Against the Wind

How many times must a man look up Before he can see the sky? Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have Before he can hear people cry? Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows That too many people have died?

– Bob Dylan


 Karachi, June 22nd 2013

The world does not end. It goes on and on and you die every day because you don’t deserve the dignity and finality that comes with a clean ending. It’s an infinite loop of pain, suffering and resurrection because you haven’t atoned for the sins of those who decide when the world will actually end.

So if there is a blast that took several lives, the health minister can dismiss it because really ‘Qayamat tou nahee aaee’*. Meaning – The Day of Judgement is not upon us. Yet.

The so called watchmen who are supposed to ask for accountability of such statements dismiss it because every day random people are killed in acts of violence and its not really news until you have a substantial figure that go in bold type. So the dead are counted for in point size 7.6, you will probably overlook it and quickly move on to the pretty women section. Your attention span is already spread thin so you decide to switch on the TV for yet another talk show or the latest Awards ceremony.

Every act in this infinite loop chisels away at our humanity. Chip by chip we lose the empathy for those whose world did end today but they will have to find the remaining bloodied pieces and construct it all over again.

We can now pick and choose whose death to mourn, because there are classifications that come in descending order of importance. Everyone has their own shelf partitioned with labels that say ‘us’ and ‘them’. All acts of violence hence are to be reacted upon accordingly. The definitions depend entirely on whose sins you are atoning for, so if its ‘them’ please don’t waste time, just get on with it.

Yesterday some women were ‘allegedly’ paraded naked in Punjab. No one could decide if they were Sindhi women or not. Who did they belong to? Were they one of us or them? Who knows? Who cares? The fact that they were human first, let alone women does not factor since no one could classify them. There were blasts that killed several innocent people, but we don’t know how to claim them because we have forgotten how to be human. And its too dangerous to be human anymore. You will feel. You will break, and your world will end until you can build a new world. But that does not happen in never land so we run around in circles until the time we all fall down.

* *This piece was written following a blast in KP, Pakistan. A school bus was blown up killing several students. It remains unpublished to date.


Between Colombo and Galle, November 24th, 2013

When you come from a land of no tomorrows, a commemorative site that marks yesterday’s pain is an absurd reminder of your lost humanity.

The site referred to was a marker of lives lost in the Sri Lankan tsunami, 2004. It became almost surreal when the driver quoted the number – 10, 000 people just on that site. The number is  obviously a rough estimate.

And the wall that separated the clinical death toll that makes it in newsprint and leaves no mark beyond a smudge across your finger crumbled. I walked over to the plaque that prayed for ‘mental and spiritual relief’ of both the victims and those who were left behind to mourn. I almost dared to allow myself the luxury of indulging in what is denied in Neverland – mourning. The origami tied to strings carried the collective grief of fractured households. The wind blew and I heard a song that chipped some more at the steely infinity of a numbed loop. There was a wish blown in the wind with each string, each knot held suffering, grief and eventual catharsis. The promise of a clean end. Of hope because the memories were knotted safe even if the souls were half forgotten whispers. I stood between them and a string brushed against me, I realized I had gone too far. I did not belong in this place where every life lost is held on beyond smudges across my fingers. I walked away.

We are too poor to afford grief. And the finance minister never drew up the budget for hope.

Amna Iqbal is a work in progress. Writer, Designer, Visual Journalist, she has been working for The Express Tribune. She still needs to decide what she wants to be when she grows up.

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