It was an evening my family and I did not expect to spend at the hospital. It was a night we learned that our safety is entirely expendable before private profits.
On 28th April, we arrived at Bahria Enclave Islamabad, for a show called Eidi Sab ke Liye by ARY Zindagi. Accompanying me, were my father and several of my younger cousins. My mother was seated farther up front at the second-lowest step of the seating stalls - thankfully so, and I'll soon explain why.
It promised to be an idyllic family event, and the worst that we expected was boredom.
The rusted metal framework beneath the seats appeared unstable to even the most casual observer. It rocked and rumbled as guests went up and down the aisles. I specifically recall pointing this out to the management staff, but one of its members assured me - with all the haughtiness and ignorance of Titanic's own captain - that the structure was rock solid and unbreakable.
I was reluctant to believe the staff, but I figured that a disaster of a scale I was anticipating was indeed improbable. I am no engineer, I told myself.
The "improbable" happened. The stalls beneath us collapsed like a house of cards, through a height roughly the equivalent of two and a half floors. In the first 10 seconds following the incident, we were too dazed to notice anything but the sudden change of scenery in our immediate vicinity; from a stepped structure with seats bolted into it, to flat wreckage on the ground.
It took us a moment to acknowledge our injuries: our bleeding feet, our bruised skin, our misshapen limbs. Our first instinct was to cry out for help to those around us. That was until we realised that everyone around us was struggling through the same wreckage that we were.
It was bad enough that the management entirely neglected its duty to ensure safe environment for the guests. It was infuriating to note a haunting lack of assistance towards the injured, in what was appearing more like a crime scene with each passing minute.
Most of the management staff escaped the site the moment the stalls collapsed. They even turned off the lights; making it even harder for the wounded guests to assist each other. They even took the gifts they were supposed to distribute to the audience.
Some of the members who stayed, seemed more interested in keeping the visitors from taking pictures or making videos of the mayhem. Only a few bothered to help. An old security guard brought me water to soothe my parched throat, as I'd been screaming for someone to help my unconscious cousin.
I ignored the bleeding gash on my own foot, as my younger cousins were clearly in greater distress. I tried helping those around me who I could, and begged forgiveness from dozens more who were beyond my capacity to assist. My father and I helped our family back to the car, and we drove away to PIMS hospital.
The mayhem followed us to the hospital. The ER was teeming with injured people and their attendants, and the medical staff was trying desperately to clear space for more patients. I noticed that many victims had sustained injuries that made our wounded bodies seem insignificant. Some has endured serious spinal cord injuries, and from the conversations we overheard between them and the doctors, they were at risk of life-long paralysis.
My 10-year old cousin sustained multiple fractures, and other younger members of the family wept inconsolably among many others in the ER. I hastily received four stitches on my gaping foot wound, while I attempted to cheer up my cousins.
In the past couple of days since the event, we have been dismayed to learn how inadequately this incident has been covered in the media. Considering the this event was itself organised by a certain media group, we expected them to be the first to report this "Breaking News" on their channel. Instead we have experienced what can be most leniently described as 'journalistic negligence', if not a scandalous 'cover up'.
No, it was not an evening we expected to spend at the hospital. And it is not a night we, the victims, are willing to ignore as an accident that 'just' happened by nobody's fault.
The unbearable incident was the result of several organisers dropping the ball in several different ways; at times, even deliberately so.
We are not test dummies being thrown around the field by private corporations in their capitalist experimentations. We are citizens of Pakistan whose safety they've neglected. We're the humans they left behind in the wreckage.
Can we stop pretending that this never happened?