Monday, September 19, 2011


Here you are again, blank page, asking me to write about bomb blasts and death and wedding errands. I don't want to, because things will keep changing and things will keep staying the same and what is left to say about any of it? All I know is that life and death keep on happening. They don't give you warnings or a friendly wave or look both ways before crossing the street. They crumple up fear, mine and yours, like failed attempts at origami and throw it in the wastebasket, and miss. They wear faded lawn prints and the kind of shoes everybody owns. Sometimes they try to be profound, but end up creating mediocrity, waiting for an artist or poet to mould them into what they should have been. That's all there is to it.

That is why, when a blast rattled my window this morning, my first thought was simply "Blast."

There is a routine for things like this. Once the panic has subsided and all family members have returned home, shared stories and have been accounted for, you can start making calls to everyone else to establish how many degrees of separation are between you and this one. Three. Two. One. None. And then you switch on the TV and see your old school with its familiar walls and windows and parking spots replaced by six foot craters and ambulances. You spot the school van driver and your face lights up and you say Hey, that's Riasat Bhai! because it is always nice to see familiar people on TV, before you stupidly realise why they are on TV. And then you think what do they mean eight people are dead, who are they? And then the calls begin again. Throughout it all is a vague sense of guilt, of knowing that if it had been a big one near the city center, or the other side of town, it would have been easy not to notice. Then you console yourself and say well, if life and death are going about barreling into your soul without giving polite road signals, there is only room for so much care.

And later, you run wedding errands, because of that habit life has of keeping on happening. And while you choose the right shade of yellow, you check your text messages to find out which of your old social studies teachers is in the hospital. Part of you thinks two years ago I would not have been out shopping for yellow linen if this had happened, but most of you thinks two years ago, this would not have happened anyway. Between meals and naps and phone calls and work and sorting out student timetables and putting your files in alphabetical order and planning the welcome party for incoming students and giving advice on studying for the SATs, you check the news. Why news websites think it is in good taste to discuss how well-known socialities "tweeted their grief today" is beyond me, but I have worked at a news website, so then again it isn't.

And you think there will be no memorials, there will be no ten-years-later services, there will be no names attached to the security guards who died, there will be no TV specials or emotional Reader's Digest features about how someone's clairvoyant puppy saved them with photographs of smiling blond children and their healthy pets. There will be no special school assemblies and tomorrow parents will drive their kids to school like masochistic but level headed adults and enquire at the half-demolished gate whether the guard is alive and if he is, send them in and go home and perhaps run wedding errands for another child, or perhaps sit and worry, or perhaps give extra sadqa. And you know they are the ones who really matter, when people say "Ha it finally happened in Defence" and when people say "Let us mourn for those in Waziristan" and when people say "We are reaping the seeds we sowed" and when people say "When America leaves it will end" and when people say "I was right there when it happened" and when people say people say people say people say people say but life and death go on either way.


Kanwalful said...

I am touched by the way you have written out the very simple chain of events that follow each time something of this sort happens.

s.e. said...

i want to say thank you, but i wish fewer people could relate to what i wrote. i guess the reason i wrote it though is because sadly everyone can.