Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The smallest coffins...

After a break of nearly a month, schools have reopened again in Peshawar, Pakistan. But there is none of the happy-go-lucky shouting on the playground that always characterizes the re-opening of school after a break. The children would still be too shell shocked for that.

On December 16, Pakistan suffered a terrible terror attack on its soil, one that did not even spare its innocent children. Jumping over a nearby graveyard wall, seven Taliban suicide bombers entered the school and proceeded to unleash terror and death upon the hapless children and a few teachers and the principal. At the end of that seven-hour siege, 150 people, including 134 students, were massacred to death.

How cowardly must those seven Talibs have been that they would stoop so low as to attack little children?

Today, everywhere the voices are silent, subdued. Children will walk by, still dazed and stunned, tears threatening to spill over, as they see the empty benches upon which their friends once sat. Perhaps the school will have made attempts to wipe the blood stains and clear up the reminders of what happened that day.

But the trauma will remain with these children, and their very presence at school is an act of sheer bravery on their part.

As a mother of two young children, the youngest of who has not yet started formal school, I stand in sympathy with all those parents who have lost their children. I am also touched by the courage of the parents of the surviving children who have dared to send their children to school, in defiance of the anxiety and the fear that will now weigh heavy on their hearts.

Reading through the news reports, I read of children who stuffed their ties in their mouths to stifle their own screams, and thereby prevent the terrorists of learning of their hiding places. Some kids spoke of how they heard the terrorists shout to one another to look under the benches, in the cupboards, everywhere, to smoke out the kids, to spare no one.

My heart goes out to the mother whose pain will be tortured further by guilt. She said, "He didn't want to go to school, but I forced him to go to his death."

Going to school should not be the equivalent of stepping on a landmine and yet that is what it has become.

It is easy for those of us who have not lived that heartbreaking ordeal to say that if we don’t send our kids to school, then the terrorists win again.

Nobody can fathom the depths of agony that the parents of those children suffer, that they will continue to suffer. To have to bury or set afire the pyres of those that were your pride and joy and strength – could there be a greater loss? The smallest coffins are indeed the heaviest.

Following the terror attack, the government demanded that all educational institutions install CCTV cameras and build higher boundary walls to secure their premises. Those institutions that complied, numbering 118 out of a total of 1440 in Peshawar, were given no-objection certificates and allowed to resume their normal routine.

Sadly, there will be no routine for the children and the teachers of Army Public School, and also for many other children in other schools. The dastardly attack by the terrorists has made going to school an activity that is fraught with danger and peril, like going to the battlefield.

The students themselves realize that normalcy is forever lost. The airport-style security arrangements at the entrance and the elevated boundary walls with steel wire fencing leave no doubt about that fact.

As I iron my children's school uniforms and prepare their tiffins, I think of the state of mind of those parents whose children survived the brutality. How often they must have kissed, hugged and caressed their children in the last few days, knowing how close they came to losing them forever.

And then I think of those whose children died that day, those whose hearts stopped when they came to know of the news. Those who ran with their children's bleeding bodies all the way to the hospital. How their eyes will weep as they rummage through their children's belongings. How they will long for future milestones that will never be.

What a sad world we live in, compared to the one we, the parents of today, were raised in. Back then, we didn't need barbed wire fencing to keep us safe.

I am grateful to God that I have my La Ni
ña and El Niño to love and cherish.

I want to leave you with this sound clip of a song composed by a young Pakistani, Talha Anjum. I was in tears at the end of this song. In case you don't understand the lyrics, I've made a feeble attempt to translate the words. In case I have made a mistake in understanding any of the lyrics, please point out my errors, and I will correct the words.

Gaye the haste haste, Pehen kar apne bastay,
(They had gone amid shouts of laughter, wearing their school bags)

Ab tak wapas nahi aaye, Kya bhool gaye ghar ke raste?
(They still haven't returned. Have they forgotten the way home?)

Subha to bohot khush the, Kya ab naaraz ho maa se?
(They were so happy this morning. Are they angry with mother now?)

School hi chhoda tha, na jaane kahan chale gaye wahan se?
(Dropped them at school, where did they go from there?)

Uth rahe honge maa baap ke dil mein yeh sawal,
(These questions must be arising in parents' minds)

Is maa ke laal ka uniform ho gaya laal,
(Why is this mother's darling's uniform red?)

Ek hi baat pe duhai, Ke yeh nahi se aayi,


Jism ke dard se jab chhoti chhoti aankhain bhar aayien ,
(The ache in my body brought tears to my eyes)

Har taraf cheekh pukar, Lekin nai koi andaaza,
(Screams and cries everywhere, but no idea)

Ye shayari ziafat nahi, Is ko samjho taqaza, taqaza
This poetry is not ____________. This is ______)

Ke kal tumhare bhi bacche honge, Ye nai bach sake, Kya zamanat hai woh bach sakenge?
(Tomorrow you too will have kids. These did not survive. What guarantee is that they will?)

Hamare main to, itni si bhi gherat nahi, fajar tak jaagte hain, Par zara khuda ka zikr nahi,

Wo sab kuchh de kar wapas lena bhi jaanta hai,
(If He gives us everything, He well knows how to take it back)

Phir bhi tu khud ko jannat ka thekedaar maanta hai,
(And yet, you think you are the owner of heaven.

Naraaz na hona hum se, Hum hain tumhare dum se,

(Don't be sad with us, Our happiness comes from you)

Tum se hi to hai ye jahaan,

(Our world is good because of you)

Koi bata de mujhko, Sahi bata de mujhko,

(Somebody tell me, tell me the truth)

Aakhir ye JANNAT hai kahan?

(Where is this heaven?)

Ammi, maine kaha tha na, Aaj mujhe school nai jaana,
(Mom, I had told you that I didn't want to go to school today)

Dekhen aaj un logon ne mujhe kitna zyada maara,

(See how much those people have beaten me)

Shaheed ka kya matlab hai, Sab kehte hain ke ki main wo hun,

(What does the word, martyr, mean. Everyone says that's what I am)

Aap ro rahi hain, Meri aankhain bund hain kaisay ro-oon?

(You are crying. My eyes are shut, how do I cry?)

Sab kehte hain shaheed hona achhi baat hoti hai,

(Everyone says it is good to be a martyr)

To phhir aap puri raat Zaar-O-Qataar kyun roti hain?

(Then why do you cry_____ all night?)

Main bhaaga dar kar jab wo goliyan chalayin,

(I ran away in fear when the bullets began to rain)

Main bohot cheekha, Kya aapko awaz nai aayi?

(I screamed so loud, couldn't you hear me?)

Meri teacher ko jalaya, Wo jagah se nai hileen,

(They burned my teacher, she didn't move from her place)

Aur kuchh nazar nai aaya, chhupne ki jagah nai mili,

(We couldn't see anything else, there was no place to hide)

Aap kehti theen ke Kalma padho to khush hote hain Allah ji,

(You used to say read the Kalma, Allah will be pleased)

Maine Kalma padha unho ne goli chala di,

(I read the Kalma, but they shot me)

Main bohot pyasa tha, kaash thoda paani mil jaata,

(I was so thirsty, I wish I could get some water)

Patti bhi kar leta, agar doctor ban jaata,

(I would have bandaged those wounds were I a doctor)

Wo mujhe maar ke khush the, Matlab ki main bura tha,

(They were happy after killing me, which means I am bad)

Seene main goli lagi bohot zor say gira tha,
(I was shot in the chest, I fell down to the ground)

Bohot khoon baha, ammi, Kapde bhi gande ho gaye,
(So much blood flowed away, mom, even my clothes became dirty)

Aap has kar kahain naa, ke tum apne kapde khud dhoge,
(You will laugh and say, wash your own clothes)

Jaisay aap kehti theen jab bahar khelne jaata tha,

(The way you used to say when I would go out to play)

Mujhe pata hai ki main aapko bohot satata tha,
(I know that I used to trouble you a lot)

Baba, aap ro kyun rahe hain? Woh bhi aaj pehli baar,
(Daddy, why are you crying for the first time today)

Aap to kehte the rona hai bohot buri baat,
(You used to say that it was wrong to cry)

Ammi, maaf kijiyega main Khuda Hafiz nai keh saka,
(Mom, please forgive me, I could not say, Khuda Hafiz, to you)

Aapki khidmat karne ke liye zinda nai reh saka,
(I could not stay alive to look after you)

Main aasman mein taara ban kar aap ko dekha karoonga,

(I will be a star in the sky and will look upon you)

Achha ban kar rahunga, Kisi se nai ladoonga,

(I will be a good boy, I won't fight with anyone)

I love You, maa, aur aapki bohot yaad aayegi,
(I love you, mom, I shall miss you a lot)

Lekin, maa, kya aap mujh se milne nai aayengi,
(But, mom, won't you come to meet me?)

Bas thodi der ke liye, warna bohot darunga,
(Just for a little while, or else I shall get frightened)

Bas aap ko dekhunga aur zor se hug karunga,
(I shall just meet you, and hug you tight)

Ammi, aap to muje saari batein batati theen,
(Mom, you used to tell me everything)

Kyun nai bataya school ke raste main jannat aati thee,
(Why didn't you tell me that heaven lies on the way to school?)


Naaraz na hona hum se, Hum hain tumhare dum se,
(Don't be sad with us, Our happiness comes from you)

Tum se hi to hai ye jahaan,

(Our world is good because of you)

Koi bata de mujhko, Sahi bata de mujhko,

(Somebody tell me, tell me the truth)

Aakhir ye jannat hai kahan?

(Where is this heaven?)


  1. The stains left by the tragic incident will lie unhealed in everyone's memories... touching post!

  2. Yes, I can't even imagine what those poor children who have gone back to school must be feeling. And the parents' minds must be even more disturbed. Thank you for reading, Vidya.

  3. Poor children will loose freedom and now they have to go through the routine of screening etc. not only in Army School and even ordinary school. CCTV will throw open their privacy.

  4. That is true, Pat, but I guess that is the cost of safety and security in these times. But I doubt whether we can ever give our children the sense of security that we grew up with.



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