It was Friday. I thought of visiting an old family friend. This was after more than three years that I would see them. The gap was so wide that I didn't know that they had shifted to another place down the town. Before evening, I informed them about my arrival by making a two-minute courtesy call. They were happy. After all, it would remind us of our old golden school days and friends.
I moved around twilight. The road was deserted except some kids playing 'highway cricket' and un-numbered cops most of them without their headgears and shirt buttons open. Some wiping sweat, others listening to mobile music. While some leaning against a wall, others lying down on the stairs of some shop. No noise. No voice. I moved on.
After ten minutes smelling around the streets something reminded me of an afternoon demo when people took to the streets and marched peacefully from local Jamia Masjid to other adjoining areas. I geared my footsteps. Finally, reached my friend's house. After asking about health and family I had a glass of juice, which I still wonder, where did they get that from? Because I had been trying hard to get some stuff for our hibernating fridge but nowhere I could find any thing! Possible! They had a mango tree around! Nevertheless, we started talking about other school friends who were in the town and those who weren't. We went on and on.
It was time for Maghrib prayers. Since the family lives just opposite to a Masjid, I went for prayers but promised them to come back afterwards. I had not seen their father yet. When I opened the gate for outside, I met their father, coincidently. I told him we were meeting again after the prayers. When I came back, they had scattered but joined soon to show me their new but old house! Then they offered me tea. While waiting for the tea to cool down, their father started his favorite hubble-bubble. Soon we got involved in a discussion about the present situations across the globe. He asked me many questions from present day politics to pelting stones and Pakistan to Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe and America. I responded to all his questions as if I were an expert sitting in a television studio. We discussed the role of press and people in these times and more. They insisted me on having tea first as it was no more 'breathing' out!
We were yet to finish when we heard a bang! It was a tear gas. I left for my home thinking of a clear road. They wanted me to stay back but I wanted to reach home. I rushed. Here I was, walking in dark, ready for being questioned either by pelters or by police. I prepared, in my mind, all the possible questions and answers. I was near the main road when I saw some people shouting slogans and collecting stones. Now I was worried. I thought of getting caught in the 'cross-pelt'. It was very scary! People now started aiming stones at the cops, on the other side of the highway. With all my courage I passed by the angry mob. Both my hands rolled in my pockets – I crossed the hotspot. "Ouch! My hand. What was it?" I was hit – hit by a stone. I stopped. Without uttering a word I looked into the mob as if asking who was it? "Move it man. Get going." Yelled a lone boy hiding himself behind a lane of shut vegetable shops. It was a four-way. On one side, the highway side, it was the cops. The other two, it was the mob. The only way to escape was a deserted street. I chose that one. Whole my arm received the pain and soon reached my spines. It became as heavy as a ton. Without looking back, now I stepped faster. Reached the far end of the street. There was none in the street. I had a call from my mom. She was worried. She had heard about some clashes of which I was unaware. I told her that I was safe and was about to reach home. But… "Hey you. Stop you, *****." Oops! I had to hang up the call. "Oh no! Not again!" A lone boy was being chased by two, three or more cops. I could hear him breathing fast and hard but running. He was safe. I was going towards them without knowing that I could be caught without any reason. They aimed at me. "No. No. Sir, it wasn't me." The cop had covered his face with some white cloth, probably a handkerchief. He was about to hit me with his 'laatthi' but with my hands up I repeated again, "it wasn't me, sir."
He did not hit me. I don't know what stopped him! But something hit my mind. Guess what? I was confused from the last so many weeks what to write and how to write. I just got an idea of writing something. This incident helped me think about those who were hit during similar clashes across the valley and realize the pain when "you" get hit. It is this pain that made me write this one. Smaller indeed! What about those who are not just hit or seriously injured but get killed? For what do they get killed and why? I don't know. One could only imagine how much space would it require to fill and write the pain of those who get injured or those who get killed and those who lose them? Although, I was not seriously hurt, but it certainly damaged some of my tissues!
Who aimed that stone at me? Which side did that stone come from? Do you know? I do not know. Was that a "stray stone" as they say a "stray bullet?" Or, a targeted one? I still wonder!
The author is a journalist and a blogger.