It is a war-time story. Aamira, an eight year old girl who thrives for freedom. A girl who dreams to teach and preach about freedom faces the effects of battle/war.
It was dinner time. We had a candle lit in the corner. We huddled around it to have our scraps of food which Abbu found today.
Every bite had various background noises to it. Sometimes the bombs soared through the sky and grenades blew up houses and buildings! From a distant it looked like a firework causing destruction everywhere.
The unhinged door opened and closed, and with it, it brought a gust of fresh-grenade-blast-air that gushed inside the room. One could hear distant cries of the ladies, wails of babies, and shouts of men. Sometimes, somewhere the roof fell, or the houses went up in flames, or trees fell, cables broke, burnt and wounded bodies on the road.
Everyday Sniffer used to go out for a walk with me in the evening, but ever since the situation worsened, we go out at the dead of the night.
Today Sniffer suddenly started to run and finally found a corner to pee. The roads are spilled with red liquid. It used to suffocate me. I wanted to run away with my family but I knew Abbu would protect us. My eight year old mind would calm my heart down by saying that we would soon move away to somewhere safe.
Our house had already come down to shambles. Major part of the walls and roof was missing, the kitchen had hardly anything left, one bedroom gone up in flames.
This is just the beginning of the story.
I am Aamira. I loved to go to school regularly. I have a little sister, who is just two years younger to me, Aalima. The school was our favourite escapade. We could meet our friends here, we could do everything behind these walls. At times I used to teach my class when the teacher was not present. It was my dream to become a teacher and teach in my school. But due to the war, the school had to be closed down.
Day by day condition worsened. Most of my friends were already out of the city, and the rest were buried alive somewhere in this chaos.
My mother wanted us safely out of here as soon as possible, but my dad had the deal with the devils themselves.
When I grew up enough to understand things I realised my dad used to get paid for providing young men to the terrorists. These young men were trained to serve for their purpose. Their families were tortured or burnt, the females were raped. My elder sister was sold to these men, and they threatened to rape and sell us off or kill him if Abbu didn’t continue with his work.
For my age I was told that I was extremely matured. The way Abbu was entangled with them, there was a higher probability of him never escaping away from them. Every day Ammi would fear of us getting traded, because of Abbu’s greed.
I loved Abbu. Even though he was greedy, I trusted him that he would be always looking after our back. But something told me that things won’t be safe anymore for us.
It happened that day. In front of me. I was teaching Aalima her mathematic sums when we heard gunshot and Abbu crying out. When I reached the scene I see Abbu crumbling to ground, chest splattered with blood. Time slowed down. I saw the masked men entering the house, grabbing my sister and dragging her out. It happened in slow motion. My sister’s cries seemed to come from a far off distance. It came back to me in a rush, the way my elder sister was dragged out of the house, her hair caught in their fist, her cries echoing in the house and everyone stood helplessly.
Aalima was calling out to me loudly to save her, and I just stood there watching my mother cry at the loss of another child. Just then Sniffer came around barking and attacked the masked men. He bit the men, he made them bleed from every possible place. I took advantage of the situation and pushed Aalima away from them. My mother caught her hand and I made them to run away. The masked men in a fit of rage shot Sniffer too. I saw red. They saw me standing there all alone.
The gunshots echoed in my ears and I mustered up the courage to run away from there. The evil laughter followed me till I had no energy to run.
In the distance I saw Ammi and Aalima getting up on a bus. I cried out in sheer happiness that my Ammi and little sister were safe. They would be safe, but where would I go? There were bodies on the road, and I lied down quietly beside one of them pretending to be dead.
The masked men and the gun men were showering bullets. One of the bullets went right past me touching my hand making it bleed.
The war brought the nightfall early. There were clouds from smoke. The city where I wanted to grow up and become a teacher, the city where my school was, was up in flames.
As night fell, I ran. I ran away from the city which wasn’t mine anymore, which will not live to see the freedom anymore. I ran away from everything that I held dear to me. I ran away from the 8 year memories of this place. I ran away in fear of being buried alive like many others.
My Abbu’s greed distanced me from my family, but at least we all were safe. I don’t think I would ever be able to forgive Abbu for his deeds.
How could a man, who sold his own daughter off for money, be forgiven? I wanted to hurt Abbu, punish him for this but he was already dead. I wanted to punish those men who brought this fate upon us. But I had to leave this city. I had to make myself capable enough to fight back.
I ran. I boarded a bus too. I lived the life of a refugee. But I am free today. I have tried to find Ammi and Aalima, but in vain. Today, I teach the kids about valour, bravery, slavery, humanity, and above all I teach them the meaning of freedom. Today I have the courage to fight back not just those masked men, but others as well.