by Ria Kapoor
1:50pm, 5th February, 2017
“This used to be my home” She said and smiled and I looked back at her, watching as her smile slowly but steadily faded away into this easily readable note, written in sadness and in pain, all over her face, like her eyes singing, reciting whatever she had seen. Her speed slowed down and eventually came to rest, halting at the alter of Allah she came to everyday, nothing but parts of which remained now. Her feet hadn’t forgotten the touch of the marble on the masjid floor.
Image source : quranicpath.com
The paint on the walls was still intact, just the walls weren’t. She had prayed on this land for all the days she had lived and breathed, to the God who didn’t seem to be around anymore. The sound of Azaan was still afresh in her ears, from the mornings she woke up to and from the evenings the sun set into. I saw her touch the sand under her feet. Amused, I couldn’t help but ask, “What are you doing?” “Trying to remember and believe what home feels like.” She said, her face so blank, so drained, so devoid of emotions that it’d break someone’s heart. It was days after what all had happened that she had finally agreed to go back, hoping against hope, that someone, someone from her family would be found.
Image source : apdf-magazine.com ( Photo by : AHMAD AL-RUBAYE )
“The last thing I remember” she said “was praying before we had the last meal of the day. Abba hadn’t returned from work yet and after waiting for him for a long long time, we had decided to eat without him.”
She stopped and didn’t speak anymore. The silence had somehow begun to sting my ears but the tears in her eyes told me she wasn’t ready for more right now.
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We sat on something that neither of us was sure of being what part of a healthy building someday. We sat for a long long time in silence and suddenly she sniffed, pulled in a long long breath and spoke again.
“I don’t remember my lips touching the first bite of dinner that night. Because after I opened my eyes after praying, I saw nothing, nothing but this black coloured mist, probably smoke because it smelled like something fiercely burning under my nose. I couldn’t see or hear for a long long time and nothing made any sense. There was no roof over my head and the house wasn’t a house anymore. I screamed and yelled and called out to my brother, to Ammi who was supposed to serve me food a few minutes back but I heard no sound in return. No one responded, no one answered back. There was sand and there were stones and then there was me, my eyes frantically searched for known faces, for someone who’d call out my name this once. My head spun, and my lips bled. My eyes stung with the salt in them and I couldn’t feel half of my body anymore. I do not know what happened. Maybe I collapsed, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I left for where they were. Maybe not. I do not remember.”
I looked at her, didn’t know what to say, how to respond to the ache of this twelve year old lady sitting next to me.
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It was dust we sat in but never would have any dirt given out more pain or sung out more death songs than this did. The place stunk of blood and human flesh but we had never belonged to any place more than now. She because she had seen it all and lost it all. And I because I couldn’t gather myself up in her eyes to be so small to have nothing to offer to the brave heart.
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I do not know how much time went by while we sat there in silence and in rarely spoken words till she looked at me, her sight holding mine while she smiled,
“This used to be my home and I’m sure Ammi’s still sleeping underneath. In this quiet, quiet dust.” I don’t think I heard anything after that.
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