As his last days creep slowly, yet surely closer, Mr. Smith contemplates conflict. What is conflict? He asks himself. A few moments of pondering bring him the conclusion. Conflict is his own body fighting against itself. It’s his cancer cells versus his healthy cells. It is a battle inside his very own body where neither can live while the other survives. A patient diagnosed with schizophrenia walks into his ward one day. “Excuse me, sir. What is conflict?” Mr. Smith asks.


Wahid pauses at the question. The answer floats into his mind, a jarring crack in the middle. “Conflict is my very own mind splitting into two clashing, yet somehow merging parts. It is being a different person in the morning and a whole new stranger at night. Conflict is the shards of glass puncturing my brain and fragmenting it every single moment.”  Wahid meets his social worker the next day and poses her a question. “What is conflict, Mrs. Rao?”


The 52-year old veteran had thought she had heard it all. Until now. She blinks. “Conflict is the intense, burning need to help each one of you souls in pain and being able to help but a few. Conflict is being torn between a homeless child and an alcoholic. Conflict is the torturously restricted human capacity to help.” That evening, she has an appointment with her current client, an alcoholic.


“I have a question for you, Mr. Singh. What is conflict?” The old man wearily rubs his eyes, thinking. “Conflict is alcohol. It is that little niggling voice in your mind urging you to put the damn glass down and get back to your worried wife while your tongue calls out for another drink.  Conflict is the look on your kid’s face as he struggles to keep his smile on when you walk in the next day.” Later that night, Mr. Singh drunkenly stumbles into a prostitute’s waiting arms and mumbles, “What is conflict, Rosie?”


Rosie is slightly surprised, to say the least. Stroking his brow, she whispers softly, “Conflict is a choice, darling. It is choosing between a penniless existence and a soulless existence. Conflict is whether that dirty old alcoholic picks my friend or me.” A few weeks later, Rosie’s client is a young soldier, fresh from the border. “What is conflict, Raj?” she asks him.

The man’s eyes are dead. He chokes out a few words. “Conflict is war. Conflict is ignoring your best friend’s pleading eyes as you abandon him to save your own life. Conflict is your pathetic attempts at normalcy when all you want to do is put a bloody bullet through your head.”


Raj is staring at a flickering candle in his dark, empty room. “What is conflict?” he asks the thin air.


“Conflict is limbo. Conflict is being hopelessly stuck between two worlds. Conflict is me, Raj.”


Raj looks at his best friend’s bitter smile and grins.


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