One in a Million

One in a Million

The soldiers barged into the area shortly after a blast. Stomping around, clacking on the broken twigs, stepping on the dry leaves, the soldiers were heard shouting over every sound that is possibly associated with disaster after an explosion. Not to me, though.

A few minutes ago, when the hind side of my house burnt due to an explosion, that seemed to have originated from nowhere, I was unaware how my life would suddenly change. Perplexed and usnsure of what was happening around me, I woke up under a partial debris of the room I was sleeping in.

I am not a stranger to adversity. When, as a year old, Ammi* discovered my hearing disability, she cried on her pillow that night. I was oblivious of the snuffles but I could see her tears. Slowly she let sleep overtake her sorrow but that image stayed on with me, forever. My mother fed me enough, loved me enough, protected me enough, played with me enough but smiled too little. The older two, a son and a daughter, had to brave her indifference and for most obvious reasons they knew who to put that blame on.

Abbu* was uncomplicated, in contrast. Every time there would be a good sale of the rugs, that he made with his brother, he would get us rothe*. Two each for my older siblings and one for me. Not because he was unfair. But because I am one in a million. He’d always tell me that.

In spite of the many efforts that they made, my hearing was not restored. What followed was the absence of voice. I presume they were almost expecting it because they showed no signs of despair. By the time we found common ground I was three years old.

But this phase of neutrality was short-lived. What followed was a shell that landed in our backyard, burning the kitchen and my mother with it. My siblings who were ready for school and having breakfast in the kitchen were smouldered too. I was sleeping in the front end of the house and fell right under the debris of my bed. My father followed the chaos and stepped out of the house. I was too scared to follow him. From the charred window, I looked outside, trying to make sense of this world that was crumbling around me.

That’s when I spotted him. A tall, burly man, in a camouflage suit and combat boots, holding his gun ready to aim as he closed in. He approached the front yard of the house. I looked on from behind the channelled wooden boards and pipes that were previously the windows, to look outside from the inside. Hello! is it me you’re looking for? If I had a voice, I would have called out. But I looked on, wanting to send in a signal somehow, but too scared to even peep. As if I was frozen.

Suddenly the man looked up towards the hill and shouted something. I could not comprehend what it was, but shortly he left.

Leaving me behind. One in a million.
ammi- mother
abbu- father
rothe- Kashmiri cookies
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