It’s been almost twelve years. Yet the memory of that fateful day is as fresh in my mind as it happened. It was Friday 28th December 2001, a very normal sunny day that usually makes one feel light and cheerful. We had breakfast as normal. I was constantly nagging my hubby to put less butter on his toast. In September he had suffered from shortening of breath and had been advised by the doctor to avoid oily foods and tough games like tennis and squash. But to remind him this was like calling for a quarrel. He hated any advice that stopped him from playing his favourite games and eating butter and cheese at breakfast.
Till death do us part… 9/11 had resulted in some devastating outcomes that involved Pakistan directly. On the Indian borders both the forces of India and Pakistan were standing alert and we could see F 16s zooming away at different times of the day. On that particular Friday, our family car had some mechanical problem and it was deposited with the mechanic early in the morning. We had planned to go for some shopping later in the evening for my son Ashar, who had cleared his CA examination and was selected by his firm for a secondment to Saudi Arabia. Around 11’O clock, while I was washing some clothes, I told my husband to go collect the car from the mechanic as the workshop was expected to close for Friday prayers. He was already dressed to go out. Standing by the door of the washroom where I was washing we talked about some usual household affairs. While our little tete-a-tete was on we heard the roar of an F 16 flying over our heads. ‘Looks like war may start any time.’ I said. ‘No, all this is a hoax, none of the two countries can afford a war.’ He remarked. Just as I turned my head towards my washing I heard a gulping sound and in the next second I heard my husband fall flat on the ground alongside the bed. I looked at him and exclaimed, ‘What? How have you fallen?’ I left my washing and rushed to him. ‘Get up.’ I tried to pull him up, but he was too heavy for me. ‘What happened? Are you ok? Get up!’ but there was no response, his hands tucked in his belt in his usual gesture of pulling up his pants, were jammed. He could not pull them out; he was lying flat, face down on the ground. ‘Listen, I can’t pull you up, you’ve got to make an effort yourself.’ I was getting panicky. The first thought that came into my head was paralysis. Was he having an attack of paralysis? I looked around for help. There was nobody in the house. The house suddenly felt too quiet. There was a slight tremor in his body for a few seconds and then he was still. Panic was striking me hard, one glance at my husband and the stillness of his body; a chilled wave ran through my spine and I screamed with fear. The shrill of my own scream scared me, I ran out screaming. My neighbour an ex-colleague came out of her apartment and gently brought me in. One look at my husband’s still body and she understood what had happened.
What happened then is a nightmare that has haunted me almost every night for the past twelve years. That kind neighbour offered me her car and driver to get my daughter from her college, as that was the only place I could go and locate one of my children. When someone asked me what were the phone numbers and where my children worked I gave a blank look. My brain had stopped working, I could not remember anything. From then onwards when my children came? How my apartment filled with people and relatives? When the Edhi Ambulance took away my husband’s body? is a blur in my memory. When my daughter placed the Quran in my hands and said, ‘Amma, read this.’ I took the holy Book in my hands but I was so confused, thinking what to read in the present situation. I just sat quiet, numb with what I had witnessed, trying to comprehend the situation. Had he really died? Maybe the doctor will save him. But the bitter truth was turning into reality as more and more people were coming and offering words of condolences to me. My life had turned topsy- turvy. Today was not the same as yesterday and tomorrow would be totally different from all the previous days. My husband had suffered from a massive cardiac arrest and had died in a matter of few minutes. A lot of people ask me if my husband ever complained of pain in his chest or shoulders. No, even if he had any pain, he never complained. He was a sturdy man, a thorough fauji always kept his ailments to himself. What could be the reason of his sudden death? Yes, there were not one but many reasons. Like drops of water falling constantly on a stone can make a hole in it. Life was not very easy for him. He was a man of his words, humble and truthful. A number of people including some closest family members took undue advantage of his simplicity and piety. Some deceived him, some behaved rudely. He was heart-broken, but he was not vindictive, and kept the pain to himself. Together we stood steadfast against each other’s family squabbles. His decision to take early retirement from the Army in 1990 also did not prove advantageous. His simple and straightforward ways made him a misfit in the civil sector. This affected him badly. In his final days, he was painstakingly remembering and talking about his elder brother, a Naval Officer martyred in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 and his younger sister killed by the MuktiBahini in the riots in East Pakistan in 1970. They say when one’s end is nearing; one remembers his past too often and talks about people who are long dead. The signs were clear only we did not understand.