We do not have a television. So Allah ki shukhar we have been spared being traumatised by the looping repetition of wailing relatives, the attribution of blame, and most ghastly of all, the appropriation of pain for national gain. Social media has calmly informed us of where we could donate blood, and which hospital had sufficient blood. I am grateful for these small mercies as this bloody Easter, 2016, draws to a close.
We were at a different park earlier this evening ‒ Lawrence Gardens ‒ where a group of five women and one daughter played cricket. We said it was to celebrate the Pakistani women’s team, but really we were there just to run and laugh and stretch our limbs. Another group of our women friends had ridden bicycles together through the streets of Gulberg in the morning. Small changes and shifts, we thought.
Hundreds of families were at the park as usual on a Sunday, and perhaps more, as it was Easter. I was acutely conscious all day that at the older end of the city, thousands of pilgrims have gathered for the second day of the Madhu Lal Hussain Urs, celebrated for over 400 years in the city. The mood there is not light, but fervent, passionate, and so very redolent of commemoration and celebration. Altogether, the city felt alive. The only twinge of regret on this Easter Sunday was that back in February 2015 coordinated blasts in Christian churches had led to our family’s unspoken decision to not attend church while in Pakistan.
We returned home and were on the terrace with friends when our daughter rushed over to tell us there had been a bomb blast in the city. A friend then said that he had already heard this, though he had not mentioned it previously. I thought this strange, even while we descended into an uneven silence. Another friend offered, “I don’t even feel it. That’s how desensitised we are.” A third tried to restore our previous tone and topic, desperate that we not linger on a tragic note.
I allowed the sadness to settle. I feel a tremendous relief that the Shah Hussain mela was not targeted. That would have ripped a hole in the city and, if you like, Punjabi secularism which could not ever, ever be repaired. That would have ripped holes in thousands of people who poured into the city to connect their lives with the music and the saints. I feel very strange I am picking and choosing.
After our friends left, I settled down to social media. Messages from around the world inquiring about our safety. Tomorrow we will steel ourselves for the new security measures which will be thrown haphazardly, encircling and stalling the streets, catching harmless motorists and those who look like they don’t belong.