The light grew dimmer and it flickered ever so silently in the whispering air.
I had come back from school and as I sat down to check my email, I read a few words of the headline that flashed intermittently, “Taliban…kill…bomb…school…children…Peshawar…dead.” Half an hour ago, I was inside the hallowed walls of my own school- a safe haven. I had laughed thirty five times and I could’ve laughed again had I not read the entire article. They were probably laughing when they entered the school gates and all that was left of them were memories, faint images of their smiles blazing in the air. I wondered how their parents must’ve felt without having a chance to say goodbye. Their children would not come home anymore.
It was December 16 when a school in Peshawar was attacked by Taliban and on the same day in 2012, a girl had been gang-raped in a moving bus in the city of New Delhi. On that day, India had been introduced to the extent of brutality and prejudice that persisted in its patriarchal society. She was named Nirbhaya meaning fearless. As she left the world for a better place, she lit a flame that would soon make the world that better place. India and Pakistan, two countries separated by boundaries and conflicts, were united in mourning.
The next morning, as we walked in school, all our faces were white with horror. No one spoke that day. No one wished to have another day like the 16th of December. While we joined our hands for morning prayer, I could sense that everyone was feeling their pulse and breath like never before. Everyone spoke in a broken, uneasy voice with eyes, almost on the verge of crying a flood of tears.
Statistics don’t prove things, emotions do. While numbers kept nagging me and the pictures kept me from going to sleep, I felt what it was like to sympathise. And everyone did. We kept nationalities, conflicts, differences, cultures and religion aside. We felt an urge to take a step together. It was a few days before Christmas and the celebrations were called off in my school. All of us spent a day remembering that those children were the keepers of our future and so are women like Nirbhaya.
It takes a lot of effort to hate someone. Our choices are not dictated to us unless we want them to. We can all take a stand and do our bit for those who are oppressed and neglected in our societies. Such black and gloomy days just go on to tell that there is sympathy within us and that we can use it to strengthen the world and rebel to make it a better place. Sometimes you need to drop the you and I to make space for we. Differences are a social construct. Humanity isn’t.
– Written by Devanshi Khetarpal (redefy school representatives team member)