Author – Shalini Kotnala
Mummy, daddy, chocolates, balloons, gifts, beloved fairy dress and yummy delicacies, dressed in their best garnishing, waiting to be gulped down, sitting quietly on the table- remember your childhood?
After leaving the state of infancy a child starts acquiring knowledge in its uncorrupted form. Most of us relate our childhood to images of vivid colours and adulthood to a sense of unrestricted freedom and the burden of responsibility. I, on the other hand, relate it to the images of an unforgiving cruelly shining sun, hurricanes of sand and the favourite shoes of my Abbu- half burnt and half smeared with blood. It was his only belonging that I could take away from the memory of my happy childhood-my memento, my souvenir.
When I was a child, I didn’t get the chance to read about the fight sequence between Captain America and Iron man, I rather saw it happening live. I saw people taking revenge and the revenge of the revenge by massacring hundreds on a daily basis. Barrel bombs, rockets filled with nerve agent Sarin – my story is one in which death offers life and darkness offers light.
My earliest memory is of my Ammi jaan, terrified upon seeing a shooting star. While I closed my eyes to make a wish, she threw me away from her leaving me parched for her tales of Zinns and queen Zenobia. The shooting star and I fell simultaneously with the sound of dhammmmm! One of the fallen ones produced smoke cloud, the other – dust. Bruised, breathless and blinded by tears I geared up my strength, shivering and sobbing, just to be able to look once and for all, backwards. Behind me I saw something which looked like a hand taken over by corrosion – half black, half red. I wished to find Ammi and Abbu but I couldn’t find one full human being. With horror on my face, I realized that I was the only living soul left. My tears started running down. My throat choked and my body was paralyzed. I couldn’t move, speak or even hug the ground.
I don’t know for how long I kept standing there thinking that red is not just the colour of sharbat but blood too, that Islam was not just about Eid and Ramadan but jihad too and that sometimes shooting stars grant death without even making a wish for it. Once again I tried to search for my parents to say goodbye. Every other scorched body looked the same and then I recognised Abbu from his shoes. Those were his new favourites. As soon as this thought hit me I glared at the sky, carried my hands in front of my face to pray for the charcoaled and never to be cremated bodies. I rubbed my face to clean off the shed tears and then went towards life.
I lived in starvation and alienation, deprived of money and education. Encountering all of them in the simple day to day life; I kept my wobbling feet walking…walking towards mercy, kindness and hope. For me to stop believing in love was hard because I didn’t have any other option but to believe in humanity for my survival. To face all the odds is part of a growing up process.
At the end of the day, after body tormenting labour, unrelenting remarks on your lineage and your theft of the living of indigenous people, you choose what you want to see in people – love or hatred, howsoever remote or evident it may seem. When you realise that sacrifice and sufferings are the only two do’s for an adult, you become an adult yourself regardless of the age you are.