Sometime back, I narrated a real story that carried in itself the hidden cries of a young woman, Yasmeen (who once worked in our house as a maid), the cries she tried to hide. But there were times that when her anguish could be visibly seen and felt. She would invariably break down and cried in front of my wife. Although my wife would cajole her and try to comfort her, it was she alone who was to bear the grief and sorrow that befell on her and her family on 8 October 2005 – the day a powerful earthquake struck the northern areas of Pakistan. Her lamenting tale was but one of the many such heartbreaking realities that still echo in the valleys and villages where life is now returning to normal.
We had hardly recovered from the shock of that dreadful earthquake, that yet another calamity fell on us last July. Though far less deadly (in terms of human losses) than the earthquake, it is far more devastating in terms of damages to communication infrastructure, houses and buildings. Other than that, it has affected over 20 million people all along the length of the Pakistan from the north till the southern edge of the country at the mouth of the Arabian Sea. Of the over 20 million people that have their fragile houses washed away along with their lifelong possessions, are some six million children whose laughter has also been drowned in the ravaging muddy flood waters.
Recently I heard a story of a boy who saw his house crumble like a pack of card right in front of his eyes and then vanish forever. Riazuddin, a boy of around 10-111 had a one room house on the bank of Swat River before the July floods, where he lived with his parents happily. He played with other children of the area, threw pebbles in the river and brought water for domestic use. Life had been happy for him since he was born. Though very poor, he was happy like any other child, always hopeful of the future and had fewer expectations from life. He didn’t have many possessions as a child, but a bat and some other broken toys he collected from the garbage.
Then July 2010 came. There have been unusual rains and he along with other children bathed in the rains and made merry. But at the same time, the water in the river started to swell and rise. He heard his father saying that the river seems to be in floods. Then the otherwise clear water of the river started getting muddy and muddier with its level rising very rapidly. But no one had any idea how wicked it would turn into. Soon the water was touching the brims of its banks, but little Riaz’s one room house was still a few feet higher. The night came but the roar of the gushing water made everyone sleepless. From a friendly river since his childhood, the river had become monstrous. He along with his father went out and saw the foamy water was almost touching their door. Alarmed by this development, his father ordered everyone out and with all they could grab, they left the house and moved to the higher ground above their house. And then it happened. The water became more violent and soon Riaz’s house was inside the water and the very fast current pounding on all its sides. Right in front of his innocent eyes, suddenly his house gave in and crumbled like a pack of cards and in seconds was washed and eaten away by the river – leaving none of its traces back.
For Riaz, it was as if his best had been lost. A friend, who nurtured him, protected him and his family from weather hazards since he was born, and perhaps was his best childhood friend. With the house, his bat and broken toys were also washed away – leaving him nothing but the memories of the good days. Today, he lives in a tent village, hoping to get back one day, where his father may rebuild the house once again. But his toys will never come back. And he will remember the days before the floods and the flood day that took his dreams away.
This is just one story – there are countless stories of similar kinds buried in the hearts of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and husbands, who lost their near and dear ones. Though they continue to live on, the scars of the soul will never be healed for God knows how many years.
Related Reading: Lamenting scars of the soul