This piece was written by Talha on April 14, 2012 as 9 people were killed and several injured in firing incidents in Quetta . The message, however, remains as important as ever and cannot be emphasized more.
Today, at about 10:15 am, my peon Waheed brought me a cup of tea with the news that more than half a dozen people lost their lives in today’s fresh grisly attacks. We were asked to call off all the government schools in our locale. A guy from the victim community was quickly escorted to his home by one of our colleagues. I walked to a nearby school with the call-off instruction letter and saw kids dressed in their shabby government uniforms running out happily as we celebrated a short day of school in our childhood. There was nothing different between them and me. I also loved such events to enjoy an unusual day off and play like there is no tomorrow.
Two students, hardly of ten years of age were talking to each other as I moved outwards. They were chatting stealthily and undecidedly, I over-heard them.
“Kal teen bandun ko maara (Three people were killed yesterday).”
The other, fair-skinned and shorter says; “Zoy itna khoon tha humne khud dekha aur hamara baap bolta hay ab yeh badla lega (Buddy, it was blood-spattered which I saw myself and my father says that now they will take revenge).”
I recalled that whole of our class during the primary school period was immensely bonded as it was a mutual agreement never to disclose any mischief of any of our class fellows. Many times, out of one’s mistake, the whole class gladly stomached the famous pipe-coated stick of our school. Color of skin or facial cuts were never our priority in the time we learnt to make friends. How true I was during those days!
What revenge, I tried to ascertain. The revenge of being born and raised in a different sect or cultural settings or the revenge in ‘You kill me-I kill you’ passion of us? In one of my secondary school lessons, we were taught the parameters of ‘Imaan’ and the weakest was to perceive an ill deed as ill deed. I think many of us are better visionary that we easily justify any killing out of our chauvinistic poisoned understandings or in a dismissive manner, “Woh tau wesay hain…! (They are like that…!)”
For almost 12 years, we would sing this stanza from Iqbal in loud chorus:
Ho mera kaam ghareebu’n ki himayat karna
Dard mandu’n se zaeefu’n se mohabbat karna
The solemn pledge in which we committed to side with the poor, adore the panic-stricken and folks of dotage almost every morning proved out mere chants without essence as years added to my life.
In the present times, our kids are being nurtured in a surrounding violence that is horrendous to their mental growth. Their proud ethnocentric elders teach them by words or actions, the differences at homes. They tell them about their exaggerated in-born holiness and bravado. This superiority complex has devastated our cultural harmony and religious sanctity alike. I remember once I made fun of one of my Hindu schoolmates in my early teens. A young teacher, May he remain blessed, brought me before my class and made me stand beside my Hindu fellow. He asked the class to point out similarities and differences between us, as I couldn’t tell my teacher the reason I made fun of his peculiar self. In the comparison of having same number of ears, nose and head, I felt badly humiliated. That was it. By this simple simulation, I learnt how to co-exist with respect even if people are not liked by one in guise of race, rage, sage or vice versa. In the time I grew up, I saw many of our elders not learnt the same lesson, or their guardians might have encouraged them when they did so in their juvenile age.
In the age of our technological holler and moral degradation, there is a dire need of a childhood revivalism. At least, we can start loving the common good than hating the odd bad.