They and Their Worth.

by Zoha Javed.

THEY AND THEIR WORTH:

  There is nothing to eat in neither the fridge nor anywhere else. Im starving. My clothes are drenched in sweat from overworking at the workshop. I thought there would be something to eat at home so I didn't buy anything. I left a half loaf of bread and cheese under a plate to save it from rats. But unfortunately, when I got back the plate was crashed to pieces on the floor. The cheese and bread nowhere to be seen. Just few crumbled pieces. Now I have to go and buy something. Okay I will but first of all Ill take shower to wear off my tiredness. My backs aching like mad. Now that Im getting older, course.

   I open the old dusty cupboard. The hinges of its door are not in place thats why Ive kept the doors in place by tying their handles together with a rope. I cant spare my money on it. Call a carpenter and have it renewed. My salary is Rs.2000. I work at the dingy workshop. Fill gas in tires and mend some ordinary car parts. I hardly get by. So the rope is a better choice. My lifes never been to an ease and comfort. And Im used to it. I take out a worn out shirt and ragged pajamas and head to the washroom.

   After stripping off my clothes, I open the tap to fill the bucket with water. I open it to the fullest. What has happened to it? Few drops of water fall down. And then silence. I crouch down and fumble with the rusted tap but in vain. I almost sit there for a minute, staring at it and hoping for a miracle to happen. But its hopeless. I trudge to the corner of washroom and pick up a can filled with meager water. Im disgusted. I empty the can in the bucket. A quarter of it merely fills. Being precautionary, I make myself use just two mugs of water. One for my legs. The other for the torso. Well for the lack of something better

  I had a family but no more. A wife and parents. During the war they were blown to pieces in a bomb explosion. There were just few body parts left to bury which themselves were unrecognizable. That aches! I remember how I was praying for their safety in Zohar prayer when the rumors reached me. After a little investigation, rumors didn't remain rumors. I was in army. Not a soldier but worked for the commander. Later on due to the shortage of soldiers I was made one. I was in no way ungrateful but felt gratified that I could serve my country. But the sacrifices were on their way. There are moments when despair hits me. My wife had begged me not to go with the commander but I had no choice. Either go or die with starvation. On the other hand my patriotic parents encouraged me. Whole lot of the citizens had migrated. We didn't. There were two reasons. Firstly because we couldn't afford it with what little salary I and Dad earned. Secondly, because my parents were old and weak plus the love they had for their motherland wouldn't do them off. For them it was arrogance to their country. Leaving it when it needs us. But lately, lifes proven to be more precious than sacrificing it for your country. Look at the people, the way they fled the country. But there is also love.  A mother love. A strong family bonding. By the way we could have made it. I heard about some routes on foot and bull-carts but with my fragile parents that was not an option. Were we poor that much helpless. May be we were, maybe we were. But dad said that though others are not helpless but heartless. I didn't know whether to agree with him or not. May be he was right.

  He was. As I recount my wretched story, he was right. Many of the migrants havent even returned.  

  At the small shop, I buy two eggs and a loaf of bread. Especially a rat killer.

After gorging myself, I again check the taps. No water. I go to bed. I lean forward to close the lantern just when I saw that annoying creature on the peeling walls. A dirty dark grey lizard. Its dainty black eyes pointed towards me. I slog my legs off and stand up. Aah! My knees ache. With cautious steps I pick up the mop and the shoe. I brush the lizard off the wall with the mop and just when it tries to flee my shoe has caught it. It never fails. That shoe. And Im a whiz with it. I put all my pressure on the shoe to squeeze those black eyes out, I devilishly think. When I push the shoe away the lizard is well dead. Satisfied, I go back to bed. Now Ill have a peaceful sleep. No tensions that may the lizard creep up into my clothes. Urgh. Once I was so tired, I didn't bother kill the lizard and it was also so small. That night I woke up two times. Once when I dreamed that I was thrown into the tub full of lizards. Secondly when I dreamed that the lizard is caught in my clothes and I couldn't shove it off. I remember how I spent a lengthy hour searching for the little brute. Found it in the crack of the cupboard. I go to sleep after closing the lamp.

  Today its hot than ever. The intense heat bestowed by sun has me drenched in sweat. I wish if the water supply will be healthy so that I can take shower when I get back home. Its lunch time. Im sitting in a grotesque cafe with my only friend who survived. Osama, like me has also lost his family. A wife and two toddler kids. Now we both live together. Sometimes helping each other out. Accompanying each other. Hoping for life to end now that were so tired of it.

    I live in a small village. Half of it is destroyed. Reconstructions of the village are in wake. During the war I and my squad were assigned here. Now though the war is finished but we still prefer to live here. Most of us have no courage to go back only to find there nothing but emptiness and anguish. Some did go back because they weren't sure whether their family lived or not. At this Im lucky. At least I know that they are dead. They buried my family in a large grave with other peoples body parts. Thats terrible, really. But they are safe down there. I was newly married when the war began. I cant bear going back to my place. Maybe someday Ill go, I dont know. But right now Im okay where I am. This place is not bad. It calms you when spring arrives. When lively summer approaches. What I mean lively is a little bit exaggerated. There are barely any kids in here. We are hundred in total. Lifes not too deteriorated here. Only the remorse and anguish remain. Soon I also will pass out. So why to care?

  After lunch, I and Osama go back to the tiresome work. My knees ache than ever. I can take leave. But after war, I always indulge myself in some sort of work. In this way my mind holds its place. Otherwise as Im not intentionally a soldier, haunting images of bloody body parts, lacerated dead body of a friend, and maimed corpses of people I killed. Three in total. There are so many horrors. Recounting my life which is painful, watching the deceased look in surrounding peoples eyes. Witnessing the vacant and depressing environment and still living. Actually trying hard to live. Others are lucky. They very are. Who yet havent been parts of a war. I wonder if the upcoming youth will understand how a country is got. How you win a war. Will they remember us? Value us, our hardships and struggles? Or will they forget us? Our sacrifices? Our agony? I fear if they will destroy my country. I can kill anyone now. Even those who will dare spit at the soil of my country! The soil which is cherished with the blood of my army, blood of strong and bravos. Were not worthless nor our efforts. They should respect their country and protect it. Sacrifice for it at any rate.  Bring it up to success. I hope if they will not lose their identity. Will not ignore the purpose for which this country was gained.  To live freely and according to our religion. Or will they try to get fame by recapitulating other nations ways? Forget their identity? Perish it and embrace our enemys ways?

  Will they also be heartless?

Will you be heartless or already are?

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