I saw her, a sack over her left shoulder, and a bag in her right hand, back a little bowed, whether due to the sack she was carrying or due to all that she has seen in her life. I couldn’t determine her age as her back was towards me and I was unable see her face.
Bodies were lying All around her, mutilated, blasted, the soil thick with blood, a hand there, leg here, head smashed. Infants, children, women, men, old, young, all were dead.
Then I saw her do something which confused me. She was searching for the wounded who had still life left in them and can be saved. But occasionally, she would bend and pick up something from the ground and put it in her sack. Thinking that she was raiding for anything valuable from the dead and wounded, disrespecting them and taking advantage of their condition, I went up to her to stop her. But as I came nearer, I saw what she was picking up. I was equally confused and shocked at it, she would pick up the empty shells of bombs and put it in her sack. I rummaged my brains really hard to find a reason for this, but couldn’t.
I decided not to say anything to her at all. But curious as I was, I followed her.
After she had given the basic first aid to those who had miraculously survived, enough so that they could live atleast until taken to the hospital, she signaled someone standing at a distance. It was to let him know that there are people here who are alive and need medical care. Then she went through a lane, and I followed her.
She walked through the road, amidst more blood and destruction. The shops and houses, all were in a desolate state, all had turned to rumble due to the bombings. She stopped in front of a small wooden door after walking for about a mile. It was unlocked, she pushed it open and entered.
I was raised with manners and etiquettes. I couldn’t just enter her house, uninvited, unannounced and obviously not without asking her permission first. So I did what I had to do. My curiosity was getting the better of me. I knocked on the door she had just disappeared behind.
“Min hadha?” a small voice asked from inside. I was long enough here to have acquired the arabic language.
“hal ‘astatie alhusul ealaa lahza ? ‘ana suhufi.” I replied. I told her I’m a journalist and asked for a moment of hers.
After a minute, the door opened. The same woman stood before me. Upon closer look, I estimated her age to be in her thirties, although her face was worn and tired from her hard life. She was covered from head to foot but her face was visible. I, in my knee length khakhi shorts and a white full sleeved shirt suddenly felt a bit awkward.
“Salam” I greeted her. She smiled and replied in English to my astonishment. “Salam, how may I help you?
“You speak English!” I exclaimed.
“Yes I learned it in school. You’d better come inside, its not safe to stay out.”
I followed her inside. She asked me to sit on a chair that was nearby and disappeared again inside. A took the opportunity to observe my surroundings. The house was furnished in the barest of manners. Only the most minimal things of need were there. A table, a couple of chairs, an old broken TV set. A tasbeeh, a copy of the Holy Quran and a few books were there on a shelf.
A minute later, she came back with a tray in her hands. There was a bowl of dates and a glass of water in it. I gladly accepted both as I was parched with thirst.
“My name is Isabel. What’s your name?” I asked her.
“Fatima. How may I help you?” she politely asked.
In this warzone, a country where innocents were dying left right and centre, I expected her to be a bit cautious of me and maybe a bit rude too. For days I had been hearing nothing but thr roar of warcrafts, loud noises of bombings, people crying and shrieking in pain and despair, and than suddenly there was a strange stillness after the air raids had stopped. The silence was unnerving. So her sweet gentle voice was music to my ears.
“You live alone?” I asked surprised.
“Yes, my husband died a year ago, just after our third anniversary. ” She replied.
“But isn’t it dangerous !” I asked,genuinely concerned.
“The only danger we face is from the skies, the earth is our mother, she never harms us. She envelops us in her bosom when we are tired and lets us sleep.”
I couldn’t help but agree. These people have been suffering so much for years.
“I saw you pick up bomb shells a while ago. What do you do with them?” I asked, no longer able to hold myself.
“Come… I’ll show you.”
She led me inside the house and out through another door. The view that met me there brought tears to my eyes and I felt my legs tremble. I was rendered speechless.
There, before my eyes, was one of the most beautiful places on earth. It was a small garden. And everywhere, from the walls and ceiling and in the ground, grew beautiful flowers of shade pinks, reds, yellows and oranges. And not in any pots but in the empty bomb shells.
“My husband loved flowers, he would daily bring me flowers of different kinds amd colours. Seeing all the deaths around me, new born infants and old dying alike made me realise that life is unpredictable and very short. Whatever good we can do we must not waste time in doing it. Nothing is a waste for me. I loved recycling and reusing old things and beautifying them. My home was always decorated with the things I would make. I don’t know how much longer will I live. Will I survive the next time a bomb is dropped or not. No one but Allah knows.” she explained to me.
We sat down on the two stools lying there.
“This earth is a beautiful place, but man has made it ugly with its crimes and atrocities. Before I breathe my last, I want to make this earth as beautiful as I can. These bomb shells are now a symbol of the crimes done to us and hope, as these flowers grow. Maybe all this will end one day and we’ll be able to live freely in a safe environment again, the sound of our children’s laughter echoing instead of their cries.”
I hugged her immediately. She who was suffering herself, who had seen so much blood shed was still an optimist. She held no bitterness but only love. She was the most beautiful flower amongst all the flowers there.