EARTHQUAKE - (My Story)
My journey on foot started from Kohala (A place about hundred kilometres road distance from my village) at 10-30 pm along with some sixteen other companions of village. There were hundred or more people stuck because the road was full of fallen boulders which rolled from the mountains. Police post had no communication with any of the station in the affected area and staffs were unable to give any information to the people coming from Pakistan. I knew the in charge of the police post; Muhammad Azad who suggested that we should carry on by foot as the road was completely destroyed by land sliding and rolling stones. He said that there is a lorry trapped in a landslide near by, and men in it are dead, but even the police could not remove the dead bodies as the stones are continuously rolling around the truck. He was also worried for his children and didn’t know about their fate.
It was raining with some hail. We left Kohala without any light or other arrangement. No shops were opened there. Local shopkeepers had disappeared. Only those people could be seen who were poring into AJK from other cities of Pakistan. A couple of mobile phone sets with built in LED and few cigarette lighters were the only source of light in the pit dark night.
We had a carton of coffin cloths we brought from Islamabad on the instructions of Azam Shah who works in UK. One of our companions carried it on his back and rest of us caught hands to support each other so that no body should fell from the road wall into the undetectable river which was flowing as usual with a tremendous speed and sound. Mobile phone light was not strong enough to reach to the river and there was no other light around, which could reflect from the river to make it noticeable. A continuing hissing sound was only reason to believe that there is water down somewhere.
We had two girls with us and a man Waseem with weak eye-sight, who needed help. Another man with painful knee Zameer Hussain also needed support. Strong wind, rain and hail added more to the melancholy, however holding each other’s hands was a source of courage and a sense of safety to walk on a slow pace.
In few minutes of leaving from Kohala all of us were completely soaked and chilled. The carton of the coffin cloth got wet and could not hold the cloths. Each of us took one or two packages of cloths. Two men with mobile phone lights were walking on the river-side edge of the road to keep herding rest of the people away from danger. I heard the girls crying and few other screaming after hitting the boulders invisible due to absolute darkness. I started reciting a portion of the Koran with full voice, to encourage them and divert their attention. It helped and lessened the panic.
We had walked hardly a kilometre or so when we met with a group of people rushing back towards us. They had a couple of torches and few LED fitted cigarette lighters with them. Stop! Stop they cried and pushed us back few yards. What has happened? We asked them.
Don’t go further. A truck is stuck in the land slide and stones are rolling all round it. There is no way to go across, stones are still rolling. A young man of about 25 spoke terrified and still trembling “God has saved me. I was in the middle of the slide when I heard the rattling sound of stones rolling from above the hill. I rushed back and the heavy stone rolled passing me at a distance of few feet. Had I been late for a second, I must be dead by now”
It reminded me of police in charge who mentioned about the truck, but I was not expecting it so near to the police post with dead bodies still in it.
There was no introduction of each other, or any kind of traditional greetings. Many people started talking “Now what?” how shall we go across? God help us please. Is there a alternative way to go to the other side? Everybody was questioning but none had an answer.
“Wait a minute” I spoke loudly.
“No panic please. Whatever has happened is the will of God Almighty. We have no power to quash it. It is a test and let us prove that we are happy with the will of our Lord. He is the Master and we are helpless creation. We have children and ladies with us. It is our duty to protect them, and the other people still live around us, including our own lives. I suggest that three of us will go ahead and examine the situation, while rest of us will stay right here”
“I request the two friends who have torches, please get on a side”
I shook hand with them and requested to one of them to lend me his torch until we come back. He handed it over to me with a little hesitation. I asked the other man with torch if he is ready to go with me to judge the situation ahead. “Yes I will” he said;
“I guess one more person can come with us” I called without pointing to anyone.
A man turned and said I shall go with you.
Okay let us go. I said
“Be careful; don’t try to cross the slide. Don’t go too close to the rolling boulders… ” Many voices were coming from behind. Some of them were praying as well.
The light of the torches looked very strong to me. We walked few yards and first time in this strong light I saw that the upper side of the road was full of boulders hundreds of tons heavy and many feet tall. Road was cracked in sections with big gaps in between each section. The zigzag road turned right in a sharp curve. Carefully we kept walking for another minute or so when I saw a terrible scene few yards ahead.
Big truck’s vivid colours and body reflectors were illuminating in the dark. Its back was directed to the river side and front towards the hill at an angle. From my place it was looking as a heap of stones was on either sides of the truck. As we walked little closer and much towards the front of the truck, our torches hit the driver’s cabin. We could easily see that both men in the truck were sitting, tilted on a side. Certainly the wind screen and other glasses were broken because there was no glass reflection. No doubt both they were dead as there was no movement at all. It was not possible to clearly see the form and features of the men in that truck, or any blood, or the kind of injury, because of the distance and a horrible concoction of light and dark. We were examining the site to find a possible way across the huge pile of the boulders. There was movement in the rocks around the truck, as they were slipping slowly down towards the river or settling in the road due to the burden. It was obvious that the truck was also under the burden of rocks and could go down in the river anytime.
“Let us move closer and see if there is a way ahead” one man said.
“Okay let us go but you will wait here, Okay?” I asked the man who didn’t have the torch.
He nodded and two of us stepped forward cautiously and slowly.
A couple of stones slipped and we watched them coming down and piling on top of the heap. Some mud was also moving with rain water.
Our torches were hitting on all sides. It was not possible to cross from the back side of the stuck lorry because it was dangerously closer to the edge of the road and in the front there was mud and stone very slippery to walk on. We were discussing the possibilities when all of the sudden the rattling sound of stones and boulders came from some side. “Rush back” the man cried. We rushed back. The sound of falling stones was growing stronger and after a second or two it was not possible to hear anything else but hissing and rattling sound of sliding. We looked in the back from a distance and there was fog, and dust. Nothing was visible. This slide was on the other side of the truck and nobody knew how long it was. “This could be very long, God we could not cross it” the man with me said in a sad tone. With trembling legs we walked back to the crowd who were anxiously waiting for our return.
“More shards are coming. No way to cross this slide. It is risky. Does someone know any foot track towards the top of the hill? We need to climb up and cross above from where this land sliding has started” the man with me spoke in one breath.
A man said I have worked in this area. There is an unpaved jeep track a little distance back from here. Let us follow that track and climb up. He took a torch and guided all the people who were not less then hundred and fifty and were still adding. With arrival of more people some more torches and cigarette lighters arrived. Everyone was supporting others to walk. We kept walking for God knows how long, when a mobile rang. The man spoke with someone, but rest of us were surprised that we had climbed so high that we had reached in the covering range of mobile network.
“Twelve thirty-five in the morning”. A man announced the time.
“Four hours to start the fasting again” another man murmured.
“Let us move” the guide said.
We left the track and started climbing down on a very steep side of the hill. Noise of rolling stones was again coming from left side in short intervals. The rain stopped but still it was very dark. We did not know what direction we were going. Few older persons, some ladies and children needed help to descend down the steep and bushy hill, which slowed down the journey.
Sometime after 1 O’clock we reached back on the road, a few hundred yards away from the land slide. Now the sky was clearing and it was possible to see the shadows of deep troughs or rocks on the road.
We were unaware of the scale of destruction because we didn’t see the area as it looks in a day light. I thought that the loose rocks on the road side are jolted and have fallen on the road, or the unstable portions of the land is shaken and is causing land slides. Thanks to the darkness that we were unable to see around.
We walked some twelve kilometres or so and reached the place called Chattar Aklas. A narrow road turns up from here leading to Komi Kot and eventually rejoins the highway at Garhi Dupatta some twenty five kilometres further ahead from Muzaffarabad in Jhelum valley. We stopped to decide which way to go. One option was to keep walking on the highway and reach Muzaffarabad and the second options was to cut our journey short by walking on Komi Kot road. Some fellows suggested that we should keep walking on the big road and once we reach Muzaffarabad, possibly we shall be able to get some transportation for the village. Few said that situation of the road shows that there will be no traffic for months, so instead of wasting our time we should walk this way which is more then thirty kilometres shorter then road to Muzaffarabad. Majority agreed on second idea so it was decided to walk on Komi Kot road.
We said good bye to our companions, who had to go towards Muzaffarabad. Three ladies and a young man join us here. They had to come to some village on this road. We walked on the road as well as on the foot track during early hours of the morning to reach high up on the mountain. By dawn we had reached very high on the peak and the road was relatively straight now. Still the houses were not visible, however along with the road at scattered places some people were moving like ghosts without any voice. Perhaps they looked on the passerbys but did not say or inquire anything.
As the morning light was getting brighter, the landscape looked terrifying as far as one could see in this early dawn. The houses were either sown to the ground or leaning meters beyond their mean position. By first rays of sunlight many people came on the road and were walking both directions to find out about their dears.
I won’t be able to forget the two extreme situations of one family in one moment. We were walking in our direction while an old man with long white beard and a lady following him were coming from opposite side.
“Assalam O Alaikum” the man greeted us. His mouth was dry and his scared and vacant looks were searching for some one.
“Wa’ alaikum Salam” our group replied.
“Where are you going?” the man asked.
“To Noon Bagla” one of us replied.
“God too far to walk. However you can make it before evening” he said with great sympathy.
The woman was standing silent. It was obvious that she had been crying for hours. Her eyes were red and swelling.
“I am from Narat village” the man said, “My two sons went to school yesterday but didn’t come back last night. We are in search for them. We had been asking every body since last night, but nobody knows about them. God knows where they are and in what condition” his voice got stifled.
“My children! Oh God” the lady started crying again.
“God will do better Aunty. Trust in Him and be patient. God willing your kids will be safe” A man from our group tried to soothe her.
“Have not your kids reached home?” a man spoke from behind us. He was following us unnoticeably.
“No, have you seen them. How are my kids?” the woman asked anxiously.
“Your children are fine. One was trapped in the school but was rescued unhurt in the evening. The other one escaped before the school collapsed. They were with the teacher in the late evening. I guess they stayed with the teacher or may be he didn’t let them go because it was late last night. They must be on their way home now. You can wait for them here or go ahead and bring them back with you”
“Thank God” everyone spoke simultaneously.
“Thank God, Oh my God thank you thousands of time” the lady screamed and burst into tears. The man also raised his hands in prayer and looked towards the sky crying, and we also felt tears of gratitude in our eyes.
“Let us go, my children will be hungry and thirsty. Let us go and bring them back” the lady pushed her man.
“May God protect you friends. Go ahead, you have to go a long way” the man prayed for us and the lady also kept nodding. We thanked both of them and waved hand for the last time.
I removed the socks which were muddy now. With the first ray of sunlight I had removed my shoes because my feet were blistered, and it was very difficult to walk. I had been walking with only the socks on. Now the socks were torn and dirty, so I removed them and started walking bar footed which was not comfortable either but much calming then walking with the shoes on.
As we travelled further, it was obvious that we were heading toward the more intensive destruction of the earthquake. The ratio of collapsed houses was increasing and we were receiving more news of deaths and injuries. With this change, our worries were also mounting. A war of conflicting thoughts started which was very annoying. “What would have happened to our families? They all mihgy be dead… some of them would have survived because that, that and that would have gone out on work, or grass cutting or market, or… God willing all would have survived. My house is very strong. It has stone walls and is at a stable site… it is light and if it has collapsed, still my family would have survived”. “No they might have been sleeping in my father’s house after Sehri (An early meal before the morning light appears on the horizon during the Holy month of Ramadan). The house is older and built with heavy material. May be they all are dead. God they would have been suffering from injuries and suffocation before they died. They might have been crushed under heavy rafters and stone walls… they might had been calling for help and then their sounds might have stopped”
This conflict of the thoughts was the worst of all the agonies we had been going through in this journey. We were walking together but every one was lost into thoughts. Once in a while one of the group members could be seen sighning, taking deep breath and trying to hide the tears appearing uncontrollably into the eyes.
By midday, we left the road and start walking on the foot track through semi forest. The cool rocks on the path were very comforting to my bare feet. I had to pluck out the thorny leaves of trees once in a while, but still it was much better then putting shoes on.
We didn’t have any stamina to walk but there was something which was forcing us to keep going. Now I think may be it was curiosity of knowing about the fate of our families, which was forcing us to go besides all the fatigue and frailty.
At about 3-30 in the afternoon or so we reached on the peak from where we could see the Chikar valley. From a distance it was not likely to see clearly how much damage had been done to the houses, but we could easily see that the big buildings of college, hospital, rest house and police station were nothing more then a heap of rubbles. Certainly the smaller building will have been damaged. From here we could not see Noon Bagla because it is high up near the mountain top, and still we had to walk for an hour or so to reach to the site from where we could see the village. We walked some fifteen minutes or so when I saw the glimpse of a new hillock formed right in the bottom of two hills where there was a small river. I was confused. Was it there before? If yes, why I don’t remember it? If not, where it came from? It was a mystery for me which needed to be solved but later on some time.
At last we were near to the point from where we could see the most part of the village. I spoke loudly to my companions:
“Friends, behold. Now we are about to reach the village. We have to keep in mind that we are here to rescue the people who are still trapped, or burry those who are dead and console those who have seen all this devastation. We shall have plenty of time to cry later on. Our first duty is to help the survived and pay the due of those who have left this mortal world. Therefore I suggest that let us go to our families first and let us get together again at 5.30’ O Clock in central graveyards. We shall make a planning to deal with the situation”
We said good bye to each other and started walking in our own directions. My younger brother Naveed, my brother in law Imtiaz and me were walking down when my brother announced “Bahi Jann (dear brother usually word is used for elder brother. Word Baji is used for elder sister and Abba or Abu Jann is used for father) your house is still intact and leaning forward while father’s house is down to the ground. There are few people there” he said
I did not want to look toward the settlement where my house was situated because in a glance I had seen the over all situation of the village. I was expecting heart breaking news at anytime and was trying to prepare myself for any worst situation.
“Be enduring and get ready for anything” I said to him.
We came across the old village ladies sitting terrified.
“Assalam O Alaikum” we said.
“Where have you come from” the old lady asked.
“From Islamabad” I replied surprisingly because this lady was asking like a stranger, while we all knew each other.
“Oh you are Waheed Saab” She said.
“Yes” I replied. Other three or four young ladies were sitting beside her silent like statues.
“What will you see? Three and four and five dead bodies in every house” she said and started beating her knees.
My heart was sinking, but I controlled myself and said to her.
“Allah’s Will aunty. Pray for all” I requested her.
“Where will you go?” she asked me again.
I understood that she was lost and shocked. We just walked on our path.
The shops of the market were down on the ground many meters away in the field below the road. We just passed unable to speak.
A little distance down from market place I saw a relative of mine Adnan. He was going up towards the market side. His eyes red and swelling terrible impressions on his face, he came running towards us. Hugged us and started crying. I sat on the ground and asked him about the situation. He started counting the names of the people who had died.
“What about my family. My mother, father, brothers and children” I asked him.
“Every one is fine just the houses are destroyed” he said.
I knew he was pretending.
“Look we have came all the way from Islamabad and are strong enough to listen to any kind of news. Please don’t pretend and tell me the truth” I said to him.
He started crying again and told about the rest of the people who had died naming my father first.
“And what about my mother?” I asked.
“She is fine” he replied.
“Please don’t pretend” I emphasise.
He swore and I believed that he was telling the truth.
We walked a little distance down when I saw my maternal uncle and few other people were busy digging graves.
I thought it inhuman to ignore them and go straight to my family. We diverted and walked to them.
They were digging five graves. I was wondering whose graves these could be.
Two of the men who were my class fellows came running towards us. They were crying. We hugged each other with tears rolling uncontrollably.
My uncle hugged us. He patted on my back and said.
“Be a brave man, my son. You have to do a lot for your family. You have many responsibilities to perform” he said with great sympathy.
“Go please and don’t waste time” rest of the people advised us.
I said goodbye to them and started again towards my family.
Now I was right on top from where I could easily see our houses and people sitting under the chest-nut and apple trees. Few bodies were also there lying covered under older sheets. We started descending.
I saw my younger brothers, and neighbours came running towards me.
“Bahi Jaan You have come. Look what has happened. Why it has happened with us?” they were poring questions which I had no answer. My daughter Zeba came running and saying “Abu, I’m sorry I couldn’t take care of Grand Papa. You advised me to take good care of him, but I could not save him. I’m sorry Abu, please forgive me” she was crying while holding me tightly. I felt as if I speak a single word I shall not be able to arrange all what was needed to be done at that time. I just looked at them and pat their backs while hugging. Walking towards the sitting group of people, I looked at my mother who was sitting next to the bodies, num and terrified. She kept looking at me perhaps trying to believe that we were there or controlling the storm of tears inside her. I just bowed my head, difficult to describe my inner situation.
Some of the neighbours were speaking, some were crying, and some were lying either on older and torn mates or mere the spools of hay. I stopped towards the feet of my father’s body. My brother Safeer who had been doing the entire rescue work for last day and a half spoke. “Bahi Jann. Will you look at Abu Jann (Dear father)?”
He moved towards the upper side and uncovered father’s face for me.
With a bowed head I looked at my father who was sleeping very calm. Washed and clean as usual. Wrapped in white cloth and reflection of dim evening light from his white dress was falling on his face. For a moment I felt as he will get up and welcome me as usual. But no, he didn’t move. He was sleeping a never ending sleep. There was a small scratch on the right side of his face which seemed healed. I was unable to speak as my throat was choked. But I called him silently.
Father, this is me your dear son. Look I had been walking for last two days without any food and resources. I am very week now and may fell down anytime. I have no stamina to stand on my feet. Get up, break your fast and also give me some water. Give me your hand I am collapsing. Look all your family is around you. We all need your shield on our heads. We need you for shelter and guidance. You cannot leave us so suddenly. We were not expecting that you will leave us vulnerable and go so quietly.
You have changed? You did not greet me. You did not ask me how I travelled and what hardship I faced during my journey. You have put all responsibilities upon my shoulder without informing me and sleeping sound yourself. Shall I be able to look after and guide so many people of your family? How shall I deal with so many things? How come it is possible that so many people are around you terrified, hungry, injured, dead, and helpless but you are silent doing nothing for them? Look they have taken refuge in your garden, under your lovely tall rose bush and chest-nut shady trees. They have nothing left to live on. You had been protecting and sheltering these neighbours for long time. What has happened to you now?
I felt as my father has spoken back soundlessly. I heard him saying “Son! I am on this side of the boundary now. It is very little and thin line which I have crossed and you have not. Now I have no power to welcome you, hug and pat on your back or ask you for your troubles. You have to struggle for your life until you also cross this little line. You will also be silent and motionless. You won’t be able to console your dears or give them any hope. Eagerly or forced, you will also be taken to your final destination and you couldn’t resist. Just feel this little difference in between you and me. I have to leave you unaided and go to meet our Lord. Get ready for your turn and prepare for this unavoidable journey. If you will come like a sober human being I shall welcome and receive you in havens. Look at me and always keep it in your mind that one day you will be going from here as I am leaving today, helpless and leaving everything behind including you my children who are very dear to me… ”
There were thousands of other words of this dialogue or may be millions. I don’t know how much time this silent conversation took. We were interrupted when I heard my brother Safeer calling me with trembling voice
“Bahi Jann may I cover the face of Abu?”
I came back to my senses and noticed that my face was wet and eyes were filled with tears. I looked at my brother and nodded, he pulled the sheet back on father’s face. God this is the last time I have seen my dear father? I couldn’t see him again all my life?
My mother, brothers and other relatives were looking at me with tears rolling. I wanted to cry and scream. But I had to restrain. My family needed a hope, courage and support. I was thinking, avoiding any direct eye contact with anyone. I felt that if I loose heart at this time, my family will have no support. I should act like brave men and bring my family out of this shock. This was a bolt from blue and if they are not handled properly, they will also die…..
I felt as I was filled with some inner force. I looked at my mother and spoke to her for the first time. I was surprised that my voice was strong and stable.
“Mom! Permit us to do what is needed” I said looking directly into her eyes.
Tears rolled down from her cheeks she nodded.
“Giving you under the refuge of God” she said in very low and trembling voice.
I turned toward the rest of the relatives and neighbours and spoke to them.
“Now it is time to take all of these people who are ready for their journey. We have to perform the last due duty. On behalf of my father I beg for your forgiveness if he had been harsh to anyone or has committed any misdeed against anyone of you. It is my humble appeal to forgive him and all those who have left us today”
Almost every body started crying again but I was stable.
“May I see others” I asked my brother Safeer who seemed in charge of the matters there.
He did not answer, but uncovered the face of another child whose body was placed next to my father. Then he walked towards other children. Three daughters of Shabnum, who came to spend the night with their grand mother in my neighbourhood, but left for their eternal life from here. A young girl Rakhtaj and two more bodies of the children of Muhammad Hussain’s family. These tiny figures made me forget the pain of my father’s demise. These children shook me such a way I cannot describe in words.
I looked at them one by one, but had good grip on whatever was going inside me. I knew that what has happened is not revertible. I had to do everything possible to encourage the survived people to come back towards life. My mind was thinking for the possibilities of survival and how to deal with the situation.
“Let us go” I said and we took the bodies one by one to the graveyard, where the graves were ready. After finishing the ten burials in two graveyards I collapsed. I was unable to move or stand on my feet. It was dark again. My two brothers supported me to stand and walk back where more then ten families were gathered in my father’s garden. There were no homes to go back. I hardly made it back and sat on the cold ground exhausted. Someone brought me a glass of muddy water in a dented steel glass. A bunch of hay was lying there in the flower bed so I dragged myself to sit on it.
My mom was sitting with other ladies under the sheet of canvas covering hardly enough space where the bodies were protected from rain and hail storm of last night. The sheet was tensioned by roping its corners to the trees. Now the bodies had gone and the place was occupied by injured children and ladies being looked after by other ladies. Male members were busy in digging graves and recovering bodies from the debris for last two days and now they were sitting around a little camp fire. A little fire was heating the ladies and injurers under the sheet.
My brothers came one by one and sat around me. We all were avoiding speaking anything. My mother came and sat among us. So did some other ladies.
“What has it happened? Why has it happened? What did we do wrong? Why all these people have left us?” These were the questions everyone was asking form me perhaps thinking that I have had an answer, because I came from Islamabad. But I had no answers. What I could do was to hug the family and pat their backs silently. When I hugged one of my brothers he howled. Everybody lost the control and threw out what they had been controlling for last two days. There were lot of tears then.
Two adult girls of my neighbour had broken legs and were crying for help. Another lady with few months old child had a back injury and was unable to move. A boy with broken jaws and skull, a young man also injured under the falling debris, were there and screaming. This was terrible situation and I was worried about their lives. I had seen the road situation and knew that it was not possible to get any medical help for them. My heart was sinking with the thought that may be they will die without a medical help which was not possible in near future.
I was thinking about the possibilities of finding something to help the injured. This was the situation we never ever thought about. Like before my thoughts were going toward the shops, and a couple of first aid providers, but no, there were no shops now and no first aid or aid providers. There was nothing, anywhere. I was frustrated, panic, and sad due to the helplessness. God! I need some cotton, some pieces of cloth no matter if it is older. Little soap, or kerosene oil, spirit, or something, something to put on the open wounds of these injured people. Here I understood how much powerless, poor and pitiable we human beings are. Only two days ago, everybody had a home to stay in. There were thousands of things in these houses we used to use. My father always kept first aid medicines, specially the bandages to help in case a child cuts fingers or foot, or if someone else gets an injury while working but all that was buried under tones of wreckage and there were no tolls, lights and manpower to do something. People were pooped and were hardly moving. To me it seemed as they are waiting for the certain death. They had no hope perhaps that is why they were idle. They were dragging themselves instead of walking.
On the cold ground and spool of hay Imtiaz (My brother in law) and Safeer sat on either side of me. I had brought a warm shawl with me from Islamabad, so we three covered ourselves in this single shawl. The camp fire was surrounded by ladies and children on one side and the injured on the other. Sitting together I felt warmer and fall a sleep. After almost an hour I woke up again because of cold. Imtiaz and Safeer had gone near the fire during my sleep. I wrapped myself and sat again on the hay. I forced myself to stand up and dragged away from the rest of the people. My body was stiff and aching. Slowly I moved to and isolated corner to avoid screaming people and also to look around if there were any signs of life elsewhere. I looked near and far. There were scattered campfires on the far distance mountains. There were no other lights or electricity. Sky was full of twinkling stars. Night was quite and there were no sounds of dogs barking, or jackals, foxes, or night birds. It seemed as life has stopped.
God, what will happen now? How many more injured will die? Will they die after a long suffering? Those who are not injured can live for few days even without food, but what about the patients? Their wounds will get infected. They won’t heal. Is there a way out?
I was unable to reach any conclusion. Now the tears were rolling from my eyes, because the boy with broken jaw and skull was in my sight even behind the closed eyes. His mother cuts a tiny piece of an apple with her own teeth and then puts this into the open mouth of the boy. He tries to swallow but spits it out because of sever pain of broken jaw. Cries of Nayla screaming “God I’m going to die” Silent and terrified Shazia My neighbouring woman. (Not my wife, who has same name but was in Islamabad at that time) lying silent and motionless, little baby boy lying beside her. She was buried in her house and had a back bone injury. Helpless face of Shabnum, who lost three of her daughters and we had buried them few hours ago. Worrisome face of Muhammad Hussain, whose wife and grand daughter were still missing under the rubble of his house. He and his family had been searching the site for last two days for the missing bodies on suspected locations of the house but failed to find them. Wreckage of the whole house needed to be removed to discover the bodies. Abdul Karim’s daughter had an open wound on her right leg which was broken. Wife of Ali Afsar, whose left leg was broken. Arshad’s daughter, with broke ankle, Nida and Farhana who were injured in school by falling wall stones, but lucky they were that they were not serious although suffering from a lot of pain. I was trying to feel the pain of all these injured people but I couldn’t. I could only guess how much they had been suffering. I was among these people though I tried to escape to solitude. I was praying to God from depth of my heart for help. After sometime I creep from the crowd and sat under a small bush. The sky was full of stars and I could see the Milky Way so vivid and clear that night. Indeed I was begging for the mercy of our Lord and the Master of whole universe. We believe that He is operating everything from heavens; unwittingly I was looking towards His place which was so clear and bright. We also believe that He Almighty listens and watches the steps of a black ant walking on a black stone in a darkest night. My heart was a lot more louder then steps of an ant on black stone in a black night. I was asking Him for the help of injured who were in agony and were in a worst situation then of those who had died.
In the early hours of October 10 Safeer came and gave me few unripe wild peaches and a couple of apples to eat before fasting starts. I was trying to swallow bitter and sour peaches when Rehana (My brother’s wife) came with half a glass of milk.
“Take and drink this milk Bahi Jan” She said extending her arm to hand over the dented steel glass to me.
“Where did you get it” I inquired.
“Our cow was out of the house and I milked it after two days to get some for you. You look so tired and weak.” She replied.
“But I don’t feel having it” I replied her.
“ You need it … You look so weak and … Do you too want to die?”
I can swear to God that I won’t be able to swallow it. I replied
She was looking at me with a great pain and perhaps helplessness and surprise all at the same time. The light from camp fire flames was blinking and everyone was looking like ghosts sitting quietly and unorganised. She was standing confused perhaps thinking if there was any chance of arguments after I had sworn to God for not having the milk she had brought. I looked at her and said
“Would you do me a favour Rehana” I requested very sympathetically.
“Yes Bahi Jan. Say.” She replied with same kindness and pain.
“Would you take this milk to Sarfraz. He is unable to eat anything” I said.
“But Bahi Jan he cannot open or close his mouth”
“That is why I would like him to have something, this milk. If you arrange for a plastic bag from somewhere and drip it into his mouth. He will die otherwise Rehana” I said hardly controlling my voice and my chocking throat.
She looked at me once again, nodded slowly and walked away with glass in her hand.
I looked at the twinkling stars far away into the dark blue sky. Certainly the God Almighty is watching all this. He is testing our belief and our patience. A verse of Holy Koran came into my mind,
“We shall test you with a bit of fear and hunger, plus a shortage of wealth and lives and crops. Announce such to patient people who say, whenever some misfortune strikes them: “We belong to God, and to Him we will return!” Such will have their prayers [accepted] by their Lord, and [granted] mercy. Those have consented to be guided!”
I lost into thoughts. God Almighty tests His favourite people with one or two of the five things He has mentioned in His Book. He has sent all five things at once for us! Is it His wrath or His test? No it is not His wrath. His wrath is much more intense and deadly. The people who suffered from His wrath were perished. Like AAHAD and SAMOOD, FERON and SHADAD. And the nations we dig out their ruins today to study their life style. It was off course a test from our Lord The Master of the whole universe. O’ Lord help us and give us courage to pass your test with patience and thanks for all the blessings you are still bestowing upon us. The life, the breath, the solid earth still under our feet. What can we do if you just keep shaking the ground? We shall have no escape. Still there were countless blessings and we are thankful for them.
This thought and prayer gave me some peace inside. But still I was concerned about the requirements necessary for life. The situation was not encouraging. Another verse of Koran came into my mind where God Almighty says.
“How many animals do not carry their own provision! God provides both for them and for you. He is the Alert, the Aware”
A ray of hope arose though not very clear yet. I wanted to believe that God Almighty will create resources and bring help for these people, who were suffering so much.
Tanzeem the mother of Sarfraz, and Rehana were busy in feeding the boy by dripping the milk from an old shopping bag. I felt a different kind of inner satisfaction, calm and comfort perhaps first time after the earthquake. I was happy that the boy could get something in his stomach. Now perhaps he will not die with hunger until there is help from God.
It was light on the horizon a token of a new day going to start. Life had become so different. No schedule to take a bath, or wash the dishes and clothes. Or to make the beds, cleaning the room, bath and sweeping etc. There was no need to think about the menu for Iftar (breaking fast). No tea or coffee. What a different life all of the sudden.
The aftershocks were hitting the area after every few minutes. Some were strong enough to terrify the already shocked victims. With every aftershock people were expecting the certain death coming to hunt the remaining survivors. A noise of screaming children and women was appearing from near and far as soon as an aftershock struck the area. But there was no solution to that. Only option was to pray to God and everyone was doing that.
Sun was rising and warm rays were very comforting. Men got ready to go and remove the debris to recover the bodies still buried there. People were not walking but dragging themselves. I was also in a bad condition. Stiff body aching for every inch and eyes were swelling and heavy. Blustered feet painful, I also dragged myself to help others whatever I could.
I sent Safeer to the hill summit handing over my mobile to inform Shazia (My wife) who was in Islamabad and knew nothing about the situation here in the village, and Samina (My sister) who was in Nowshera with her children. The mobile signals were only available on the hill top in the back of the village. I asked him to keep the mobile off until you reach the top to prevent battery and switch it off as soon as you finish talking. I also allowed him to use my mobile if anyone else from the village has to inform their relatives etc.
At about mid day I asked Tahir (My fourth younger brother) to help me visit those whom I couldn’t see the day before. All my brothers are younger then me and thanks to God they are very obedient. They never say no to anything asked or advised to do. He stood up and was waiting for me to move. Tahir told me that a boy hardly 20/21 year old Shazad had died at Muhammad Hussain’s house. The boy was living in my distance neighbourhood. The features of the boy came into my imagination so vivid that I didn’t want to believe him dead. So lovely and a good manner young boy had gone. God you are above our thinking and wisdom. Again I wanted to cry but controlled myself.
“His parents must be dying” I hardly said to Tahir.
He took a long breath and said. “Mr. Javed is very courageous man. He came here when we were digging the bodies out. He watched us silently. And after a while he said to us
“Your brother Shazad is also sleeping down there. Come and help me carry to keep him with rest of his companions”
I couldn’t control my tears. In my imagination I was watching this middle aged man, watching the dead body of his son in prime youth.
“We rushed and saw Shazad lying on the ground” Tahir continued.
“We carried his body to our garden and laid him beside our father. Three of Mr. Javed’s nephew and nieces had also died at his brother Syed Hussein’s house. So it was little before the sunset when he decided to take Shazad to where his cousin’s bodies were and arrange for joint burial”
I dragged myself to Mr. Javed’s place. He was just fiddling with the wreckage of the fallen house. His second and now the only son was sitting at a distance. His wife was also moving around like a ghost weak and drooped. A couple of Javed’s nephews were also there perhaps helping them to find anything useable. Javed and his wife walked few steps toward us to greet me with their tears. This was the only thing we could exchange or offer one another.
His wife hugged Tahir and screamed. Shazad was about the same age of Tahir. Before I could say anything to console her she put her hand on her mouth and after a moment she started speaking
“No, no. God forgive me. I am not crying for Shazad. Why should I? What was ours? He was Your wealth. We were only the guardians. You have taken back what belonged to you. No, no God, I’m not crying for him”
Javed spoke to his wife “Are you mad? Don’t you know how lucky our Shazad is? He started fasting here on this earth and would have broken his fast up in the heavens. God Almighty would have been the host of our son and these fasting travellers who travelled their last journey to meet Him Almighty. Aren’t we lucky parents of our lucky Shahzad?”
It was too much for me to control. I sat on the ground still attempting to stop my tears bursting. My throat was chocked. Javed came and sat beside me. Placing his arm on my back and putting his forehead on my shoulder he started crying.
“You came to see what Waheed? To give shoulder to your father’s body, and to burry your friends and relatives? For what you have put yourself in such a big trouble? Nothing is left in your village. All is gone, has finished. No village anymore no those good people. All is ruined. This is God’s Will. Whatever God’s Will is, we are happy” he tried to stable his voice which was chocked and trembling as well.
“God forbid…God forbid…Mercy O’ my God” Javed’s wife was begging forgiveness from God by touching her ears again and again.
“No body should weep after the martyr. Don’t you know that Martyrs are always alive? They never die” She spoke in a forced tune. I was surprised how and where this illiterate and simplest woman has got that much courage. It also reminded me a verse of Koran where God Almighty says,
“You who believe, seek help through patience and prayer; God stands alongside the patient! Do not say: “They are dead!” about anyone who is killed for God’s sake. Rather they are living, even though you do not notice it”
I offered helping Javed, but he denied saying that I should go and meet others who might need me. I asked Tahir where we should go then. He suggested we should go to the settlement where still a couple of persons were not recovered. I felt as Tahir was not feeling comfortable, but he was ready to go with me because I asked him. I wanted to go to the graveyard which was right in the way. I didn’t want Tahir to follow me to the graveyard. I asked him to go back and look after the mother and people in our garden. Slowly I walked toward the graveyard where I buried my father last night. As soon as I entered the graveyard, I felt as my father is watching me coming.
Assalam O Alaikum Ya Ehlal Qaboor (Peace be upon you O, the inhabitant of graves). By the time I finished greeting, my sight was blur due to the tears appearing in my eyes. I sat on the side of fresh grave. In my imagination I was looking across the tones of soil covering my father. An uncontrolled scream came from deep inside me.
“Here I am Dad, to see you and ask how you have passed your night in this solitude. How is your injury? Isn’t it too dark here? I missed you a lot Dad and you have left a gap behind you. I am in a very week position. I cannot control whatever is going inside me and cannot express fearing that rest of your family needs me as a hope after you. But I’m not a statue, I’m a human being. How long I could control?”
In my imagination I was talking to my father, and many a times I came back to my senses. My mind was fluctuating. Talking with my father not knowing what was going on around me. Next moment I was in practical world and feeling that what I was thinking or doing was nonsense. My father won’t be back, or listen to me. What has happened is irreversible. I must find way out of this dilemma. But at the other moment I was again talking to my father and perhaps listening to him as well. At some point when I was in the real world I noticed some movement across the path way next to the graveyard. I stood up. Looked at my father’s grave and unwillingly walked away towards the pathway. I felt as my father is looking at me and wants me to stay there. Many times I looked back but he was not there.
I saw Madad Ali walking around the fresh graves of last night. I walked toward him. He was pressing the fresh soil. As soon as I reached there the tears started rolling from his eyes without any words. Naturally I took a long breath and held it inside me. We hugged each other for long time letting our tears flow freely. After a while Madad Ali spoke “Look brother! My whole family is sleeping here. All has gone my brother. My life has become empty. Here is my daughter, and here is my wife Fatima sleeping and here is my mother. All they have got together, leaving me alone behind. And you must thank God that your family survived but your father. What could you do if all had gone? You are lucky Waheed Saab…”
We all were trying to console each other by hiding our own scars. Madad Ali was doing the same.
I spent some time with Madad Ali and then went to see Altaf Hussain who lost his son. After meeting with him, I was not feeling strong enough to go and face other people. I returned back to the place which used to be our home. The injured were still there exhausted and unable to scream anymore. It was almost evening now. The camp fire was again started. Men were sitting exhausted. There was nothing to eat but apples. Some of them went to pluck apples for themselves and for others to break fast. Someone had brought water in a large dented aluminum skillet. One of the neighbors decided to move to his place with some injured, because the space under the tensioned canvas sheet was not enough to accommodate all the wounded people. He had managed to recover some sheets and mats from his house during the search of two more bodies still under the wreckage.
The night was cold again, but the fire in the grassy patch of the garden was comforting. On an old mat I fall a sleep near camp fire. Just before first ray of light I was awaken up to start fasting by eating apples and pears.
As soon as the sun rose I thought to inspect the wreckage of the fallen house, hoping to find some food items stored for the fasting month. I saw my mother sitting on the heap of removed debris weeping and watching in the pit made to recover my father’s body. The bed was still there, torn and dusted, with some blood stains. I slowly walked and sat besides my mom. She looked at me with great pain and love at the same time. The blood stains on the bed, still stuck and entangled under the heavy wooden rafters, reminded me the set up of my father’s room. In my imagination I saw his nice and clean bed he used to lay half while reading books or listening
Radio. His books, kerosene lamp, his diary, table mirror, his ash tray and cigarettes his medicines, all was as it used to be. I saw him half lying and playing with one of his grand children, sitting on his legs. All this was very brief. I came back to the real world. His blood was still there, but he had gone for ever. Thank God I cannot weep or cry. However the tears are sometimes out of my control. My Mom saw tears rolling down from my face, she spoke gently.
“Son you have to be strong to support your younger brothers. Who else will support you. Your father is no more there. We are not the only suffering this agony. God has protected rest of your family for you. Now you have to fill the gap of your father. If you’ll lose the heart, the younger will have no support. You have to keep them united, and guide them, and keep them under your control. You have great responsibilities to perform…”
She kept talking and I was nodding. Her tears were rolling down but her voice was normal. The situation was different with me. I was unable to speak.
“Get up my son. Go and see the children. And see your neighbours who have taken refuge in your garden. Help and look after them. Your father loved these people. His soul would never like you to neglect his neighbours. To please his soul you have to act as he used to take care of all his neighbours” She was advising as well as forcing me to leave the site.
My Lord! No other name suits to a mother. She was suffering herself more then anyone else in the family. She had lost her husband and everything. But when she saw me in tears, she forgot about her own anguish. Her motherhood woke up and covered all the pains she was feeling. She couldn’t see her forty years old son in tears. She forgot about herself and rushed to support her son. Encouraging him, and advising as he was a little child learning lessons from his mother. As the Prophet Muhammad said about mother that “she stands three stages higher then father, and that the paradise is under her feet” There is no match of a mother in this world and may be hereafter. She was pushing me away from the father’s death site to protect me from pain, and she herself was looking back. She wanted to feel pain herself but shielding me from its torture.
I asked Tahir, Safeer and Mohsin to remove the rubble from the place, where the food items were stored. We all jointly removed the heavy wooden logs. Tahir and Mohsin crawled in through little gaps and found some utensils, cups etc. The metal utensils were all dented and many cups were broken or damaged. But at that time it seemed as it was a treasure coming out of the ground. Then after a little more efforts we were able to discover some salt, oil and rice.
I picked a wooden log a foot long in size from the rubble and used it as a hammer to mend the cooking pots. It was already late after noon. I helped others to bring some stone and build a fire place at a corner. In a large skillet we boiled water and put dusty rice in it. I advised that children should be given small amount of rice water at a time because they had been hungry for the four days and had no starchy food but some apple and pears. The salty rice water was poured into the few damaged cups and offered to the little children first.
I was watching the group of children sipping and gulping the rice water. Their tiny hands were trembling. Little older children were watching the younger one and swallowing the saliva naturally producing in their mouth. Rehana was at the distribution. Older children were expecting and waiting for their turn anxiously. The empty cups had been filled again and given to the waiting children one by one. All children were expecting more but we were gently counselling them that they will get more once all the children will finish one cup each.
Adults were fasting and had to wait until the sunset.
Another round of salty rice water with little rice grains in it was distributed among twenty or more children. I saw many of them wiping the cups with their fingers and licking them. It was heart breaking scene. Now they had moved to the older mats. Some of them were drowsing. The skillet was removed from the fireplace and water was sprinkled on the coal to quench the fire lest a child steps on the burning coal.
It was few minutes before sunset when I saw an almost year and a half old Aqeel picking the dropped grains of rice around the fire place. He was searching something to eat in the dead coal. His tiny little hands were now stained with black coal.
The sun was setting and the adults broke their fasting with water, or fruits. Some corn combs were cooked on the coal of camp fire. And the grains of corn were distributed among the people. To my surprise, Aunty Shamim the wife of Aziz Al Rehman (my immediate neighbour) appeared with a large skillet of black tea carried in her both hands. She gave it to every one in turns. She made a fire near her fallen house to make this tea. They found tea and sugar during the day while removing the wreckage and searching for any blankets, or quilts, mats etc. others also found some utensils plates, mugs and steel glasses but all needed to repair. A couple of knives were also there now.
After having tea and corn for dinner and some apples and pears I was also feeling drowsy. Mother and Safeer were regularly offering the prayers but rest of us had forgotten. I took a spool of hay and went to the far end of grassy bed leaving space for others. I was given a torn blanket belonged to someone of my neighbour, and I could smell the dust in it. I fall a sleep not knowing what was happening around me. In my sleep I was dreaming the doctors coming and attending the victims. All had become normal. The roads were fine, transport was there, hospitals were operating, markets were there with fresh commodities. My father was also there advising me on different things and saying that he was not dead.
Next morning after we started fasting and again wrapping up in available material we laid down on the ground. With the first ray of sunlight I stood up and looked toward the site of fallen house. My mom was again sitting at the same spot looking into the pit and portion of the bed visible from top. This time my nephew Rehan a four years old son of Safeer who was very much attached to his grand father was also sitting there. Slowly I walked toward them.
“So the mom is just hiding whatever she is going through. How long she will be able to fight. She is observing the entire situation and going through a lot of trouble. She is watching her children who have no protection anymore. She is watching the ruins of her house she worked very hard to build and maintain it. She has nothing to eat, or no place to take shelter. And above all there is no solution or way out of this situation. This helplessness can damage her psychologically. Something is needed to be done immediately to divert their attention. It is same with the rest of the family. We are all pretending and hiding from one another. This is no good, and I have to do something to protect them from emotional shocks” Hundreds of thoughts came into my mind in the few seconds time while walking toward my mother.
I saw Rehan sitting next to his grand mother. He was also watching the site of his grand father’s end. His little legs were hanging into the pit.
“Hey, what are you doing here you little ghost” I spoke to Rehan.
He looked at me with tearful eyes and an innocent, painful smile.
“Come here you spoilt child of Grand Pa” I extended my arms towards him.
He stood up and came into my arms. Now tears rolling from his pink cheeks. I kissed his dirty face with uncontrollable tears. My mum started crying at this scene. After a while I spoke to my mother as I thought a while ago.
“(Mum) do you remember if the father had written his diary the night before the earthquake” I inquired.
“Yes! You know he always used to write daily diary. Yes he did” She said.
I knew that father used to write all 365 pages of his pocket diary since long before my birth, and all his diaries were piled into cabinet over the entrance door of his room.
“Well I want to see his diary and that what had he written on the last day” I said to her so that her attention should go toward other things and this should be the first step to steer my family on a diversion.
“It was on his table and should be around here. Ask someone to remove this soil and debris” She replied willingly.
“Okay, would you please ask Tahir and Mohsin to get pick axes from the upper story of my house? If they go up with care, they can make it to bring down some tools” I spoke with her.
“But son the house is leaning forward and is going to collapse any time. It is risky to go near it” She said with deep concern.
“Well you are right. We should not take any risk. What if we carry some of these wooden logs and support the house first. Once it is secure we can go in to bring out what we can get from there”
“Yes do that” She said.
I called my brothers who were sitting idle, and just worrying absurd. They were not willing to do anything. When they came, I said to them.
“We should try to survive. We need not to worry about the things not in our control but to face them when we come across. However we should do what we can to avoid any further regrets. Let us start working and our first job is to recover father’s diary. I want to see what he has written on the last day” I was saying it as I planned. It was the only good reason to make them curious and active.
“And for that we need tools to remove the rubble of the house from the site. Although anything on the ground floor of my house is under the fallen walls but it seems that the upper story is safer and we shall be able to get tools from tools store. Let us take some of these long wooden logs to support the falling house. It will protect the wood and we shall be able to get things for use as well. If it collapses it will be a big damage to the wood as well as to the things still useable inside it. What do you say?”
They all agreed and we picked three long logs from the fallen house. We put supports to the right side of the house which was almost three and a half feet leaning forward from its mean position. A couple of pillars were broken on this side but still were in place. After fixing the supports strongly, I stepped in the veranda of the house to peep into the hidden areas of the house.
My Mom was continuously calling to be careful. I inspected the ground floor of the house and all the furniture, beds, carpet and other things were under the heavy burden of wall stones. A portion of furniture was visible but damaged as it was touching the floor. It was clear that nothing of this was of any use now. I turned towards the family and said forget about all these things here. These are all damaged and we cannot use any of them.
Then I moved toward the staircase to go upstairs.
“Let me go upstairs Bahi Jan. you don’t go up there” Each of my brothers said and my Mom was watching with worries and helplessness. I was also feeling a fear as all is going to collapse anytime and I will be buried underneath. But there was no other option. Someone had to take this risk and I didn’t want to put anyone else in this experiment because they were younger then me and had every right to live longer. I already had lived longer then them. I was feeling a vibration under my feet while walking on the upper storey. A sense of fear was running in my upper back muscles and spine like waves. A couple of time I felt as the earth underneath was moving, but I held my nerves and kept going.
The doors upstairs were locked and I peeped in from a window glass from the upper veranda. There was no much damage to the upstairs. The walls were made of light material and there was pilling of wooden slabs on the outer side therefore it was not possible to see inside from standing out. I needed keys to go into the house. My mom told that the keys were in the veranda of upper storey or a rack my father made to keep the books. After little search, I found the keys of one door and that was enough all three rooms were interlinked and it was possible to go from one room to another. I walked in. The inner walls were little damaged at different places. I walked to the store room where there were tools. I saw some cooking pots, spices, and food items in the store room my wife had left there before leaving for Islamabad. There were quilts and mats stored and covered in the next room. That was a big relief. I took the pickaxes, shovel and walked down. I told my Mom about the pots and food items upstairs. She said she knew about that but was not sure if all is safe there or buried under the walls.
The curiosity of knowing what Father had written in his diary on the last day of his life made all of them to work. It was a big success. Neighbouring people were also busy in finding things and removing the debris. I gave the task and left to participate in the funeral prayer of a lady recovered that day. Two more bodies were recovered in my neighbourhood. So I helped there.
A little after I reached back, I saw Idrees arriving from Lahore with one of his friend. He also walked from Kohala via Muzaffarabad. He passed nights on his way and came longer and difficult way which took lot longer then my journey.
We brought some of the things down to cook. The boys also got few more food items from the collapsed house. Only four or five families were left in the garden. Rest of them moved to the site of their houses because they were digging and recovering things. That day almost every body had something to eat
My brothers removed a lot of wreck from the site my father died. They couldn’t find the diary however the bed of my father was taken out which was damaged very badly. Its legs were broken and were penetrating into the floor. The bed sheets, quilt, mat and pillows all were torn and filled with dust. I was feeling sorry while looking on these things but at the same time was happy that the site had been changing its shape and perhaps my mother will feel better once all is removed. I was thinking about the possible shelter for the family because we couldn’t stay in the garden for ever. My house was badly damaged. I kept thinking about other possibilities.
Next morning, again my brothers started search of diary as well as removing debris. The helicopters were also in the air flying over the village to areas in the front or big towns. There was no help for the village. With every passing flight I was hoping that perhaps it would land and carry the injured to any hospital but it didn’t happened.
Next morning I went to my brother Safeer’s house some five minutes walk from my place to inspect it for a possible shelter. Its walls had fallen. Three or four beams had slipped form the tie beam. I decided to repair it and move my family in its veranda. I called Safeer to help me in repairing. We spent a whole day to put back the beams with hand made livers and tools. We removed the debris of fallen walls from the veranda and made it ready to move there.
In the evening I asked my mother that I want to move in that house which is repaired and is good for shelter. She and rest of the family were afraid of moving into a house, made of heavy material. Aftershocks were another reason of people’s hesitation to move into the solid buildings. It was generally observed that the houses with heavy material caused more damage then of those made of light material or mud houses. I told my family that we shall not live in the rooms but in the veranda. After a long discussion I was able to motivate them for moving. Now only two families had left in the garden. I discussed with my mother that I want to give the GI sheets and wood of the shop to these two families who are still here to make a temporary shelter. My mother didn’t make any objection but said she was happy with my decision. I asked Aziz Al Rehaman and Manzar Masood to go with my brothers and bring the 23 GI sheets and wood to make a temporary shelter for them. I distributed 10 sheets to the Aziz Al Rehman and 13 to Manzar Masood because they were larger family.
When I moved with my family into this damaged walls less and roof repaired house, there was a fear in my mind as well, but I had no other option. We put a charpi in a safe corner of veranda for mother and laid mats for rest of us on the ground. The fire was lit in the broken traditional Choolah (fire place or stove made to cook food on the log fire). It gave a little sense of normal life before the earthquake. My brother Safeer was fiddling with his radio receiver which was broken. After an hour or so, I was surprised that the radio was working although it was tied with an old string and there were many parts missing from its broken body. It was a big relief and a source of news about the world around. I kept listening the radio for many hours. Reports from different areas of the regions were disgusting and were increasing the concerns.
When I woke up next morning from a nap after Sehri and Morning Prayer, my mother had already gone to the site of the house. I was feeling very heavy and stiff but I walked to the site and saw that my mother was sitting under shade of apple tree, and my brothers were again removing the wreck slowly. It was obvious that Mum had been crying. Her eyes were red and her face was still damp. I knew she avoids crying when I am around. I overheard her advising my younger brothers when Idrees came from Lahore. Idrees was crying and so the rest of the family. I moved to a distance to control myself. When she said
“Take mercy on your brother. He has all the responsibilities on his shoulder now. He is fighting a battle inside him. He doesn’t speak, but I can see that he is going through a lot of pain. He is bearing it all on his own just for us. If you all will not support him he will lose this battle. And why not, you’ve lost nothing. He is the one who is looser. You have him as a shield for you but he the poor has none. He is the one who became orphan; you have him to look after you. He brought you up like his own children, since he was a boy himself. Don’t put too much burden at him now. Look at him and his condition. He is melting. Behave like men and don’t disappoint him…”
God! A mother can see so deep inside her children. I looked at the sky and thank God for this precious then the whole world treasure, He saved for me. Only a couple of days ago she was advising me to be strong for rest of the family and now she was advising them to be strong for me. Where she is herself? Either she is not at all, or off course above all of us like sky, or a cloud, may be like an angle of blessings; the shade of huge chest-nut tree, perhaps a roof, but no there is nothing to compare with a mother. We seek and go to take refuge from all these things. Mother comes to shelter us. We search and work for shields, mother searches us to protect us. I think there is nothing for comparison