It is our 3rd night stuck in a shabby room on the 3rd floor of a house. It must have been around 2 or 3 in the night, I cant say for sure because every cell phone in the house was out of battery. We had left our house with nothing but our clothes on, in the night of September 9 hoping to return in the morning. God however had a different plan as we did not step into our house for a month after that night. Lying down on some pieces of plywood, having experienced the hopelessness on not being able to do anything, the fear of being dead anytime soon, we were trying to catch some sleep as no one had slept for the past couple of days. It was dark, there was silence which was occasionally broken by somebody’s cries for help or a house collapsing and raising up dust in the air. By 2 or 3 in the night, i had walked down the stairs 10-15 times to see if the water level was still increasing. And every time, one of us stood up to check on it, everybody would start asking if the water level had receded. And everybody lied about it. the morning of September 9, water started coming from two sides, one from the Raj Bag side and the other from the Lal Mandi side. Nobody seemed to care much about it as none had a prior experinece of anything like what happened later. we are no strangers to earthquakes or to deaths, but nobody had an experinece of floods. in 20 minutes, the water level had reached upto 2 floors and people were now sitting on roof tops, crying for help, watch one house collapse after another. Nobody had witnessed anything like it before. Desperate attempts to reach out to people for help through cell phones ended up with replies like “we will do waht we can” and “God help you, stay safe”. i was yet to come to terms with the fact that this was actually happening. How could it happen to me, to us, it can happen to others, it does but could it happen to me as well! An hour more and I had seen enough to not be scared anymore. there is nothing that could explain it, other than it being an ‘azaab’ from Allah. in that moment, I forgot all about myself, the future and the past dissolved and I could not think about it for the coming 2-3 days. I made wudhu, prayed a couple of rakats, knowing fully well that death is very near now. I started thinking about how it will happen, first the house would collapse, water will enter my mouth, I will try to fight it, ultimately giving in to it. the first 3-4 hpurs was all about seeing half the number of houses around you collapsing, people cryng for help. At around 3 pm, the helicopters started coming, people started cheering for them, some almost crying out of joy. But now, there was the puzzle of, who will the helicopter recognise first and so people started waving hands, red flags at them. But nobody got to sit in them, except those who had paid 2000 rupees for a night at the hotel. The first night was the hardest. Holding a quran in your hands made you sob and break down.
Mother, cry no more; I will be back with some bread, some food, some memories from the days of yore. Keep my blanket, i will see you soon, i leap over men and bodies still, some bleeding, some naked, others are torn. Something catches my leg, I cannot walk, is it time, am i dead already. Slowly, I look down, it is just a hand, an old man, fragile, with a bare arm. I walk away, sorry, I cant help you today. It is like judgement day, no soul shall avail another.
Do you think I made you up inside my head? Were you real, ever?
Does that matter, my being real or not? You were still you and that is what matters. I could be soil or air, how would you see me any different.
I thought we had it good, I thought this was it, I never thought you could do that to me.
You don’t know, you can’t say for sure. Don’t be so judgmental, you don’t know where I have been. You were always like this, always wanting to be on top of the situation, always wanting to be the good guy. You don’t get everything in life, if you truly did want me, you would have acted differently.
How could I, you made a fool of me, you had me cornered like a little girl, why would you do that? Why didn’t I see it coming! I should have known. I was too naïve to believe something so good could happen to me. It had to be this way, Of Course. I showed my hand to a Palmist, I could see in her eyes, she pitied me. You made me believe otherwise, but it was all my fault.
I couldn’t say anything to you. I cared for you. I felt responsible for you. I couldn’t do it, how could I!
You would do anything for him, wouldn’t you? You would trade your life for him? You would rip my head off for him. You see, I can do the same for you. You see, he can’t feel for you like that. He might feel he does, but he doesn’t. Does it even get better!
Don’t do it to yourself, don’t hurt yourself so bad, this is too much.
Too much? How can anything be too much? Did you not hear a word I said? I am writing our names on every inch of this Earth, like Satan did. I am too proud to humble myself, I can’t let you go.
I heard Ahmed fell to the bullets too. I heard he was playing cricket like always on the road when some kid started pelting stones on the military. They retaliated with gun-fire, they fired at children. I heard the sky turned red again. I heard his mother cried. I heard his coffin was too heavy, people could smell musk. I heard they could hear the graveyard crying saying “no more”. I heard they fired at him, straight at his chest and the news channels called it *collateral damage*. I heard the concerned minister called for an enquiry, saying this time, justice will be served. I heard his father has not spoken since, his sisters are in a shock. I heard all the state employees enjoyed a day of holiday watching TV with their families, mourning his martyrdom, of course. I heard they have offered his family a hug sum of money, because just taking him out of their lives was not enough, they wanted more. I think I may be Ahmed, too; I fear somebody might write this about me some day.
He has a way of doing things, the way a painter paints a masterpiece, the way he uses different strokes, thick and thin, in different colors, some colors going to great lengths, others are very shortened. Indifferent to the wishes of the white paper, He fills it with His own understanding, knowing what would suite it that day. Protestations go unheard. He, delightfully in His own delight goes about doing His work. Taking care of every minute detail, holding the paper with a soft hand, so it doesn’t fall down, get trampled by someone. And if, by some accident, it gets stained by some intruder, He is there to pick it up, fix it back, remove its stains, carress it, fill that part with a color, as if it had never seen a stain before.
“Please, sir, would you give me some money, I have not eaten since 2 days”, the boy said, pulling the back of my jacket as I tried to get past him. Eyes full of tears, he was barefooted, wearing ragged clothes, wavered hair, with a haggard face, showing every sign of weakness, carrying burdens too hard for him to carry. Running back and forth, catching everyone who passed by, barely reaching upto their knees, the perfect impoverished child. But… But how could I trust him? How am I supposed to believe him? Mother says never trust ‘em, never trust what they say, you are too naïve, don’t be so soft-hearted. “I have nothing in my wallet”, I say to him, with the sad smile of autumn. He lets go off my jacket, his fingers brushing against mine. He sits down on the edge of the road drooping his head into his knees. On my iPod, Chester is singing something about summer time, but I… I have never felt colder. How can I look in the mirror and be proud of the person I see when I can barely look into the eyes of this child who merely wants help from me. I don’t know if I can just walk past him and pretend he is not there. So I decide to confront him, knowing merely giving him money wont suffice. Tainted with innocence, he explains how his mother left him one day never to return. At this moment, I can barely breathe, choked by guilt thinking how I lied to him. I try to explain to him that his mother must have had her own problems and that it will all turn out fine. I take out a note from my pocket, but then I think “How could I give to one of them and not to the others?” But what choice do I have when I have only so much to give, so.. Just then my alarm clock rings and I wake up. I try to press the snooze button to go back and find that little boy but… he is gone. I switch on the TV but I cannot take my mind off him. I wonder if I am doing everything I can to help, so I make a donation at Red Cross, hoping it reaches to some helpless kid out there. At night, I close my eyes and I find that boy, I give him some change, praying…. that one day, I can bring real change….. to him.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world” – Desmond Tutu
The cliched family of four. The father, the mother, the son and the daughter. I will rephrase. The mule, the self-obsessed melo-dramatic queen, Jorian Ponomareff and Hanna Montana. He gets up at eight in the morning, picks up his toothbrush, leaves half of his teeth unbrushed, eats a half toasted slice of bread, shaves clean his beard and leaves for his office. She wakes up half an hour after him, complains to him of not waking her up, wakes both of her children, the nur of her eyes. The son still has his earphones plugged in his IPod which is lying on his bed, playing sharp metal music which is loud enough for one to hear from a distance even from his earphones. She, the princess has a room decorated with paintings and cartoons. She, the mother packs their lunches, sends them to school and leaves for her office. They meet again at seven in the evening, the four of them. The father is red hot with anger, justifiably so after all the work he has done in the day. One can hear loud noises from the kitchen as vessels keep splattering against each other. Here starts an argument between the two, starts with the noise and then covers a whole range of topics, minute and big. Heated arguments ! And then, the clock strikes 9 and the argument stops. Magic ! The two kids finally got some time to show their faces to their parents. It is time for the big reality show on the television. One can no longer hear any sound from them except loud laughters. Nobody is hungry anymore, nobody is angry. One may stop and think that mercy angels have descended into that room. One looks at the picture and wonders how different it is from the ones we have in our homes. I remember these lines of Tyler Durden from David Fincher’s Fight Club :”We are the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no great war, no great depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we would all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars but we wont. And we are slowly learning that fact. And we are very, very pissed off”. Back in 1999, the Wachowski brothers made one of the most successful attempts to bring philosophy and conspiracy theories to the general public in the form of “The matrix trilogy”. What its basic idea was that often people are willing to accept things as they appear and do not question it. At the end, Neo discovers that his beliefs are illusory. The movie seems to make a statement about the nature of human mind and about the whole of reality. One looks at the state of the world right now and wonders at the wisdom of the angels when they said/”Would you create someone who would spread mischief on Earth ?” and then hopes in His infinite wisdom when he replied ‘I know what you know not”.
We lives in times that have been prophesised, times that are very, very critical. The apocalyptic period. The antichrist maybe round near the corner of the street and all we care about is the Nifty and the Sensex. We live in a world where inviting advertisements make us buy things we don’t need, where wealthy people buy organs from the poor to extend their lives, where the richest 500 families in the world own more land than all global citizens combined, where women hopelessly try to inject youth into their faces trying to go to war against the very laws of nature, where capitalists thrive on the blood of workers, consumerism is prominent, minds are infused with materialistic definitions and affinities, where we are made to believe that living without brand names is a miserable, terrible existence. The money that we invest in watching an hour of television, in buying something we are absolutely in no need of at the mall, in buying a soft drink, that very money buys a bullet for the imperialist powers or is used by them to play golf at weekends. About the bread that we worry about, He says,”If only you relied on Allah a true reliance, He would provide sustenance for you just as he does the birds; They fly out in the morning empty and return in the afternoon with full stomachs”. Are those treasures so empty that anybody will die of hunger ? “Whatever of evil befalls you is from yourself”. The way things are right now, the way we have made them, we are doomed. But as Hafez says:
Joseph shall return to Canaan, grieve not
Hovels shall turn to rose gardens, grieve not
If a flood should arrive to drown all that’s alive,
Noah is your guide in the typhoon’s eye, grieve not.