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Karachi blast: Our story

September 20, 2011

—Photo Credit: Ali Khursheed

Boom! One word, one sound and a world lost. Bomb blast. Not many people survive a bomb blast without serious injuries and live to tell the story. I am extremely fortunate that not only myself, but my husband, three children, two maids and one cook walked out of a house which can only be described as a go-down of glass shrapnel, wooden splinters and rubble unharmed and alive.

You see it on television, the way it looked, but rarely do you actually realise what goes on inside. This is our story. September 19, 2011, for us a black Monday, began as any ordinary day. We woke up to our alarm at 6am and I rang the bell for the cook to come inside and make breakfast. Usually I wake up only one of the two maids, but I don’t know what came over me, I insisted they both wake up because I needed them. We all sat for breakfast at the dining table at precisely 6.30am and were back upstairs at 7am to get ready for school. 7.25, ready and about to exit my dressing room … BOOM!

I heard glass breaking, something fell on my head. The glass shower stall burst while my husband was bathing. He yelled, “The kids! Nausheen the kids!”

That is when realisation struck me and a strange calm seized me. I got up, went into my bedroom. There was no window grill or glass, all lying strewn across the bed and floor. I saw my children outside my door screaming, crying. They were alive. All of them. I reached the door, which was shut, but how were my children visible? It sunk in finally; the blast had been strong enough for the closed door inside the house to tear, splinter and smash across the room. I tried to open the jammed lower part; finding it stuck I climbed over it.

—Photo Credit: Ali Khursheed

“Bomb blast. Stay calm. We are alive. Say astaghfirullah.”

“Mummy, you are bleeding.” Right, I knew something had hit my head.

“I know, we will take care of it later.”

And my three brave children aged five to nine years held hands, my eldest bare feet, we walked over glass, so much glass, and rubble, and started walking towards the staircase. My husband was clothed but with soap on his face and body, rushed and lifted a large metal grill on the stairs and made way for us to pass through. Reaching down slowly, I calmly told my husband that we would sit in our car and drive to my friend’s house at the end of the street.

“The cars won’t be there.”

—Photo Credit: Ali Khursheed

Reaching down after walking on a lot of glass, we saw only devastation. There was no front door. There was no house front at all. My second son started crying.

“My house is broken. I don’t have a house. My house is broken.”

I grabbed my children’s hands and we started climbing on over the glass, bricks, and pieces of wood as we exited the front we saw the cars. The side wall had collapsed on top of one car, I don’t think our gate existed or if it did it was ravaged. No exit. No escape. The house on our left was Chaudhry Aslam’s, also a war zone.

I spun around as my husband screamed for my second son. Lost inside the devastation we heard him crying but couldn’t see him. My husband ran inside to look and emerged in seconds with him. With his great presence of mind, my husband pointed to a small opening in one of the boundary walls where the wall had collapsed. We got out of the house through that.

Blood-soaked, bare feet, eight people walked out alive from a house ravaged by what I heard later was 300 kilograms of explosives. Survived. Only to see pieces of mangled, charred and mutilated bodies. The time of attack was synchronised with the arrival of our dear driver and his son. Anwer Bhai, who for 22 years had been an integral part of our family. The world knew him as the friendly, helpful, long-haired driver. Only his torso was there. His body ripped apart by the powerful explosives.  We didn’t even have time to mourn. We swallowed our tears and walked till the mid of the street, bare feet still, and then a kind neighbor dropped us at my friend’s house.

Trauma. We found out later the attack was supposedly on Chaudhry Aslam’s house. It was a suicide bomber. We revisited the site after a few hours. I have always known that the one who saves is greater than he who plans to kill, but this is the first time I have evidenced that God sends angels to carry us through. Walking out of that house, five out of the seven people who were bare feet suffered not even a scratch. My cook and I escaped with minor stitches. No physical harm. No irreparable damage to my immediate family. Our family unit was intact.

Material things come and go, but life cannot be replaced. The life of Anwer Bhai and his son Asif have been taken in a meaningless war of pride. What is it? A religious war? A political war? Personal vendetta? A war fought on the civilian front where innocent people pay the price with their irreplaceable lives. And this is what a suicide bomber takes – his life and the lives of all those around him. What heaven does he think he’ll go to I wonder.

Nausheen Manji Dadabhoy studied English and Economics at Tufts University. She is based in Karachi where she teaches.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.