INDEPENDENCE DAY – ( Muhammad Haris )
The headline of a newspaper
The eve of 13th August 2007, they were all looking anxiously at the door, especially Anna. It was her fifteenth birthday and she was waiting for her father to come home. It had been almost five years since she saw her father. Her father was an army soldier and a passionate patriot, due to critical circumstances he had to stay at the border. There was no war started but a danger was imminent. Her father David, was devoted to his country and to his promise to keep it safe until his last breath.
“He won’t come I know”, Anna said furiously “I hate him, he said he would come but he didn’t, I hate him”, she ran to her room upstairs with tears of pain in her eyes. She was angry and heartbroken, it was there in her eyes, the pain of waiting for a loved one, the pain of a broken promise.
“Anna, honey come downstairs, see the rest of the family is here for you. Please love come downstairs” said fauzia her mother. “What should I do for her, Ammi jan”
“Don’t worry Fauzia, let me talk to her” said Ammi jan. Ammi jan went upstairs and knocked, “Open the door Beta, it’s me your Ammi jan, let me see my dear Anna”
Anna couldn’t resist, she was like a best friend to Anna. Anna opened the door, sobbing. “I am here my child, stop crying it’s okay, look I brought a gift for you” said Ammi jan. Anna opened the gift. It was a small wooden elephant with a line engraved on it. “To Ruth, the piece of my heart”.
“It is beautiful Ammi jan Thank you so much but What is this Ammi jan, isn’t it your name? ” asked Anna.
“It was given to me by your great grandfather when I was fifteen, I have kept it close to my heart since then, but it is the time I give to my piece of heart.” Ammi jan hugged Anna.
“I will keep it close to my heart Ammi jan, I love you. I am blessed to have you in my life”
“Do you want to hear a special story, Anna, my love. A story of how I came to this country?” smiled Ammi jan.
A wave of happiness came across her face “Sure Ammi jan,why not, just like old times” said Anna.
It is a story about the time when the struggle to get a separate land was all in the air. Not a single day passed without the printing of hot topics and negotiations between Jinnah, Gandhi and the British Government. Your great grand father, my Abba George Peter was a laborer in the printing press, and we were a small family of four members only, Abba, me, my little sister Sarah and our two year old brother John. Our mother died when John was born. We used to live in Delhi, in the staff quarters of the printing press. The smell of the ink and warm scent of the paper used to be around the air all the time. Abba used to read us the current topics and all the political matters out there in the continent.
Abba was a real fan of Jinnah, “This man is a true human and a true leader.Listen kids, always remember that a life lived for a cause is not just a life, it’s a story, a story of morality and integrity” there was a spark in his eyes when he used to say this to us.
I often used to go with him to the printing machines to fill out the ink and pull down the lever to start the printing. It was my favourite part of the day.
Once when we were printing the newspaper he looked at me and said “Do you know what my dream is Ruth?”
“Meeting Jinnah Abba, everyone knows that”, I laughed softly.
“The dream of my life is to print the news of the creation of Pakistan. I want to pull the lever down, with my own hands, fill these ink pots, press this paper, touch its warm texture and smell the fresh scent of ink. I want to see Pakistan Ruth, I want us to be called Pakistanis”, tears rolled over his cheeks.
“Abba isn’t Pakistan for Muslims only? Why would we leave our home for it? Is anything for us out there? Aren’t we the same here and there too, the minorities?” I asked because I didn’t know Abba will risk everything for Pakistan. I asked because of the risk at what our family was going to take.
Abba took me in his arms, lift up my face and said,
“Who said this is about religion only my love? It’s not a struggle for religion only, it’s a struggle about what’s right Ruth. It’s a struggle for the justice, for people like us, people who can’t breathe in this slavery, people who deserve to be treated as people. Who said it’s a struggle only about religion? It’s a battle between slavery and freedom. And if I have to die, I would die for it because I believe in Pakistan. I believe in Jinnah. The difference is that we still are slaves here, but in Pakistan we will be free, because as Jinnah said,
“You are free; you are free to go to any other places of worship in the State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or cast or creed that has Nothing to do with the business of the state” he is the man of his words. You understood my love it’s not just about a piece of land, it’s about the righteousness, a concept of humanity “
“I understand it now Abba and I am with you in this “, I hugged Abba with tears in my eyes. Everything was clear now, I felt a warmth inside my stomach. A warmth which told me this is my destination, to be a Pakistani, to die as a Pakistani.
He went for his pocket and gave me this small elephant, that he got for me in Lahore when he went to hear his leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah in manto park Lahore. I hugged him again.
“Keep it close to your heart, my piece of heart, my Ruth” he whispered in my ears.
One day Abba came home and gathered all of us around, I had never seen him that happy. I asked “What happened Abba?”
” God has answered all of our prayers. Jinnah won Pakistan. I have talked to Mahmood Sahib and he has offered me a job in their printing press. Start packing up your bags we are going on the next train to Lahore” he said with a great passion in his eyes.
13th August 1947,we were waiting for our train. I was wearing my favourite white shalwar qameez with a green dupatta, Sarah was dressed the same as me. I was carrying John in my arms. Abba for the first time wore his white sherwani, he oiled his hair, used almost the complete bottle of scent. His eyes were filled with passion, I can still remember the spark in his eyes, the spark that comes in the eyes of a man in a desert who finally finds water to quench his thirst.
He was looking again and again at the railway track, waiting for the train. He didn’t care about the fact that the Lahore printing press has not decided to give the labor their wages, he didn’t care about the roof on his head, for him the right won, freedom won, humanity won and it was his belief that made us all to see the world from his eyes. Finally the train came, and like us thousands of passengers hopped on the train, kids, women, men, old people with the hope in their eyes and spark of happiness that they were finally free, that they are no more slaves now.
The train was full, we managed to get to our berths, Abba started telling us about the Lahore printing press. “We will reach Lahore at 4:30am in the morning my dear kids and it will take us only 10 minutes to walk towards The Lahore printing press, and when the clock will hit 5 am, the motor will start running, at 5.30 am the ink jets will lift up, at 5.50am the rollers will be charged and heated up and right at 6am your Abba will pull the lever button down and the rollers will start printing the news paper, the first ever newspaper of Pakistan, “he took a long breath,” At last we did it, we broke the chains of Slavery, Welcome to the land of freedom my hearts, welcome to Pakistan”
Suddenly the train felt a strong jerk, someone pulled the emergency break, the sound of screams started to fill up the air, we were attacked by the extreme heads of the other side, there was blood everywhere, a man rushed towards me with bloodshot eyes, Abba came in the way and the next moment his chest was stabbed multiple times, I picked John and started running blindly. When I looked back Sarah was drowned in the pool of her own blood. I ran as far as I could but a man snatched John from my hands and killed him, I tried to fight back with fear and grief in my eyes, I tried so hard untill a woman pushed the man and stabbed him in the neck. There was blood everywhere, dead bodies that were living humans with dreams in their eyes, I closed my eyes with fear, I felt the train moving, eventually it got quiet like the catastrophe had passed, a silence filled with fear and terror. I opened my eyes, I started looking for John and Sarah but there were long gone, the pieces of my heart, drowned in the pool of their own blood. I heard a muffled sound, “Ruth, the piece of my heart” it was Abba.
I ran towards him and took him in my arms, “Lever….. Pakistan….. Azadi… “, Abba died.
I ran out of the train, the white dress was not white anymore, it was filled with blood, for the first time my feet became heavy like mountains. When your heart is filled with grieve it is difficult for your feet to move, I lost everything but the words of Abba were echoing in my head. I reached the Lahore printing press. Mehmood Sahib knew me, he burst into tears when he saw, I requested him to let me fulfil Abba’s last dream and he without a second doubt took me to the printing room, it was 5:55 in the morning, the newspaper was in the process. The newspaper of 14th August wasn’t just a newspaper it was a screaming voice, a voice that shook the skies, the voice that was the witness of the number of people who gave their lives for Pakistan. The rollers started moving, the flash back of Abba came into my mind, I couldn’t breathe for a moment. It was 5:59 and the words were ready to be printed on the paper, the words that will write history of the struggles we did for this country, the lives that we sacrificed for this country. Pakistan, it wasn’t a name of a piece of land, but a name of a story, a story of truth, a story of love, a story of freedom.
Pakistan, my Pakistan, our Pakistan, Abba’s Pakistan . Beyond all the concepts of Color, geography and discrimination, a land of freedom. A land of humanity, a land of righteousness.
The clock hit 6:00 am and I pulled the lever down, with all the energy left in me. It was it, the first every headline of Pakistan ,the headline of a newspaper,
“Pakistan Mubarak to all of you”
Muhammad Haris – Winner Short Story ‘The Light‘
( DVM from UVAS LAHORE)
I believe that everyone has a story to tell, as we all are going through the book called life with various chapters in it, we just have to find the right words to say it all. Books not guns, culture not violence ️