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Last Updated: 12/01/2005Of These Times
On October 8, 2005, a massive earthquake hit Pakistan and left around 90,000 people dead and the same amount homeless and injured. The aftermath of this tragedy was catastrophic but it came as a blessing in disguise as Pakistanis from all over the world, regardless of their age, ethnic, political, religious and class differences, joined hands to help their fellows mired in calamity. The essence of humanity was victorious over the ferocity of nature.
We were wrong, weren’t we?
Five W’s in that line.
We associated the word passion only with hormones kicking in around puberty. After that, we thought human beings succumbed to social pressures and passions were monitored, dictated and exercised by the collective voice of one’s society.
We were wrong.
Any amount of words spoken for 8th October, 2005 , will not suffice. Enough words have been spoken and written already about an event that will go down in our collective history and memory as a marking-point of eons, perhaps. Youthful passion is vented in the form of words, actions, tears, vows and physical presence at the site of disaster.
But one woman, who probably represents countless other women, remains uncaptured by any lens, human or electronic.
Ahmadi Begum. Aged 87, perhaps even more.
Cannot walk properly anymore, her eyesight leads her wrong sometimes. But she remains an Amazon at heart, with strength your prodigious sons could not match. She has seen too much already, migrating to Pakistan in ’47, the wars of ’65 and ’71… and then, one by one, the deaths of her parents, husband, siblings, even younger siblings, children, and grandchildren, too. I have driven her to and from the death sites of some of her dearest, closest people… deaths that brought tears to my eyes, even when if I had never exchanged anything but a greeting with the deceased.
But my Amazon grandmother never cried. I never saw tears in her eyes. In a desperate and failed attempt to understand her disposition, I even went as far as assuming, maybe she doesn’t care about anyone or anything.
Aftermath of 8th October, 2005: Now, I see her cry.
I hear her cry and then, I watch the fluctuations as the resourceful woman within her comes to the surface, asking people to bring yards upon yards of stretchable raw cloth so she can stitch masks out of them for the doctors and aide workers to wear. I had no heart to tell her that such an effort would be wasted, that those masks can be bought right off the shelf at a pharmacy and sent across. She has braided raw strings into strings for those masks… as she weeps at the sight of the mass-graves on the television.
Each day, she hands out a list of point persons to contact, numbers she has taken down with teary eyes and shaking hands, as dictated by the television. Each day she narrates her new ‘plan’ for the reconstruction of this destruction – how we can split our house into portions to accommodate families of the wounded people who will travel south for medical assistance; or, how we should pool all our earnings and reserve a good percentage for at least two years to support a specific number of families.
Ideas are endless. We thought rationality should have taken hold at her age, at least.
There are no strict boundaries between reason and idealism anymore, such is the nature of these times. The distinct worlds of Plato and Aristotle breathe together under the same roof – at last – the rational and empirical worlds.
Is this what God had in mind? Effective, very effective.
Sara Niazi is a Master’s candidate at the University for Peace, studying Gender and Peace Building.