My name is Walayat Khan.
I was outside my house after Isha when sound of a blast shock me and I started running towards the source. Everyone was running towards the spot. Police vans were passing by, ambulances making their way. It was a bomb blast. Police has surrounded the area, not letting people and cars in. I returned home, shaken by what I saw for the first time in my life.
As I entered home, my friend, Asad, called to ask me if I had seen our friend and colleague Saleem. No, I said. Asad called again after half an hour, with shivering voice, that he saw car of Saleem parked in front of the plaza which got bombed. I could not believe it. I had met Saleem in the morning. I shunned away all those stupid possibilities coming in my mind and told Asad to wait for me at his place. That was hope. I rushed to his home and then we walked to Saleem’s home, praying that he comes out with that smile on his face. But his car was not in the house. That was the moment we both started trembling and started reciting Ayat ul Kursi in hope, praying to God that all coming in our minds is wrong. That was hope again.
We ran back to our car and drove to the blast spot. Asad was driving and the whole car could feel that shiver in his hand. Police stopped our car so we ran to the area where they were putting the cars affected by the blast. I saw Saleem’s car there. I rushed to the car lifter to ask where he found the car and if there was anyone near the car. They showed us the spot and told us they found no one near it. We thanked God. That was hope again. Now where to go? He could be among the people taking injured people to hospitals. Or at most, he might be little injured. That was hope again.
We rushed to first hospital. So many people helping others, so many people in the emergency room. I and Asad went to every bed there, checked all the people helping injured people in the hospital, but Saleem was not there. Good. He must be alright. Or at most, he might be in any other hospital, helping others, or bit injured. This was hope again.
We rushed to the other hospital, checked everyone there, and could not find our friend. Then to another. We had checked all the five hospitals in the vicinity by now and our friend was not there. Not among the helpers. And was not among the injured too. He must be home by now. His car might have been parked there while he walked back home himself. That was our hope.
Then someone asked me to visit the “Murdakhana” where they had taken all the dead bodies. My heart sank. Asad said he would never go there to find Saleem. We could never imagine him there. I mean, how can he be there. And I was sure about it. And to make my point, I asked Asad to drive me there.
We reached there. As we walked to the main gate, Asad stopped and told me he cannot go in. Saleem can never be inside. It is useless. Asad grabbed my arm to take me back. I told him that I knew Saleem was not in there so we should just check. Asad shouted that he is not going in there ever to find Saleem. The Asad I knew until then, was the bravest among up. A real Pathan, big dark mustache with a dark mole. A real estate tycoon in Peshawar who deals with toughest nuts in the town. But I saw him breaking down there that day. I mustered up everything left in me, in high hope, that there is nothing I am going to find inside. And I went in.
The room was filled with dead bodies on one side, and body parts on other side. As I entered the room, the first body to the left on the floor looked familiar. I shouted to myself that it cannot be Saleem. The mustache, the eye brows, and the hair of that body had burnt. The shirt has burnt. Strangely, the pants on that body had burnt up till thighs but the upper portion of pant was still there (as I put it “Allah ne purda rukha hua tha us halat main bhi). The left leg was cut off and missing. This dead body resembles my friend. But it cannot be him. It cannot be him. I looked at the shoe on the right leg and then went to the place where they had kept different body parts and found a leg which had the same shoe. This cannot be my friend. I picked it up and placed it near that dead body. This cannot be my friend.
I rushed to the incharge there and told him not to give that body to anyone because I SUSPECT it can be my friend. I, however, was sure this was not him. The incharge said that they are not taking care of any body and just giving it away to anyone coming to find their relatives. I said I have placed it aside and I am going to find a white sheet for it. I knew it was not my friend. This was hope.
I came out of there. Asad was waiting for me there. I told him I found a body which resembled Saleem, but I also told him that I am sure it was not Saleem. That is when I fell unconscious. I opened my eyes and Asad was holding me. We decided to rush back to Saleem’s home and check if he is back. I wanted to kick him and cry for putting us through this. He was like a brother to us. I was crying. Asad was reciting Quran. I was sure he was back home. We went to his home but he was still not there. Asad took a white sheet from his house. I was crying. I knew that dead body was not him. It cannot be him. Then, in hope, I called Saleem’s uncle in Wah Cant and asked him one question which could clearly tell me that the dead body was not my friend.
I called his uncle, told him about the situation and asked him “Saleem had two artificial teeth on the front. Which ones were they, upper jaw or lower jaw?” I knew it was upper jaw. His uncle also said it was upper jaw. We rushed back to the “Murdakhana”. Never knew that name of a building can kill me inside like this.
I went inside. Asad was with me. We knew it was not our friend. Asad saw the body and started crying. I ignored. I knew it was not my friend. It was hope again. I pulled the upper lip of that body up and touched the tooth. I have never hoped and prayed like I did at that very moment. I pulled down the front two teeth and I knew they would not come down. It cannot be my friend. The two teeth came out.
My name is Walayat Khan and this is about the day I stopped relying on that feeling called “hope”.