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She goes to bed with her son’s teddy bear. During the day, she locks the bear in a cupboard. In the evening, she takes it out; cleans it, combs it and then says to the bear: “Come, let’s go. It is time to go to bed.”

This has been her routine ever since her son died, killed in a bomb blast. He was only six.

Did they have names, the mother and son? Yes, they did. Shazia and Zeeshan.

Shazia was home, preparing lunch for her son when the tragedy occurred. The bomb exploded near a market which was between Zeeshan’s school and their house. He was walking home with his father when a piece of metal hit him. He was rushed to a hospital where he died later in the evening.

The father was injured too, but not seriously.

Two years ago a father, Ehtesham, was killed in the same Karachi neighbourhood, hit by a stray bullet. He was returning home after dropping his two daughters at their school.

We read about these incidents every day, in Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore and the tribal areas. Thousands have already been killed in all sorts of attacks in the last 10 years.

Violent deaths make everybody sad but knowing the victim makes it worse. We at the Virginia Tavern knew Shazia, Zeeshan and Ehtesham. So we gathered at the tavern this evening to mourn them and to condemn the perpetrators, as we always do after such incidents.

But Shazia Naqvi is not interested in our tears or our condemnation. She is too busy with the teddy bear to care about anything.

“Now listen, I told you the story of the lion that was trapped in a cage and of the tortoise who outran a rabbit and you are still wide awake,” she says to the bear.

“This is the last story of the evening. Absolutely the last one. No more stories for tonight,” she says and then starts a story that always put Zeeshan to sleep:

‘There was an old woman who had half a dozen grandchildren. Once, during summer vacation, they all came to stay with her. She was absolutely delighted and so were the kids because this Nani Amma was very loving.

And she was popular too, not just among her grandchildren but also among her neighbours. So whenever her grandchildren came, the neighbours would also send their children to her house to play with them.

One night, when it was very hot and stuffy inside, Nani Amma took the kids to the roof and told them that they would be sleeping on the roof with her.

In the summer, people in our city often sleep on the roof with their kids. But her grandchildren lived in a neighbourhood where they did not have traditional roofs with high walls so they could not sleep on roofs.

The children were so excited that they started hopping around and Nani Amma had to call their parents to subdue them. The kids were forced into their beds but they were not sleepy.

The sky was full of stars and the moon was there too, peeping at them from behind a tree. So the children started urging Nani Amma to tell them stories, lots of stories.

Nani Amma also loved telling stories, so she was pleased to oblige. She started with a fairy tale. Then she told them about a faithful horse who saved his master and also about an old potter in her village who could make magic toys.

The children loved those stories but every time Nani Amma would finish a story and ask them to go to sleep, they would shout: “One more, one more.”

After the sixth or seventh story, Nani Amma said: “Here is a story about sleep. You will have to sleep after this because I am not going to share another story with you tonight.”

And here is the story she told them:

There is a bird called chakore that comes out at night and flies towards the moon. When he gets closer to the moon, they talk to each other. Tell each other stories and the chakore also sings for the moon.

Finally, the moon says to the chakore: “It is late. Let’s go to sleep. And covers its face with a thick cloud.

When the chakore realises that the moon is indeed asleep, he flies back to his nest, humming a tune, the dream tune: “So ja, so ja, sleep, sleep, it is time to sleep. We will meet again.”

Then he gets into his nest, dreaming of his next meeting with the moon.

Meanwhile, the dream tune starts a chain reaction.

The clouds say to each other, “it is time to go to bed” and slide away to a distant palace where they sleep.

The stars, who have been quietly watching the moon and the chakore, also say to each other: “Let’s sleep. It is already late.” And they start closing their eyes.

The wind too changes its pace. Blowing slowly, it gets into a mode that makes everybody drowsy.

“It is time to sleep,” the trees whisper to each other.

“Yes, we too need to sleep,” say the mountains. The river slows its flow as well.

“And by the time Nani Amma finishes her story, everybody is asleep,” says Shazia to the teddy bear. “Even her naughty grandchildren who did not want to sleep.”

Then she takes the bear to the cupboard and says: “Sleep tight. I will wake you up early for school.”

Before she closes the door, Shazia says to the teddy bear: “You are my moon. I am your chakore. Good night.” And she too goes to sleep.

Her physician says that Shazia must be told that the teddy bear is not Zeeshan. Zeeshan is dead.

I cannot tell her. If you have the courage to tell her, do. I will not.


The author is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC.

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.

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Anwar Iqbal is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC.

Comments (34) Closed

Shahryar Shirazi Mar 10, 2013 08:29am
Just tears!!! Is there a God up there ?
indian Mar 11, 2013 07:08am
you forgot some thing, yesterday it was Hindus,then christians, then, it is shias..wherever you go you talk about muslim brothers only, all others are kafirs..You have seperated kafirs, now you are searching pure muslims within your people..only this attitude brought hell on all of you..If you treat all other as children of Gods, this day would'nt have come..
ashiq Mar 11, 2013 05:37am
why this happen only in our country Pakistan . is god is not with us?
Ashfaque Qureshi Mar 10, 2013 07:43am
this is more than sad/
Pakman Mar 09, 2013 07:50am
very painful.... can't even feel the pinch of it when one goes through such tragedy.
Indain Mar 11, 2013 03:39am
But where does this knowledge go when we force to kill people of other religion/sect. Isnt those also creation of Allah. Why do people go preaching that one has to convert to thier religion, cant we leave it to Allah. i have stating doubting religion, not just yours even mine (i am a Hindu). Janey kis or nazar hai uparwaley ki, yahan ka haal to bahut bura hai.
viti99 Mar 09, 2013 11:13am
Well, how strange is this world that here we have people, like me and you, who can't even summon the courage to tell a mother that her child has died. However, we do have people amidst us, who have no qualms killing the child of mother who is now mother only to a teddy bear.
khanm Mar 09, 2013 11:47am
If we wait until our lives are free from sorrow or difficulty, then we wait forever. And miss the entire point. It is time to demand the action; we as a nation should not leave any stone UN turned to make sure that the perpetrators are punished....justice at times is supposed to be blind but never knew that it is deaf also
readerplus1 Mar 09, 2013 01:12pm
It is so easy to listen to the numbers as to how many died when a bomb went off but there is a story behind each one of them.
Tabinda Naeem Mar 09, 2013 01:54pm
Heart breaking...and it is happening everyday....with every other family we know.
AHA Mar 09, 2013 02:08pm
With all the hatred that we have been preaching ourselves, no other outcome was ever possible. The situation will not improve, it will only get worse.
nuzhat aziz Mar 09, 2013 02:19pm
This is heartbreaking. One feels so helpless.
pathanoo Mar 09, 2013 03:29pm
Heart Rending. Unable to control tears.
Different View Mar 09, 2013 03:29pm
My belief in God has shaken reading these sad incidences. Why couldn't God protect little Zeeshan?
PM Mar 09, 2013 04:44pm
very sad and tragic article, it is difficult to read it
AHA Mar 09, 2013 05:00pm
Allah has made us the masters of this Earth. He will judge us on the Day of Judgement. How can He judge if He intervenes in our affairs and conduct. Allah is everywhere, watching us.
Cyrus Howell Mar 09, 2013 05:23pm
DifferentView, You don't want to know.
Abuzar Mar 09, 2013 05:40pm
yet another story only for those who have hearts and minds to understand current situation here in Pakistan. i checked my facebook profile and not a single post regarding any blast. only writing so that the article can be seen in blog list.
Nisreen Lotia Mar 10, 2013 11:35pm
Anwar Iqbal sahab,I read all your articles with great interest.They always touch my heart.
Honest Mar 09, 2013 06:14pm
Very sad. But those who survived are killing others. See what happened to Christians in lahore today.
intolerance is a weapon of mass destruction Mar 09, 2013 08:03pm
@Different view.... don't u think God will ask u the same...
Javeria Omar Mar 10, 2013 02:44pm
very sad.. may Allah protect our country
Laeeq,NY Mar 09, 2013 11:29pm
Yes thousands are murdered in last ten years and many more will be killed, many more blogs will be written, many more condemnations will be announced but will there be ever end to these crimes against humanity? Yesterday were Ahmadis, today are Shias and who will be tomorrow?
Aiza Mar 10, 2013 12:07am
Ae Khuda kya nazaar lagaee he is mulk ko?
Vijay Mar 10, 2013 01:25am
Jo taar se nikli hai vo dhun sab ne suni hai; jo saaz se guzri hai vo kis dil ko pata hai?
obama Mar 10, 2013 02:41pm
yes we can
Aleena Rizvi Mar 10, 2013 09:14pm
i cried my heart out..beautifully expressed! sigh..
waqar Mar 10, 2013 09:51pm
gruesome story... was difficult to read.
Ali Mar 10, 2013 03:59am
Yaa khuda mera Malik when will this end?. Why are innocent paying for something they haven not started. How many mothers must go through this pain for you to wake up? And why are we doing this each other? for whom? What joy can 1 have ripping family's apart and killing each other like animals? WHY and For WHOM? Yaa ALLAH raham mera Malik raham.
Syed Qaseem Ali Mar 10, 2013 04:45am
This reaches the core of the heart. I really wish the perpetrators of such heinous crimes would know the other side of the story too.
Haroonrooha Mar 10, 2013 05:27am
Will you please be honest at least to your self, admit and tell all Muslims world wide that Islam and democracy are mutually exclusive.The theocracy that Islam aspires cannot be achieved.
I. Zuber Mar 10, 2013 06:49am
This will bring tears to the eyes of the most strong ones, very sad
AM Mar 10, 2013 06:59am
My Brother in Law was shot. For what reasons.... we still don't know. Yes.. we do receive SMS to stop going to police for an update.... we get sms to drop this case or else we will end up next to my brother in law's grave. Seems like that zindagee aur mouat aab inn logon kai haath mein hai. We literally have to beg them for our life.
Khurram Mar 10, 2013 10:14am
becasue God wanted him back.....