What happened to us?

At what point did we decide that death and loss are just parts of a routine that we must follow

Sajeer Shaikh September 09, 2015
The writer is a medical student dedicated to creative writing and poetry

I would not want to be the body of water that bore the burden of a weightless, lifeless boy as he was washed ashore. To bear the weight of an unfulfilled life, filled with promise, carrying the expectations and burdens of a small family and dreams and aspirations of its own — it is a task fit to crumble mountains.

Aylan Kurdi’s body could have been lost at sea. It could have been caught in rocks or been mangled in the process. It could have been devoured by marine life or could have simply kept drifting, but it was left ashore by the tide. Nature refused to accept the blame for our mistakes, callousness and combined shame.

Imagine, if you can, being the parent on that boat who took their eyes off their child for a minute and regretting that minute for the rest of their mortal life. Picture yourself shouting in the void for a child that you know is too young to even learn how to swim. You keep yelling, hoping someone else has found the boy in time — your boy, a piece of your soul, for whom you left whatever you could call home so that he could have a better, brighter future than your dismal past and present. You can see a scythe hanging over that future now. All seems to be lost, much like your little boy.

Imagine being the last to find out about his fate. The world has heard about his death, seen his body before you. While you have lost your voice, shouting your child’s name in the darkness, news channels have already pronounced him dead and are trying to identify him. Think about when you are finally informed and are shown the picture. Your child, your everything — face down when you kept telling him to face the world with his chin up. And now, you have to bury him before his corpse, for that is all that he is now, starts rotting. Imagine lowering your child into a grave, staring at him go six feet under in a coffin that fails to take up any space, when you imagined calling your son to your death bed and seeing his smile one last time.

It is easy for us to be in the positions that we are — safe, oblivious and unaware of true terror and heartbreak. We can very well imagine all this, but we can never undermine the fact that he was a living, breathing boy. He was a son and he was a brother. He was human, just like us. And here we sit, behind our screens, liking posts about protests and signing ghost petitions with reluctance while Aylan Kurdi is no longer among us.

Why is it that we need a heartbreaking image of a child with his face buried in the sand to remind us of the humanity that is buried somewhere within us under layers of selfishness? Why must we feel the need to read posts asking us to imagine how we would feel if it was our brother or son who was washed ashore?

At what point did empathy die? Was it when we lost children in both Pakistan and Kenya, and consequently forgot about it after a few months? Was it when a lion was targeted, firing us up to share his pictures but eventually deciding to shove his death aside for the newest tragedy? At what point did we decide that death and loss are just parts of a routine that we must follow and that it is perfectly normal for children’s bodies to be found scattered around like trash?

What happened to us?

Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th,  2015.

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Amar Kamal | 6 years ago | Reply Oh my words m blown away...... m all tears.... feel ashamed to share race with those whose only talent is to kill........ I m sorry being part of such society...... I not only love but respect the outcome of your pen sajeer shaikh
Parvez | 6 years ago | Reply History is replete with horrible acts of barbarity........many done in the name of religion. As societies evolve and actual democracy proliferates such acts decrease. Sadly most of the ' eastern ' world are still either monarchies, dictatorships or simply sham democracies and so we see what were are seeing.
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