One day I will tell all the stories. One day I will give faces to all the numbers

I will recount the misfortune of the onlooker who had come to witness a feast of solidarity and became one with the lawyers of Quetta, in death. Or of the little boy on the swing in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. Or the wanderer in Peshawar's Meena Bazaar, who lost his life to chance. I will tell you the ends of the stories of each of them - they will all be the same, but that should not stop us from narrating each and every one of them.

One day I will leave my tiny little island of isolation. And let the ocean which caresses my shores through tiny but powerful waves inundate my little island, washing away every bit of aloofness. The ocean of pain, of suffering; which is created by the tears of the loved ones and the families of those fallen in the wave of mindless massacres. One day, I will give faces to the numbers, stories to the statistics. One day I will rebel against the inhuman telling of human lives; and will give names to the nameless. One day I will go beyond the headlines and bring the tiny, little, boring but intricate, joyous, whimsical details of the lives of the humans we have lost.

One day, I will tell the story of each of the 132 kids we lost in APS. I will tell you what they aspired to become. I will share with you the burden of the homework which weighed their tiny little shoulders down. I will tell you about the innocent little plans they made for after-school mischiefs; their naughty little quips. I will tell you the stories behind their hushed laughter in the classroom. I will tell you the jokes they concocted after their teachers, and I will also tell you about the dreams in their eyes. Some made dreams of becoming scientists, some doctors, some artists. Do you know some of them were adolescents, on the verge of discovering love, and conjuring the details of their infatuation? But I will also tell you how they were just striving in vanity, for their dreams were taken away by mad bullets. I will tell you how many universes we lost in each one of them.

If I was able to move on, I would tell you the stories of every child playing in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park. I will deafen you with the shrill sound of their laughter. I will tell you how one of the children felt heartbroken – just like you are heartbroken at the loss of a million dollars – when another kid wouldn’t allow him to take a ride on the swing. I will share with you the joy in their eyes when their mothers got them ice cream from the Qulfi wala. How immersed they were in their tiny little worlds. How they had lost track of all time and wanted the sun never to set. But darkness was lurking in the corner. Darkness came and the white of the qulfi became red. The bewitching shouts of happiness were turned into harrowing screams of agony.

The Meena Bazaar in Peshawar: where some had gone to shop for Eid, others to fetch groceries. Each lost in travails of their lives. Each wondering what to have for dinner with their families. Each having a loved one, a hater, a lover, a boss, a mother, a father. I will tell you how the lawyer, after toiling for years, had looked at his black coat in pride. How he had dreamt of a better world for his aging father, a good university education for his little sister. I will tell you how anxiously he was waiting for the day to be over so that he could rush to his newly-wed wife. I will tell you how the 60 years old lawyer had waited for the last one year to meet his child, who was abroad for education and who had only dreamt last night of hugging his daughter who was arriving that evening from Karachi. I will recount the misfortune of the onlooker who had come to witness a feast of solidarity and became one with the lawyers, in death. I will tell you the ends of the stories of each of men we lost in the Quetta hospital attack on lawyers. The end will be the same – but that should not stop us from telling each and every story.

I will introduce you to each and every one of the victims of the Safoora Goth massacre. I will tell you how each of them were already tired before the day even began. Do you know that one of them was frustrated at not getting that promotion? And that the other one, buoyed by the raise in his pay. But I have to tell you, what freed them all from their worries. Death. Unexpected, and as a result of another man’s mania. Will you hear, if you have patience, the stories of the police recruits sleeping soundly after a grueling day of training? One of them had texted a friend a few days ago, telling him that he had left Quetta but Quetta hadn’t leave him and that he has to return to Quetta like a moth returns to candle fire, only to be burnt away in flames. I will tell you how their mothers felt when they received their beloved children in coffins, when they were expecting them to be in the safest of all places. I will narrate the pain of death and will push you to believe that, though death is a common fate, but every death is unique in itself, that every death creates a space in the universe which not even a thousand more lives can fill. 

I didn’t know them, except few, who were given a face by accident or by design, and whose faces were glued to our screens, albeit for a passing moment. But are you interested in the story of Delawar Khan, my cousin who was hit by a sniper in his home, who fell into his sister-in-law’s lap – who couldn’t make it to the hospital because there was curfew? Are you interested in how much he adored gems and how proudly he would tell anyone the stories behind every stone? Will you be able to picture the sheepish smile that would spread across his face when I would ask him why he doesn’t take his studies seriously? Will you listen to the story of Mehboob, a young police constable, whom I grew up with, and who was a very bad bowler but would always insist on bowling, and whose laughter was the most unique one that you could would ever come across? He was shot just before aftari when he was rushing to his home on a motorcycle. Did I tell you, he was very happy to be a policeman?

One day, I will kneel down before the icon of Christ, would fall into the lengthiest possible Sajda to Almighty Allah, would chant every bhajan to Lord Krishna, and would meditate endlessly, to ask all the divines to bless me with 50,000 years of life, may be 70,000 years or may be 80,000 years, to write the stories of all those fallen to the mindless mania of killing and the cult of death. One year for each story – although a year is never enough to write a life story. I will also beg for the pen of Manto, the words of Faiz, the anguish of Saghir, and the simplicity of Jalib. I have also to beg for the wisdom of Bulleh Shah and universality of Rehman Baba. Only by telling their stories can I reclaim them from the sphere of a faceless statistic, and give them their right place as breathing, once alive human beings who shared the same strengths, vulnerabilities, aspirations, dreams, whims, caprices, love, hate, fidelity, infidelity, successes, failures, as you and me. Maybe once I tell their stories, and you listen to their stories, we can be saved from becoming another faceless, inhuman number in the death statistics, tomorrow, and live as universes in ourselves.

Hurmat Ali Shah is a freelance writer interested in intersection of culture, politics and society. He can be reached at Follow him on Facebook