I am running. I want to go back but I can not. I can not turn back, there is nothing for me there. I feel a surge of fear taking a grip on me as I look at the street which is devoid of people. Not even a soul here. I have no place to go, no body to turn to. Scared I start to run and hit a big boulder on the middle of the road. I take a hit on my head. Its bleeding, blood running down my temples, I lick my lips and find them salty, I try to spit but my mouth is dry. Water. I must have some water. I keep running and looking around. All the doors are closed. The ones that are open have no one inside.
No choice, I say to my self, run or they will get you as they got others. I have lost the cloth piece I used as a shawl to protect myself, I am sweating and yet a shiver runs down my spine.
Finally I dare to look behind and slow down with relief. I think I can rest a while.
Water, I must have some water. I look around once again and find a dog licking something from a discarded utensil. It’s a bowl with some liquid. I shoo away the dog and try to lift the bowl. My hands are shaking, they start to give up. The bowl seems heavy but I lift it nevertheless and gulp down few precious mouthfuls of water that it had. The dog starts to whimper and I run my hand over its head. The dog doesn’t bite me, wags its tail instead. At least the dog understands what civilized human beings have forgotten.
The events that happen a few hours back run through my mind again… fire, stones, people shouting slogans, slogans against and slogans for something, some sect, some religion.. I don’t understand any of it. Suddenly a stone hits my window and I go hide beneath the desk. There is no one at home. I am all alone, like I always am at this hour in the night. Father has to go and work the night shift to get money for the bread. I have done my share of working during the day. Tired and hungry I am waiting for him. Suddenly a burning cloth hits my home. The thatched roof starts burning, acrid smoke fills my tiny hut and I have no choice but to get out.
As I step out of my home, I hear people shouting, “there, there he is. Kill him like we killed his father” “No, burn him” “He does not belong here” “Hey you, go back to where you come from” someone says. I try to reply “but I live here, I was born in this hut” They don’t listen. My words don’t reach them at all. The crowd is getting bigger, scarier. I see someone. He is my friend’s father. I know him. A hope fills my heart but then I notice that his eyes are red. “Is he drunk?” I wonder.
I consider telling him that I know his son, we play together. But there is no time for that. I see them coming closer with knives and stones. Some have axes in their hands. I sense they really want to kill me so I run. I am tiny and can go beneath the carts and I can run faster than most of them. I run hard and manage to escape.
It’s been twenty days since this happened. I don’t know what happened to my father. I had escaped and managed to get out of the locality where I lived with my father and others in a small cluster of hutments. That night I had taken shelter beneath a tree and had met a boy. His name was Chiru and he was almost my age.
Chiru had taken me in that night. He was scared and lonely too. We went to his hut and he shared half his food with me. I learnt that he lives alone too. His father, was killed a week before I met him when some people from the other locality attacked theirs. I feel his pain. The people who attacked Chiru’s father were from my locality and I feel guilty for the crime they committed.Photo by Black Scratchy Lines