Recent Architecture Graduate Nirali Bhatt-Roberts Wins Creative Writing Award
Recent graduate Nirali Bhatt-Roberts has won Short Story of the Year at the SMEDIA Awards 2020: the Student Media Awards, Ireland.
We are delighted to feature Nirali’s story Roots below, accompanied by photography by the author.
Before you began, I was here. Before everything began, I was always here.
When I was young, I grew surrounded by family, I had uncountable brothers and sisters. My early years were ones of warmth and serenity. We grew, together and separately, spreading our influence and experiencing the world. Our youth was wild and free, we roamed wherever we wanted, untamed. Despite this, I was always perfectly attuned to my kin, as they were to me. It was harmony; defined.
Everything changed the moment you were brought into being. You grew from the seeds of me. In the beginning you were so innocent you did not even know you needed me, I grew for you the food you ate, the shelter you made was borne from me, I even supplied you the air you breathe. Yet still you were too naive to realize that it was I that gave all this for you. I watched you develop, learn to walk, to talk, to cook. I watched you, urged you, helped you.
In the moments you realized the full extent to which I could benefit you, nothing could ever be the same again. I provided for you, and in return, you tamed me. You introduced me to order and organization, showed me how to make the best of myself each year, to help and feed the most people I could. You helped me change in ways it was not thought possible, so I could grow in places that seemed impossible before. We were happy, working together for everything, we were unified, our relationship was balanced, reciprocal, symbiotic.
Too soon you became greedy, wanting more than I could offer, taking more than I could give, uncaring that what you needed to survive; was also what I needed to survive. As you grew you became ungrateful, wasteful, uncaring. You lost your respect for me. Your actions cut and burnt me. Yet you do not seem to notice. You broke my back building higher and deeper. You wrung the minerals from my blood so you could eat them. Your pollution made my skin bleed and my lips crack.
And I let you. I had seen you come so far, poured my everything into you, how could I retract my help from you now? After I had helped you grow so much? When the one you raised is bleeding you dry, what else can you do but let them? You have watched me grow old, break and start to die. Yet you do nothing to help me.
You forget. You forget that in the beginning, when you were still young, I gave and I sacrificed with no recognition, no return. When you were cold, I set fire to myself to keep you warm. I allowed you to take parts of myself to make you well, I was the remedy you needed.
I don’t think you were ever the remedy I needed. In the winter of my life, my old age, my illness, should not you be looking after me as I looked after you in the spring of yours?
The world grows cold, and I am dying. I feel myself slipping. There is no place for me left in this callous, metal world. I must sleep now, for I know if I do not I will pass. I have let you take and take until I had nothing left to give, and now I must retract my help completely from you. I cannot bear to continue to watch on as you tear yourself apart. Tear apart your brothers and sisters, my brothers and sisters. Tear me apart. So now I must sleep, and urge my kin to do the same. You shall learn what it means to live without my help.
From the depths of my sleep, I feel it happen. Earth shattering. Colossal. For my brothers and sisters who did not retract as I did, I feel them go. It is not painless, and my bond is still too close, I feel it happen. Some of them are incensed, I feel them burn. Some are covered by snow and ice, I feel them wither, freeze and die. Some are burned by the air, potent chemicals stripping flesh from bone. Some are drowned, the water encasing them until they cannot live. I feel it all. I cannot breathe, I cannot sleep. I am enraged. Your greed has been your hubris, but it has also been mine. My family is all but gone. Not fully consumed, for we are resilient. But still devastated. Deep in the soil, the ones that slept like me, prevail. Warmth has faded from the world, but deep in the earth, some of you have survived, the smart ones, the respectful; and though you lie dying, some of you will overcome. For your kin, like mine, is resilient. The world still is cold, too cold for my family to grow again, but slowly, without your influence, it begins to warm. The skies begin to blue. The oceans to settle. My sisters are rising, my brothers are growing. I too swell, I grow. The sun is bright, and for the first time in a long time, I bathe, and am strong. After you end, I am here. After everything ends, I will always be here.