Indian Expat Parent: My Neighbor's Shriek

Author's note
: India and Pakistan do not share the best of relationships. Kashmir has always been a factor for contention. There have been wars, terrorist attacks and a lot of unrest over the issue. It wouldn't be completely wrong to say that it is more important for either of the countries, to win a cricket match against each other, than it is to lift the World Cup. But, in spite of it all, we share a common bond — Paksitan was once a part of India. So when innocent lives were targeted at Peshawar, it caused quite a stir in both the countries. It made us come together as parents, forget our differences and mourn the loss. It made us stand up for a shared cause, to raise our voice against the brutality, the heartless massacre. This is me, an Indian parent standing by my neighbor, the woman with a burning womb, a man with an empty embrace.

I don’t hear the cheerful cackle anymore. I don’t hear the swings squeak in the weight of innocent laughter. I don’t hear the tennis ball hit the wooden bat anymore. Nobody’s shouting, “Howzzat!” Nobody is ‘out’ and there is no ‘sixer.’ I wait for the ball to come through my balcony. There is no ball. It’s quiet outside. Wretchedly quiet.

I wait for my neighbor to bring her son along and plead with the neighborhood cricket captain to let her son bat. She’s no longer arguing that her son “will learn as he plays. Just give him a chance.”  She knows her son will not get a chance; she doesn’t have a son anymore.

The silence is excruciating.  

The thin border that separates my house from my neighbors’ seems to have disappeared. I hear the deafening screams of burning wombs. The arms that once cradled the sons and daughters of the soil now carry their lifeless remains — to bury them, to seal the dreams that now cannot come true

A woman is asked to identify the bodies of her deceased teacher colleagues only to realize that one of the bodies is that of her own son.

A father wails for his daughter, his noor, his angel who once rode on his back, who still rides on his back, but this time she doesn’t urge him to go faster. She doesn’t say anything at all. She has never been heavier on his back, but he won’t put her down.

My heart bleeds for my sisters in a different home. My gut wrenches in fury, with my brothers. Nobody deserves this. Nobody.

Yet they say, "Life goes on." How can it go on? How can a mother move on, with the fact that she is not a mother anymore? How can a father move on, knowing his son won’t be with him when he grows old, that his daughter won’t be the doctor she always dreamed of becoming? How can life go on, knowing the children only remain in memories?

Born of the same Earth, of the same nation split by a barbed wire, I feel your pain. I feel your anger. I feel your loss. I share your tears. I share your agony, I share it all.

This is not the world for our children. This is not the world they should call their own.  It isn’t just, it isn’t peaceful, it isn’t innocent and it won’t let the innocent live. It is irresponsible, tyrannical and heartless.

This is our world; our brutal, cruel, oppressive world. 

If there’s something to be done, we are the ones to do it. If there’s something to be changed, we are the ones to change it.

But we do not have the luxury of time. It’s already too late. If not now, there cannot be a happy tomorrow. Only shrieks of deafening silence.

 I know I cannot be so naïve as to believe that the New Year will bring in new hope, new lives and new realization — that a change in a date will bring in world peace, safety and security to our loved ones. But I want to believe that it has the potential to change the way we protect ourselves, that we can unite to form thicker human walls to save our children, that we can look out for each other, that we can stand up for ourselves and for those around us. I do believe we can make a change, a tiny change in the way we support each other, in the way we choose to stop to help a stranger, in the way we teach our children to not lose faith in their dreams, to live life in their own terms. We can choose to believe in the reality we want to have, and I think that’s the biggest change for the New Year, a hopeful beginning.

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