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Ehsan Elahi Ehsan

The morning of 8th October, 2005 was a drastic morning for the people of a small state of Damascu. It was eight in the morning and every thing seemed to be going on well to the village of Marka. Some people had gone out of their homes for work. They went to the market for buying some things and selling some things. Some went to the fields to plough the land and graze their cattle. The children with their shining morning faces had reached their schools. The bell for the start of the classes had rung. The boys and girls had seated on their benches in threes. There were three to five rows in every room. Each row having nearly thirty students. The teachers with their usual grim faces were just seated on the stages. They were planning in their minds where from to start the lesson. Should they first check the students of the previous day' lesson or start the new lesson. Some of the students were terrified because they had not done their homework. Some of them were happy that they were fully prepared to answer the teacher’s questions. The same was the case with the girl students and the lady teachers because the students of Marka as of other schools were of the similar nature. Neither was there any difference between the male teachers and the female teachers except one. This difference was visible because every female teacher had brought some homework with her. Most of them were preparing for the coming winter. The climate was already giving the message that winter and cold were at hand. So most of the gentle ladies had brought their knitting work with them. It was usual with them to ask the monitors of the class to check the home work of the students and teach them the next lesson. The lady teacher had only to sit like an observer in a big international political gathering.

The housewives, having cooked their breakfast, and sending their husbands to work and their children to schools were feeling relaxed. They were just thinking of sweeping and cleaning work of the houses.

Suddenly a loud roaring sound was heard. Every body was horrified of that strange sound. They had not yet reached any conclusion that they began to feel jerks, sever jerks. They did not immediately realize what it was. It were first the teachers in the class who voiced that it was an earthquake. Hearing these words the students rose up from their seats and wanted to run outside immediately. The teacher feared that they would be stampeded. He ordered the doors to be locked.

Gamoo and others farmers had started ploughing their fields. They were losing their balance because of the severe jerks. The condition of the cattle was not different. The farmers came to know what it was. They left their cattle at the place where they were and began to run to one another. They had gathered in groups. The housewives also became aware what it was. They could not do anything except to cry with fear. They speedily began to remember God. The earthquake became stronger and stronger. This was the condition of the whole state of Damascu. The radio and television stations had stopped working. If there were some working they were only reciting the name of Allah and saying ‘Allah-o-Akber’, Allah is the Greatest. The whole world became alert. Nobody knew the details.

The next day, the radio stations and T.V. Stations of the world were giving the news that a severe earthquake had hit the state of Damascu and many villages had been totally buried in the ground. The big cities had also suffered a heavy loss of building, property and human life. All the communication and telecommunication system of the state had been destroyed and the assistance was badly needed from within the state and from the outer world.

The village of Marka was also buried in the ground except one double storey building. It was a miracle. Some people said that the owner of the house, Saifu, imagined to be an old man was very pious and God fearing person. He might have been doing many good actions for his fellow beings. He might be worshipping God all the time, that was the reason, that nothing had happened to him, to his wife and his seven young sons. The news of his safety, with good words was broad cast on the state radio, which had been half put to working condition.

A week passed in alarm and work for the help of the victims continued. The neighbouring state and its inhabitant made every sacrifice in cash and kind. Foreign help also began to reach. Trucks in large numbers with usable and eatable things were travelling towards Damascu.

Mr. Rehman, the correspondent of a well-established daily news paper was sent to visit the afflicted areas and report back of the miserable condition of the population. He boarded a truck that was going to Damascu and passing by the village, of Marka. The truck was fully packed and there was no room to sit in or on the body. The driver of the truck was a very kind man. He seated Rehman beside his own seat in the front portion of the truck. They reached the village of Marka after a tedious journey of two hours. A few persons were standing on the stop. The truck driver was advised to deliver the goods on all stops. Fortunately the stop of Marka came first of all. The driver asked the persons standing there to unload the things they wanted. Hearing this a wave of a new spirit ran into them. Their faces seemed to glow with happiness. They thanked God that He had helped them in time of dire need. Rehman said good bye to the truck driver and began to ascend the hilly place where a two-storey building was standing. When he reached the building, he found it locked. However, he read the name of Saifuddin (Saifu) on the nameplate and he knew that it was baba Saifoo’s house. He stood there waiting and thinking where baba Saifu and his fmily had gone. Perhaps they would have gone to help the survivors come out of the debris. There was much cold on this hilly area and Rehman wanted to tremble but he was shy of it that some person would see him trembling like a child and he would be put to shame. He was busy in his thoughts and trying imaginatively to shake off the stingy cold wind when he saw six or seven persons ascending and coming towards him. They were bearing the heavy bundles on their heads. Rahman thought they would be some persons hit by the earthquake coming for shelter to baba Saifu. In the mean time the party with the heavy loadas on their heads reached there and they unloaded their bundles with great difficulty. One of them who was leading them, was an old man but in very good health. He had a red stubby beard, one was a woman not very old and with a healthy body. Seven were the young men, very sturdy and strong. When they had unloaded the heavy bundles off their heads, and came nearer to Rehman, he saw that they were perspiring and the drops of perspiration were flowing down their faces as if they had been travelling through rain. Their clothes were also drenched. The old man came to Rehman. They glanced each other for a moment. Rehman was very much impressed by the personality of the seemingly old man, with big black eyes and eagle nose and an over all dignity. After a moment, Rehman asked him if he could tell where Saifu baba would be available. ( He had a quite different picture of baba Saifu in his mind). "Yes, I am Saifuddin. People call me Saifu" Rehman was stunned for a while. He could hardly control himself. He told him that he was a correspondent of a daily newspaper and had come to take his interview. "Let us go in and then you can start your work." Saifu Bab began to unlock the door, and Rehman looked to the woman and the seven young men and the luggage outside the door. It looked like a small hill reaching the roof of the first storey. Saifu baba opened the door with great difficulty because it was hindered by the luggage inside. They entered the building. There were seven rooms of the first floor, perhaps the same number of the rooms on the second floor. One room was in the front and three to each side. Saifu baba was moving on, perhaps to find some place to sit but of no avail. The luggage was touching the ceiling and occupying the whole floor. There was no space at all to sit.

They looked to each other’s faces for a while and Rehman eased the situation by asking the condition of the village. He wanted to hear it from Saifu. "Oh" Saifu baba heaved a sigh. "The whole village had been buried under the debris. You will have seen in the far end of the village to the back side of this building, some army men and volunteers working with machines. They were making hectic efforts to bring out the dead and the survivors, if any. I had offered them that I could help them, with my seven sons, to dig out the debris beside my house and take out the corpses and …….and the survivors, but they did not allow me. All the school children, girls, boysand teachers had been buried under the debris of the school buildings. Those people who had gone out, the farmers and the other persons, had not come back. God know what happened to them" He paused and then changing the subject said "I am sorry, I could not offer you a cup of tea. There is no space here, even to sit. Moreover, we have to go to the standing truck, for another round to bring some things to pull on!" Rehman understood what Saifu meant and asked his permission to leave. He was very much fatigued and disgusted. He took a returning truck and straight away went to his news paper’s office and wrote the following report. "I visited the village of Marka. The whole village had been ruined. No building and nobody had survived except one double storey building of an old God fearing and Pious man Saifu, his wife and his seven young sons."

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