This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 15; the fifteenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
Zaid walked on what had once been the railway tracks of the Al- Hadithah station. Now they were sodden planks of wood that were trodden upon only by vagabonds. It was a deserted station with no trains. Unchecked public transport was too risky for a place like Iraq. He climbed the ledge towards a crumbling building. This was one of the few structures that had been spared by raw American militant gun power. What was the use of snapping down a dead place anyway?
The militants were wrong. This was what formed the meeting place of the Ansar Political Party.
Numerous difficulties in life had made Zaid strong. But his strength had caved in when it came to saving his own mother. He had needed money to save her. This unfortunately was a land where you either had ancestral farms or worked for the Americans against your own people. There were no other jobs. It was a crime to dream, and foolishness to ever imagine a business would flourish. In his helplessness he had been hired by the political party of the district to run errands. But the pay wasn’t enough for his mother’s medication. He knew she was sinking and the best he could do was get her to the hospital with advanced facilities in Baghdad. In her last days, he had asked for a loan. That was a mistake.
The party leader had agreed to give him the money in return for a small favor. It was to keep a package in his custody until a man named Nayeef Asad collected it from him. One condition. No questions were to be asked. He knew deep down there was something forbidden about it. But this wasn’t quite the time to think or argue. At the time, he had no other choice. He agreed. The parcel was handed to Nayeef. He now had the money with him. But his mother did not live to see it. His only pillar of strength was gone.
He didn’t need the money any more. The reason for his struggle was over and there was nothing else to do but return it. He hated the sight of it. And there he was again. At the station building, to meet the party leader as he had done once before. He stood outside and overheard two men talking-
“Oh give it time Ali. Once the bomb Nayeef plants burns down a militant tank with a few of their soldiers, the Americans will be like a pack of wolves. They will kill every living person in sight. We will show footage of civilians being killed to the media, and before you know it, an uprising will begin. The world will throw these American jerks out and offer power to the one that promises peace. US!” he jeered.
For the first time, Zaid cried. He had saved the tears at his mother’s funeral. But this time the guilt shook him like nothing ever before. People were going to die. And he was instrumental. He had to stop it.
Yashfeen waved back at her husband. She had been married for a year and they were expecting their first child anytime now. Being brought up in Jordan, she was initially terrified of a life that was war prone. But love had made the imminent threat seem small in contrast. She had pleaded a million times with Haamid, her husband, to move away to another country. However he had always waved it away by telling her the same thing. “How can one leave one’s own country? We are all in this world for a stipulated time and nobody will live a second longer or shorter. Besides, here we have our family, our land. What will I do in another country? Would you want to deprive our children of what rightfully belongs to them?” She couldn’t reason with that and had to settle for this life. She was happy, no doubt.......but there was an insecurity. A nagging feeling like everything was a dream and might snap away in a split second.
No, this wasn’t the time to think sad things. She had to be happy. For her child. For Haamid who loved her so dearly. As he left to meet his father, he kissed her forehead and said, ‘You are glowing, my dear!’ She blushed and waved him goodbye.
Zaid quietly walked out of the building, onto the abandoned platform as he tried to make sense of what he had just heard. He had to find Nayeef and stop him from planting the bomb. The pouring rain blinded him, but he walked on. He tried to recollect the conversation Nayeef had had with one of his men the other day…..of plans to leave for Haqlaniyah.
He begged the occupants of a car to take him to Haqlaniyah and they agreed. There still remained the problem of locating Nayeef.
As Yashfeen got on with her daily chores, she heard a loud explosion that sent the house in vibrations. The worst was going to happen. Something in her head and heart knew it. She ran downstairs in an attempt to reach her in-laws who lived next door and almost immediately caught a glimpse in the window, of militants breaking open their house and firing at the entire household. She ran towards the house for what may have been too late to save anything.
Three minutes is what it took……and there was silence again.
As they neared the city’s outer limits, Zaid noticed a military tank that had been blown up on the road……..and a little away, a house that was now partially up in flames. He ran towards the burning house and could hear the faint screams of a woman. And he rushed inside to salvage what he could. What he saw shook his very soul. Smoke and blood everywhere. The bodies of helpless women and innocent children stared at him. The sight made him want to throw up and his head ached uncontrollably. But the woman’s screams kept him moving.
That’s when he saw her. She wreathed in pain and anguish. Her eyes were filled with tears and the pain was excruciating. In that moment she wasn’t sure she wanted to live at all.
He lifted her out of the burning house and she let go of her consciousness. With no vehicle in sight, he walked on until they reached a hospital. It was already crowded with casualties from surrounding areas and there was no electricity.
Zaid pleaded with the staff to take the woman in and finally a doctor yielded. The whole day was a blur. He couldn’t find forgiveness in his own eyes. And he did what his mother had told was best. He prayed.
After eight hours, the doctor conveyed him tidings of a baby girl. He was taken to see the baby and the mother. As he sat at the edge of the stool and held the baby, an unbearable sense of guilt flooded him. Tears rolled down his cheeks. He had left this kid without a father and widowed a woman. He looked at the woman in deep sleep and an overwhelimg emotion tore him apart.
He wanted to protect her. To bring back what was lost. To make everything ok for her. And he made a vow.
He didn’t know if he could ever ease her pain and fill her sad eyes with just a smile. He didn’t know if he could ever make her want to live again. He didn’t know if he could ever get her to forgive him, much less accept him. And most importantly, he didn’t know if he could ever get her to love again, much less love him.
And she opened her eyes. He didn’t even know what he was going to say. But try he must!
Note- Although the story is fictitious, the incidents related are true as what took place at the Battle of Al- Hadithah, Iraq, in 2005 where over 400 civilians lost their lives purely due to instigation of American troops by internal political parties for their selfish motives. It's a shame!
Life is a gift....If only people knew how to value it!
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