9:00 am to 3:00 pm, 28th December ‘07
Morning arrived with more news of bloodshed and mayhem. Despite the curfew, heavy firing could be heard from all nooks and corners of Hyderabad, the city that blazed in the upwelling of rage and chaos that had followed the shocking assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Smoke from the innumerable burning cars and shops silhouetted the skies as a dense tenebrous cloud; drenching the city with uncertainty and fear. Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated; and the rogues and hoodlums seizing the opportunity of the widespread anarchy, looted and plundered the shops and set flames to any car that came in their sight with no qualms at all.
Huddled in my bed, my ears could distinctly catch the sound of firing in distance.
When I finally succeeded in shaking off the last vestige of sleep that lingered in my eyes, I got to learn that my father and a neighbor planned to beeline through the back alleys and get some essentials – eggs, flour and bread – from some store that had the audacity to open that murky, bloody day.
Anxiously waiting for my father’s return, our fears were anything but assuaged by the frenzied reports of the reporters who had sallied forth outside, despite great danger to their lives, to project the bloodshed and riots – their delirious comments as to how the situation was gradually worsening, were indeed sickening.
It was a feeling of pure relief when Baba came back home safely; laden with eggs and such.
That morning my would-be brother-in-law in a rush of adventure also managed to escape the throes of the bloodthirsty men and reached home safe and sound; this secure return further helped to smoothen our foreheads, furrowed as they were with worry for our loved ones.
Meanwhile, Hyderabad continued to smolder in ashes; the orchestra of firing that subsided in a hush at times, soon resumed moments afterward in a rapturous symphony.
It was to be a few days, until some semblance of order was established. And an effort was made to fathom the damage inflicted by the riots.
The amount of losses sustained by the city was staggering. Dozens of people had been killed, countless cars torched with furious flames, many small and large business plundered and set fire upon, schools damaged and ransacked, restaurants smashed and looted – carnage that had spilled on the streets of Hyderabad had left its indelible mark on the city’s prosperity.
And even now when more than three years have passed since the assassination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, the mark still remains: gorged and mocking.
And would remain so, for years to come.