The sky is same here as it is in the other parts of the world. With foamy clouds studded here and there and the sun shining away merrily, it conceals so much in its majestic blue attire. In fact, the sky hardly shows any sign of what this region is undergoing during these troubled times.
But the land does. And it does it in powerful, ugly strokes- strokes that can render your heart, if it has not already become a mere blood-pumping organ.
For one thing, this is a city of rubble and debris. As far as you can look your eyes will see the big chunks of ceramic and bricks that till a few days ago were part of a sweet home, or a flourishing shop. Some huts stand in front upside down. Pieces of furniture and vehicles are spread all over the place like grass.
A few furlongs away from this ruin is the wreckage of the only library in this town. Burnt pages float around like butterflies. Ashes are strewn all over the place. Towards the north is the rubble of the market of the town. A part of the upper storey of the building is on top of the crushed houses and shops. A few paces away towards the left, lies a horizontal huge column cracked at different points which was the minaret of the mosque that stood there. Only a few buildings stand upright in this dilapidated town.
But now you should ask me about the folks who lived here, the shopkeepers who used to sit in those shops, the scantily clad children who used to run out from the huts, the shepherds who used to drive their herd of sheep across the road to the grasslands, the old librarian who sang the mirth of life night and day, the muezzin who called the people to prayer, and the peace that was stationed here but a few days ago.
Today they are all over the place. Literally. They are peeping from the rubbles with their eyelids still and terrified. Some have their faces blackened and are permanently asleep. A few heads are rolling around in the cool wind that is blowing fiercely, having no major landscape, or building in its way- thanks to the bomb that was dropped here the day before yesterday. A few hands, legs, and torso lie scattered around. People on debris and debris on people- that is how it looks like.
Moving a little north-east a few days ago, you would have found an extensive strip of grassland. But today this space between the hills and the town is teeming with great bustle and commotion. The people who had survived the deadly bombings and bulldozers have taken refuge here. It presents a picture of complete pandemonium.
The children are running around the place, and sometimes they collide with someone who hands them a quick slap on their little cheeks. They sob for a few seconds but soon they go off at their merry-making. Today is the happiest day of their life. Wherever they see, they behold playgrounds and field and many places to hide themselves.
Of the women, some are busy suckling their infants while the others are collecting pieces of clothes and wood. A few of them are busy in bringing water from the swift stream that flows out of the mountains further north.
But the men mourn.
A section of them sit stupefied. They do not speak, nor they cry or shout but just keep staring at the rubble and then look towards the sky. The younger responsible lads are helping out in relief work and first-aid. They fruitlessly dry their eyes on their tattered and dirty sleeves to help them see better. A group of grim men, who are perhaps the educated ones, are talking gravely about the situation.
They are discussing the strategies of enemy. And then after pouring out their frustration on their enemies and abusing them to their heart’s content, they even try to settle God’s part in the entire scheme of things. And why shouldn’t they? After all aren’t they the educated ones? Aren’t they those who have held the torch of knowledge in this town? And often they point towards the ruined building standing at a stone’s throw away from the place. It is the Grand Mosque.Then they proudly decipher the miracle by which this mosque was still standing. And soon they enter again into their former talk of curses. And thus they go on endlessly discussing in filthy words and angry abuses the cruel fate in which they have been trapped.
Thus the entire town now was a heap of commotion and debris. No species ever created made so much noise as the people were making today.
But suddenly a sonorous sound vibrated in the air. No it was not a bomb. It was the signal from the refugee camp. A signal which meant that food was now being distributed. A signal for which everyone was waiting restlessly.
The entire crowd gathered there seemed to be at once moving towards the camp. Children , suckling mothers, helpers, the injured, the mutilated, the stupefied ones, the educated ones, the angry ones, the optimists, the pious, the evil, the sane, the crazy ones, the crying ones- all left their engagements and walked briskly and even ran towards the camp. They lined up with a hand on their stomach and their eyes focused on the meager food that was being served. Hunger was their master.
Even those who were busy praying in the saved Grand Mosque came running to collect food. They were afraid that they might not get food even today. The entire commotion soon became a murmur. And soon the murmur faded into a constant noise of munching as numerous mouths went up and down furiously.
The entire town was now around the camp, except for a little impoverished boy. He was in the Grand Mosque. While everyone was busy filling their tummies, this small boy sat still in the mosque. His tiny palms were tightly clasped on each other and he was lisping continuously in a whisper:
“God, I would go to madrasa every day and do my lessons well. I will never wet the bed, and I won’t throw stones at the fat hen. I won’t snatch flowers from the garden, and I will never tease the dog with one eye, .. I promise.”
His voice then fainted to a mellow wail ” I promise God, I promise… Just tell me where mother is !
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P.S. : Dedicated to all the beautiful souls called mothers, and the children of Palestine.