Friday, December 19, 2014

Peshawar aftermath: the horror of the what-ifs

Courtesy: Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Facebook group
A day went by after the Peshawar horror. A second day went by. The second night seemed too long. Maybe I was too affected. Or maybe I was human. Or maybe I was too human. Or maybe insane.

But then, I am not known for losing my composure. They generally say I am devoid of emotion. They are true. Or maybe I am the emotional one and they are devoid of emotions. Or maybe both are true. Maybe it was because I am a parent. Or maybe despite the fact that I am a parent.

It did not matter. I tried to sleep. Then something hit me.

What if… what if… this became the norm? What if massacres became so commonplace some day that we would not care anymore?

Parents in Peshawar will probably be too scared to send their children to school. But what if… what if… they stopped being scared? What if it reaches a stage when everyone accepts violence as a part of our lives?

When I was in my tweens all my parents were scared of were kidnappers. We were told that random kidnappers prowled across the nooks and corners of the city, and would swoop down upon us at the first opportunity and carry us away in large gunny-bags.

Parents of five-year olds are scared of worse things these days. Growing up I had no idea about the existence of words like paedophile. Or child abuse. And now, this. Those kidnappers seem almost toothless when put into perspective.

What if such massacres become commonplace some day? What if parents of the future have to go through experiences so gruesome that mass execution of children seem tame in comparison?

The very thought left me in cold sweat. More than the thought of children desperately crying out for their parents when asked to stand in a queue in front of a firing squad without a chance to protest or hit back; more than the thought of a wounded child gagging himself and silencing himself with a tie; more than when I got to know that Class 9 had only one survivor — a boy whose alarm did not work that morning.

Those parents at Peshawar, checking the hospital lists frantically, have been shattered. We had come down crashing with them, as did humanity. We cried with them, and, as is the norm, we shared Facebook posts, changed our wall pictures, and made hashtags trend on Twitter.

All that will subside. All that has started to subside.

There will be an encore. We will rise again.

This will become commonplace. There will be revenge, mostly without proof or vindication, mostly on the innocent. We will simply like or favourite or retweet.

That will happen because something more horrific will be in news.

That will happen because something will churn our insides to such an extent that the Peshawar incident will seem as innocuous as kidnappers with gunny-bags seem to our generation.

That is what I am scared of.

That is what left me sleepless last night and is making me type my fingers to numbness at two in the morning. The what-if bit of it.


Maybe things have just begun.

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