It hurts, deeply. Lahore. Quetta. Mohmand. Peshawar. Sehwan.
I wonder if we'll ever live without this sense of fear – the fear that you or your loved one will never return as they step out of the house.
One of the ways I spend quality-time with my younger brother is to go to the cinema together. There have been times when I’ve been struck by this anxiety and seized by apprehension.
What if someone blows this place up? What if terrorists burst in? Where is the nearest exit that I will be able to push Abdullah towards? How can I hide him? No, he’s too tall now to be hidden. We shouldn’t be here. What if something happens? What if?
I wonder. I worry.
I worry that someday even the Badshahi Mosque or other monuments of historical and cultural significance might get attacked.
Nothing is sacred anymore.
I worry my cultural heritage will irrecoverably be taken away from me.
There are texts and emails every now and then. Security alerts and warnings. Places to be avoided.
I wonder how long we will continue to hide in our houses while our homeland burns.
After the APS attack, I thought it couldn't get worse after this, but after the spate of bombings this week, I learned that what’s broken can be shattered further.
The past few days brought back memories of 2009, a year in which Pakistan witnessed 500 bombings.
I thought we were past this. I had hoped. I had prayed.
The rising death toll. The call for blood donations. The full impact of the attack. The same old condemnations. The same old rhetoric. The same old statements. The same lies, the same passing of the buck. Forming commissions. Ordering inquiries.
Thousands and thousands of deaths. And counting.
We have come to a point where cities are symbolic of the violence, loss and tragedy they have borne. Peshawar is not its culture and beauty. Nor is Peshawar Fort Bala Hisaar or Khyber Pass. Peshawar is the APS attack.
Quetta is not Quetta. Quetta is Hazara killings.
Cities are no longer cities; they are signifiers and signposts of tragedies. Of losses borne, of lives mourned.
These are tragic ruptures in our collective identity, and cultural and social lives.
Everything is a reminder of what we face. There is no distraction, there is no relief.
I am at a point where I shut my social media when a tragedy occurs. But while I can shut down my social media accounts for a while, I cannot control the torment of my heart.
There are times when I want to escape Pakistan, perhaps not physically, but certainly emotionally.
There are times I want to close my eyes, my ears, my mind and my heart to the suffering in this land, for my own sanity and survival. Only to realise that its suffering is inseparable from mine.