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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Remembering APS: A tribute to those ‘who never came back’

Author of ‘Corridors of Transmutation’, writes a short fiction story on how the horrors of APS attack withered the dreams of many parents.

I was trying to open the knots of time, recollecting the shadows of life which had waved a long goodbye to my propensities.

“Baba, Baba let’s go have pizza.”

I looked around but there was a deadly silence across the library, where the bookshelves around me felt like I was lying in a vault. The agony of piercing pain at the twilight of my aspirations.

“You are not allowed to have fast food for supper.”

“But why Ma? Baba please ask her to allow me.”

I could hear the crisp knocks of raindrops against my windowpane. The evening was moving towards the night as sombre clouds covered the sky.

“Hamza, you have to go to school tomorrow. So eat and go to bed.”

“Baba, please help me, I don’t want to have that home cooked meal. I want to have pizza instead.”

That reverberation was dismissed by my wife’s voice.

“It has been raining for a long time, you didn’t ask for a cup of coffee. I was wondering while sitting in the lounge.”

I smiled silently and looked at her kind face where lines of despondency made her beautiful visage older than her time. I knew she was aware of my abandonment; she looked at me with her grey eyes brimmed with tears.

“Don’t cry alone.”

“I’m not crying alone, look the sky is with me.”

I replied to her with a smile and got up from my chair and rubbed her numb hands gently. Spogmy and I remained quiet as our reflective sobs were muffled by thunder; the gentle dangling of rain had changed into a thunderstorm. The silence was broken by a phone call. A call from a media house, wanting us to go over again and pick off the scabs that had not healed.

“No, we wouldn’t be able to join you.”

I replied to the caller.

“Zarak Khan switch off your phone, I did it quite early this evening.”

Spogmy was right, that was a dilemma needling our agony at its height. It was the night of consternation to us before the emergence of the black day [December 16].

“Ma, I’m scared of this thunderstorm, can you please come to my room.”

“Coming Hamza.”

“Baba will you also please.”

“Hamza, be a brave boy.”

“I am, Baba.”

Spogmy and I miraculously both listening to the throwbacks of echoes of our beloved son, Hamza Khan. The larghetto hours were leisurely passing, I slept for an hour, woke up at the chime of midnight. I found Spogmy on the Janamaz (prayer mat), tears trickling down her cheeks. It seemed as if Spogmy was manifesting the meaning of her name, her face was embedded with dew drops.

“Baba I am ready to go to school.”

“That’s a good boy.”

“Baba, can I stay home today?”

Before I could answer him, his mother said, “Hamza, what’s wrong with you? Since morning you have been chanting the same note.”

“Just like you were chanting ‘no pizza’ last night Ma.” Spogmy and I broke into laughter. Hamza and I left home and headed towards his school. I was driving the car while Hamza kept on telling me ceaseless fantasies of childhood. When we reached, I stepped out of the car to walk him to the gate. I kissed his forehead, right before he fled into the lively crowd of children who were like fresh blossoms ready to clasp the new day.

Read more: Set on a Journey of Undefeated Dreams – Interview with APS…

On my way back to home, I passed by a pizza shop. I decided to bring Hamza there for lunch later. I came home and dressed to go to work. Engrossed in my work, one of my colleagues rushed in and asked me to quit all errands instantly. He grabbed my arm and literally pushed me towards the car park. “What happened?”

He took out the car keys and unlock the doors, made me sit on the front seat and adjusted himself on the driving seat. The engine came to life. “There is an attack on Army Public School, Peshawar.” My senses were bewildered, my friend was driving with a reckless haste. My cell phone began to ring. Spogmy’s name blinking on the screen.

She was crying hysterically, I just said that I was on my way to school. We were not allowed to take our car close, I started to run towards the school there were others running besides me. The unbearable sounds of bullets could be heard from inside the school, our helpless children were in the hands of death.

We were outside. Operation clean-up was in play against the terrorists, Pakistan Army commandoes were there to save the lives of our children. We were all mute, frozen and helpless. Spogmy’s desperate calls were answered by my friend, while I blankly starred at the gate of APS.

Read more: Peshawar High Court halts construction of APS monument

An eon went by before we were allowed to go inside the school, the terrorists had been killed, but the schoolyard told a saga of terror and pathos. The blossoms were all stained with blood and the unperturbed innocent corpses lay quiet.

I looked for my son, running headlong to his class but the vacant classroom had melancholic air. Everywhere there was mourning, “Some children are being taken to the hospital, you may find your son there.” I found a kind person whose child was also missing in that turmoil of blood and terrorism. My friend asked me to talk to Spogmy as she was already half dead.

I tried to console her while heading to the hospital. There were numerous kids being rushed to the wards, still no sign of Hamza. My hushed sobs were at the edge of wild shrieks, I found my friend in the corridor whose face was white as a coffin, all lifeless. My orb widened out of apprehension, I did not have the courage to talk to him.

There came a young doctor “Hamza Khan’s father?” My head nodded autonomously, the young doctor showed me the direction to the mortuary. My thirteen years old Hamza was martyred! I had no recollection after that terrible sight. Later I found myself at my home where people gathered to pay their condolences.

Hamza was lying in front of me. Beside his casket, Spogmy was sitting listlessly. She looked at me, her agony outpouring from her heart and eyes. When the terrorists attacked the school, they began to fire their guns.

Read more: Can Pakistan avoid another APS Peshawar massacre?

Hamza and his classmates ran outside, straight into the arms of terrorists. Hamza’s intestine was perforated with seven bullets. His tiny gullet was oozed out, yet bled terribly. My little boy embraced martyrdom. December 16, 2014, documented as the black day in the history of Pakistan.

These angelic martyrs, victims of terrorism had gotten a one-way ticket and would not be coming back! Since our parting, this eve like others before it passed away in lost thoughts of that day. The cock crowing and the Moazzin awakened us from that nightmare of recollections. Spogmy prepared tea for me and we both offered Fajar prayer. It was the time to meet Hamza Khan who was lying yonder peacefully.

Huma Kirmani is an author and has written 13 books. She is a public speaker, a social activist, a mentor and an honorary member of the United Nations of Pakistan. Her first novel, ”Corridors of Transmutation, “ is on the Afghan war and refugee crisis. Her nephew was martyred on December 16, 2014.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.