Half-dazed and bleary-eyed, Ali checked the text message that had interrupted his sweet sleep.
The text message read rather frustratingly:
“What would you do, if this was your last day on Earth?”
Another damned forward message, Ali cursed the sender and pushing the cell phone under his pillow, once again let sleep take over.
He slammed the door of the car shut and pulled out of the drive that led to the beautiful bungalow grudgingly.
He had been sleeping peacefully, when as per usual his mother had to disturb him over some stupid errand to his Aunt. His mother refused to trust the servants with money, and expected him to deliver it safely to his widowed Aunt once a month. Although, annoyed and greatly pestered, he knew that it was pointless to argue with his mother.
And so he headed to his Aunt’s place, drowsy and lethargic.
He swore loudly as he approached a traffic jam on his way, and desperately tried to find a way out of the mass of clogged-up cars, but soon he had to surrender and slumping back into the seat, fumed in resignation.
He clicked his fingers in impatience on the steering wheel for the traffic-jam to clear and glanced around.
A silver Alto and a maroon Cultus flanked his car on either side. A lone man was seated in the Alto, smoking a cigarette, immersed in thoughts, while a family of five was travelling in the Cultus.
Despite the smoldering heat and the repeated honks of the numerous cars that trailed behind Ali’s car, the scene soon defrayed his tangled nerves. The man continued to puff without any remonstrance peacefully and young boys of the family riding in the Cultus playfully wrestled in the back seat. Their frolicking amused Ali and he smiled.
The traffic jam cleared a bit, and the Cultus moved ahead. A battered, roofless Suzuki took its place; its maddening horn dispelling any tranquility that Ali had felt previously. Irritated, he gazed at the contents strewn in the back of the Suzuki – a couple of metal fetters, a ramshackle refrigerator and several filthy plastic canisters. Likewise, its driver was in no way beautiful or clean. Unshaven, matted in dirt, the man seemed to have placed his hand on the horn and forgot to remove it. A most suspicious outlook, Ali thought wanly.
Dilapidated as it was, the Suzuki lurched ahead, and a Corolla substituted it. But Ali paid no attention to it. The cars ahead of him were showing no signs of moving in near future, and he felt tired and sleepy.
He could no longer see the Suzuki but he could still hear its insistent honks. He desperately wished the peace and comfort of his bed.
He leaned on the steering-wheel and in his exasperation, starting pushing the horn. His head pounded.
All of a sudden, there was a huge blast and the Suzuki jolted in the air in an eruption of flames. Ali, pushed back into his seat by the immense pressure of the galvanizing heat radiations, was pelted with clusters of broken glass. Burning smithereens of metal flew through the shattered wind-screen and fell on Ali, who cowered in fear, crying in pain as the intensely hot metal seared his flesh.
Blood-swathed, he tried to figure out what had happened, darkness stubbornly forcing his eyes shut.
But before oblivion descended on his conscious, he caught a glimpse of the scenario for a few seconds.
Fire, blood and smoke were all he could discern in the chaos.
He read the text message again, dating back to the day of the Car-bomb installed in a refrigerator, that had claimed 10 lives and injured more than 50 people – whose only crime was that they had led ordinary, simple lives of their own.
“What would you do, if this were your last day on Earth?”
His hand straying to the plastered hanging flesh, where his right leg had once been situated – several glass shards had ripped into his leg, triggering such necrotic infections that the doctors had no choice but to amputate it so as to prevent the spread of infection and hence, shoo death away – he pressed “Reply” and typed:
“I would pray that none has to go through what I’ve gone.”