Peshawar

I actually had a different post for today on my blog, it was about how to make avocado pâté for festive get-togethers. Just at the weekend I was saying it’s nice to write about food for a change given what I used to write about when I was a journalist in Pakistan. Today I have no appetite.

I have no words. I have no words today. So then, why even try to write an article talking about the devastating attack in Peshawar that took the lives of innocent children? I’ll tell you why, so I can make myself feel better. You heard me, so I can make myself feel better. You won’t find any apology for my apathetic existence here.

I won’t disrespect the mothers and fathers by saying I am sorry for their loss. Of course I am, I don’t think my heart has hurt like this for a while. My heart goes out to those parents who will bury their children tonight but I will go back to my life in a week or two.

Am I sorry for that? No, I am so grateful that I didn’t lose someone I love today, I am so thankful that a life, I cherish beyond my own, like a parent does their child, is not something I had to experience today. I think that pain would cripple me. Why does someone else have to go through that? That question is burning a hole through my heart as hot tears pour out of my eyes.

Because an apology would be selfish, it’s just another way to make myself feel better about the fact that I will move on from this tragedy and my heart won’t be broken forever.

I don’t even have anything scathing to say about all the Twitter and Facebook updates. Seeing them makes me feel better. It feels like I have someone to mourn, someone to comfort with a response or an acknowledgement.

Because what I can’t do is comfort those mothers and fathers. Nothing will comfort them other than their child coming home from school with tales of the day. Instead they come home from school in a shroud. I wish I could make that happen, I would give anything to.

I feel united with Pakistan all the time, but today it is in my anger and in my sadness. Just the other day I was saying after a year in Toronto I was missing Karachi more than ever, just last night I was telling my husband I want to move back. Today I wish I could be in Peshawar doing something for the families who have truly suffered from this horrific tragedy.

I am well aware of what happened yesterday in Australia and Philadelphia, it was awful but please don’t berate me for crying out with my home country today. Please don’t point out all the faults with this post and everything that is wrong with it in the comments. I know, I already know, but I just want to make myself feel better. Because this morning I woke up to children, in their school uniforms, being carried to hospitals and I have never felt more ashamed of being a human being in this world. Because I have been crying since I read my best friend’s status update, whose birthday it is today, with whom I have spent the most amazing years of my life in Pakistan.

“On this day of my birth, nothing brings home the transiency of life more poignantly than the incident in Peshawar, where scores of children breathed their last. My only wish is for this insanity to end…now and forever. If there were anything I could do to give these families their little ones back, I would give my very last breath to make it happen. Words aren’t enough to describe the depth of this pain! I mourn with them…for their loss and for the unlived lives of their children. My day is dedicated to them.”

Because today, this is what being Pakistani looks like.

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10 Years After 9/11

A man jumping out of one of the towers“I am only one. But still I am one. I cannot do everything. But still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything. I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Edward Everett

I don’t know who started this war or how it will end. The beginning and end of this story does not lie with me alone. I only know how it came to be so for myself. On September 11th 2001 – with every drop of blood and water – I watched with inertia, as life was taken from this world. The loss of each soul was not of one alone and a decade later their needless and tragic end still reverberates.

I was a seventeen year old aspiring to be a writer, enraptured by words and big ideas. For me, our world changed within a fifty-minute square marked on a teenager’s school timetable. The World Trade Centre came down in my A-Level Media Studies lesson, by the time class ended and we left the room, unknown to us, our lives had changed forever.

In the months that followed the words Taliban, Al-Qaeda and jihad were to become apart of normal everyday vocabulary. A pendulum had been raised over society. One that would continue to oscillate the human conscious one way or another as all of mankind was propelled into a post 9/11 world.

Pakistan is just one of the countries to have suffered in this aftermath. Unlike some countries, where explosions are extraordinary tragic events, suicide attacks and bombings are not the cruelest part of daily life in Pakistan. The cruelest part of daily life here is that it has been allowed to happen.

As the memory of 9/11 continues to overshadow our world, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan have become less than mere shadows of themselves. Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are supposedly dead, but for so many people around the world, the ghosts of the past decade are still very much alive.

They scream at us from the battlefields and streets strewn with blood, from the graves of the countless victims (civilians and soldiers alike) of this global war. They scream at us from the stones we cast and bombs we make with our judgment, misunderstanding and total lack of compassion towards each other. We do our best to cover our ears and avert our eyes, while the blind continue to lead the blind in a war that never seems to end.

Like millions of people I have prayed, protested and hoped but a decade later my sadness for our world gets the best of me. Not out of choice but because this existence has been thrust purposely on the people of war torn countries. Where those suffering have not given up standing on their feet but pray on their knees as corruption, bigotry, fanaticism and ignorance take them further and further out of our reach but not our reality.

The reality of our world can be seen in lines that deepen on worn out faces. Can be touched on the cracks in the walls we build around ourselves. Tasted in the tears of orphaned children and childless parents and smelt in the parched soil beneath the feet of politicians, mullah’s, generals, dynasties, feudal lords, soldiers and the loved ones of murdered civilians. The reality of our world can be felt as only a few try and cling to humanity. But the rest don’t try hard enough and out of those of us who can – how many of us do our bit, let alone our best to help?

We don’t realise how united we already are – in recession, in anger, in fear, in sadness, in loss and in apathy. United we watch what happens in our world and our agony flourishes because collectively we do nothing.

I’m not an idealist. Today, like a lot of people I’ve been caught in bomb attacks and riots but in countries like Pakistan, who has not? Like many I still count myself lucky enough not to know real suffering – it is that privilege which should enable us to help those that do. What very little we can still do. What, will we not even do that little bit now?

We must do it, if only because it is the right thing to do. There are a lot people who gave up on doing the right thing a long time a go and look where it has gotten us. There is not much left for us to believe in but a human’s capacity for compassion. The day I stop believing in that – is the day I stop writing.

One person can’t change the world – but one person can make some kind of change. Nelson Mandela did. Martin Luther King did. Mother Teresa did. Mahatma Gandhi did. I am well aware that their messages, words and faces are something only the privileged enjoy but I refuse to despair. I know that even if what I do only makes a profound difference to one life – it is one more person in a better position and we need those numbers.

After you read this, share it, like it, hate it, slam it but do one thing for your city, for your country, for your world – in zeal and consistently. Our world needs to become a compassionate and tolerant society and the beginning, the first step to salvation starts with you. The breadth of your reach is unimaginable.

If every single person that can, does this one thing – we already know what can happen. All those people who died ten years ago, who will never be forgotten along with the impact they have on our lives, show us in their absence what is possible. Their loved ones’ loss is ours too and it cannot be in vain.

The people who died over the last decade after them, that loss should not be in further vain. If every single one of us can find our own way to help, collectively we might just salvage something from the wreckage of our world.

It no longer matters who started this war, it is time for it to end and that task does not lie with me alone – it lies with us. Ten years ago a question was asked of our world – another ten years from now, when our children ask us what we were doing while all this was happening, what will we say?

We cannot move forward if we keep looking back. Those that have gone should not have more of an impact on our world than the living do. If we start now, in loving memory, maybe a “post 9/11 world” will be something good, something worth living in, something worth being apart of – something better than what we have now.