Throughout history, we have been building ourselves a brighter tomorrow at the cost of today.
“What are we to do now, mother?” my daughter-in-law Rafiza spoke softly, uncertain of the life of her unborn child as much as she was uncertain of her own. Her misty eyes, fixed on the cloudless grey sky; searched for light; for courage; for answers she knew wouldn’t help. Who had seen this coming? The brutality and the force with which the war had destroyed our lives, had vanquished the human capacity to keep faith.
Bloodshed…No – Carnage. It had caused carnage. Blood painted the roads where children once used to walk to school. Bombs had bombarded what were parks, where I had once played with my young son Iqbal, and taught him of strength. Missiles had broken roofs to bits, roofs that were once adorned with stoned chandeliers. The country was enthused with anger and fury to a point where all beyond vengeance became subordinate; anger had gobbled our beautiful nation, and left in its place a community stitched together by terror, fear and empathy for each other’s pain.
The million men who left their families – newly married wives, old mothers, dyeing fathers, beloved children, and everyday stability – to join the war had deduced their homes to houses – homes where happy husbands used to return for warmth and love, where brides had settled to build new lives, where souls had affined, where stories rested, homes which were all people had, which were all people were; houses which the war had shattered to nothing. Families crippled – every plot had a husband dead in war, a wife destitute of her honour, and an innocent child orphaned. Yet tears no longer welled up in the citizen’s eyes – there was too much fright, pain and shock to make room for grief. The war had come like a tornado – destroying and wiping away with it the roots of everything they ever knew, everything they had, everything that defined life for them.
I worked continuously on the patch of mud. My hands muddy, and sweat dripping over my head. The sound of bullets and sirens infiltrated inside us as we heard a bomb hit a nearby structure. Shards of metal fumed over us and the air grew hot. Military men marched outside the gates. Rafiza broke into bouts of tears. She shrieked with intolerable dread. “Answer me Ma! Why won’t you say anything! I wish not to die! I have another life within me. This child will be our only memory of Iqbal! Please Ma. Answer me! Tell me the war will be over! Say it for my child. Say it for your dead son’s soul!” she wailed.
A tear rained down my cheek.
“Why won’t you answer me Ma?! Let us run away! Let us go! Let us leave all this behind and run away!”
I got up from the patch of garden. “You know how much Iqbal loved this house?” I spoke with the calmness of the morning dew. A sparkle danced in my eyes as I lost myself into the beautiful past, for it offered refuge, if not remedy, from both the present and what it was to bring. “How much he loved the country! He could have exhausted all his life building our nation. He spent more time at his plantations than at business or with us. Here, he planted his first plant as a child. This is my freshest memory of him, and I will not let ashes take it away from me.”
“What are you saying? Why would you say something like that? What are you doing Ma?” Although the panic left her voice, her tone was intrigued and frightened like that of an abandoned child– weak.
I moved my hands away from the plant of clover. “I am planting hope.” I clenched my teeth together, trying to curb my inner turmoil, for it was larger, and more colossal than the force of this war. I kissed Rafiza’s forehead as we embraced each other and closed our eyes to the last sound of a bomb as concrete dripped around us.