteries due to bad maintenance. The promised help from another community located nearby has not arrived yet.

'Which one?' asks one of them.

'Let's take this', the other suggests by pointing to a fifteen storey building.

The two boys nod to each other once and start climbing the identified building. They are repeating what they did yesterday. They'll race upto the top floor of the building by climbing the exterior. It is difficult, but not impossible. The buildings are in advance stage of decay with plasters coming off and plants are visible here and there.

With almost no economic activities, life is harsh. So every person hunts and gathers their own food, even the kids.

This is a daily routine for them. The two boys play the mountaineering game in the morning, decide the winner of the day, and then start gathering food. The winner gets the lion's share of the meagre joint collection of food. But the game brings traces of thrill in the otherwise dull life.

One boy slips at the third floor. He barely catches a branch of a thick bush. The other boy thinks for a few seconds before extending the helping hand, ..as if he is weighing the possible benefits of saving his partner. But, finally he does so. The first boy lets out a nervous chuckle and after a minute they start climbing once again.

……

Nilesh logs out from the visuoscope. Watching the future in 2345 is exciting for academic interest, but is takes a toll on health. And morale as well. After watching the two kids for three days running, he feels empty, despite the bright lights and comforting atmosphere of the laboratory. Despite the air-conditioner running in cool mode, he is sweating.

When man invented time machine, i.e., visuoscope, in 2289, it was marked as the great leap for mankind. It however was deliberately not made a household devise.

The policymakers at least guessed one thing correctly – 'ignorance is bliss'.

Despite the scientific advancement, tragedy of the commons are spreading rapidly today. Sitting in his laboratory in 2292, Nilesh now knows that in a span of three decades, the Earth he knows is going to be transformed completely. Climate change effects are going to intensify and cause extreme weather fluctuations.

In essence, over the next three decades the world would reach pre industrial revolution stage once again. Knowledge and civilized manners would be lost. Wealth would turn into meaningless assets. A glass of clean water would be scarcer and costlier commodity than diamonds. 'Survival of the fittest' would rule once again.

But nobody believes this version of future! Or, they do not want to believe.

Nilesh gets up from the chair and with a heavy heart switches off the AC and lights. After descending the stairs, he reaches the parking lot. Instinctively he looks up towards the building.

All the ACs are running. The global warming is making the world a hot place to live…. So, everybody switch the AC on while at office and also drive their vehicles with the ACs on during the journey. Once at home, they switch it on again. It comforts them as individuals, but collectively the practice deteriorates the environment.On the other hand, the carbon and other harmful emissions have reached such a harmful stage that even in this afternoon, it looks like sunset time.

Well, if anybody says that they have seen sunrise, sunset or clear blue sky today, any sane listener would blast him as a damn liar. All the day, the sky sports a look of sunset.

Nilesh takes a deep breath and thinks. There are hardly any mountains or jungles left in today's world. Mankind's quest for mineral deposits have removed them from the earth's crust long back. So five decades down the line, the kids would have no option but to scale abandoned buildings and piled up vehicles and AC machines for adventure sports. No other mode of recreation would be there.

In his vision of the future, the kid that saved the other one had a choice. He could have let the other kid fall to his death and consume all the foods he was going to gather. But he preferred to save his friend. He preferred to enjoy lesser material comfort, by choosing the company of the other boy.

Nilesh understands his choices. He can drive home in the confine of his vehicle, escaping the scorching heat and surrounding pollution. Or, he can walk to his apartment, trying to enjoy the company of other people. And maybe he can try to warn them on the possible adverse effects of the life-style led climate disasters. His efforts may not change the future much. But at least he will have the consolation, 'I tried'.

After a few minutes of thought, he decides in favour of the second option. Perhaps he will not be able to influence the mind-set of too many people, but one can only hope. He moves away from his care, silently uttering, 'Rio'.

Nilesh walks towards his apartment. Joylessly. Mid-way through, while wiping perspiration from the forehead, a trace of thought comes to his mind, 'If only all the nations had understood the climate change consequences three hundred years back..'





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