(Dedicated to all the children in worn torn Waziristan)
They say it’s the most dangerous place in the world. Some call it the road to hell, others, a terror zone. Different names for the same place that is only home to her. Ravaged with fighting, suicide bombings, death and murder….it’s only the name of the invaders and the colour of their skin that changes in her staring eyes: Taliban, Militants, Extremist, Nato, Americans, Pakistanis, Afghanis. All fighting for one cause or the other. All taking life for it.
Who are these people…when did this fight for this land become theirs? No one seems to remember anything or rather, no one has the time to explain it to her anymore. And she’s still one of the lucky ones with family left to ask.
Unlike Fatima she once went to school with, who lost both her parents in one of the Nato missile attacks in their neighbourhood…and was left in the rubble bleeding for 3 days before someone found her dead and rotting body. She remembers, because she saw them piling her on to a cart alongside countless other blood smeared limbs that once belonged to faces she knew. They said most of them were militants, but she knew by the size of their hands that they were only children, many of them her classmates.
Then there was Khalid, the little rosy-cheeked boy who lived next door. They used to love playing hide and seek after school, laughing and running in the streets as vendors put up stalls for the evening. Sometimes, if they stayed long enough, one of the sweetmeat vendors would toss free sweets their way and she still remembers giggling with excitement as the sticky treacle filled their mouths. But those days belong to another world now, just as her laughter does. There are no stalls selling hot kashmiri chai or spicy pakoras anymore, though she can still smell their delicious aroma. These days, it's only the military patrolling the streets and Khalid lies in some makeshift hospital bed, hit by a stray bullet from one of the skirmishes between Taliban and British fighters. Alongside hundreds of other maimed children…. he too can no longer walk or see.
At night, when there is respite from the noise of distant firing and the shrill of sirens and jets overhead….she lies there awake in the dark, listening to the sounds of the valley. This is how it used to be once. This quiet stillness under the sky…where only the soft sound of cool breeze such as blows through the valleys of north could be heard. This felt like home once…
She cannot remember the last time she’s slept. It’s difficult to keep count of time these day. Food, sleep, time itself…seems like a luxury now, entities that belong to a normal world that was once hers. Not this godforsaken piece of ground that is constantly moving under her feet, not just her bare ones, but the dusty ones belonging to thousands of refugees. It’s a sea of nameless faces spilling over every part of the land.... faces that once laughed, dreamt, that belonged some place. All emotion has been stamped out of them; in it’s place the same weary expression that only people who’ve lost a home wear.
Her grandfather says it’s the Russians who are to blame for invading Afghanistan, spilling their problems into their land across the border. Her father says it’s the American CIA who used Pakistani ISI to train Taliban or Mujahiddin as they were then called, to fight the Russians. The media just blames the faceless enemy that is more like a sinister presence than anything human.…. those bearded, dark monsters that hide among their own people…who behead ruthlessly, and blow themselves up for ‘jihaad’. Strangely enough, she doesn't fear them as much as the white skinned army men with heavy guns roaming outside their homes, though they claim to be their saviours from a fate far worse than this. She tries to wave to them sometimes, but the sight of their guns reminds her of all those dying swollen bodies, making her teeth chatter.
Yes, the facts…names…and labels making the news keep changing, but to her, they are all the same. What is lost among the detail is how many ordinary lives that had nothing to do with any of this war, are destroyed. 10 militants killed today in an airstrike; 20 dead in a suicide bombing; Two American lives claimed...and so it goes. It’s human life…but it’s only the numbers one registers now. That is, till it happens to you…. till the fire reaches your own doorstep. Then every bleeding life has a name. And you are never a child again.
Well done, but why are you posting this in the forum instead of making it into a Hub?
hmm...am new here, so just trying to find my way around. but yes, have now made it into a hub! cheers!
Fabulous! Will be headed over to read it (again) shortly. You're a very good writer, so keep up the good work. I, for one, would love to hear more about your experiences.
Very sad but very well written. May God bless the innocence of Waziristan.
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