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Hetalia - India's Beginning
The furthest I had ever gone from home was Sri Lanka. My people always warned me not to stray into other bigger, more powerful countries. We feared they would try and claim us for their own. But we soon found out that we didn’t have to go anywhere to be conquered. All the empires came to us.
England landed on my shore a long time ago. He looked around at the dense jungles and strange people and smiled. He spotted me and trotted over to where I was standing, bewildered.
“Excuse me, what is this place?” he asked.
I didn’t know how to act towards him. I decided to be as neutral as possible. So, showing as little emotion as I could while simultaneously squelching my growing curiosity and suspicion, I replied:
“This is India.”
He put his hands on his hips and studied me closely. “India, eh? Well, then…”
He pulled a flag from behind his back and stuck it into the ground. It was the flag of the British Empire; all blue and white and red. It waved in the wind, silent. I glanced up at the man.
“What’s this?” I asked, gesturing to the flag. We didn’t really have a flag. We never saw any need for one. I wondered what value it held. I cannot deny that it looked impressive and very official.
The English man puffed his chest out proudly and exclaimed, “It’s my flag! I claim India for Britain!”
I stepped back, wondering what gave him the authority to just “claim” us.
“You can’t claim us,” I said. “We live here. This is our country.”
He put his hands behind his back and grinned. “Yes, but…do you have a flag?”
Puzzled by the question, I folded my arms and frowned.
“We don’t need a flag. You can’t take what’s not yours.”
“Sorry, but, no flag, no country. That’s how the world works. India belongs to me now.”
And so we ended up obeying his every command. He wanted sugarcane, we got him sugarcane. He wanted elephants to take back to his home, we gave him elephants. He wanted tigers, we gave him tigers. He wanted gold, we gave him gold. He wanted spices; we gave him all the spices he could carry. But we were never happy to do so. We did it for the sole cause of maintaining peace.
One day, my assistant came running to me. He was panicked and furious. He told me that England was taking people. I was alright with giving him a few things as mentioned earlier. But he had gone too far.
I ran out to confront him.
He was standing on the beach, a large ship resting on the shore. Several Indians were tied together with thick rope and were being led away onto the vessel.
“What do you think you’re doing?!” I asked.
Arthur turned to me, a frightening gleam in his eyes. “I’m taking a few of your people. Don’t worry, they won’t be hurt. They’ll have a better life in my home.”
He stroked his chin. “Not exactly. Just…workers that don’t get paid. But in return for their labor, I shall give them shelter and food and medicine. They’ll be happier.”
I looked at the line of people staring back at me. I saw the pleas in their eyes. They didn’t want to go. The promise of riches meant nothing to them. We were a very rich country until he came. He came and he took everything. He could strip this beautiful peninsula of everything he wanted. But I would not allow him to take my people.
“These children are far too young to work.” I said, gesturing towards the several children lined up behind their parents.
“Oh, they’ll grow up, won’t they?”
I glared at the Englishman. He smirked back at me. There was nothing I could do.
“Alright. When does this ship set sail?” I asked.
“Tomorrow at dawn.”
I nodded. He wouldn’t know it but I would have an army ready by then.
I had gathered every able man in the country, telling them of England’s folly. They cringed and cursed him and his empire. I gave them an attack plan and asked for advice. They threw out little tidbits of wisdom and agreed wholeheartedly with my scheme.
We only had a day and all night to train and prepare. We had never fought as a collective army before. We had never been invaded this way so we had no need to. France invaded us a while back but they were kind and offered us western technology and medicine in return for the things we gave. But England kicked him out and “claimed” us.
We would sabotage the ship under the cover of darkness. At exactly midnight, a troop of brave Indians would hack holes in the side of the ship. They were skilled craftsmen and would be able to do it silently. After that, a miniature army would get on the vessel and try to free the Indians that were being held captive. Then we would all go to bed and pretend nothing happened.
I would be assisting both groups.
Dusk came and we were nervous and antsy. Everyone was fidgeting and biting their lips, their eyes darting back and forth between me and the others. I stood in front of the small group. When I gave the signal, we would run out to the beach and begin the sabotage of the ship.
England seemed like a nice person to be around at first. I remember the way he swaggered up to me when he first arrived and asked me where he was as though he had done it several times before. He probably had. The man was a filthy pirate but I respected him…until he began taking my people.
A sudden memory ripped a hole in my heart.
England was slouched under a large tree. He smiled slightly under its shade. I was on my way to the beach when I spotted him. He grinned when he saw me and patted the ground beside him, gesturing for me to sit beside him.
Not wanting to offend him, I sat down and sighed, my back against the tree.
“This is a beautiful country,” he said. “You are very lucky to be native to this incredible land. It’s paradise.”
I chuckled, “Yes, indeed. Once you get past the tigers and mosquitos, it’s heavenly.”
He laughed and I couldn’t help but giggle myself. I had come to grow fond of him although we never really talked much after our first encounter.
“Tell me, what is your name?” he asked.
My smile vanished and I looked at him. He was staring back, still grinning. I saw the curiosity in his eyes. The longer I drilled him with my stare, the more his smile seemed to melt into a frown. After a minute or so, he looked away.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.” He mumbled.
“I wish not to. I am sorry.” I said. I liked him but that didn’t mean I trusted him. He was still a stranger to me, to us all. I wasn’t going to put the lives of my people in danger. He meant well but I wasn’t convinced.
“Ah, that’s quite alright; no need to apologize.” He got up and stretched. I rose from my crouched position and waited for him to allow me to leave. He smiled at me and said, “You know, I might like to make myself a home here…not permanently. Something like a vacation home, I suppose. With your permission, of course.”
“You want to live here?” I asked, fearing that he would say yes. He was very welcome to stay but I didn’t want him to bring others.
“Yes, if that is alright with you.” Cocking his head to one side, he avoided my gaze. “I’ve made a few wonderful friends here and I am very fond of them. Yes, I’d like to stay here for a while.”
“Friends? Half these people can’t speak English. How did you make friends? What, is your best friend a tiger? Perhaps a peacock?”
He chuckled, looking me in the eyes now. “Actually, I was talking about you. I consider you my friend.”
I almost stumbled backwards. Us? Friends? Well, if he wanted my friendship, he could have it. I considered him a friend also but I knew that one day he would take it for granted. I allowed myself the benefit of the doubt for only a few seconds. I was flattered.
I smiled. “You may stay here for as long as you like. Consider us your family. If you need anything just ask, and I’m always here if you need a friend.”
I began walking away, towards the beach. But before he vanished from my sight, I turned back and said, “Oh, I won’t tell you my real name but you can call me India.”
I heard him laugh and caught myself smiling for the entire walk.
I snapped myself back to the present. He was no friend of mine.
I heard a peacock calling in the distance. Well, it sounded like a peacock. It was actually a scout I had sent out. He was to make sure everything was clear before we went in. The captain kept guards posted around the ship. We needed to sneak past them. It wouldn’t be a problem since most of them were usually asleep or busy doing something else.
I nodded at my group and soldiers and we went in single file down to the beach. We were so quiet that not even the barking deer would have heard us. I smiled to myself. All was going well.
When we arrived, the ship looked large and daunting. But I had myself a brave group. They went to work immediately, sawing off bits of the woodwork and smashing holes into the hull with nothing but their crafting instruments and their hands.
When we had finished that, we boarded the ship, wincing every time a board creaked under our weight. Nobody had caught us yet. The plan now was to get to the belly of the beast and fish out the prisoners.
The man who went in first never came out of the tiny cabin. We sent in another. He never came out either. Not wanting to lose anyone else, I poked my head in the door and looked around. I saw a flash of light reflecting off of something shiny. I had just enough time to pull away before a sword sliced through the air where my neck had been seconds earlier.
My heart raced and I heard my blood rushing through my ears. The other two were dead. I got a brief glimpse of their bodies lying on the ground. I was thankful for the darkness. I didn’t want to see them in the light.
Just as I was about to warn my men, a hand roughly grabbed me from behind and shoved me to the ground. I felt a hard boot come down on my rib cage; the breath was knocked out of me. As I gasped for air, I tried to hold my hands up to protect myself. I wasn’t very strong but I knew how to injure and kill a man if need be. But there were too many people against me. Again and again, I was kicked and punched and beaten until I decided to just lay still. But even then they continued to hurt me. I was about to yell when I heard a voice shout over the cackles of the men hitting me.
“Stop it, men! Have you lost your minds?”
I immediately recognized the voice of the captain, Arthur. I heard the heavy thump of his boots as he approached me. He crouched beside me and whispered, “Tell your men to get off my ship.”
I rasped, “Not until you let my people go.”
He glared at me and I glared back, refusing to back down. If he wanted to take me people, he would have to take me too. I wouldn’t get off the ship until he let them go.
He sighed, “Listen, we’ll talk about this in private. Just tell them to leave. I promise we won’t hurt them.”
I turned so I could see my brave soldiers. They were battered and bruised. I felt pride bloom like a flower in my chest when I realized that they were fighting, trying to protect me. I looked at the captain, pain radiating through my entire body. He looked sincere enough.
“Go back,” I said weakly to the men. “Go back. I’ll talk this over with the captain.”
At first, they refused to leave. But after I barked my orders in my native tongue, they ran off. They were ready to defend every man, woman and child left. Each one’s gaze lingered on my wounds for a few seconds before they nodded and scurried away. They narrowed their eyes at the crew, the men who hurt me.
When they had left, the captain looked up at his men and ordered them to leave as well. Reluctantly, they shuffled away. I heard them mumble curses under the breath.
I wished I had the strength to curse them back but I had no such luck.
I tried heaving myself up. None of my bones were broken but I felt like one giant bruise. Blood ran down my arms and it collected in my mouth. I had bitten my tongue rather hard to keep from screaming. I didn’t want them to know that I was afraid.
To my surprise, the captain picked me up and threw me across his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. I didn’t protest as he carried me to his cabin. On the way, I felt into unconsciousness. The only thing I felt was a gentle swaying and pain.
When I came to, I was on a bed. I still felt the pain but it wasn’t as terrible as it was before. I felt bandages around my head and legs. I no longer tasted blood.
A sudden stinging, an intense burning, seemed to envelop my left arm. I grunted before the burning eased. I turned my head to see the captain pressing a wet cloth to an ugly gash on my upper arm.
“You’ve managed to get scraped up pretty badly. It’s going to sting. Just bear with me.” He said.
I watched as he gently cleaned my wound and wrapped a bandage around it. His pirate hat rested on a table nearby and his coat’s sleeves were rolled up to the elbows. I stared blankly at the ceiling.
When he was done, he sat on the edge of the cot and sighed. “I’m sorry my crew did this to you. I didn’t know you were here. They’re not the brightest lot. They don’t know the difference between an enemy and an ally.”
I still felt weak but I sat up. Arthur gently tried to push me back down.
“Don’t strain yourself. You’re hurt very badly. I suggest you rest.” He said softly.
But I struggled against him and pulled myself upright. I held my chin up although it pained me to do so and said, “I am not your ally. Your men killed two of mine.”
A look of hurt came over his concerned face. But I didn’t feel the slightest ounce of regret.
“I never asked you to be.” He said, looking away.
“I never was in the first place.”
He threw the rag he used to clean my wounds with onto the table beside the bed. He gazed at me, quiet.
“Let my people go.” I said, breaking the silence. “I asked nicely before. I have an army waiting for you if you don’t comply with my one, simple wish.”
“No offense, but that didn’t look like much of an army to me.”
Tears welled up in my eyes but I refused to let them fall. Rage burned within me.
“You can’t just take people away from their homes and families! What if we came to England and took away your kings and queens? You wouldn’t be doing this if we were stronger. We have many, many people. But we have never fought before. You’re right. We don’t have much of an army but we’ll give you anything we want. All you have to do is ask.”
The captain looked down at his feet. He didn’t respond for a long time. I took advantage of the silence to look at my bandaged wounds. I suddenly felt the need to ask him a question.
Looking up at him, I tenderly touched my cheekbone. A bruise was blooming there, making me wince in pain as I felt it swell. I spoke quietly, “Why did you do this?”
Still avoiding my gaze, he said, “Well, you know how empires are. We never have enough.”
I shook my head. “That’s not what I meant…why did you do this?” I asked, gesturing to my bandages and healing cuts and bruises. “Why have you tried to tend to my wounds? I mean nothing to you. You’re taking my people as slaves. I’m one of them yet you treat me differently.”
A brief pause in the atmosphere made me wait for his reply. He finally looked me in the eyes and smiled slightly.
“You’re the only friend I’ve ever had.” He said. “Everyone else is afraid of me. That’s why I was furious when my crew beat you up like that. You’re the only person who has ever tried to stand up to me. You’re the only one who has ever been brave enough to confront me. You see me as a person. Not some money-snatching murderer.”
I raised my eyebrows, questioning him silently. He shook his head, chuckling.
“There, I said it. Something I’ve never told anyone before.”
“Alright,” I said, swinging my legs down and letting them hit the floor with a thud. “I’m asking you as a…friend. Please, let them go. I’ll work for you. Just don’t take them away from what they love.”
The captain smiled. “You win.” He got up and walked to the door. “I’ll get my crew to set them free. I just can’t do it. Have you seen the look on your face? It’s worse than a puppy’s.”
I grinned. If I wasn’t in so much pain, I would have given him a hug.
The day had finally arrived. Arthur was leaving…without my people, mind you. His crew was preparing the ship for sailing and loading some supplies onto it. We had given them everything they might need on the long journey home and we still had plenty for ourselves.
After the liberation of the prisoners, would-be-slaves, my people swarmed around me, thanking and blessing me profusely. I told them several times that it was the captain who let them go and not I who had rescued them. They acted towards Arthur with great gratitude and appreciation, offering him home cooked meals and rare delicacies only found on this jewel peninsula.
I stood before the captain, ready to bid him farewell. He had his pirate hat on and the feathers fluttered in the breeze. It reminded me of something.
I pulled a peacock feather from behind me and held it out to him. He looked at it in awe and fascination.
“Here,” I said. “A peace offering, a goodbye present, and a thank you gift.”
He smiled, gently taking the feather. I grinned as he stuck it in his hat.
“You have no idea how hard it was to get that,” I laughed. “Peacocks can be so stubborn.”
We laughed for a while and everything seemed right in the world. But then we remembered that we were saying goodbye. I frowned, suddenly sad, my heart dropping to my feet.
“Hey,” he said, noticing my frown. “I’ll be back. There’s no chance I’m going to leave for good. This little land is paradise, remember? No man can stay away from paradise for long.” He smiled but it was a sad smile. He took a step closer to me and I held out my hand. He took it. But instead of shaking it, he pulled me into a bone-crushing hug. I laughed, patting him on the back. He smelled like the sea.
He pulled away, making me feel empty. He studied me for a while before turning to go. But before he got a few feet away, he turned on his heel and ran back.
“Come with me.” He said. “Please, come with me. I’ll show you the world! We’ll go to England, France, Spain, Russia…we can even go to America if you want. It’s on the other side of the world but I’ll take you there if you want to go. We’ll discover new lands together. You and I.”
I felt tears spring up in my eyes again as he pleaded.
“I can’t,” I said, my voice quivering. “I have to stay here with my people.”
“Isn’t there a second in charge? Can’t you set up some temporary government system until you come back? We’ll be back before you know it!”
“No, I’m sorry. I must remain here.”
“But there’s so much I want to show you. Please don’t do this to me. I’ve finally made a friend who sees past my history and accepts me for who I want to be…not who I am. I want to repay you. I want to be your friend. And I want you to be my friend in return.” I saw his green eyes well up with tears as well. The sight made me choke on a sob.
“Arthur,” I said. “I know that there is so much out there. I could never imagine what it’s like to be constantly on the move, discovering new lands and revisiting old ones. But my place is here. Remember, you can always come and visit. Even the vast oceans of this world cannot pull our friendship apart. It will stretch like the most flexible rubber all around the world. I won’t forget you.” I tried smiling, but my lips quivered, giving away my disappointment.
Arthur didn’t even try to hide his own disappointment. I saw tears streak down his face. He wiped them away and cleared his throat, trying to regain his pirate’s cold-heartedness.
“Fine,” he said. “But I’ll be back and next time you’ll want to come with me.” He grinned, a watery, pained grin.
I genuinely smiled.
“Goodbye.” I said, feeling the word catch in my throat.
He removed his hat and swept his arms across in a low bow. He winked at me discreetly and I grinned. He trotted off onto his ship and set sail. I saw him wave from the deck and I waved back, knowing that one day he would return.