Sundays over the time, have become more of a by-standing term for preparation to crucification for the Monday. It’s true with every one, more so for me, as I will be leaving for Afghanistan tomorrow for my documentary. Week ago, I remember my overly-emotional mom sobbing at the television, courtesy a terrorist bombing in an area near the Afghan-Pakistan border. I sat by her, consoled her and promising never to involve my work in such countries, little did I know my boss, the managing editor of my news agency had different plans.
It was Monday, the day after the blasts, I had gone early to the office to view the section status comprising the details about the blast. My boss as eager as he always is, when such incidents take place, came to me. The way his eyes shone, I knew he definitely had some big news coming up. He came to me and said, “Have you seen yesterday’s news! Finally something to write for Monday.” Looks further into me, continues, “Isn’t it interesting!”. Now, I knew it was a terrible thing to say, but he was my boss so playing it cool,” Yes Sir! It was very unfortunate. I pity those victims, the Pakistan Government must have a reasonable explanation and pay for this insane annihilation of innocent people.” By the look on his face, I was sure he was expecting a little more cracker of statement, maybe with a hint of excitedness at the fact that viewer ship is going to shoot up. He then told me to be present by his office by 11:00am, saying he had some new assignment for me.
After that episode with him, I went to share tea with my co-workers. It was mainly filled with interns, and a couple of correspondents and some new editors. We were talking about the mishap, when one of the correspondents, called for attention and switched channel to the one with Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s speech. As usual, another random addressing, showing no regret and denying his government’s involvement. But that’s what it is, right? No concrete proof, no one can be blamed; and the conspirer walks free. I said ,”Who is going to believe this stuff? Aren’t journalists ,present there going to ask any question or He threatened them with consequences alsooo….”, as I was venting out my frustration I feel a deep pinch in my hips, and turn around to see the only person I hate in the news agency, the person I am currently a cameraman of. It is Daisy Mant. She interrupts me in between my speech telling,” Don’t you even know that the hall is only filled with the Pakistan Journalists? They kick out reporters from other countries.” God, I hated her! I hated her reporting skills, her English, her confidence which was always emanating of her. But for some reason she was always favored in both of us. Maybe she was a fine woman, or a clever manipulator of their minds.
As it was almost 11, I remembered I had to go the meeting with my boss. As I was entering I saw her again Daisy, least surprised anyway though. I could see her evil grin even through the slightly transparent curtain, sitting beside our boss. He made me to sit opposite to her, and said,” I am sure, you guys heard about the terrorist attacks in Afghan-Pakistan border. Well, it was North-Eastern part of the border, of a place called Kunar. It is said that, approx 50 people lost their lives with more than 20 injured. I am telling you this, because I want you do a documentary of those war-savages. If we can get their coverage, we can show to the people around the world about the terrible after effects of an attack. We can take attack to the government of Pakistan who fund to practice such acts.” I knew he never meant a word of what he said, he just sees another form of event that can be commercialized. I said, “Sir, I am sorry. I promised my mom, that I won’t go to such places infiltrated by militants. Please find other brave people for this job.” To which Daisy said,” Come on! You are 25 now. You still can’t cling to your mother like a baby. And I am sure the officials there will have proper security arrangement made for us.” I retaliated saying,” I am not a baby. And moreover, these officials can’t protect their own people and family. Many have their families shifted outside of the country, because they know all they do is fight, and fail.” My boss, who was overseeing the conversation till now lost his cool, saying, “Don’t speak to your co-worker like this. She is much more talented and brave being a woman than you. When it comes to your mother, have you told her about all your stories about places you went to documentary? Did you tell her that you were held hostage by a group of militants, before being escorted out by the New York police after a series of gun-shots which killed the terrorists. See, you have reached this position only due your efforts as an independent person, whose first priority in the world is to provide evidential footage for our documentary section. I can’t convince you, but don’t be a liability to our agency we have 100 plus brave souls waiting to get your job.” I couldn’t say anything, as my job was in the line and also realized in the process that I was tinkering with my life , to maintain my post.
So I lied to my mom, to everyone I cared about or who cared about me. I was finally in the airport, waiting for my nemesis Daisy, with my boarding pass. She came after sometime, and asked, “Have you deposited your camera, and stand” I said with a frown, ” No, I have got them folded into my bag.”, satirically. She smiled and said,” I have just spoke to our Foreign Editor, he said that he had arranged for a four-day stay, and that there is no threat of terrorists around that area as it is under heavy vigilance from the army.” I said satirically again, “Yeah Right!”. We reached the military base airport in 7 hours. After thorough inspection of me and my camera stuff, we got into a small lodge. I couldn’t believe I had to share same room with Daisy, as she had complained of bug problems in her apartment. It was late that day, so I just went out strolling checking around the military arrangements like vehicles, armory etc, when I noticed a small girl sitting by one of the refugee camps, by the camp fire. Ofcourse, there were many others, but she was only the silent one seeming lost in thoughts. I walked towards her, she saw me with a gaze that I can never forget in my life. Her eyes were magnificant, felt like they have been poured in with every colour in the world. They showed mixed emotions of horror, confusion, anger as if each colour had one emotion in it. It was very dark, but I could clearly see the campfire burning through her eyes.
We came back next day, I learnt from her friends that her name was Kusum(they didn’t know the second name). And that she had lost both her parents in the attack, and used to cry everyday for five days. I had my documentary to shoot, so I left for work and thought to come back later that day. I was opening my Nikson Keymission 170, the only thing I cared for in this world, to shoot Daisy interviewing the victims of the blast. They were in pathetic state, with one of the having long a left eye and lower fraction of his left leg(until the knee). The victim said sobbing,(in her native language, and we had a translator)”I was walking towards her home, when there was a sudden shout and cry, and within seconds everything turned mist. I first watched my house, which had my husband and a two-year child, crush into dust, then everything turned bright and white. I woke up, to find my husband’s body parts being collected. They never found body of my baby.” She had suffered second degree burns, which was much less painful that what she had lost. She had lost her family, her house, she couldn’t control herself through her interview crying after every sentence she could utter.
After the long day, we had interviewed close to 15 people, 2 of whom were already awaiting death, few of the others had at least lost one of their body parts. I was searching for Kusum, when her friend led me to her. She was about 8 to 9 years old. Her face, looking like a mould of innocence consumed in naivety, her skin which looked so petite that even a leaf could through it. I tried speaking to her, she frowned. She wasn’t willing to talk to any person she didn’t know. Of course, being from America, my complexions must have made me feel alien to her. She after all, went through such an inhuman act, she would have been destroyed in her thoughts about foreign. Finally, I could convince her to be snapped. After that day, I got busy with my work and could never meet her again in my life.
After making our documentary, we left back for New York, my boss was very impressed with our final product. I confessed to my mom about the trip, seeing tears in her eyes she reminded me about Kusum. I wondered what happened to her, but slowly forgot her as I got busy with my life. After many years, I retired in my job, I was called for an interview to talk about my life as a cameraman, my experiences. I remarked, “I have travelled to many countries, in office work as a cameraman. But the real life documentary of the victims of the terrorist operation in Kunar, really impacted me in my life. It showed me value of life, to have people who love you to be around you. I realized how mean a man-kind can be, all those blind traditions which calls for killing of innocents of the innocent, while destroying the others who are connected to them. I still remember the chance less look of one of the kids of the camp. The thought that she can never see the world as she saw before her parents were killed. The horror of a woman to see her husband’s body ripped into pieces, and the thought of her baby she never could see again. Lives aren’t same in those regions, where one must always lurk with a constant thought that it could be their last day. This job of new reporter, tests you through strangest of situations. You can’t help a dying person, you can’t just sit with them and condemn the loses. You are forced to ask strangest of questions like ‘ Are you angry with ‘so and so’ government, because of this fate of your’s?’ or ‘how does it feel to have lost your family to the attacks’. Everything shouldn’t be commercialized, we ought to respect a person’s feeling, respect his privacy and emotions, instead of ‘instigating’ them.”
When I look down in my life, out of many regrets in my life, my biggest regret is what happened to Kusum, if she survived or became dearer to god. Life sure is a complicated mess of emotions, never allows you to enjoy real happiness or sadness. It a blend, blend is what it is!