Peshawar Attacks: How The Meaning Of ‘School’ Has Changed Forever

Photo Credit: Associated Press

In a world where the sanctity of life can be so brutally violated, do I really want to create a new one?

As I’m writing this post, the screen in front of me appears hazy and my head is buzzing—that’s because I’m crying. Silent tears. The office boy is giving me a side glance every now and then, wondering what’s wrong with me. I wish he didn’t see me like this, but I can’t seem to stop myself today. Since morning, all I’ve done is read up and watch the news as more and more details pour in about the Peshawar school attack. And with each lurid story, the tears flow faster.

I obviously cannot even begin to imagine or understand what the parents of those 132-odd dead children are going through at this point. Families that were forever destroyed in a matter of seconds—but like everyone else in the civilised world, I am mourning. For people I don’t know. For people who aren’t related to me. That’s what separates us humans from animals, doesn’t it? The ability to mourn collectively during a tragedy. But then, it also makes me wonder, aren’t those terrorists humans too? Then what goes on in their minds when they decide to mow down hundreds of little hearts, believing that it’s the right thing to do? That there actually exists a god that condones this kind of savagery in his/her name?

The images of gunmen walking from one classroom to the other, shooting kids who were spending just another day in school, is something I’m going to get nightmares of for the next few nights. It makes remember my own school days—how carefree and safe we used to be in our second home! I’m sure those kids were no different. I’m sure they were sitting in their classrooms, feeling sleepy during a boring history lecture. Or complaining to a best friend about the boring lunch mum had packed. Or dreamily looking out of the window, while doodling on the last page of a notebook. Or writing an exam and thinking about how tough student life is. We’ve all been there. And I am sure those kids were no different.

Could they have ever anticipated that before the blessed school bell rang, signalling the end of the day, ruthless gunmen would have rushed into their classrooms and wracked their little bodies with bullets? Could they have possibly known that when they left for school in the morning, they would never see their parents, brothers, sisters ever again? Just a while ago, I was watching a news bulletin with BBC’s Mishal Husain recounting the experience, as one of the first broadcasters to go into the school. She spoke with an army man, and I could see pools of blood on the ground and spattered all over the walls. I imagined myself in her situation, reporting the same news. My voice would have cracked for sure while giving a piece-to-camera. I’d probably make for a lousy journalist. So, I just picked up the pen and decided to vent instead.

In journalism school, I was taught that the pen is mightier than the sword? If that’s true, can we please replace all the guns in the hands of those terrorists with pens? And all those bullets with notebooks? That’s the world I dream of. For myself. For my future kids. For my future grandkids. And their kids.

All kids in this world deserve peace, harmony and happiness. Even the kids of those Talibani men who killed children in the name of god and religion. Because all kids are innocent and they don’t come into this word believing in a blood-thirsty god. It is this world that fills their head with the idea that violence can ever be justified.

When I saw the images of the classrooms after the attack, my toes curled. In my head, I hear the echoes of children practicing tables together. Books and notebooks were replaced with hundreds of bullets and blood. With such images burnt into my memory, I am forced to wonder if I will really ever want a child of my own… A tiny piece of my heart that walks around outside my body, day in and day out, in this cruel, inhuman world? I’m not sure. Today, I’m really, really scared. In a world where kids can be brutalised like this, no one is safe. I’m scared—as a future mother, a woman and, most importantly, as a human being.

The Pakistani Taliban says that the attack was its way of retaliating against the Pak army. They justified killing those army kids because their own children were killed. I mourn for those kids too. But at what point will we all learn that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind? Is there any hope left in this world? I’m sure no religion supports killing innocent people—no religion can.

Then when will this bloodshed end? When can we again have a world where children can go to schools without the debilitating fear of getting raped/molested/killed? When can we again have the school of our childhood where the biggest fear was getting scratches on our knees while playing football with friends in the school playground?

When will people stop killing in the name of religion?

(Note: This post of mine was originally published in Yowoto on 17th December 2014)

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