“You forgot to give mommy the goodbye kiss, Dilu”, she chuckled and sprinted to give me a quick peck.
“Don’t forget to get the vegetables while coming back, Krish”
“Kisses for her and reminders for me?” my husband asked wearing that cute gloomy face.
"More for you in the night,” I said winking. He grinned and grabbed the car keys to leave.
Krishna drops Dilshad in the school while leaving the office. She is in her 1st standard. Too smart for her age, she reads books of different genres irrespective of the fact whether she understands them. Krishna and I always look up to her and wonder what she’ll become when she grows old. Six years since she was born and love for her only multiplies every day.
After looking at the car till it disappeared into the oblivion, I cleaned the messy kitchen, had a bath, and sat in the sofa reading ‘The kite runner’ for the fifth time. Dilshad loves a line in the book which reads, “For you, a thousand times over”. When she first read it, she didn’t understand it and asked us for the meaning. She loved what she understood. Instead of wishing us good night every night, she says, ‘For you both, a thousand times over’ and sleeps hugging us.
She leaves school with her dad at 9:00 A.M and from the moment she goes, I look at the clock waiting for it to strike 2:00 P.M. I remember once when Dilu’s school van got punctured and she came home a couple of hours late. Each hour passed like a year then. I called Krish and asked him to come home so that both of us can go to the school to know her whereabouts. When she came home, I was at the doorstep locking the door. The moment I saw her, I cried like a baby and kissed her. A couple of hours and I couldn’t hold myself. My friend always tells me that I shouldn’t be so emotionally attached to her or anyone. Each time I try to decipher this, I end up loving Dilu more.
Krish and I didn’t want to have one more kid because we wanted to give all of ourselves to Dilu. Despite our parents despise for our decision, I ended up having my reproductive organs sterilized.
The minute hand and the hour hand met each other. . Dilu will be home in two more hours. She hates what I have made but I suggested that she should eat it once in a fortnight. I’ll tell her some nice stories and feed her. Or wait, I’ll make her favourite Paneer as well. Maybe she’ll eat without complaining then. Let me rush into the kitchen. After carefully arranging everything, I came back and continued reading the book. Lost in its sentiment, I forgot to check the time for 10 minutes and that’s probably the longest ever. It’s 1:50 now. Dilu will soon be home.
I closed the book and went to the doorstep lifting my feet to find the school van. 10 minutes pass by. 20 minutes more. No sign of the van. “Probably the van tire got punctured again,” I told myself trying to convince the paranoid in me.
I grabbed the phone to call the authorities and the van driver. Nine unsuccessful attempts and countless collywobbles later, someone answered the call.
“Hello, Hello.. Is someone there?”
“Hello, I’m the mother of Dilshad Krishnamoorthy of 1st standard. Is someone there?”
No one responded. I could hear only chaos. Complete chaos. I waited for 10 minutes for someone to respond but all in vain. I called Krishna and started crying. Krish rushed home and we both started to the school. We were a kilometer away from school when we saw the media and police spread over. There were many parents crying. By now, we realized that something was seriously wrong.
“God does no harm to those who don’t harm others” I chanted repeatedly. Our car was stopped and we were not allowed to step down. We didn’t ask anyone what happened. We didn’t dare to. We heard someone saying, “Suicide bombing”. Krish closed the doors and turned on the music so that we could hear nothing.
“Krish, nothing bad happens to good people.”
“Krish, Dilu is a good girl.”
I was continuously talking. But I didn’t know what I was talking. Krish is a calm and reserved person. He kept hugging me. Caressing my hair, he kept telling that everything will be okay. Half an hour later, an army official knocked our door.
“Sir, are you the parent of any child studying in the school?” “Yes. Dilshad Krishnamoorthy, 1st standard,” Krish said. “The cute little girl with curly hair. She is a very good girl. I made paneer for her today,” I added.
“Ma’am and Sir, you might be knowing by now that an attack happened in the school. We initiated a rescue operation but we couldn’t save few kids. Around 150 kids were killed and few others were injured severely. I am sorry to say this but please recognise if your child happens to be one of them. Please go straight. Our team is bringing the lost souls and the injured ones to the ground.”
I think this is the first time that I saw tears in Krish’s eyes. He didn’t shed a tear even when his father passed away. People call him stone-hearted. I call him reserved. He doesn’t let his feelings come out.
“Krish, Krish! Why are you crying? Dilu is waiting for us. She is waiting to play with your moustache,” I said rubbing his tears and mine. We got down and called the official again.
“Sir, where is Dilu? I mean, where are the ones who were saved?” Krish asked.
“In the auditorium.”
We both sprinted to the auditorium. In the pool of hundreds of innocent pupils, it was little difficult to even walk. We both moved together and kept asking everyone for her trace. I saw Dilu’s best friend and rushed to her.
“Akshita! Akshita! I’m so glad you’re safe. Thank God! Where is Dilshad? You both are always together, right? I’m so sure she’s safe too.”
“Krish, Dilu and Akshita are safe.” I said searching for Dilu. Akshita was crying by the time we met her. She started crying even more.
“Aunty, we don’t know where Dilu is. I have been searching for her. She’s not here, in the auditorium.” Krish and I rushed to the ground.
“She might be crying with pain due to the injuries, Krish. Let’s not wait for the ambulance to come. We’ll take her to hospital straight away. Or should we move to the hospital itself? They might have taken her already.”
Krish didn’t talk like always. He walked to the bodies and I followed him. He gently unveiled the white sheet with which the bodies were covered. He repeated the process and when the 15th body came, he closed his eyes, prayed something, touched the body’s feet, and started crying. We both understood it. Why wouldn’t we. Krish didn’t have the courage to see her face. I glided my hands across her face and removed the sheet. Our intuition wasn’t wrong. We didn’t talk for two minutes. “Ma’am, I acknowledge that she is your daughter. Please take her. Many other parents are waiting. May her soul rest in peace.”
I nodded. Krish lifted her with his arms and we three moved to our car. “Cry loud, Shailaja,” Krish said breaking the silence. I nodded. I somehow believed that Dilu was still alive in my tears. I didn’t want to let her go from my body. I cleaned the blood coming out of her chest and kissed her. Krish drove to Dilu’s favourite place.
“Maa, this open place in our home is the most beautiful thing in this world. I sometimes just want to hold yours and Papa’s hand and live all my life talking to you both and enjoying the beauty of this place.” She used to say.
By the time we reached home, many relatives and friends were there. We didn’t talk to anyone. We just went to the facade. Krish placed her on the ground. We both just stared at her holding her hands. Both of us didn’t cry. Both of us didn’t utter a word. Both of us didn’t just feel anything.
One year since she passed away and still we feel the same. Nothing.