It’s not easy to step out of an exam room only to be welcomed by the words ‘Sahab ka Chota Bhai shaheed hogaya hai’. It’s not easy accepting those words and breaking the news to your sister who’s also in the middle of a lecture. It wasn’t easy going to my grandfather’s room and seeing him on the prayer mat crying, sitting next to him, and hearing him say, ‘Beta Aap ko nahi pata, meri taangon mein Jaan Nahi rahi ab, meri Jaan Chali Gayi hai, Aapko nahi pata, Aap Kabhi nahi Samjhogay’, and when we tried settling in with those few words, we then had to break the news to bari Phupoo. And as soon as eischelle told her, nothing, nothing seems to be in place. I saw her lying on the floor helpless, calling out Baray Abbu’s nicknames and saying to us that we’re lying. All I remember is how bhaya held Phupoo’s hands and looked her in the eyes with searing pain and said, ‘Phupoo Aapko Fakhar hona chahiye, Aap ka Bhai shaheed hai, Mubarakbaad deni chahiye Aapko, Aapkay Bhai Zinda hain or hamein dekh rahay hain’. On our way to the helipad, she gripped my hand as I looked her in the eyes, wanting to console her but nothing comes out of my mouth. And at that moment it hits me. It hits me that we’ve fallen into a huge pit, one that does not have an end – it just keeps going on and on.
The next day didn’t get any easier – seeing Buba (uncle) break down into a puddle of tears at the helipad where his brother’s glorious coffin was brought in, on a helicopter, with a bunch of suited booted army men waiting for him there. All of this didn’t mean anything at all. All that mattered now was who was inside the helicopter: barayabbu’s mourning wife and his 4 very strong children. I see Badi Ammi (his wife) walking towards us, her left hand in Zukhruf’s (his daughter) and her right in Mustafa’s hand (his son) as Zukhruf kept saying, ‘mama sabar karein’ and Mustafa told her to not cry because that will hurt baba’.
I held Mustafa’ and Zukhruf’s hand and tried to bring them to the car but as we were halfway there, they let go of my hand and went running back as they saw their father, who had become a hero for the whole nation, and for them too, but had left an aching void in their hearts. And my mind kept reminding me of how it really was a never-ending pit, the situation we were in. An end couldn’t be seen miles away.
On our way to Bunji, where barayabu was to be buried, Mustafa dropped his head on my shoulder and that action of his pierced my heart. The action meant more than just dropping his head, it meant that he felt a need for someone to talk to, for someone to share what he was feeling, for someone to understand what he was saying without saying anything for someone to realize the pain he was going through.
It isn’t easy trying to console everyone and to get them to calm down. Because there is no consolation for someone who has lost their loved one all of a sudden. unannounced. Watching his 4-year-old look out the window and calling for him repeatedly and saying, ‘i miss you baba’, his 7-year-old falling into my lap and saying, ‘Api Baba kay pass ley kar jayen na please Api’, his 9-year-old daughter looking for her father’s love and care everywhere and says every once in a while, ‘Mein nahi roungi warna baba ko takeleef hogi’ and his 11-year-old locking himself in the washroom, sitting in there for hours and not replying to you calling him repeatedly and when he finally does come out, all I notice is his melancholic mood and his sorrowful eyes. it really made me realize how big of a change they had been introduced to in their lives at such young age. For children their father is the apple of their eye, he’s a symbol of undying love, care, and affection, one who keeps their childhood intact, and for them to lose most of all that in a matter of seconds was not an easy sight to look at.
Not only did it affect his children but it affected every single member of our family. The sound of Badi Ammi’s (his wife) words still echo in my ears; ‘Mera Shair, Meri Zindagi. His brothers coming back after lowering their courageous brother’s coffin, baba crying like a baby, unable to get himself together. Baray Abba (Baray Abbu’s twin) not being able to keep his calm, breaking down every given second. Papa (his brother) not having the impish smile anymore, seeing Buba’s (his brother’s) red eyes from miles away and Chunoabu’s (his brother) charming smile not being the same, which is now, rather broken and full of pain, it wasn’t easy, and at that moment it dawns on me that as kids, Baray Abbu would play with his brothers and sisters on this very soil, the same soil where they would stand together like a force ready to fight anyone. The same soil he learned to walk on. The same soil he used to play on. The same soil that taught him to stand back up after every fall. The soil that prepared him for future endeavors. The soil that molded him into a martial man. The same soil that he sacrificed his life for. The same soil where once baba held his finger and taught him to walk, today he lowered him into his last resting place, in the same soil, And I can’t even begin to imagine what baba felt in that very moment because saying your last goodbye to someone you’ve seen your whole life, is in no way easy.
Baray Abbu’s grave shines like no other. It tells the tale of his wonderful life. It speaks. It speaks of his great sacrifices. It speaks of the kind of a man he was – bold, courageous, graceful, and martial. It speaks of the life he devoted and laid for this country. While consoling a widow of a shaheed he himself said, ‘Quaid e Azam Takk ki Qabr par Jhanda Raat ko Nahi Lehraya Jaata Lekin Aapkay Husband ki Qabr Par Lehraya Jaata Hai, Aapko Fakhr hona Chahiye’. And today, even the flag gleams with immense pride because it is flagged at the great Colonel Mujeeb ur Rehman Shaheed’s grave.
Even almost 10 months later, our pain, our sorrow is still the same. Times might be getting easier but, there’s a gap that cannot be filled. Undoubtedly, the story of a shaheed doesn’t end with them. Their name doesn’t die with them. Their legacy is always kept alive by their children. They promise to sacrifice their life for good, just like their father did. a shaheed’s life is usually short-lived but it’s never forgotten. It still isn’t easy for Baray Abbu’s kids to talk about their father but whenever they do, it’s always with a gleaming smile and pride in their eyes. And at that moment I realize, a shaheed never dies. He’s always there. Never physically but always on the tip of our tongue.