He has not taken his car to day. On the outskirts of the city where he is posted there had been word of the flood, but so far no one has been seen from the flooded villages and there are no signs of the flood here in Nowshera or its surroundings.
His phone rings, it is one of his children; his voice quiet with a deep ring of fear. He says, “ Daddy there is water on the lawn and it is coming towards us”.
He has never thought of the possibility of losing his children in a flood, a flood that was so far away, but somehow the water has stolen into his own front yard while he was away, ready to wash away his lifeblood. The stories he haa heard of the flood from fellow soldiers coming down from the north, suddenly take on a new life.
He rushes to get transportation, there is none. The flood has entered the city of Nowshera; no one agrees to give transportation to go towards the rapidly flooding city. Frantic…. he commissions an ambulance, and as the ambulance with its siren wailing streaks towards the city the water rises to meet it.
With every lapping wave of the gold colored water, his heart thuds with fear in his chest, all other thoughts have fled, “ O Allah please do not take my children, keep them safe, please Allah…… please………and suddenly a picture rises in his eyes of all those parents from Swat who had lost their children and sat with vacant eyes in the refugee camps. His memory of Swat and its refugees runs like a horror movie in front of his eyes.
The ambulance has slowed down, the water is resisting, his house is not too far………..and yet at this pace it is far!
“Jaldi karoo!” he tells the driver, who stoic in his silence knows the reason for fear in the voice of the man and father sitting in the back. He himself has lost his children to the bombing in Swat. He remains silent, pressing on, never wanting another father to experience the grief he had and still does.
They turn the corner and there are people in the street which has turned into a river. He does not recognize them, feverishly searching for the faces of his children and suddenly he sees them all, his children, his family, the neighbors, bedraggled, wet, the muddy water lapping around their neck.
They climb on and the ambulance filled to the brim turns around and speeds towards dry land. There are people left behind treading the rapidly rising muddy water.
As the ambulance takes its last turn, he looks back. His house seems lopsided. The roof is submerged on one side and only the top fronds of the palm trees show. The speed with which the water has risen is astonishing; he stares back in horror as slowly water engulfs the place he knew as home. In it are all his cherished belongings, his documents, his degrees, his awards of honor; each item attached to a memory with his family…the water progressively claiming it all.
He shakes his head and looks at the enlarged pupils in the fearful eyes of his children. His lips are dry, he thanks Allah completely resigned to Him for granting him the life of his children.
They are in the barracks, food is served, the famished children eat with a gusto, he cannot swallow a morsel for all he can see, is what he saw on the ride back from Nowshera: the unending rows of people lining the highway, bedraggled with rain, wet to the skin with nothing in their hands other than the wet, muddy, ragged clothes on their back…………. the water has stolen their homes, their belongings, their dignity and put them on the street, hungry, tired, hot, crying and homeless……..
They sit with nothing almost like the day they came into this world and the day they will return to their Lord.
He bows his head and puts the roti back in the plate and offers it to someone next to him…….
The series on this blog titled “Stories of Pakistan” are verbal stories. These are true stories, fictionalized to protect the identity of the characters. All photos are borrowed and in this case pertain to the city where this event happened, though not exactly.