The siege

Nine years back

It was a fine morning in Belgarath. Every thing was very peaceful and calm and just like everyday, the heat was the only unbearable thing. Belgarathians were indulged in their daily routine and the hustle bustle of the villagers echoed through the village. The sound of neighbours calling each other, chatting over their fences, the buzzing of the marketplace, the prayer that echoed through the loudspeaker of the mosque, Taminas mother chopping the firewood, the radio that played twenty four hours in Farahs house were familiar to Tamina. Belgarath was peaceful and serene. The people were warm, lovely and Peaceful towards each other.

Taminas ancestors were once nomads, who travelled in the desert in search of inhabitable oasis for settlement. Her tribe believed in coexistence and peace such a notion of peace and coexistence led to the development of todays village of Belgarath. The mud houses protected the Belgarathians from the heat while their clothes consisting of a long robe, an over coat and a headgear protected them from the dust and the sandstorms. Schools have existed a long time ago in Belgarath , but only a few children completed their primary education. Tamina, Farah and Taminas brother Tariq attended the schools, but not regularly. If the household works were too much for Taminas mother Aisha to handle, Tamina has to stay back and help her mother and the same goes for Farah. They both enjoyed it rather than going to school. This, Belgarath was an unknown world to the outsiders, even to the government of the country. The village of Belgarath was pure and untouched by any foreign forces and it remained inconspicuous till that day in the eyes of the world.

Abu, I am leaving for the shop. Tariq called from outside the house while putting on his seude boots. Tamina and Farah, who were playing in the courtyard ran towards and encircled him.

What will you bring us when you return?. They both asked at the same time with hope glimmering in their amber eyes.

What do you guys want?. Tariq asked smiling.

Lollipops, lollipops. They replied in unison.

Okay fine. Now let me go. I am getting late. Tariq said patting their head with a serene smile and then left. Tariq was fifteen and worked at a grocery shop in the village market place which was called he Marwa. The largest building in Marwa was the government post office building which was made of glistening white stones. The paths of Marwa were also paved in white stones with curtains hanging above them to shield the people passing by and the shops from the sun. When viewed from Taminas courtyard, it appeared as a glistening white hue. The roads of Belgarath were unpaved and the only vehicles used by the villagers were carts pulled by horses or camels, bicycles and mopeds. There was a small mini van which came irregularly from the adjacent village Bayadar and it was the only transportation available out of the village.

Belgarath was the last village on the map and after that comes the endless desert. To its South was the village Baydar, to its northwest was the Bukhara desert and its East was another village called Jaffriyath. Both the villages, Baydar and Jaffriyath where separates from Belgarath by a small stretch of land covered with sand which resembled a mini desert. To be exact, Belgarath was surrounded by sand in all the four directions, so it was secluded from the rest of the other villages. Its geographical location, unavailability of good transportation as well as unwelcoming, introverted people were the reason why Belgarath was isolated and unknown to the rest of the world. Belgarath was like the city of Atlantis, people knew that existed but nothing more than that was known to the outside world.

Tamina and Farah were called inside for having breakfast and they ran happily inside. Taminas father Kamran was already seated on the slab and when he saw the girls running towards him with sand covered faces and hands, his face contorted.

Look at both of you. Your hands and feet are dirty. Go wash yourselves if you want to eat, otherwise there will be no food today. He said irritated and the happy face of the girls fell and they disappeared outside the house for cleaning themselves.

Ahh, they have spoiled the floor. Both of them are a mess. What are they doing at home? Don they have school today?. Kamran asked Aisha who was preparing the meals.

Its Sunday. Have you forgot?. Aisha asked stirring the soup.

Oh yes, I forgot. I thought both were ditching the classes in the excuse of helping you and wasting my money on their education. Kamran said snorting and Aisha remained silent. It was true that Belgarath was more of a male dominant village. Girls were kept inside the houses and did the household chores. Kamran was very fond of his son, but Tamina was not as important to him as his son Tariq was. But Tariq was different. He loved Tamina and pampered her a lot. Farah had two other sisters and a younger brother. She was the third child of her house.

The girls returned, appearing tidier than before and sat adjacent to Kamran and Aisha served them breakfast. Kamran took every opportunity either to scold them or tease them and the girls who were used to this, came back with sharp replies which sometimes irritated Kamran. Aisha was silent, very much concentrated in her cooking, unaware of the cold War happening behind her. After the breakfast, Aisha, whose cooking which never seems to cease, started chopping vegetables for preparing the lunch.

The morning has passed and it was mid noon and the heat was at its peak. The girls were inside the house playing and Kamran, who was a cobbler had retired to his room, busy polishing some newly made seude boots. Aisha was in the kitchen and everything was silent except the momentary giggles of the girls.

Abu, I am back. Tariqs voice echoed through the house. He usually had lunch at home and barely eat outside and after lunch with his family, he left for work again. Seeing Tariq, Tamina and Farah rushed to him and started searching his robe for their lollipops. Tariq crosses his hands over his chest pocket as they tried to take the lollipops from him and when they couldn reach up to his height, they started tickling him. At last, when Tariq was out of breath laughing, he handed over their lollipops and the girls jumped with joy.

The lunch was served and Farah had to go back to her house as her mother had summoned her and everyone was seated at the slab again, except Farah and Aisha. Aisha served them the food while Tariq discussed his work with his father. Kamran gave him opinion about all the things Tariq told him, and a ten year old Tamina stared at them, trying to understand what they were saying. After lunch, Tariq returned to the Marwa and Kamran to his room. Aisha sat on the slab to eat lunch and Tamina was at the other end of the slab, drawing. After having lunch, Aisha started to prepare for the supper and Tamina was still at the slab, drawing random things in her book.

Suddenly,a loud noise was heard and the whole house shook due to its impact. The pots, pictures on the walls, clay plates and saucers fell on the ground and broke. It felt like a huge earthquake had hit the village and it was a new experience for everyone. Tamina screamed and ran to her mother on the noise of collapsing building and shattering pots. Aisha enveloped Tamina in her arms and Kamran also rushed to the kitchen to make sure his wife and daughter were safe. The mud from the roof had cracked and had started to fall down. Kamran used his body to cover Aisha who was using her body to cover a scared Tamina. Another loud noise was heard again and more pots and dust fell as the ground shook. The screaming of the villagers also accompanied the loud noise.

Kamran somehow dragged Aisha and Tamina out into the open courtyard and stood there not knowing what to do. From the courtyard, he saw a huge mass of dust and smoke arising from a few metre away, where earlier the marketplace of Marwa stood. Marwa could be seen as a whitish hue from Taminas house, but now it was completely reduced to dust.

Its an explosion, its an explosion. A villager was screaming and running towards the Marwa, calling out everyone. Kamran was petrified and stood there frozen. It took a few minutes for Aisha to grasp the situation and slowly she was hit by the reality.

Tariq, my son. . Aisha collapsed on the ground and Kamran and Tamina came to attend her. Kamran patted his wifes cheeks to wake her up and a half conscious Aisha opened her eyes.

Our son, bring back him safe. Aishas voice was barely heard and Tamina was crying not knowing what was happening around her. Asking a ten year old Tamina to take care of her mother, Kamran ran outside the house, leaving both of them behind.

On each step, his heart pondered and he prayed with all his might for his sons safety. Everything happening around him was blurred by his senses and all he could see was the path that leads to Marwa. Wailing and screaming started to appear around him and he searched for Tariqs face in every young man who passed before him.

Kamran, stop there. Someone called him from behind. It was Sartai, his friend. Sartai was covered in dirt and dust, just like Kamran and his temple had a small cut which was bleeding. Seeing his friend, Kamran rushed to him in worry. Both the mens eyes reflect fear and confusion.

What happened? Kamran asked shocked, seeing Sartais forehead.

A bomb explosion at Marwa. Sartai said tears falling down his eyes.

What? How? Why? I mean how?. Kamran was blabbing out everything, scared.

Terrorist attack. My boy, my boy is in there Kamran, my boy.. Sartai said and he fell on his knees and wept. Seeing his friend breakdown, Kamran tried to comfort him.

My Tariq is there too. Don worry, they both will be fine. Lets go there and bring them both back. Kamran tried to make Sartai stand on his feet, but Sartai sat there, like a statue.

You can . The terrorist had claimed the Marwa and its under siege. Soon, they will be heading towards our village. We still don know if there would be anymore of the explosions too. Its dangerous to go in there. Sartai said, looking totally helpless and defeated. Hearing this, Kamran sat near Sartai, his heart torn to pieces, because he was now totally helpless as a father and sitting on the road, they both looked at the Marwa, or the smoke arising from its reminence.

Oh god, please keep him safe. Please keep everyone safe. Kamran prayed looking at the direction where initially their mosque stood only to find a large concrete standing there. The mosque was destroyed along the explosion. Fear engulfed him, but both men embraced each other and cried along with the others around them, who too had their loved ones at the Marwa.

On day had passed and they both haven gone home. The girls and women were informed to stay inside the houses and never to leave, in case anything happens. News had spread that the Marwa was now under the terrorists siege and those who had barely survived the explosion were held captive by them. Fear spread like plague and gunshots and screams echoed through the village. People starved due to lack of food and essential supplies for three days and on the third day, the native military forces arrived to rescue the captives as well as to provide the essential supplies for the villagers. The government refused to acknowledge the terrorists demands and in rage thirty seven captives were killed and this gave the military a reason to counter attack. The rest of the Captives who were rescued came back and Tariq and Aslan, Sartais son, were not among them. Because of the counter attack, the terrorist group had retreat temporarily and the fear among the villagers decreased gradually. When they have gained enough courage, they entered into the Marwa in search of their loved ones.

Kamran and Sartai parted there ways at Marwa as they headed for two different ways in search of Tariq and Aslan. Kamran rushed to the place where the grocery shop stood. It was now reduced to a pile of rubble and dust. Other then the people like him, searching for the missing people, there was no other signs of the living. Dead bodies were scattered, most of them burned and deformed. It has been three days and some have even started to smell. Kamran looked under each slabs of concrete for Tariq along with the soldiers who came to excavate the corpses . Even while Kamran was searching, he had a hope, a false hope which made him believe that Tariq was still alive, which pushed him further in search for his son.

The soldiers unearthed bodies from the rubble and most of them were unrecognizable. Some had lost their arms and legs, some their heads and some their entire left or right sides. The excavated bodies were lied on the ground, for identification. Kamran passed each body praying it won be his son but fate was being cruel to him and the other Belgarathians.

Kamran spotted a familiar face among the corpses which were covered in white clothes. The face was unrecognizable at first because of the dirt and ashes covering it, but for Kamran, he would recognize his son even in the darkest of the night. He kneeled down to take a closer look at the face and a heart wrecking scream escaped his mouth. It was his son, Tariq. Looking at the sky, he took Tariq in his arms and wailed. Thats when he noticed that the body seemed much weightless as it was missing some parts. Gathering courage, Kamran removed the white cloth covering Tariqs body and his breath froze in his lungs.

Tariq was missing his left side of his chest, arms and legs. The trauma was too much for Kamran and it petrified him. He took Tariq in his arms and stayed like that, frozen for hours. It took four soldiers to separate him from Tariqs body. The military refused to send back the bodies to the village because of the radioactivity of the explosion. They even refused the villagers to enter into the Marwa for a few days. Since the mosque was destroyed, the Belgarathians had nowhere else to conduct the burial ritauls. The military forced them to bury the corpses outside the village, in a common site. The villagers refused and first, but at last they had to succumb to the military order. The bodies were buried in a common site, with the men chanting the last prayers for the dead. Aisha never saw her son again. The smiling face of Tariq who was leaving to the Marwa after having lunch, was the last memory of Tariq to Aisha and Tamina.

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