Friday, May 7, 2010

A Letter.

Dear Ashfaque,

‘I saw you on the television. That should have been said with pride but I am ashamed. Maulvisaab was there too. It’s been five years since I wrote you. I never returned your telephone calls. But today……I saw Pari’s body lying dead on the snow. Her red salwar and the dried blood on the white snow seemed like the vermillion dot on her forehead. And inset was your face gaunt and your eyes…desperate.
You never ever wanted a separate room and today you want a separate state…...’
When you went missing I thought you ran away to Delhi or Mumbai. Maybe because I could not afford to buy you a play station or that fancy phone you wanted. And today you own an Uzi.
‘Allah! Give me the strength to bear this’.
Did Lal Uncle plead for his life when you shot him? Did you have the courage to look into his eyes? Lal Uncle carried you to the school on his shoulders and Pari was your playmate. The television girl said you…I can’t bring myself to write what you did to Pari. Like always please say, ‘Amma, they are all lying’. This time I want to believe you.
How many more lives did you take? What did you want? Lal Uncle’s land or Pari’s hand? Remember the rhyming game we played? That was such a long time ago!

When you were very young, the town witnessed a bloody riot. The two communities were killing each other. I was afraid for you. Just the two of us in a house with a door that could be broken with a little brute force. Lal uncle took us to the safety of his house. Lal Uncle answered stoically to the everyone who came looking for us, ‘She is my sister and that brat is my nephew. If God wills he will take care of my cloth shop.’
And that day when you did not return from college, Pari went looking for you. It was then that she told me about you leading rallies and making political speeches in the college ground. Seeing my worried face she consoled, ‘Everyone wants to be a young, handsome rebel. And our laughter echoed in the valley.
The valley is tainted with blood and the spring flowers look a deathly pale. Military convoys pass on the winding roads where once upon a time shepherds walked. The scented whiff of the kahwa is replaced with the nauseous smell of gunpowder. Most of the times there is a curfew and I dare not step out. I have neither neighbours nor friends. All are killed or have fled. I stay alone in this house that has been in my family for ages. The roof has been destroyed by bombs and that stump in the garden was once our apple tree. I have stopped trying to figure out who is bombing whom. And when rarely I am asked about you, I long to say he is dead..
Son, I write this letter to ask you of a favour. Promise me that you will oblige.
Please spare me of the indignity. Kill me.
Khuda Hafiz. God be with you.’

News from the wire agency: Ashfaque, twenty four, a dreaded terrorist wanted by the government was found dead in a tent in the Hind Kush area. Apparently, he had killed himself using his revolver. The reason for his suicide is unknown. Found on his person was a letter written presumably by his mother. The folds of the letter were torn indicating that it was opened and probably read many times.

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