A group of 15 writing enthusiasts gathered in the basement of the main Liberty Bookstore on the afternoon of Saturday, April 02. Everyone was there for the Writers’ Guild Workshop: an attempt to promote love of reflective reading and writing among a cross-section of writing enthusiasts in Karachi. It was a combined effort by Liberty Books and AKU to enhance the learning and writing process for students and professionals. The participants were encouraged to then submit their own brief narratives consistent with the ‘Ordinary Encounters –Extraordinary Narratives’ theme of the workshop. Here’s an ordinary encounter shared by one of our workshop participant “Anum Fatima”
I felt something wriggling on my left foot and I sleepily tried to throw it away, forgetting that I had been precariously perched up on a tree when I had fallen asleep. Before I could realize, I was in the air, and then on the ground with a thud. My head was spinning and throbbing from the fall. I tried to get up but couldn’t move. I used up all my energy but could not even lift a finger. It was all dark and I was too exhausted. I didn’t realize when I drifted off to sleep again.
I woke up to the sweet chirping of birds and intense heat of the day. It took me a while to remember what had happened. I still could not move. No sound would escape my lips, however hard I might try. I could feel a few insects on my hands and legs. It wasn’t a good feeling. I could not throw them off me. I could feel their numbers increasing. They were now on my neck, under my shirt, moving toward my face. The bites and the little feet of the armies and armies of unknown insects were unbearable. I wanted to shout, scream, shake myself violently but I was helpless. I could feel the ugly sensation all over myself. They moved around my eyes, inside my ears, precariously close to my nose. I wished to God for mercy. I wanted to cry out loud but all I could manage was tears.
My entire body felt raw when it started raining. For the first few minutes, it was like my body was on fire. All the wounds started burning, but then there was a soothing sensation and the insects began moving away, probably to find shelter.
By the time it stopped raining, the sky had already darkened. It had been an unbelievably long day and I was dreading the night. But it was a peaceful night, and that was when I realized that I was famished, and thirsty. Amongst thirst, hunger, pain, fear, helplessness and hopelessness, I didn’t realize when I drifted off to a dreamless sleep.
I woke up when it was still dark, and I knew from my previous day’s experience what daylight had in store for me. I couldn’t go back to sleep. Around dawn, I heard my name being called. It was my team, I knew, but I couldn’t respond. Their voices were already fading. Helplessness brought tears to my eyes again.
The morning bloomed, and another band of insects attacked. There are no words to describe what I went through. Being a wildlife biologist, I had spent a big part of my life in jungles and these small insects never bothered me. I had never imagined being left at the mercy of these tiny creatures.
By judging the sun’s glare on the ultimate top, I knew it was around mid-day when I felt a horrible stinging sensation in my left toe. It was more painful than all of the previous days’ pain put together. I don’t know what bit me but instinct and experience told me that it was poisonous. I could feel the pain throbbing and moving through my veins. I was in such pain that, for the first time in life, I wished for death. But death is infamous for being merciless. Each cell in my body screamed with pain,and soon , I was only vaguely aware of the little crawling creatures. I was still breathing when the sun decided to set, and the pain was nowhere even close to subsiding. I don’t know for how long I lived , but before dawn. liberation finally came and I was relieved of all the the pain, to be set free…once and for all.