Areeba Ahmer

I am a 19 year old student studying medicine in Pakistan. I have always been interested in creative writing and so I started content writing for a few friends. I would mostly write university academic papers on a variety of topics including history, anthropology, philosophy, psychology and narrative essays. I also did brand descriptions for a few websites and have a personal blog where I document a lot of events in my life. Currently looking for content writing jobs to earn as a student and also gain some experience.

Feb 14, 2021 - 0 Minutes read

The weight of epiphany

A realization that pushes you down...

To someone watching from the hill on the east side of the stadium, the commotion would only be characterized by a thick fog of smoke erupting from the bonfire on the street outside the place. They might also be able to hear the faint cries of a few people drowned by the chants of a larger group, but nothing more. They would feel the air of anger and rebellion but the image of a boy standing alongside a man with a long beard, faint traces of tears on his face, a whimper on his lips would be unseen to them. They would never see the boy free his hand from his father’s grip and walk inside, his head down low.

It was the summer of 2000 and the weather in Kabul was pleasant. The hill which could be viewed directly from the stadium balcony bore a few pomegranate trees and morning was usually characterized by men bustling about in the streets. You couldn’t see any women out on the streets anymore after the Taliban banned them from coming out of their houses without male company. One of these men particularly stood out from the rest in a way that made it known that he was not a commoner. He had a long, dark beard, a white turban on his head which matched the rest of his outfit. However the thing which made him stand out the most was a huge AK-47 gun slung across his shoulder, intimidating anyone who walked too close to him. His companion was dressed similarly, chest puffed out. The two men made their way in the large house at the end of the street and into the dining room. There were about ten people on the long table in the middle of the room and after muttering an Islamic greeting to the man at the head of the table, the two men sat down adjacent to him.

“Is it done?” asked the Head.

“Burnt the bodies outside the city.” The man replied in a low voice; his lip shook but he stiffened it.

“Now it’s your turn baba. Tell me why we, the Taliban are doing this. What is the ‘greater good’ which allows us to murder these people and remove traces of their bodies, taking the right of burial away from their families?” the man continued.

“Hasan we must spread the word of Islam and reclaim the society which we lost as a result of western modernization. These lives must be lost! Do you not want to see our goal achieved? These people are obstacles in our way and we must get rid of them.”

“So all these people are bad?” Hasan asked slowly.

His father nodded in affirmation, easing the tension in Hasan’s shoulders. Hasan was reminded of the night the Taliban under the leadership of his father had taken over Kabul four years ago. How there had been a bonfire where newspapers were being burnt, men being beaten in the streets and he remembered thinking this was bad. He remembered wishing he could tell his baba to stop hurting the people until one day he was the one hurting them. But they were bad people right? They deserved to be brought to justice, this was important wasn’t it? Hasan wasn’t certain but he had never seen life outside this. All his friends and family endorsed it. It must be right then, he thought.

He walked out of the house having unloaded off some of his uneasiness but his stomach still hurt, like the sharp poking of a knife, the very same he had used to slit a man’s throat a mere three hours ago. As he walked to the end of the street, he heard crying from a house at the corner. It was a child. It was crying for its mother. As Hasan neared the building, he saw that it was an orphanage. The windows were broken and the walls looked like they had suffered an explosion. Must have been the bombing, he thought with a pang. A woman appeared in the doorway of the building and as soon as she saw him she immediately covered her face with her shawl in terror.

“I’m sorry sir, I’m still getting used to of the niqab.” She said hurriedly. If it had been someone else they would have beaten her on the street but it was only Hasan.

“ Why are the children crying?”

“I’m sorry sir they are new. Their parents died yesterday. They are very restless today.”

Hasan felt as if she could see right through him, felt the shame of doing something he still believed to be for the better. The children’s screams pierced through him and suddenly he found himself walking away from the building, each step getting heavier and harder.

The next day, sitting at the long table, Hasan felt confident. The uneasiness from yesterday was forgotten and he was excited for the new task his father had for him today. Islam asks us to fight for our religion isn’t it? This is a part of that and it’s not easy but I will carry on, he decided.

“Hasan I have always trusted you to carry our missions perfectly and I expect no less this time since this is particularly very important.” His father said sternly.

“Of course baba.” He replied

“I need you to take care of Ismail Hashmi. We have had reports of him communicating with Americans to overthrow the Taliban regime. However this time you will not only take care of the man but his family as well. He is a man of power and his children may one day seek us out for revenge so make sure you do the task up to mark.”

“His family?”, Hasan asked quietly, although he already somehow knew the answer.

“His wife and 3 children. The youngest is ten years.”

Hasan felt sick as if the wall of glass illusions he had built up after yesterday had just come down, shattering everything in its path, making his hands bloody. He was a murderer, he realized and he hadn’t cared. He had went on to take countless lives and made children homeless and took away their parents and for what? For some messed up ideology which requires you to exert your will on the innocent? Or because he was too weak to question all that he had ever seen around him since his childhood. He could hear the loud wailing of the child from the orphanage and wondered if Ismail’s children would cry when they see the shadow of death creep up on their round, innocent faces. He realized that even if he backed out now, someone else would tear apart that family anyways, their home blown apart like one of those bombs he had helped set up in the city. Hasan walked out of the house, his father calling out angrily after him, and he felt as if the sky was crushing him. His lungs and feet felt heavy as they had the day before, the weight of his epiphany sucking out the air from his lungs.