For the last three days, after the Peshawar massacre of 16/12/2014, a date I’m unlikely to forget, I have found myself falling deeper and deeper into an abyss. We are helpless ‘in the face of such reckless hate’, as King Theodin says. The death of a child, somehow seems an unnatural occurrence. It is always painful to hear about. The murder of a child is unthinkable.
Words failed me for days. I looked to other writers to find what I wanted to say, what I felt. The horror was too great. The devastation too deep. Poetry serves us best when emotions are so heightened. Wilson Owen’s Anthem of Doomed Youth seemed to express some of my pain and helplessness.
There is the anger still; the disbelief, the pain and shock, the hate and revulsion. I tried to think about how those men could have brought themselves to open fire on children. Children.
And I couldn’t. Something just wouldn’t add up. They were human beings. Of flesh and blood. A heart, a conscience?
That was when the fear hit. A deep primal fear.
They were human beings. They were not supernatural ghouls,ogres, orcs or aliens. They were just like you and me–in all but spirit. They too had mothers somewhere. Fathers. Brothers. Families. How could they do something so evil, monstrous, inhuman?
The fear that gripped me was that despite my saying words like monster, inhuman etcetera, to tell myself that they were different from me, I didn’t believe it. I wanted to hide from the similarities that marked us. I saw their pictures and I heard, they are not from Pakistan. They look so evil people said. They must be…X, Y, Z. From somewhere far off. Somewhere, we could pretend, was different, therefore, evil. How far will we run? If memory and history serves,this mask of evil has been worn by many a Pakistani for years. For others. That darkness envelopes us today. We are the Other today.
The Pakistan of today, so different from the one i grew up in, reminds me of Browning’s poem ‘Childe Rolande to the Dark Tower Came’.
“…I think I never saw
Such starved ignoble nature; nothing throve:
For flowers – as well expect a cedar grove!
But cockle, spurge, according to their law
Might propagate their kind with none to awe,
You’d think; a burr had been a treasure trove.
No! penury, inertness and grimace,
In some strange sort, were the land’s portion. ‘See
Or shut your eyes,’ said Nature peevishly,
It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:
’Tis the Last Judgement’s fire must cure this place
Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.’ ”
And we Pakistanis, continue to plod along, not seeing what’s staring us right in our faces. We are a stoic, resilient nation. But we are also a blind one. We are weak in the face of ‘knowledge’. We seek refuge in other people’s half-truths because we can’t be bothered to find out the truth about our own religion for ourselves. Half are afraid that what they will find out will be what they fear. That the Taliban might be right.
The Quran is for me. For you. Not for a mullah somewhere to read and interpret for you and me. The Quran is right there. Open it and read. That’s the trouble isn’t it? This ennui that has taken hold of our nation, which won’t let us shake off our fears and aporia long enough for us to wake up from this nightmare.
Allah says…they say. Why don’t we find for ourselves what He says because He speaks to us ALL. We don’t need an intermediary between Him and us. The Quran is for YOU. For me. Take from it what it gives you. If it holds back at times, and you dont understand fully? So be it. Rumi says, that you are only ready for what you receive from it. Read it again, and when you do, more of it will reveal itself to you.
We cannot let the lies of Taliban win. We cannot let their blasphemies get louder than the Truth of Islam. We must guard ourselves and our faith against the lies of Taliban, and anyone else, who tries to interpret our religion for us. We have been given all the equipment to do so ourselves. Pakistan may be broken today, it wont be forever. Nothing lasts forever. Not even fear.
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew. ’Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.’”