Thursday, July 16, 2009

Displaced People

It's been almost a week since we moved, and our house still looks like a transit area. Things are lying in disorderly heaps, in every available corner. And from the looks of it, it will be still some time before our new apartment takes the semblance of a home. I am sure everyone must be sick of the number of times I have repeated how much I miss the old place. Well, at least one thing can be said with certainty about the old place, it had a certain character, which the new home lacks. Though, I cannot articulate exactly what it is. Despite all the advantages, this place looks somewhat 'shoddy' and inferior.

I can talk in this stain forever and ever and ever. But something I saw on TV last evening, shook me out of my willful complacency. Now as a general rule I do all in my power to avoid all types of news, especially news about dear and beloved homeland. Because sadly in our case, 'no news is good news' has an entirely different significance, since nothing that we seem to hear of our country is any good. Be it the politicians, the political, economical, or social 'atmosphere'. Anyhow, avoiding the news is not because like an ostrich I bury my head in the sand, and want to pretend nothing is wrong. On the contrary, one knows all too well how rotten everything is, and cannot bear the stench emanating from the perished hopes of our nation.

The truth is, I hate news and news channels and they irritate me no end. Still I briefly happened to watch the headline news on a Pakistani channel, and the snippet of a news about refugees from the Swat valley and adjacent areas really touched me. Living comfortably as we are, we seldom have time to think about the miseries of fellow human beings. Yes, we do occasionally express here and there how bad things are, and how the Taliban should be exterminated, and these people should have their homes back. But thinking is one thing, 'feeling' is another. How many of us can honestly claim to feel their pain and loss? Hasn't constantly seeing the images of death, misery, human callousness made us somewhat immune and numb to other's pain?

But this isn't exactly what I was thinking about while I listened to the news anchor who said that some of the refugees are going back to their homes. In a momentary flash, I realized how shallow(in comparison) must I be to constantly complain of the loss of a home, which wasn't even ours to begin with. We rented it, and knew that at one point or another will have to vacate it. We still have a roof on our head, and had/have multiple options in term of which place we should move to. When we left, we had all our personal belongings with us. We could choose on which day the moving should be done. We carefully packed each item, tenderly wrapped the fragile items. We took hours debating where each article should be. Because we have the leisure to do so. But did these people have any choice when they left their homes? They must have been living in those areas for several generations. Did they even want to leave those homes in the first place? When they go back there, will those places be the same? Much more importantly, are they the same people who left?

So many similar questions come to the mind, and even if we have all the answers, can that lessen their pain? Can their lives be 'restored' (even if their houses or the city can be)? Can we erase the trauma from the minds of young kids who underwent this horrible experience? And what about the old folks. Imagine spending your entire life in one place, and then suddenly one day your personal space is invaded by unwanted intruders. We cannot truly imagine how chaotic and unsettling must this be for the people. They aren't alone in this of course, I am sure people in other war ravaged areas can identify with them, and understand their pain...can truly know what the loss of a homeland means. While we can probably just sit and philosophize or pass opinions. Convenient eh?

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