Bells of Hope, Bells of Despair

The very bells which had saved his life, now traumatized him. A story of how the sounds of hope metamorphosed into a traumatizing memory for a young boy.


The fire raged into the calm October sky. He was just a little boy, a jewel this Earth had been adorned with for only 5 years. Perched away 5 storeys high above the ground, trapped in a fire, shaking in a deadly cocktail of fear, anxiety and hopelessness, he dearly clinged on to his life.

All this while, in full view of this innocent little soul, a fire larger and deadlier than he had ever seen cooking food in the kitchen had usurped his apartment. The fire raged like a femme fatale in all her glory of destruction. The smells of burnt charcoal and sulphur reminded him of the time he used to smell pencils, tucked away in some forgotten corner of the classroom.

The smoke and the fumes were choking him. The heat was roasting him. The fear was killing him. Scared, afraid, about to die, none of his senses which otherwise so ably guided him were of any help. All he could do, with every expression of terror on his face, with the veil of hopelessness and despair increasingly turning day into night, was curl up frightened in one corner, and hope for the best.


As light appeared to fade into darkness, the only faint cause of hope was a distant jingling of bells. It filtered above every other feeling of despair like a messenger bearing a potential message of hope.

He desperately held onto it for his dear life. It was the distant dong of the bells of an approaching fire engine: the sounds of a man sitting on top of an incongruously large piece of lip-stick red machinery, with the tingling pain in his arms, striking a gong with all his might; all a passionate appeal for the traffic to make way, in order that they might save a life or too.

But, alas! In a crowded city with an exploding population, it was only as good as an appeal to a snobbish, ineffective, lazy Indian bureaucrat.

The fire engine did arrive at last, much rather elbowing its way through traffic rather than driving. Some firemen quickly got onto the hydraulic lift, and as the engine raised its arms to perch these heroes five storeys above the ground, the bystanders looked at them helplessly as the last beacon of hope.

The boy was only vaguely conscious of being lifted by a suit in neon and brown, and lowered to the ground. He had finally been rescued.

Two months later, winter had set in. The cold, dry wind swept through the city as everyone wore sweaters, jackets and mufflers. His parents dropped him off at school, the last day before the winter vacation, all in good hopes of him having a fascinating time welcoming Christmas.

Life had been kind to them. They had lost much of their belongings, but had found a new home, a new life. Their wounds of that fated day had healed; or so the parents thought.

Throughout the day, as the school celebrated the arrival of Christmas in an exhilaration of joy, the little boy was exposed to the relentless sound of bells and trinkets jingling incessantly throughout the day.

Little did anyone realise, this was bringing back the deep, dark memories of that day to this boy’s fragile mind. With each jingle of the bell, the terror of that day cast a deeper shadow onto his mind.

After the first half of the day, he could bear it no more, and broke down.

When the counsellor finally came out of her chamber with the boy, succeeding at veiling the concern on her face rather wonderfully like every other clinical psychologist, she addressed his parents, “I’m sorry, ma’am. I regret to inform you that your child has PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”


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