Sunday, March 20, 2011

Walked beside burning buses, dodged through bullets but I am not leaving Pakistan

It’s barely been 15 minutes since I arrived in the safe confines of my home and I am still trembling from what I just experienced.

Location of event: Mausamyat
Date: March 20, 2011
Time: 7:30 pm
Coming from: Extra class at City Campus, IBA (Sadar)

My friend was supposed to drop me at Mausamyat from where I had to move straight ahead towards my home by public transport while she had to take a right turn for her home. As we reached Mausamyat, we saw how terrible things were – just as how my mom had warned me. The whole area was pitch-dark and the only source of light was from the bus burning in huge flames on the right. My friend said that she could drop me home and I fearing for the safety of her car unwilling agreed saying that it was just five minutes away. However, her driver said that it was 5 minutes but was ‘very very far’. I caught his intention and said that I’d go on my own and that there was no need to ‘drive very very far for me’.

Reality stung me harder than expected as I got off the car. I have walked a number of times in daylight from Karachi University to home amidst burning tires when political protesters burn buses and everything unwanted that comes their way. But today was different – the sun had set and so had all hope. This time there was almost no pedestrian on the dark road and absolutely no woman. Usually there are two modes of traveling for me or for the public in general– bus or rickshaw – but there were none of these for my rescue. It was terrible for a 21 year old girl to stand there in that with a man or two a few yards away from her self in the darkness where even buildings seemed to have been burned down to ashes just like the burning buses in front of them.

All human life that existed was tucked safely away in cars which drove at alarming speeds in their respective directions. Here, there was no vacant rickshaw – a few here and there were all occupied. As for buses – I could see buses coming at the edge of Mausamyat, seeing the burning bus as an example of what would be done to them if they entered that zone, and taking a quick U-turn. I switched on my ‘survival mode’ – ready for anything that might happen and highly alert on detecting any way of commuting, of getting to any place of safety. Today was the first time I was actually scared.

What I was scared of was not the dark, but of what happens in the dark, in the absence of people – mugging and abductions. Standing and frantically searching for hope there for 5 minutes seemed like experiencing an eon in a doomed world.

Finally hope paid off and I found what was never seen in that area – a chinchi. I leapt to it. There were only men in it of course but I couldn’t have been more thankful to Allah for the help. The ride from there to Safoora – a ten minute drive through a dark, devasted, doomed world it was.

As I approached Safoorah, I wondered how I would get home from there because it’s a 5 minute walk away from there and things most probably had to be bad there too. Fortunately, my mom was able to come at Safoorah and pick me up from there. But when I saw her face in the car, I saw it was streaming with tears. She said she had dodged firing right outside our house on her way to pick me up. She was scared, worried and depressed.

As we reached home, as safety engulfed me once again and as my trembling slowed down I knew one thing for sure – I was not leaving Pakistan like this. The last thing I want to do is escape when I know I can make a positive change.

There was a time when I had never seen a ‘mini bus’ or a real beggar in my life, had never heard of the words Sindhi, Mahajir, etc, had never experienced a ‘hartaal’… there was a time when my only mode of transportation was my dad’s Corolla and my school’s air conditioned buses. That was when I lived in a glamorous city called Dubai. Now I live in Karachi and life is the absolute opposite but it’s very real. This is what the truth is, at least for me, a citizen of Pakistan. And I being a Pakistani, the citizen of a Muslim state will never abandon it the way many do.

PS. When I got home, I was told that 3 individuals had died at Mausamyat before I had gotten there. Very unfortunate.

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