Laila’s Brother – a short story

Just as young Laila switched channels on the television, she paused to focus on one and looked intently at what they were showing.

Suddenly she shrieked, “Maa! Look!!  Isn’t that brother?  Look! They are showing his pictures.”

Maa thought Laila was, as usual, merely day-dreaming. And so she didn’t come out.

Laila said it louder this time, and Maa stepped out of her kitchen to cast a casual glance at what her ten-year-old insisted on showing.

True indeed! There he was. Her son.

Various pictures of him were being shown on a TV show. His boyhood picture, and also one as a young man in a group hug. But she wasn’t very sure which one was him although she could tell.

Maa was shocked as well as too confused. “I have not seen your brother since long. Is that him?”

Now Maa was not even listening to the voice on TV, for at this moment it all felt like a dream. “You are right Laila! Of course it is him.”

His boyhood pictures – that is how Maa had ascertained it was indeed her son. And that’s the only way Laila had recognized her brother the moment she saw him on TV.

Laila had not seen her brother in real life. Not exactly, as she was almost a baby when he left home without telling anyone. But she had grown up seeing various pictures that she often saw in her Maa’s hands. His pictures that Maa carefully kept locked in her wardrobe – a young boy flying a kite, a simple student engrossed in his books, a devout praying to the Almighty, and many more.

Admiring these pictures, so many times Laila had secretly wished she could see her brother even if once, and play with him. She had heard stories that her brother was a bright and sharp-minded student so she aspired to be like him.

And now…intently watching her son on TV,  the dazed Maa said “Laila, that’s what he looked like when he left home. Only twelve. Still baby faced. But what is he doing there?”

Laila was not listening anymore, and not even watching TV. Soon she sneaked out and got busy playing with her friends.

Maa changed the channel but her son was on this one too.

“Hang on! What’s that?” she murmured to herself as she looked closely, for this channel showed more of his pictures. She had never seen her young boy carry a huge real gun in his hand. She suddenly remembered he was very fond of toy guns. Always.

With her hand on her open mouth, she sighed “He had a fighter in him. But God! What has he been up to?” 

This time Maa paid attention to what they were saying. The female newsreader referred to him as ‘Mastermind’. He had fought with the whole world. He had taken lives. He was the vile schemer who planned it all, she heard that voice say.  But how can she believe that her innocent boy can do all that?

Maa was sobbing incessantly. Her eyes glued to the TV, tears blurred her vision and she couldn’t see clearly what they showed. She began to remember his childhood even more.

As a boy he was a rebel. As a seven year old he had fought with the whole community that he won’t allow a goat to be killed in the name of sacrifice.  When did he become a butcher? She wondered. At what age did he first kill a human being?  14? 17? Or later? She’ll never know, thought Maa.  He also wanted to do big things; wanted to be famous. So this was the big thing he did now? He has become popular all over the world. Maa cried as she thought of all this. Now the whole day, media will broadcast his name, relay news about her 24 year old boy behind some major killings. Did she give birth to this dreaded man? 

The more she thought of him, the more she couldn’t contain herself. Again and again Maa banged her head against the wall, beating her abdomen that gave birth to this child, slapping her breasts that nurtured him.

The whole world knew what he was up to. Only I didn’t.  He has been killed and the whole world knows it. The whole world is rejoicing his death, but how can I? The whole world hates him but I can’t!  I can’t! I never will. How can I? But I must. I must…”

Saying this, Maa broke down. But just as she saw Laila coming inside, she wiped her tears and switched off the television. She also decided to not let Laila see any TV for a few days. She didn’t want Laila to hate her sibling – her only brother.

Laila came in and asked innocently, “Maa! Is brother coming back?”

Maa felt like saying, “No Laila, the path he chose to walk, is only one-way. There’s no return from there.” But instead, pulling her daughter close to her by waist, she said, “I do not know, dear. Hope he does!”.

At least for now this seemed to be the right answer.  Maybe sooner or later, the older Laila will find out, but by then she’ll prepare her daughter to handle the truth.

Soon Laila went to her room feeling happy. Outside the house, exhausted sun was on the last leg of its daily journey. Maa switched off the light and sat in the dark, brooding and weaving all sorts of thoughts.


At that moment somebody knocked.  Maa hesitated, and then opened the door. It was police, who came to inform the obvious.

All these years she had waited for the officials to bring some news about her only son’s whereabouts. But they had no clue. Sometime back cops had come asking for him but she had no idea. Now the police as well as Maa knew it all, but the game was over.

The police went away as it came.  Maa was aware it was their last visit. Police will not come back anymore. And neither will her son.

~~~ ~~~

Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes a new story writing challenge.

Copyright © 2015 Alka Girdhar

18 thoughts on “Laila’s Brother – a short story

  1. Very realistic and heartbreaking recount. I can imagine the mother of each terrorist living this doom and gloom day. How very sad that one who gives life has to witness that life taking others.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much! Although home culture and radical religious/political views held by parents do play a strong role…even then mothers often have no role to play, as growing children absorb a lot from their external environment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank You!

        But I would not say that Mothers have No role to play. There is a thing called ‘Non-Visible Results.’ They show themselves maybe at a latter stage, often very powerfully.

        But as You say, the world puts down Women very much.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree with you. Generally speaking, a mother always has a subtle or strong influence in her children’s life.

          Even though here I was talking in the contexts of children/youth taking to terrorism, where the role of a mother is possibly less as she’s pushed aside, but still she does play a role early on during formative years.
          Male dominated families and races that take pride in men being martial probably end up producing more extreme behaviors in male off-springs…because a male child growing in this environment soon emulates the behavior of his father or other macho father-figures who have never taken the beating from others, only given. And yet, each child has his/her own nature and circle of friends and associates.

          Thank you for bringing up this analytical conversation.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I would like to add to all Your excellent comments here the thought, that the males ‘Force’ their male offspring into lines of particular behaviour, directly or indirectly.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Balroop! It’s a delicate topic, one feels exhausted even when writing about it but I’m sure these things happen. After a particular age, children do not tell everything to their parents, and it’s very much possible for them to shut themselves off mentally and physically.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another well-written short story, Alka. There was so much detail in this one, and a range of emotions too. It started off so carefree, rather positive – Laila, a child, finding simple, innocent joy in watching TV. Then Maa, the ever-loving parent, coming out expecting to see her child having fun only to receive heart-wrenching news from the TV – finding out from the public sphere within the comfort of the private sphere, how sad is that. And at the end I love how you resolved the story and there was some bittersweet closure.

    Sometimes we might think we know someone no matter how close we are to them. Each of us have secrets. In fact, we are all entitled to our own privacy and have our own secrets. We are all entitled to have a dark side too since not all of us are perfect. Then again, violence and hatred rarely solves anything and rarely gets us anywhere. Ultimately, love is everything as it brings about so much positivity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad that you liked my story, Mabel. Actually you analysed it better than I wrote 🙂 This story had room for details as flash-fiction has a word-limit put up by the challenges. By pointing out Laila’s innocence, you’ve been able to capture what I was trying to convey…that these are probably everyday type of families with simple joys and affections but things go wrong at a particular point. Women are living in secure boundaries of home while one family member has chosen a public path to disaster. In the end, after all the negative experiences, at least Maa was wise enough to care for her daughter who’s still in her hands; to not let her be influenced negatively.

      And, as you say, how true it is that we do not really know even those who are close to us. I feel, as long as this dark side does not harm anyone else, it’s our personal battle, our own demons to overcome which we must. But if along with our own life we are ruining that of many others, then it hurts our wider family as well the whole world.
      It’s so wise of you to identify this simple truth, that love is everything. Thanks dear!


      • Really, really enjoyed this flash fiction. So thanks for sharing 🙂 As the saying goes, blood is thicker than water. It binds us to certain people around us whether we like it or not, metaphorically speaking. It’s probably why some of us find it hard to push away those whom we call family…in a sense, we are related.

        Love is certainly everything, and the sooner we put hurt behind us, the sooner we can feel love again 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes Prompt #2 Entries: THE LINKS | ronovanwrites

  4. A very well written story Alka, bringing out the emotions of the families of people who are brainwashed and taken away to a path from where there is no way back. Your story makes a point that as much as we hate them, their families may not be at fault but have to bear the brunt of their actions, or maybe face the scorn of society as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Somali! I assumed this kind of behind the scene scenario, where innocent family members who are possibly unaware, bear emotional loss as well as humiliation. But as they say, it always comes back to our own people.

      Liked by 1 person

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