“Wake up child, its time to go to school”, I gently scolded him
“Nooo..”, he mumbled from under the covers.
“Child, didn’t you tell me that today the teacher was going to teach you about the globe and the universe? Isn’t that your favourite topic?”
“But I don’t feel like going to school today Mom. I just don’t want to”
“No child, you have to. Otherwise you won’t understand anything in the next class”
After some more encouraging, he finally agreed to go.
He got up and took a bath. He would always dilly dally in the bathroom if I didn’t ask him to hurry. Sometimes I would tell him, “What would happen if I didn’t ask you to hurry up?”
And cheekily, he would reply, “I would not only miss school but also become very clean!”
He could always make me laugh. He would always say something that not only lifted up my mood but would also keep me laughing the whole day. Anytime he saw me cry or upset or worried, he would come and give me a hug, somehow knowing that his hug could fill all my wounds. Words cannot describe how useless I feel, when he lay there wounded and hurt but I was not there to tend to his wounds
“Mom, will you please make some kebabs for me today? I have been thinking about having them since a whole week!”
I smiled at his simple request. We grown ups, want all the worldly things like money and jewellery, but not kids. They only want the simple things in life and they are the only ones among us, who are able to find happiness in the simpler things of the world. I nodded and began to get him ready for school and he once again said, “Mom I really don’t want to go to school today. Just let me take a break today and I’ll never take a break again”
“Ali, not another word. Your bus will be here in some time. Get going now”
And just like that, I bid my son to his own death. Oh, how I wish I had let him stay.
I went to the kitchen and started on the kebabs. I decided to make more than usual because I knew that he would be hungry once home. After warming them in the oven, I went and switched on the television. My favourite daily soap would be on in some time and half an hour or two hours later, my son would be home and in my arms. Its hard for a mother to be away from her child because you never know if they’ll get home safe. You never know what monster they will meet on their way home and that scares you. As a parent, you want your kid to be oblivious to the monsters in the real world for as long as you can keep the illusion of the ‘good in the world’ alive. You can only hope that the little human, that you fell in love with the moment you felt it kick inside of you, stays child like and young forever. But today was the day that my child and his friends, saw the beast through their own innocent eyes. The beast that we as parents and elders wanted to keep hidden, came to their school and took our children away. Today was the day, my child didn’t come home.
As I was watching the TV, I heard a knock on the door. It was our next door neighbour Raziya. I opened the door and saw that Raziya’s face was a mess of tears and horror. She burst in and pointed to the television. I went to her and tried to calm her down but to no use. She just kept pointing at the TV screen. Raziya’s son was a classmate of my son. They were best friends and went to school together. I went and switched on the TV. She then, muttered in between sobs, “News..news lagaiye. Put the news on”
I pressed the button and switched to the news channel. There, it read, ‘Terrorists attack Army School in Peshawar’
And out of somewhere came a huge cry. I felt something wet on my face. It took me sometime to realise that the cry and the tears were nobody else’s but mine.
I and Raziya ran to the school where our kids were, as we hoped and prayed, alive and well. A huge crowd of men, some in uniforms some in civilian clothes, stood before us. Some had tears in their eyes and some were still shaken by horror, shaking their heads in denial. And as we stood outside, hearing the sounds of blasts and gunshots coming from the school, we saw our biggest nightmare come alive. Inside that building, our kids were face to face with the very monsters we had been protecting them against. The very monsters that haunted our dreams; were standing there in flesh, in front of our kids and unleashing atrocities on their little forms. I and Raziya begged the army men to let us go inside. To let us protect our kids. To let us see that they were alive and well. But they didn’t let us in, they told us that we should stay where we were. Feeling hopeless and destroyed, we stayed rooted to our spot. Awaiting for the fires shots to end and to see the faces of our sons, alive and well.
Some time passed and then we saw a change in the form of the crowd. The army men were bringing our the bodies of our little hopes and dreams. And one by one each one of us, started looking towards the sky, out hands spread in front of us; asking for our young one’s life, asking for nothing but their health. Hours passed and one by one they had gotten all the children out. Some were still alive, bless their luck and some were not, may lord bring peace to their soul. Minutes later Raziya saw her kid from among the crowd and ran to him. She held him in her arms and kissed him till she could. She thanked Allah for His mercy and she clutched her son as she would have clutched her life. I went to her and asked her son,
“Beta, did you see Ali? Is he fine?”
Poor kid was too stunned to answer but he shaked his head to say no. My heart sank in a minute and slowly, all hope within my being started to let go of me. Because Raziya was still sobbing, I told her to not cry anymore, for her son was with her, alive and well. I told her to take her son home and take care of him. Raziya hugged me and said that she would pray for my child all day and then we departed.
I had been standing there for sometime when the feeling of complete loss and fatigue started to enter my body. I wanted to hit my head against the wall I was standing next to, for asking my son to go to school even though he had begged me not to. It was his eyes that kept coming in front of my face. His eyes were the most beautiful part of his face because they were filled with hopes and dreams of a better world. His father and I would would often, funnily argue over what we wanted him to be when he grew up and that little angel would tell us, “Papa, Mumma I will be a Doctor and I will also be the Prime Minister. Don’t fight” We both would laugh at the same time and thank our stars for being blessed with our son.
A man, who was a father of another classmate of Ali came up to me and told me to come with him. I looked at him and asked him what had happened. But he wouldn’t say a word. I clutched him and asked him if he had seen my son, but he only gently guided me to a spot which my brain later realised, was where all the dead bodies were laid out. Once there, I saw his own kid lying motionless and still. His eyes closed, and blood gushing out of his face. He looked at his child for a few seconds and then forcefully looked away. Then he pointed to somewhere near the end of the line and let go of my hand. I stood there for a moment and then slowly ran to the spot he had pointed and suddenly dropped on my feet. There, right in front of my eyes, I saw my son well asleep and covered in blood and only blood. I shook him, like I had the morning that day but he didn’t stir. I called his name, gently at first but when he didn’t hear me I raised my voice and shouted his name. I screamed and screamed for I don’t know how long, but my son didn’t wake up. I knew he was upset with me for sending him to school today and he had every right to be. I told him I was sorry and I told him about the kebabs I had made but he didn’t open his eyes. Itni bhi kya narazgi? How much longer will you be upset?
Some men came and lifted my child up, I shouted at them and told them to put him down. I told them he was not dead but only upset. I told them that he would wake up in some time. But they didn’t listen. They put my baby in a coffin. They were going to burry my baby. I begged them to reason, but they didn’t listen to me.
My husband has come home from burying our child. But I don’t believe it. I am trying to convince him that I can hear Ali’s voice. I can hear his footsteps and today when I went to his room, I could sense him around. I tell my husband, “Can’t you hear his voice calling out to us?” And my husband says, “There’s no voice. Our child hasn’t come home. He will never come home ever again”
Note : My heart, my tears and my prayers are with those young martyrs who lost their life yesterday. I am not a mother, but yesterday I felt like I had been kicked in my stomach a thousand times. I felt the pain that my brothers and sisters are feeling and I offer you all my deepest condolences. No part of my being can even begin to reason how little, small, young and innocent children have any role, whatsoever, to play in terror. Even Hell has no place for those cowards who murdered 141 families yesterday. Peshawar, India and the whole world stands with you and shares your pain. We want a strong dialogue to start among all nations against terrorism. What started with Sydney, has to end in Peshawar. I would like to request all world leaders, my fellow Indians and world citizens to initiate a strong dialogue against terrorism.
Rest in peace, little ones.