Archive for October 8th, 2006


The Edges are Blurred, The Memory Obscure… October 8th, 2005 I Think, 08:50:38

Through the Haze… I Think the Sky Fell
I can still see those eyes
Those eyes that had a breath back gleamed with light
They held dreams within
Safe kept till they came to be

Yet in a moment’s waver
The vision slipped
A single drop flowed and slid through that crevice of time
And the dreams shattered

I can hear voices disjointed yet one
Laughter and joy, youth and age
Raised in song, reaching to the sky
Filling the air clear as a bell

And then, silence
The lull before the crescendo
Screams, terror and tears wrench that which was life
Settling into deathly quiet

The sky is still blue and gold
Brilliant light in the sun and the breeze peace
There was color and verve
Strength and spirit arm in arm

But for the space of a sigh,
It went dark and the stillness shattered
The colors went grey and turned to earth
And in its midst spirit broke

There is chaos and smoke
Fear and the sense of death reaching within
Tempting one to just slip past through despair
Into arms that bring blessed numbness

And Darkness prevailed and it was night!

But wait! Watch the shimmer of the soul
The spirit gathers! It prepares to take flight
And as it soars, so spread its wings
Shelter that which is undone
Heals that which was wounded

Tints and hues follow in the wake
Spiraling a flush into the pale, the dank, the grey
And up the rise walks a mirror
Reflecting faces, eyes and voices as the ones that had been
With similar smiles, with the strength and joy
Carrying that with which to dispel the gloom
Carrying life!

The tears still come; leaving some eyes vacant
There are hearts still of despair
There is still blackness, cloying,
Leaving one breathless

But within the tear, there is a sparkle
Within the heart is still a pulse
The shadow means there is light
Grief beckons but it is held still in the embrace of life.

It is who we are
Pulling away the webs; pushing past the pain
It is the worst that brings the best in us
It is why we always look up
It is how lives go on
How souls endure

I remember the trembling and hearing a slight rumble of that day a year ago. It was my day off and considering that it wasn’t even 9 in the morning, I preferred to lie back in my dim light room thinking random nonsense on how to waste my day. With my eyes closed, I actually recall enjoying the slight rocking motion of the first wave, waiting for it to settle almost immediately but not unduly concerned when it seemed to lengthen; although thankfully I did start reciting something pertaining to ‘khair’.

And then came the horrible sound of rolling, rumbling rock as the bricks in the half constructed house behind ours fell and living as we did on the 2nd floor, felt the entire house sway on its foundations and heard my mother (who is seriously phobic about earthquakes) scream for my brother and myself. I leaped out of bed and ran out of my room to grab hold of my mother who was in a complete panic and nearly in tears, calling out my brother’s name and then mine although my brother had already reached her. And we stood there, the three of us holding on to each other in a doorway, reciting what we could, feeling the ground shake beneath our feet and hear the china clatter in the cabinets along with the shouts and commotion of people in our usually quiet street.

As the first jolt receded, the first hour was a mess of calls, incoming and outgoing to baba, and my cousins who were at work as well as various aunts and uncles in the city. Friends were sms-ing and trying to get through on the jammed mobile phone networks; and offering thanks for each call or sms or message that was replied to.

Not all I know were so lucky. An old classmate lost his parents in the fallen Margalla Towers. His father’s body was never recovered. Another girl I had remotely known at work lost her entire family in Kashmir, surviving only because she was here on service. There are at least three other voices that I can only now listen to when I really focus trying to remember the exact moment that I had last heard them, or recall in moments of startling clarity, giddy childish laughter after a joke gone awry or more recent images of sitting together at a wedding wondering why somebody would put themselves through this torture.

But even in the panic, I don’t think I was prepared for the sheer scale of devastation that the earthquake would have left behind. Whole cities, which in minutes became graveyards, lives came to a complete halt, the silence heavy and lingering, followed by screams that echo long after those voices have been silenced. A year on, I can still recall every nuance of expression in the voice of a mother screaming outside the flattened building of a school, for somebody to get her children out of there.

Unfortunately, in these 12 months, we’ve reduced the calamity to no more than a few standard images that flash by as those parts of a presentation that half of my class would probably sleep through. When those images come up, we flinch from the truth of that nightmare and actually work at blinking it away. Our nation is great. Sacrificing and patriotic and self-less! Pakistanis came to the fore, with money and clothes and blankets and food, doing what they could, regardless of their financial or social stature. On the ground, men, women and children worked hand in hand, bringing water and an additional pair of hands to try and save what they could.

These times also bring out the worst in people though. News of entire apartments and homes being burglarized, of jewelry and watches being torn off hands and bodies that no longer had a use for them and on a more socially upsetting front, that of children and girls disappearing into cars and with people under a premise of being helped.

But the point remains, that for most of us, this cataclysmic event is a blurred memory, a moment of terror now superceded by memories more recent, overshadowed by whatever is happening in our world, in our day, in that moment.
I know I must shamefully admit that I HAD forgotten, the day, the death, the loss just as I’ve forgotten the spirit that seemed to take a life on its own to give more life, to give hope, to give some inkling of normalcy.
Thinking back, I think we came together as a nation. We showed spirit and alacrity and a semblance of the passion and heart that must have helped us gain our independence but what now. Rather than talk about anyone else, I know that for me, the earthquake really is not much more than a part of half forgotten memory already cloudy at the edges. For the most part, my life remained untouched (And I am so thankful to the Almighty Allah for that blessing!) And that is why my fervor and spirit has somewhat eased off my conscience. I can very easily say that I’ve done my part. I donated an amount less than what I spend on books in a month; at the time, I had also contributed in collecting food stuff, and buying bedding and quilts as well as gathering and sending off clothes with trucks that my friends and colleagues had arranged to take over.

But is our part really done? I’m not talking about the government as the establishment and I don’t really see eye to eye anyway but what about us as the individuals? We really have so many things going on in our on lives, seemingly small but for us nothing is more relevant, least of all the fact that people like you and me are still without roofs over their head. We are content knowing that when we go home today, our mothers will be at the door, while somewhere not so far away is a child waiting for a parent who will never come and a mother whose eyes have dimmed and gone blank as she stares down the path she sent her child on that fateful morning.

Some of us have just these words to talk about what was then and what is now. We can point fingers and raise voices over the inhumanity of it, of the insensitivity and incompetence of the people who we think are responsible for the fact that those who lost everything that they were about, are no closer to finding some semblance of the peace that they had. Devastation and destruction rarely make sense but how is it that we can claim to make sense while refusing to take responsibility of our part in trying to improve it.

The people whose lives were changed forever and turned on their heads are still lost, and still empty. Their eyes and hearts are heavy with loss, with pain and anguish and to an extent anger and resentment. Time heals but it is more effective when it is aided by humanity. As the hour strikes the anniversary of an event that will live in our history as a human tragedy, let’s hope that each strike touches something within us to try in our own capacity as individuals to do something to help, something that goes beyond the words that we hear enough of when we turn on the TV. Let’s do something that we can actually see, something that will actually bring life and hope from the rubble and the rocks.

October 2006
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