It was a glorious afternoon and a soft breeze blew languidly. The leaves of my potted plants danced to the rhythm. I fingered my wet, tangled tresses absently, trying to set them in some kind of order. My dupatta flew happily around my shoulder. Idea was to laze around in the sunny afternoon.
I looked up to the bright blue sky dotted with soft, white clouds. Everything was placid and peaceful around me. Even the birds did not chirp loudly.
A happy…..sunny…lazy…carefree…idle afternoon.
In the evening, I had a date with friends. We went window shopping…freaking out actually in the busy traffic of the Capital.
Ice cream cones in hand, we waded through the maze of cars and crowds, laughing loudly at each other….cracking PJs, browsing through the shop windows and making elaborate, expensive plans of future purchases.
Cars honked past us. Happy faces…cheerful, well dressed crowds…haggling customers…harassed shopkeepers…blazing neons…windows proudly displaying glittery, glam things.
A perfect scene of a flurry of activities in an over-crowded market on a hectic weekend.
That night we had a family get together in one of the upcoming chain of hotels….
A table laden with mouth watering dishes, flowers, candles, common place talks, friendly jeers, whispered snide at the occupiers of the next table…
Scurrying waiters…hurried orders…aroma of delicious food…perfumed air…tinkling of glasses and cutlery…muffled laughter ….dimmed lights….
A pretty picture of a happy family…
And then there was this other morning in some place else…..
A burqa clad figure walked out of the house to meet another day of uncertainty. She was not sure of the next minute…whether she would be able to cross the very road in front of her in a casual, sedate pace…or she would have to break into a sudden run and beg for shelter in one of the half closed shops or in the backyard of some not-so-unkind neighbour…or whether she would be able to come back home safe and unscathed in the evening after a hard day’s toil…she really did not know what lay ahead……
A plain face hidden behind a burqa…shuffling feet…diffident gait…she could still not make up her mind whether the burqa was an imposition or an adornment. It was the acid attacks which made it mandatory….a safety cloak to keep her face intact….
Suddenly there was a distant commotion….an uproar…cause unknown….gradually coming closer, becoming more distinct…louder…the spiteful mob voicing angry opinions all together creating a confusion of noise, running feet, shouts, calls of alarm…all at once….peltering stones…anger…hatred…dread mixed with fury…..and then the counter attack….impatient rounds of firing…the bullets whizzing past…increasing chaos …running feet…jostling bodies…helplessness…fear….despair….all mixed together….
Everybody ran helter skelter. She ran too, but not so fast. The dark, heavy fabric of the burqa kept flapping around her knees and getting caught in between her legs making it difficult for her to run. She kept on tucking at it with one sweaty hand and tried to run as fast as the clumsy burqa would allow her. She wanted to throw it aside. But that required a moment’s halt…and that one moment was so precious and unavailable…..dangling precariously between life and death that priceless moment slipped out of her hand. Her chappal caught into something on the pavement and she fell. It was then that the bullet hit her….piercing through the ominous burqa…tearing past the soft fabric of her kurta…it finally settled down on the left side of her chest…comfortably ensconced into her heart…
The swaythed figure, bathed in a pool of blood, lying face down on the sidewalk, was unceremoniously carried by uniformed hands and dumped into the morgue where other such countless, nameless, unidentified bodies lay stacked one on top of the other.
The next day….the story occupied a small corner of the left hand side column of one of the inside pages of the daily. The event was termed as a “minor skirmish” and the casualties were coined as “soft targets” “Soft” because the carcasses did not belong to the rich and powerful. Nor were they celebrities. They were plain, ordinary, mundane people leading lackluster lives…a bunch of weeds in the overgrown jungle of humanities, best forgotten after a minute’s mourning.
Coming to think of it…what their lives would have been, had these insignificant non-entities not died such “significant” deaths?
Take for example, the plain-faced girl in the dark burqa…she would have led a routine life alternating between Madarsa preaching and dull domesticities…would have eventually got married to an ordinary looking man…bred a pack of rowdy kids and dealt with the day to day drudgeries of domesticated life in her own quiet manner. Only once in a while she might have so called “enjoyed living” in her otherwise dreary, stereotype existence.
At least, this “unusual” death brought her posthumous fame…the event got recorded in history in indelible prints…the city dwellers read and sighed…so what if the men in uniform callously left her body in a remote dump yard to stink and rot…and her identity was left un-established…name unascertained…still she had the “crowning glory” of being a Martyr in the JEHAD for rightful independence….it was SOMETHING!!! …wasn’t it?