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He drops to his knees screaming his lungs out. The birds fly off. An autumn leaf landing by his side. Unaided and unaccompanied he lays there for a while. Silent and still. He looks straight ahead. Playing with his father, that little puppy, knowing that he is safe under the protection of his father. Jumping around him, tugging at his paws and nibbling his ears. Happy, warm and safe. The boy’s vision starts to blur as he closely watches the happy family of these canines. Tears sting his eyes, he remembers his own family. He remembers the jokes he cracked with his brother. He remembered the arguments with his father. He remembered the loving look from his family. As the bone chilling sadness replaces the warmth of affection. As he feels helplessness and desperation. Desperation to such an extent that for a moment he wishes to be the offspring of that canine looking at his puppy with eyes full of warmth and tenderness. As he looks on at the animals, he remembers his own story. He clears his face and rises up. He drags one foot after another reaching the place that he now regularly visits. He stands there alone. Head bowed and eyes moist. Fresh tears fall to the ground before he closes his eyes to the graves of his family. For a moment he too wished to be with them. Lying by their side. Not feeling the pain. Not missing them. Not feeling anything. For that moment he too wished to be dead. Nasrullah Ahmad, a 27 year old, handsome boy was standing in front of the grave of his father and brother. His strong muscular shoulders swooped in the agony and pain of the loss of his family. His lower lip trembling in an effort to regain control of himself. A shaky bony hand moves towards the epitaph of his brother. With a trembling hand he clears of the dust settled on his brother’s name. He takes short, sharp gulps of air in an effort to steady himself. He rises. Raising his hands to offer supplication. Wiping his brown sparkly redding eyes, he moves away from the grave. One last glance at his father and brother or at least what is left of them, and he walks slowly. Unwillingly dragging his big strong feet away from the spot. If only he had stayed back on that fateful day. Things might have been different. His brother would have been walking the roads with him this time knowing that when they reach home loud and happy, Abba would be waiting to scold them for being so late for lunch. If only he had known. A look to the sky. A Sigh of regret! It had been over two years since the death of his father and brother but Nasrullah had been visiting their final resting place regularly. Praying, for a better afterlife for them. Somehow it gave him a sense of completion of his duty towards his family. He had been going there for a while now. But the pain of separation deepened day by day. The walk back to home reminded him of his brother. Every part of it. The tree where his brother had fought for him. The long poles on the side of the road. On which they used to mark their ‘territory’. And the broken window of that old house. Pretty bad abuses he and his brother had received for doing that. No matter what, his brother Haroon was everywhere. “Nasrullah! Nasrullah! Where have you been? What took you so long? You know how worried I get when you are not home? Then why do you not come on time” her voice was shrill and worrisome. A mother was scolding her son. Holding him by his hand, into the neat two storeyed building covered in white. “I had just gone to see Abba and Haroon” His mother stopped. Silence…. After few minutes of silence she cleared her throat. “You should have informed me. You know how worried I get when I don’t see you for long” she said while moving forward to kiss his forehead. Shabnum Akhter wasn’t a woman who would get easily scared by anyone, but loosing half her family had made her paranoid and she started to think that every person on this planet would try to take her son away from him. Who wouldn’t be when more than half your family has been taken away from you? They sit together in the right corner of the blue colored room. Pictures hanging on the wall. The house clearly showing the absence of a dear one. Serving tea, Nasrullah takes up a cookie and starts looking at it with great interest as if this was the most beautiful thing he had ever set his eyes on. “This was Haroon Bhai’s favorite one wasn’t it? Oh the fights we used to have”. He gave out a short chuckle. ”I never admitted this one was the best of all. Silly fights of course”. A bite from the cookie. “This doesn’t taste the same anymore.”A saddened expression on his face. A moment of silence. “It’s difficult not trying to think of them. Sometimes I sit up at night thinking I would wake up in the morning and find out all of this is a dream. I imagine waking up to the sound of Abba scolding me and I give him the biggest hug”. With gleaming eyes his chest swole up with happiness at even the thought of them alive. “That is childish I know, but it gives you some hope you know” he said looking up” that I could see them and hear their voice, and talk to them.” He curls his hands together in a fist. “ but somewhere here”, he said pointing to a bit left to his chest,” I know that they are gone forever and that they can never be back” His mother enters and they both quietly sip tea occasionally passing out a remark to each other. “It was around the same time that day that our lives changed forever. 5 years back on 23 July at around this time, there was a knock on the front door. I thought it was Nasrullah. He has this habit of coming in late. I had made up my mind to scold him bad “. Her eyes move towards her son sitting next to her. Like a little kid caught stealing candy, Nasrullah bowed his head in shame. “Oh No! No! It wasn’t your fault” she said suddenly taking her sons face in her hands” How would you have ever know what was going to happen? How would anyone have known that such a thing could happen to us? You don’t need to feel guilty. It wasn’t your fault. It isn’t and it never will be. You are the only hope I got. And you are not responsible for anything that happened that day” she started stroking his hair and with a final pat he sat up straight. His face still red. The guilt was just too heavy for him to hide. “They came and took Abba away. I know it should have been me.” His voice was hoarse from his attempt to stop himself from breaking down.” When I was home, mamma told me what had happened. That they had come looking for me, but took Abba instead.” This is what happens in this land. The stories were the same. The people were the same. The cause was the same. The hatred was the same. Just the faces of the victims changed daily. Sometimes twice or thrice in a day. The forces would come and take people away. Some body, some soul. But one thing was known. No one came back alive. Like a ruthless predator stalking their prey, those humans were never to be seen again. “I protest against them. Me and my group of friends. We injured a “traitor” once. I knew a storm was rising, but that I would have to lose my family” he shakes his head “I could never have imagined that…” the shaking continues. A deep breath of air. “Bhai went looking for him, never to get back again. As if losing Abba was not enough”. Shabnum clears her throat and looks up. Her bloodshot eyes are full of concern. “We looked for them for the first couple of months, but then I gave up. I cannot in any way risk my only son’s life”. At first they waited for days and weeks and months. They waited and waited. And then waited again. Disappointment. Pain. Broke. But they continued to wait. Till the days shortened. And the trees shed in despair. And the cold came stinging their hope. Every last bit of it. They gave in. Accepting that their voice could never be heard. That their home would always be empty. That their hearts would always be hollow. Now, all that they wanted was a sense of completion. A definite close. An explicit end. So they did it. Bringing all the things that once belonged to them. Haroon’s branded jeans and shirts, bags and shoes, the green cap that he loved and the cause for his puffy eyes- the comics. Everything that once was his were buried and the rituals were performed. Every last bit of it. A “grave” was what they wanted. They had it. Had something that they could look towards and say this is where our family rests today. This is where they are Safe. This is their final destination. This is their closure. Their end.
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WE are living in a world that is governed by rules and regulations for everything, created not by anyone else but by US only. The walls of these rules and regulations are so high that one wonders what to speak, think even sometimes what to feel. Everything seems possessed and in chaos. Amidst all this pandem
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