Sunday, October 20, 2013


Bhuttoo is thirty years old. He is a resident of the village of Lisad,  Muzaffarnagar. He awoke to some commotion early morning one day, and went outside to find that Muslim neighborhoods were being set ablaze. Everyone was running in panic. Bhuttoo yelled out to his wife and exhorted her to flee. Bhuttoo's wife cuddled their one-year-old daughter, carried her in her lap and readied herself. Bhuttoo took their four-year-old son in his arms, and along with his wife ran towards the fields. Using the sugarcane crop as their cover, they hid themselves in the fields. Running from one field to another, they were trying to escape the grim predicament they found themselves in. They exhausted themselves after running incessantly. Bhuttoo's daughter was crying inconsolably from acute hunger. Bhuttoo volunteered to venture outside to look for milk for their children. However, his wife insisted that she would also come along. With trepidation writ large on their faces, Bhuttoo and his wife came out of the field. No sooner had they come out than someone yelled out loud, "Look! The mullahs [pejorative for Muslims] are hiding here!" Bhuttoo and his wife quickly retreated into the field again. 

Their retreat was in vain, however. They heard approaching footsteps from all directions. Surrounded by all sides, they had no escape route. The attackers were armed with swords, axes, and sticks. Bhuttoo and his wife were trembling with fear. Rioters forced them out of the field, and then one of them attacked Bhuttoo's son Zuber with his sword. Since Bhuttoo was trying to shield his son, the sword landed first on Bhuttoo's hand, and then on Zuber's ear. Zuber's face was covered with blood. Another stick-wielding attacker hit Bhuttoo's wife Ayesha on her back. She fell down and was knocked unconscious. Her daughter was flung from her lap, and landed some distance away. Bhuttoo ran to save his wife and daughter. Right then, he found himself being attacked from all sides. Someone assaulted him from behind with an ax. Then he was struck on the head. Someone else hit his leg with an iron rod. Bhuttoo fell down unconscious. Thinking Bhuttoo and his family were all dead, the attackers left. 

After an hour or so, when Bhuttoo came to, he saw his wife, with their daughter in her lap, crying inconsolably. Zuber was still unconscious. Bhuttoo was afraid his son might die soon. He instructed his wife to run. He took his son in his lap, and holding his wife's hand, again using the sugarcane crop in the fields as cover, he started advancing. It was getting dark. After ensconcing his family in the field, Bhuttoo went foraging for food. At one end of the field was a watering hole. He plucked a leaf, made a little cup, and caught some water in it, and went back to his family. He sprinkled some water on his son's face. Zuber whimpered a little, and opened his eyes. Bhuttoo helped his daughter drink some water. Bhuttoo and his wife then walked all night, while holding their children in their laps. At the break of dawn, they saw the lights of the town of  Kandhla. Bhuttoo was familiar with Kandhla. He called his college-going relative from the bus station, who came to pick them up on his motorcycle, and brought them to the relief camp at the Idgah [an open place in the front of a mosque]. When I last went to Kandhla, I visited Bhuttoo. I was impressed by his fortitude, and took an immediate liking to him. He was simply adorable. I asked him how his son was doing. Bhuttoo said his son still has nightmares, and mumbles in his sleep, "Daddy! Thieves are attacking me." Bhuttoo also said that he would never return to his village, since the people who attacked him and his family know them well.
(Translation Sanjeev Mahajan- San Francisco)

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