After I Lost My Wife To Terrorism, The Days Were Long, And The Years Short
“The days are long, but the years are short,” said Gretchen Rubin, in her book, ‘The Happiness Project’.
The days following 10/05/2009 were absolutely the longest that I had ever seen. The first proverbial forty days were a struggle; just getting out of bed and facing the world was an ordeal.
The situation became more demanding as I had to look for a new place to rent. The cultural and societal barriers to renting a place for a single male impeded this activity, till I found a place that on papers was a stable of a supposed cattle farm, turned into living quarters while the authorities looked the other way.
The fact that I had just lost my wife in a suicide bombing inside the UN Agency Office where she worked just days before was of no consequence and was not a consideration to landlords when it came to renting out their place to a single male.
Then came 10/05/2010 and as I looked back, the year seemed strangely short, much shorter than each of the 365 days that went by before.
That was the year during which I went to Amman, Jordan, and co-founded the Global Survivors Network. I also returned to make the Pakistan Terrorism Survivors Network and worked with UK Channel 4’s TV network team to make a documentary on terrorism and its effects in Islamabad called ‘City of Fear’.
It was also the year when I realized that even those who were affected by the bombing – be it the office where I lost my wife, or the university where twin bombings occurred, or the two traders’ unions of an upscale market in Lahore where twin suicide attacks took place – were at loggerheads to get credit as the main support of survivors. Everyone wanted it to be business as usual and not let these things affect routine. The only real show of support could be witnessed following the Parade Lane mosque bombing in Rawalpindi, but that was a case of an institution taking care of its own! This showed me what I had to do in my ‘one-man crusade’ to keep the memory of my wife alive.
It was a year of almost daily pain, revival, and facing the pressure of living in a society with people for whom survivor’s guilt was an alien concept, and suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder got you labeled as mad, crazy or psycho.
It was a year of realising that no one really cared, and even figures of casualties were neither accurate nor official, ranging from sixty thousand to over a hundred thousand. These were merely statistics and not a count of human lives lost. The year went by talking of the human cost of terrorism.
As ten years roll round and another October 5th is here, I wonder where we have gone wrong. I ponder over how we have let down not only our survivors, but also the memories of our loved ones lost to terrorism in accepting terrorism as fate and not as terrorism; an absolutely abhorrent act both by religious and cultural points of view.
However, certain debates have pushed the survivors of terrorism and violence into deeper apathy and despair; whether terrorism is something to be condemned beyond the proverbial words of concern; the thought that giving monetary handouts to the kith of the deceased and injured suffices; the debate of who among the victims or terrorists are Shaheed (martyrs); the debate of referring to the dead as Shaheed or killed; terrorist versus miscreant; freedom fighter versus mercenary; religious versus sectarian violence and so on. Survivors seemingly look for succor from the same quarters that are themselves lost in figuring out which side of the divide they stand on.
And life goes on. While it is fashionable to remember 9/11, 7/7 and even occasionally recall Bombay, our own survivors and their sorrow, life and survival is left to devices that do not work. This does have exceptions, when one finds support and a person who is ready to stand by you through the pain; someone who accepts that the pain is real and not just a way to gain sympathy.
Over the years, a simmering distrust has developed due to the anguish, agony and lifelong pain inflicted on survivors. Those who have lost their loved ones question the very beliefs that were held sacred by them and have had their confidence in leaders shattered. The government’s makes tall promises but has been short on delivery, which has led people to pastures where nothing grows- least of all, hope.
The writer is a freelance contributor and survivor of terrorism.