I turned 5 yesterday. Instead of blowing candles, I blew dust off of my 2-year-old sister. She didn’t get hurt but got scared and started crying. I calmed her down, I shushed her, I caressed her back, her hairs, but all went in vain. She cried and cried and cried for hours. Pain of a failure as an elder brother crept in me, again.
My mother is lying beside us, motionless. She had gotten hurt badly. No, not yesterday. It was day before that.
I and Alia, my sister, were sitting in the corner of a small, stinky basement, while our mother, along with our father, went out to bring us the bread, which the neighborhood was selling at triple the price of original. Not even ten minutes must have passed of my parents having gone out when I heard, what I’ve been hearing since my birth, a BOOM and then another; those sounds shuddered even our deep basement and the sound was alarmingly deafening, as if shell had fallen just above us. I put my hands over Alia’s ears as of my reflex to that sound, hoping they’d safeguard her ears. They did perhaps as she didn’t cry; or was she getting used to them too? She looked at me with those big, round, bottomless eyes of hers; they were beseeching me, begging for an answer, imploring me, her elder brother, to free her of all this sick disorder, all this welter.
Amidst this shelling Alia was born, amidst this horrendous setting I was born. I have seen my mother wearing smile only on rare occasions since the time I can recognize one. I remember one vividly; it was two years back.
Why specifically that one? Because it was a smile revealing my mother’s pain. Yes, a smile divulging her pain out.
When her belly was swollen with Alia, she slipped on the stairs while rushing down to basement on hearing a sound, a sound so familiar now that we can identify it even in our sleep; it was of jets, who, at any moment, could push a button and decide our fate.
Having witnessed her toppling down, a disaster was impending, I feared. But nobody was hurt; neither my mother nor Alia, a doctor, who lived next-door to us, confirmed after sometime. No, it wasn’t then that she smiled. She had, when she tumbled on the stairs. It was then that I saw the curve on her lips and heard her saying, more of a murmuring that ‘at least, her second child would die a peaceful, merciful death’.
But, fortunately or unfortunately, Alia, like me, was doomed to witness the hell we live in, witness our nation, witness Syria. A question, of no importance to anyone else, will always keep bugging me – was that fall on stairs a deliberate one or accidental?
My mother returned after an hour but not on her feet; two men were carrying her. My father was nowhere to be seen. Before I could decipher what had happened to her, they laid her down and drifted away. Her pants and blouse which originally were blue had turned red. She wasn’t unconscious but neither was she fully conscious. With her trembling fingers she beckoned me. Alia was asleep by then. I crawled to my mother and tried to read her face, a face smeared with dirt and blood and covered with a bandage around one ear. She had changed, her face looked different, it looked lesser human.
She tried to pull me down; I lowered my head to her mouth, which looked as if had been sealed.
‘Bread’, she said. And turned her one hand in the direction of her pocket.
I put my hand and there it was. Ten loaves of bread in a plastic. I sat by her side, thinking of the bad deeds that all of us must have done to deserve this; to deserve a life in a basement, to deserve breads as our only meal, to deserve the fear for our life every living moment. Are we even living? We are just breathing, surviving on the least of the food and water required. More than on the surface, we live beneath it.
It has been two days now that my mother hasn’t moved. She moves her hand occasionally asking me if our neighbor came to give us the food and water. I feed her. I feed Alia.
There are other families too around us but hardly any is complete. Some have lost children, some a parent, while some relatives. I lost my father two days back but I’m in a dilemma, dilemma if I’m sad about losing him or about us still being alive, still doomed to breathe in this living hell.
Seeing whatever is around, I wish to become a doctor so that I can heal the wounded, or, maybe, God, if one can become one, so that I can bring this whole suffering to an end.
Mother used to say that there is a God up there. So, whenever I get a chance, I look at the sky, a dusty, grimy sky, and try to call him, find him, beg him to listen to me, but never get an answer in return. He must have stepped down from his post, I then think. If he hadn’t, my father would be with me, Alia would have known what a clear sky is, my mother would have been smiling more often, and I, I perhaps, would have gotten a chance to live the life of a 5-year-old; a life that my mother relates to me while reminiscing her old good times. Having never experienced that life, I, sometimes, dream of it.
Will there be a six for me? I don’t know. Will there be a three for Alia? I don’t know. Will there even be a tomorrow for us? I don’t know.
PS – I cannot even pretend to understand the pain, the suffering, the agony, the nightmare people in Eastern Ghouta (click on the link to know more about it), like Aleppo in 2016, must have been undergoing and living with. Life is never fair and, perhaps, more than supposed to be unfair to some.
IF YOU ARE A FIRST- TIME VISITOR OF MY BLOG, DO REFER ‘First-Timers‘. IT WOULD HELP YOU IN EXPLORING THE PLACE.
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