There is no attempt to address the cancers that are deep within and eating away
They never make the headlines for more than a few hours on the electronic media, a day at most in the prints and fade in a week from the social media. There is never any form of protest, no organised objection, and no condemnation beyond the knee jerks from the politicians whose job it is to jerk their knees. They are not talked about nor analysed beyond surface detail, no diving into the blood as it runs into the gutters. No sense of grief or national mourning. Nothing beyond the rolling silence.
The images remain, the latter-day Rothko’s that spatter the walls where the bomber exploded. Not all of the spatter comes from the bomber. Those in his or her immediate radius are there as well. Fragments of teeth and bone. Part of a nose. A lip. Fingers. Go up close and look into the photo and they are all there captured in digital detail. The inside and outside of people who a microsecond ago had hopes and dreams, loves and hates. Lives. Now unpacked they mingle with the remains of their murderer to eventually be hosed off, painted over… and forgotten.
Beyond the gallery of the dead, there are the broken living. The toddler-girl with a couple of ball-bearings through her reproductive system. A future? No, at least not much beyond a quiet misery, sterility, nobody to marry and a family who might wish her dead such is the burden. The men and women whose faces had the flesh ripped from them by the blast, one half whatever people they were before, the other side a Frankensteinian pastiche. The ones that lost a limb… or two or three. Sometimes pictured looking at their arm or leg in puzzlement. How did that get there? What happened? What am I going to do… how will I work or go to school or get myself to the toilet?
The radius beyond the broken living is inhabited by the invisibly wounded, the men and women who are the carers in a long future of those who were injured. The children who have lost one or both parents. The elderly who have lost the sons and daughters that fed and clothed them, bathed them and brought a glow into life’s twilight. Now — bleakness and solitude, an unending grief only to be stemmed as their own lives flicker out.
Within the minds of the survivors a cacophony of questions some of which never get voiced and if they are, never get answered. They move out of the blast zone and into the repair shop — where there are few tools and not enough mechanics and nobody seems to know where or how or who and please come and help me…
They pass thro’, these people in various states of brokenness or disrepair, and emerge to the other side and reach out to feel the silence. All their yesterdays are still there but no tomorrows, at least not the sort of tomorrows that they would wish for themselves.
Fleeting glimpses of themselves perhaps as an item nowhere near the top of the TV news, or frozen in a daily paper 24 hours after the event that was just a loud bang and then a blur that led eventually to this place where the walls absorb sound, the light is always crepuscular and the air tainted with the olfactory memories of bursten entrails… and the screams. Oh yes, the screams are always there. There was that moment that always seems longer than a moment in hindsight when there was a miraculous quiet, almost a peace, the after-blast shockwave of nothingness. And then the ripping of time’s fabric by the screams. The screams.
Nobody is angry. At least not obviously so. There are no processions taken out in support of the dead, damaged and dismembered. No attempt to address the cancers that are deep within and eating away, the cancers that nurture the genes that will produce the next bomber. Instead a dumb passivity, a sense of learned helplessness that makes the cross on which a people regularly crucify themselves. A rage against the dying of the light? Not in Pakistan, more like an embrace of the darkness. And an eternal silence.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2015.
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