PTH is grateful to Mr. Kashif Khuhro for contributing this short story which throws light on an important aspect of our society
By Kashif Khuhro
Everyone called her Rosie William Masih. Thin arms, long black hair, and dark complexion. A cute little girl of nine years she was. But she was older at her head than she looked. Rosie was very curious about everything. She probably never learnt to settle on a single answer for anything. She always wanted to be a pilot. She loved airplanes though she had never seen an airport in her life.
Like most children, Rosie hated going to school. But she couldn’t help it. She had to go every day otherwise her father would get angry with her. But Sundays were fortunate exceptions. It was Saturday that morning when her mother called her.
‘Rosie, darling, wake up. It’s striking seven thirty already’, said Mary.
Reluctantly, Rosie stirred in the bed and peeped through the closed shutters of her eyes. She was wearing a very beautiful smile on her face that morning. It was a rare sight to see her wake up so merrily.
‘What’s the matter, Rosie? You’re all smiles today.’ Rosie told her it was a dream.
‘What dream, sweetheart?’
‘Mother, I saw that I had become a pilot. I was flying an airplane.’
William, who was standing by the side of the door, gave a surprised look. ‘A what?’ he yelled.
‘I want to be a pilot when I grow up, father.’ Rosie said with such a disarming artlessness. But William didn’t hold with it. He hardly agreed to anything that Rosie or her mother said. He was really hard to persuade.
‘You will become a nurse just like Aunt Maria and Aunt Rachel.’ Rosie could gauge unquestionable resolve in her father’s voice. He seemed to have make his mind up about her future already. But Mary was not pleased with this decision. She knew that Rosie’s aunts were not leading a highly regarded life. Though both were nice ladies, people thought that being a nurse was somehow not agreeable.
‘No one these days sends their daughters to be nurses.’ She conveyed her reservations to William. However, Mary wanted her to be a doctor instead.
‘Daughter of a sewerage worker can either become a nurse or clean the streets early morning’, said William with a disparaging smile. ‘Now get up and get ready for school and be grateful for the blessings of the Lord.’
Usually Rosie used to be so cheerful at school. But today she was looking gloomy. While coming back to school, Zarish asked her the reason for being so distraught. She told her about the dream and what her father declared to her.
‘He also said that I’d better be a nurse or clean the streets. That’s what the daughter of a sewerage worker is supposed to do he says.’
Zarish secretly agreed to what her father said. After all, she had seen so many people in her colony end up being sewerage workers. Sometimes, it looked like it’s the only profession they knew at Masih Colony. She always wondered until one day Uncle John (that’s what everyone called him) revealed to her that in dear homeland such jobs were reserved for the people like them; the people who were Christians.
‘I think we can also do better things. We can be scientists, we can be artists, singers, teachers, doctors and everything we wanted to. We can fly airplanes too’, said Rosie.
By this time they had reached at the front the street that leads straight up to her house. While bidding each other good-byes Rosie told Zarish that she would go to the park tomorrow and have ice cream. Sundays made her so delighted.
Next day Rosie woke up early. She passed yesterday evening waiting for Sunday to commence. She was pleased to know that she could skip school today and go to the park and have ice cream. But soon Rosie’s hopes were crushed. Mary jogged her memory by telling her that they would go to Church as they always did on Sundays.
‘But mother, I don’t want to go to Church. They always say I am a sinner. They say I was born a sinner. I don’t understand that. Am I a sinner, mother?’ Rosie stared at her mother with questioning eyes. Mary kept on silent. She had no answer or perhaps she didn’t have any answer that could satisfy Rosie. So she resolved to stay silent.
‘Father, I want to go to park and play’, she said to William in a beseeching voice.
‘We will go to the park only if you accompany us to Church like a good girl you are,’ William knew that it was the only way to lure her to set out for Church. And this, he knew, worked out good every time.
‘Father, why do so many boys and girls at school don’t like Zarish and me?’ she asked William on their way to Church. ‘They say we are Christians and they are Muslims and that’s why they wouldn’t talk to us’, she further said.
William didn’t say anything. Instead he kept listening to her questions.
‘Father, is it a sin not to be born a Muslim?’ she asked again.
‘Father, do you also dislike them for not being Christians?’ Rosie kept asking questions persistently. But all the questions seemed to fall on William’s deaf ears. Or perhaps, he chose to keep her questions unanswered as he didn’t want to distress his child further by engaging in a polemic with the little girl. Polemics and preaching were seldom good he always thought. Rosie’s questions ended only when she reached Church.
William took Rosie to the park as he had promised her. ‘Listen to me now, don’t go frolicking. Be a nice girl and play here. She agreed to the terms and went to play on a swing nearby. She tried hard but she couldn’t flung herself up. Soon a boy of almost the same age reached there.
‘My name is Faraz. I can push this swing for you’. Rosie agreed and told him her name. Faraz informed her that he lived in Abdullah Town near Kirshan Das Hospital. After about half an hour, Faraz saw his father coming towards them. ‘Hey look, my father is coming”, he said.
‘Father, meet my new friend Rosie William’, Faraz was excited to tell Rasheed about his new friend but he was soon dismayed.
‘Rosie William? Are you a Christian?’ Rasheed looked infuriated. One could easily observe the rage and anger in his eyes. ‘How many times do I have to tell you to keep away from such people, Faraz? How many times? They are no match to us.’ He tried to explain to his son.
‘But why, father? Aren’t we all same? You told me once that God created all human beings equal’, Faraz reasoned with his father.
‘Do not ask too many questions. Let me clarify this to you once and for all. They do not believe in our God’, Rasheed told Faraz in a sneering voice.
‘Our God? Are there many Gods?’ asked Rosie. She was surprised to know about the existence of separate deities.
‘Astaghfirullah. Only infidels like you can ask such questions’, he slapped the little girl and took his son along in another direction. In that crowded park, no one could listen to the sobs of Rosie, nor could anyone feel the agony of her innocent heart. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she went away in another direction.
Everything reeked of blood and sulphur. Everything was covered in the misty foul smoke which settled soon enough. The ground was wet with blood, battered bodies, human entrails, mutilated corpses and children without limbs. It only took a split-second to turn a lively park into a pool of blood.
Few minutes before children were playing in this unfortunate park. Out of nowhere, a slogan was chanted.
“Allahu Akbar”, followed by a deafening explosion.
Rasheed’s son was severely injured. He has suffered fatal wounds and had lost much blood. Luckily, he himself remained safe. Within a few moments, ambulances reached rushing to the park. He took Faraz to Kirshan Das Hospital. Once he reached hospital, another shock awaited him. The doctors told him that his son could only receive AB negative blood. Rasheed wanted to be the donor but unfortunately they didn’t share the blood group. And it was one of the most difficult ones to be found.
In a fit of frenzy, Rasheed crossed through various passages and halls of hospital crying like a lunatic and begging people to save life of his only son. But the people around him were going through the same torment. Some had lost their husbands, some had become orphans, some were injured and some were just shocked to see their children dead.
For half an hour, Rasheed kept searching. Fearing his son might be dead, he ran back to the ward only to find his son regaining consciousness. A thin man with dark complexion was lying on hospital bed placed beside Faraz. The bandage on his arm made an impression that he had donated his blood to the boy. This stranger had an old blue jeans and a blood stained worn out T-shirt.
Rasheed took the man’s hand and kissed it. ‘You are an angel sent by Almighty. You have saved my son’s life. You are our Messiah, you are a saint’. Rasheed was sobbing like a child. But the man did not reply. Instead, he kept walking towards the door because he wanted to leave. He seemed to be in a hurry. When Rasheed looked closely, he could see tears rolling down his bony cheeks. In an instant, Rasheed could tell that he had also lost someone in the explosion.
Without uttering a word, he followed the man in a hope to console him. The stranger stopped at the door of the casualty ward and sat at the floor languidly. ‘There rests the dead body of my only child. My whole universe. What had my child done to them, my poor baby?’ the stranger spoke after a long pause with tears in his eyes.
Rasheed tried to look through the glass fixed in the door. He looked keenly into the room. But he saw something which made his head wrench. He wished he could undo the sight but he couldn’t. He left himself loose and fell on the ground. His face was pale. He was trembling as if he was afraid of something. Probably he had recognised the man almost at once though they had never met before. It was all because of his child. He recognised his child almost instantaneously. The child with blood all over her white dress was none other than the girl he had slapped in the park. The girl was Rosie William. The cute little girl who wanted to fly in the sky.