Gallant and Brave
I am running, and they are gaining on me. The snow covered hill slope felels like slippery glass. My anklets jangle and my ear rings get caught up in my hair. Ignoring the pain, I wrench my hair away. My breath comes in gasps as I hear their footsteps, a dull thudding sound of clompety clomp coming closer.
Now I can hear the snow break, the familiar scrunchy sound. I try to breathe noiselessly as I take a desperate leap and slid down the icy slopes, something cuts into my side through my woollen tunic and I stifle a scream.
I shake my head. I will not cry. I have to see where I am going. But it is hard.
I brush my eyes and peer into the darkness. I had to be carefull otherwise I would hit some of the fir that dotted the slopes. If my brother Omar was alive …
Omar, was like the brave heroes we read about and hear stories about. He was handsome, gallant and so protective. He would have never allowed those soldiers to do what they did.
Omar always said, “I will marry Nafisa off into the most noble of Kashmiri families, just you wait and see, Abba.” Abba smiled proudly. But Omar is dead.
They came tonight, and told Abba and Ammi that Omar was dead, shot along with other terrorists. Omar, a terrorist? Ammi had screamed, “No, all lies”. Abba had stood there, stunned.and Ammi had wept and tried to slap one of them. Two shots and they fall. Nafisa acts fast. She pushed Saif, “Run, little brother, before they kill you. Run hurry.” When he hesitates, she slaps him. Nafisa, my sister, two years older than me.
I stand there staring at Ammi and Abba, the blood comes out of them in spurts. They drag Nafisa to the shed behind the house. I hear the slaps and the screams. But even in the horror, the pain, she screams “Shayla run.”
I run at once, her scream shaking me out of my stupor. I am such a coward. But I am a girl, a timid fourteen year old girl, how can I be strong and gallant? But once this madness was over, I will return, for Nafisa, for Saif. They are family, my family.
I have reached the end of the slope. Limping across the road I jump to slide down another slope. Somewhere shots ring out. I hope it is at some other house, there are many such homes in the valley. Please God let it be someone else’s house. Please God let Nafisa be alive. I quickly stuff my mouth with snow; it will help me swallow the lump that is growing in my throat.
I hit a fir and lose consciousness.
I wake up with a headache. I sit up to see Saif sitting next to me. “Where is Nafisa?”
“She is looking for food. She told me to sit here and watch over you.”
I stir painfully. “Our Omar could never be a terrorist. He is brave, gallant. With Abbu gone, who will look after us?”
Saif looks at me with bitter eyes and looks away.”Omar was a spoilt punk. We did not deserve this.”
Ignoring him, I started praying for Ammi, Abbu and Omar. He looks away stony faced.
Nafisa comes back, pale a few hours later, her face swollen and bruised. There is a bite mark near her chest. She is carrying something bundled up in her shawl. I stare at her face, bruised with dark circles under her eyes. She opens the shawl, and shows us apples, dried figs and dates.
“We have to eat, be strong. We have a long way to walk.”
I start crying.
I had always thought that only men could be gallant, heroic.