Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Life Goes On – Amidst the Death and Destruction

In the wake of the bombings in Peshawar, Quetta and Lahore yesterday, 8 December 2009 (yet another bloody day in our history), we are left talking once again. We talk about how awful it is. We talk about how depressed we are. We talk about all those lives lost in the violence. We talk about who’s fault it is. We talk about who the culprits are ranging from TTP to JM to RAW to CIA to any other bad guy abbreviation we can think of. (Geo wanted to talk about the NRO 1.5 hours after the deadly Moon Market, Lahore blast in which over 50 people lost their lives and more than 100 people were injured). Life goes on. Buy some Johar Joshanda. Zong connections are awesome. Do the dew.

I am the same as everyone else. I love to talk too. And like everyone else, I too am getting increasingly paranoid. Of course the feeling of paranoia also comes and goes. It will peak when something happens in my city. After a few days I’ll stop thinking about it. After all how long can a human being sustain being on edge?

Almost every day there is a bomb that goes off somewhere in Pakistan. No city has been safe from Peshawar to Islamabad to Lahore to Quetta. No location has been safe either from police stations and intelligence agencies buildings to mosques and markets being targeted. Every few days we are on ‘high alert’. Police at their checkpoints become a little more vigilant and apart from peering into your car may ask you to show them an ID card too. We worry about what will happen if someone decides to blow up that particular checkpoint.

The truth is I am scared. Every time I send my kid to school I say a little prayer. I worry about seeing him safe and sound (especially when I am crossing Bhatta Chowk on the way to his school, where I feel extra paranoid thinking this would be a crowded enough place for anyone who wants to cause some carnage). I go to work and try to forget how many minutes it will take me to pick him up from his school in case there is an emergency. (Provided I will be able to considering in the case of the Sri Lankan team shooting at Liberty Chowk, Lahore, HRH was less than a kilometer away from the scene at school and I couldn’t pick him up until nearly 3 hours later as everyone was scared psycho terrorists were on the loose…which they were and we still have no clue where they are).

What can I say? That I have nightmares of suicide bombers? Or that every time I am in my car and I stop at a traffic light, I look around to see who might be a potential ‘shaheed’? Wanting to take down as many ‘infidels’ as possible or exact revenge for whatever distorted, warped brand of ‘religious’ belief he/she has.

I, along with many others, am sick of having to live like this. Thinking ‘OK during this drive if someone or something was to blow up what would I do? Would I fight or take flight? Would I die instantly? Or would it be a slow-painful-soul-sucking death?’ Perhaps I should just live obliviously and ignorantly and assume nothing will happen to me? Is this how we will all live? In fear? For how long? Pretending to lead safe and fulfilling lives? Always thinking it could be over in a second (or if you’re unlucky perhaps some painful minutes?).

This is not how I want my kid to grow up, with HRH knowing that ‘Taliban are the bad guys’ and asking me to explain what a bomb is or if the army is in his school playground (don’t know where that one came from). Or why there are men with guns standing outside his school gate, inside his playground and on top of his school rooftop.

“These men with guns are here to protect us.”

“Protect us from whom?”

“From the bad guys.”

“Will the bad guys come to my school?”

Not if they had half a brain between them. Or a conscience. Or a soul. Oh but they do apparently have some god and some half-baked interpretation of paradise. And we must not forget the ‘x’ number of virgins.

I believe in God. I pray every day. Though not in the five times a day we are supposed to perhaps. I believe in being as good as I can be. But no I don’t cover my head. I don’t pray in the manner prescribed. And no I don’t lose any sleep over it either. I also don’t believe that it is the be all and end all of being a ‘Muslim’.

No one buys into the warped brand of Islam the suicide-bomber squads are pushing and we all unanimously think that something needs to be done to stop them. There is a consensus on that at least. However, no one seems to know how or what to do.

So while our cities burn and we count our dead, life goes on. We send our kids to school. We go to work. We hang out with our friends. And we talk.

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