She ran. Just like she had done a few times before. The first time as a toddler when she sprinted away from her brother whose milk glass she had quaffed after hers. And then playfully in the streets with her friends a few years later. And now, as a teen, when her life was threatened. Her headscarf unfurled in the air as she dashed the streets alongside the mangled homes that dotted her neighbourhood. With a book in her hand, the only belonging that she could grab before she learnt that they were hunting for her.

Three jeeps loaded with craggy, bearded men wearing black turbans followed her closely. They unabashedly brandished their vagarious guns threatening anyone who seemed a deterrent to their motive.

“They don’t want you to go to school,” her mother had told her.

“Who are they to stop me, if I wish to study?” Her innocent questions had even more resolve than her parents’ tenacity put together. Her brothers were equally emphatic and wished to see their sister grow into the botanist that she wished to. But not these men. They were ruthless against anyone who showed streaks of discounting their stronghold in these shambled towns that showed signs of external damage but none to the fortitude of these spirited children who wished to bring about a change through education.

Today, it was in danger. Gliding through the narrow by-lanes of the town and up to the sandy hill, she found herself out in the open. The savage men in their monstrous jeeps were now closing in. She could hear a few gunshots in the background. Her feet were tired but the fire in her belly steered her further.

She stopped briefly and looked around. Beyond another tiny hill lay barracks lined up on the other side of the barbed wire. She turned towards the settlement and scuttled. It looked closer but as she kept moving she realized it was way further than she had anticipated before. She paused to catch her breath when she heard gunshots again.

In another 10 steps, she knew, she would be safe. Beyond the barbed wires, at the Amnesty camp. But that would be the last that she’d be home. Ever. Her heart was breaking into a zillion pieces reminiscing the faces of her parents and brothers. Her friends from school had already promised to meet her in Jannat if in case the black brigade caught hold of her. She squeezed her eyes shut to secure those memories in her heart forever and then slowly opened them to look beyond. She slowly turned towards the men who dared not move another inch from their supremacy.

Holding her book close to her chest, she smiled at them. With one hand she unclasped the clip from under her chin, unwrapped her headscarf and let it flow in the air before she leapt towards the camp. The gates opened a new world to welcome her.
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