A new Diwali

She was waiting at the bus stop at Sarai, it had been more than a year since…and yet she could see it all like it had happened yesterday.

“Uncle jee..! Ruko tero bag gir gayo hai, le lo !” he had yelled, she had seen him before, the kid. He used to come by there everyday with his elder brother. As the bikers sped past, she was thinking about how careless they are, to be leaving a bag like this. The very next second there was a sound, and her ears went numb. For a moment all was silent and then…the screaming, she was still standing at the bus stand as others were rushing towards the blast site to help. But there was no one alive. That boy was dead. All was black at first, and then she saw the blood. She wasn’t hurt but she was there. She had seen it happen.

It had taken her three months to be able to walk through that market alone again and today, one year later she was still eyeing the corners. People were walking down the street, talking, smiling as if nothing had happened. But Kiran was scared, she looked around nervously as she reached the electronics shop, looking for unattended objects, staring at every biker who went past. Her heart stopped every time a kid burst a cracker, it’s Diwali, but this time of a different kind, in this one children don’t die. And then she saw it, right in front of the corner sweet shop, a man wearing black clothes, he kept the wrapped up box at the counter of the shop and was about to start a bike. She walked past him slowly, watching every move he made, he looked around 20 and had an old bike. He didn’t remove his helmet and she could only see his eyes. He seemed familiar. A possible terrorist, she thought, maybe I saw him at the Aulia Masjid someday, isn’t that where they all come from? She was panicking now, It won’t blow up as long as he is here, she convinced herself, it’ll only blow up once he leaves. And I won’t let that happen.

She started searching for her cell phone to call the police, but she had to do it slowly because if he found out he might run away. Suddenly, he looked up and saw her staring at him. She was caught! He’ll run away leaving the bomb! She looked around at the market and suddenly it seemed more crowded than usual. A woman walking with her baby, and an old uncle buying groceries. Oh My God! So many people, all dead. She looked back at the shop and saw the man coming towards her, the bag in his hand. She froze, a suicide bomber, perhaps? She fumbled in her purse as fast as she could. Her eyes were filled with terror as the man crossed the road and came towards her. He was opening the bag! As she took out her cell phone and began to dial, she could already hear the blast in her head.

He opened the box, peered down at her with a big smile and said, “Happy Diwali, Didi”

She looked up dazed and with a sigh of relief replied, “Thanks, Zahir”.

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