The Journey of a Boer Kid
I went out through the creaking door of my house in the misty morning. Not much was visible in the foreground. The ground was soggy and the air had a terrible smell. The occasional grunting of vultures was the only deviance in the eerie silence of the neighborhood.
Most of the houses were riddled with bullet marks. The playground where I used to play is no more the same, it has become a dumping yard of human bodies.
After walking a couple of furlongs I could hear my loud shouts of my mother calling me. I didn’t care to go back. I wanted a freedom from my home which had become a cage. A cage where you are trapped like animals in the Saharan landscape.
The soldiers were the visitors to this landscape. Some of them used to feed us, shift us to a better cage and safeguard us from the other soldiers.
The other kind of soldiers used to torture us, mutilate us and if you are lucky you get killed. The reason for being lucky is you need not suffer the wrath of the war and the associated sufferings.
If you lived during the war you would be deprived of humane life, when you die at least you can sleep in peace.
As I walked further, the mist reduced and the foreground was getting more visible. I saw multiple conical tents of white canvas at a distance. People here possessed a sense of urgency in doing about the work.
I could hear cries and wails of men and women emanating from the tents. There was a board nearby which mentioned that it was a concentration camp.
Out of my curiosity, I peeked inside one of the tents and was shocked to see hundreds of humans lying in beds with nothing but a piece of cloth covering their body. The people looked fragile and severely malnourished. I was able to see only the bones of their body and no muscles at all.
There were several instruments, meters, and cylinders inside the tents which seemed to be connected to the bodies of those humans via pipes.
I walked further down the landscape of Transvaal and found a large number of foreign people. They were fair in color, had a better physique and dressed eloquently in full-length dresses.
My mother used to refer to these strange people as Uitlanders. They spoke a strange language which I couldn’t understand. They had made slaves out of us Boers.
The slaves were doing all the hard labor while the Uitlanders were seen enjoying a better life. I walked passed them looking curiously but they didn’t notice me.
Traveling further through the Transvaal state I came across a group of the same Uitlanders, digging incessantly at a spot.
They had zeal and enthusiasm in their eyes to dig the ground.
I didn’t think they were performing agriculture for they had large machines and buckets.
They began washing the soil with water and repeated this process over and over again.
I laughed at this procedure unable to understand these lunatics.
However, soon my laughter swapped into surprise when I saw that the filtered soil contained tiny pieces of yellow fragments in it.
The people began shouting “Gold”, “Gold”. Soon a larger crowd gathered at the spot and appreciated the diggers and further began digging the soil.
I couldn’t understand why these people felt joyous over some tiny fragments of metal. A board was installed at the location which read
Witwatersrand gold-mining complex.
I continued walking and saw the sky was filled with smoke emanating from far off places. Later I heard intense gunfires at a distance. It was a fight between us guerrilla Boers and the Uitlanders. There were a large number of troops on the Uitlanders side who possessed superior weapons.
They had dug trenches on the ground and began showering bullets towards each other without any mercy. Many young boys of my age were bringing utilities and medicines from the depots to the Boer’s and helping them in the war.
The community of guerrilla Boers was fighting to their last strength. It was a fight to save the homeland from the foreign invaders.
I didn’t like the sight of the war. It has affected my personal life in many ways. I couldn’t go to school for they were bombarded.
I couldn’t spend time with my father for he was killed in the war.
I couldn’t travel with my mother to buy toys in the market for they were made exclusive to the Uitlanders.
I couldn’t play with my friends as many of them were dead or were involved in the war.
I, therefore, wanted the war to end. I made an instant decision to stand in the middle of the battleground with my arms stretched towards the fighting troops and my palm directing them to stop.
However, a strange thing happened. The bullets didn’t stop. Several Bullets passed through my body but no blood came out of me nor I felt any pain.
I was invisible to the troops for they continued firing in my direction. It was a strange feeling for me. How can I become invisible and stoic to pain?
I ascertained that my efforts to stop the gunfire were futile. A cumulative sense of fear and happiness engulfed.
The fear was that the war may be prolonged and the happiness was that I couldn’t feel any pain.
As the night fell, Transvaal plunged into darkness. Only occasional glimpses of flickering light came from oil lanterns in the far landscape.
I went near the banks of Limpopo river and noticed how mighty its flow had become.
The river seemed to be in fury and was severely eroding its banks.
The rage of the river amidst the tranquility of the night was highly contrasting and it left me spellbound.
The river also seemed to be concerned about the ongoing war for I saw many dead bodies strewn on the banks of the river.
I moved further north of Transvaal county and came across a cemetery. There were thousands of tombstones lined up in a military formation. The wind became brisk and it whistled past the branches of trees.
The omnipresent sound of crickets and the occasional shrieks of owls were my only companions in the dreary landscape.
I went passed each of the tombstones and saw the names of the individuals engraved in there. Also, their cause of death and the color of their skin was also mentioned. I read out few names to myself and kept strolling along the cemetery.
Suddenly, I noticed something strange. In one of the tombstones, my name was engraved on it.
Lewis Boer, Killed in a shooting at school, Black.
I couldn’t believe it. How could it be possible?
Does it mean that I am dead and thus was unable to feel the pain of bullets?
Does that mean I no longer have to live in the cage?
Does it mean I have been emancipated from the suffering of the war?
It all seemed true.
At a distance, I could notice my father talking with his other colleagues without any sign of worry.
I saw a few military officers lying down on hammocks and having delightful conversations with others. They seemed unstirred by the war occurring not far from here.
I beamed with joy when I saw some of my friends playing a game of cards near one of the tombstones.
I couldn’t wait for any longer to play with my friends and dashed off to them.
I felt a soothing sense of joy to be detached away from the dreaded war.