This is a real story by Jibran Ahmed in collaboration with Manahil, Shafaq, Masood, Asad, Zaufy and Ifrah. Edited by TEC.
This story is a tribute to all those innocent people who have become victim to the war between the Government and the Separatists. And most importantly, a tribute to the students of Delhi Public School, Srinagar, Kashmir, which has been under the violence of most recent attack.
Somewhere in the heaven, turned into hell.
To be a son of the Vice Principal is not easy. You have to set an example in each and every thing even if you don’t want to! Running is something that I hate more than getting up early and guess what? There, I was, in early morning, 5:30, on the banks of the beautiful Dal Lake. I loved that place but, it was the marathon that I hated the most. When I could have just sit in the car in front of the heater and treasure memories, with the exquisite view, but there I was ready to run and feel the chills. I was standing in the front lane along with the girls because I had to carry the torch, the only source of heat. I was standing there, just wishing that this marathon gets over, as soon as possible. My frustration was glinting on my face. And then, when a girl named Ambreen, asked me,
“Is everything okay? You seem to be upset.”
I gave her a smile that I had practiced for all my life and said, “I am fine.”
Ambreen was a pretty girl of medium height and fair complexion. She used to wear a beautiful scarf, a feature common among the Kashmiri girls. She played basketball but, we never talked until this morning. She was a very confident girl. She was a tom boy. A kind of girl who never had a lot of friends.
The marathon started. Within five minutes, after the passing of the torch to the pilot car, I was one of the last people who was running. Suddenly, I heard her voice, again.
“Jibran come on! Something is seriously not right. Please tell me what’s wrong?”, she insisted, “What else can we do to kill time while running.”
She had a point. So, I told her my problem. I told her, how I hated setting examples. She laughed continuously for five minutes. I didn’t know what to do? Laugh along or to get offended. I decided to stay quiet and wait for her to explain. She said, “Is that your problem? That’s why, you are upset! Don’t you like the Dal? Don’t you enjoy, seeing this beautiful sunrise?”
I said, “It’s not just that but, the examples that I have to set every day, bother me a lot. I don’t have a personal identity. For everyone, I am just the Vice Principal’s son rather than just Jibran Ahmed”
“Okay. You know, even I go through this, a lot of times. Jibran let me tell you a small story. Listen it carefully, maybe you will feel better.”
“Yes!”, I said, I love listening stories.
Staying in Kashmir, you were not away from reality. The political leaders and the separatist leaders used to promise many things but, everyone living here is a witness of the transformation of the only heaven on earth into a burning hell.
Ambreen told me about her family. The harmless and peaceful life that she lives with her two sisters and her mother. Her mother worked as a doctor in the city hospital. She didn’t mention about her father, I wanted to ask her but, I didn’t. I knew that like most of the families in Kashmir, she too had lost a close one. But I stopped my curiosity and let her speak. It was not too late then, she herself told me about that evening.
“My dad was a famous surgeon in the city hospital. He was one of the very few doctors to whom patients came with a sort of trust and faith that they didn’t expect from anyone else. One evening, he came back home around 5:30 after a long and tiring day. That evening wasn’t any different from all the other evenings. At that instant, all he really wanted was to hug the four women who meant the most to him. This happy reunion didn’t last, long enough. Right after Maghrib, the evening prayer, some mysterious and sinister people left a knock on our door. Dad went towards the door and opened it. At the first sight of those people, he came back and asked us to go to the first floor. Everyone got confused and curious about his behavior. So, we followed our instinct to go near the window and peek out what’s going on. A move that became the deepest regret. We didn’t know, who those people were. They were covered with black shawl and also had their faces covered. What I saw after that, became my worst nightmare. We saw them taking out their guns beneath the shawls. We experienced a pang of fright that we were not acquainted with. What seemed even more agonizing was that, that we were confused whether those people were from the police or some local separatist group. Dad was a well-known person and it was obvious that he had enemies and also had contact with the government and the separatist leaders as well. We didn’t really have time to call the police. And we couldn’t ask for help from anyone else. We ran down to try and stop those people. But, it was too late. I heard the sound. That very sound that has woken me up from many of my sleeps, several times and has led to many sleepless nights. What we didn’t realize was that, our youngest sister had been left behind. She was merely five-year old and became the only unfortunate one, to see her father being shot pointblank on the head. As we heard the sound, my mom ran and opened the door. She saw her husband lying cold and dead in the garden. The jeep speeding up and moving away. I ran to get my sister and found her lying on the floor, water in her eyes with an expression that was too mature for her age.”
I and Ambreen had tears in our eyes by then. I didn’t know what to say. I decided to just look at her and hear her out.
Some of their neighbors and their families stayed in their house with them while their father lied lifeless on the cold floor. Her mother along with some other neighbors went to the local police station, the only logical thing to do. The police sent a team and began their investigation.
After four years, she got to know that her father was an apparent suspect but, at the same time, they were also informed that the investigation on him, was about to start one week after the incident. Meanwhile, the separatist groups refused to take any responsibility of the killing.
Towards the end of the marathon, I noted that she was not in a condition to run. I asked her to sit down on the footpath and take some rest. She said, “Lets finish the marathon.”, but I insisted, again and she agreed to it.
The most upsetting thing about the incident was that, that she never got to know that who was responsible for his dad’s murder. And this incident had left a very deep scar on her youngest sister. She, her younger sister, was terrorized and got entrapped in the permanent phobia of the red color. On seeing red, she used to start crying and bang her head on the wall or something hard. They had to request the school authorities to remove furniture that displayed the bloodshot color from her classroom. They asked, the vice principal, my mother to do so, and were very grateful that she did it.
Ambreen was the eldest daughter in the family and that she had to set an example for her sisters every day. She pretended to be strong to support others. She used to let out all her emotions in the washroom for ten minutes, at a time. So that no one gets to know what she was doing. She had to be the strongest link of the family.
I don’t remember any other day, feeling more embarrassed in my life than that day. Here was a girl whose dad was pulled out of their house and killed in their garden and I was complaining about getting up early in the morning.
She saw that expression on my face, read my mind and gave me a smile. Her cheeks were blood red, with tears rolling down. She said,
“Jibran, Allah has made everything in this universe, which is more than enough for us. But, what he has given us in a limited quantity is the time. The time that we have to live our lives. The time we have to make memories. The time we have to enjoy life and the time we have to appreciate the things and people we have in our lives. So, don’t feel bad about having to set examples. Don’t feel bad about what you don’t have. And most importantly, don’t feel bad about having to do things what you don’t like to do because these are the things that makes us who we are.”
Now I could not stop my tears. She wrapped her hand around my shoulder and said, “Jibran it’s not important to always stay happy but, what is important is that you try to stay happy. I know we can’t always pretend or try to do so but, always remember that Allah has rewarded all the efforts that we make to do something good. Trying to stay happy is the best thing we could ever do.”
I didn’t know what to say. I just sat there and starred at the road. She too was quiet, now.
After sometime an old lady came out from her house, behind us, and offered us tea. We drank some tea and resumed with our running.
That day changed my way of thinking, forever. Alhumdulillah, from that day onwards, I started appreciating more than complaining.
Ambreen taught me to see things in life, differently. She taught me the power of trying.
I named her The Ghost Cat. Snow leopards are known as ghost cats because they never want to get spotted by people. They are wonderful creatures made by Allah and can survive the toughest of conditions.
The most beautiful things in life never seek attention.
Ambreen is a perfect example of the phrase above. She is bold and beautiful.