The airport had no marble floors, no air conditioning, no bright lights or huge advertisements. Unlike the one he had departed from back in the States, it was dirty, dusty, and hot. There were no security guards on duty, no information counters, no taxis waiting to pick passengers up. He walked past some bearded men who gave him the hostile stare, others broke into small gossips as he heaved his knapsack over his shoulder and walked out. He let out a sigh, and in his heart he said to himself,
I ran away from a city of lights and noise, but little did I know I’d end up in a land of darkness.
While walking down the dirt road, stepping upon rocks and pebbles while avoiding potholes as huge as manhole lids, he couldn’t help but question his decision. Yes, he had wanted to run away from home so badly; Yes, he felt so unloved and uncared for; Yes, his friends had backstabbed and betrayed him for their personal gain… But here, in a land so foreign to him, where people spoke in a language he couldn’t understand, where folks were dressed in gowns and turbans so unfamiliar, where passersby clad in blue coverings from face to toe hushed their children past him, he finally conceded to a simple fact,
That while he had left in search of love and hope, he had stumbled into a land of hatred and unforgiveness.
And he soon discovered why. Walking past miles and miles of mountainous terrains, after many hours of trekking on the rocky land, he saw what his countrymen had done to this state. He saw buildings with walls that would never embrace the roof; he saw piles of rubble and rocks lying beside tents and makeshift homes; he saw little children dressed in torn and patched jackets running around a small fire under the watchful eyes of adults with an eye bandage or a limb in a cast. He finally saw a world beyond his own, he finally witnessed what pain truly was, he finally experienced what brokenness was truly about.
He had walked out of a home that kept him warm and safe into a land of no warmth and security.
He slowly inched closer and closer to the rubbled village. He was growing weary. He had to have a drink, he wanted some food, he desperately needed some rest. “Hello?” he cried out. The children stopped in their footsteps and looked up at him, hands stuffed into their little mouths, not knowing how to react. He was about to reach out to them, bend over and cuddle them, when suddenly an old man pushed him aside while motioning for the children to go into the tents. Still lying on the ground, he was grabbed by the collar and pushed even further away. Wobbling to get up, he looked around and saw the children gone. Adults were standing at a distance with sticks in their hands, ready to assault. He walked away, passed the tents and saw the children huddling inside through the creaks of the canvas.
He was fleeing a society that he struggled to survive in, but never did he want to be in a community that rejected him.
There was a barren tree in front of him. Throwing the bag onto the ground and nesting his head against the bark, he closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep. He saw his friends in college, he had dinner with his parents, played catch with his golden retriever. He even had time to hang out with his girlfriend, take a stroll with her in the park, and watch the sunset over the beautiful lake in downtown Manhattan. But alas, such a beautiful dream was short-lived. A pebble hit him right on the forehead, his dream was dashed and his eyes opened to a group of children ten feet away throwing rocks at him. A few more rocks came flying by, and he dodged them as he stumbled to get up.
He remembered the goodness he had had, taken for granted, only when it was all taken away from him.
Walking away from the children, he suddenly saw an angry mob approaching him. He turned around to run, but the mob soon caught up with him. In his haste he fell onto the ground, face kissing the road and even tasting the bitter soil. The mob surrounded him, snatched his bag from his shoulders and kicked him. Simultaneously the blows of the sticks and bats came raining down upon his body. There were screams in a language he would later discover was Urdu, and on the faces of the mobsters was anger, hatred, bitterness. They were screaming at him, as if he had brought upon the people there atrocities so great that even God Himself could not forgive.
Yet he realized, with all the kicks and beatings, he was supposed to feel the pain. He didn’t scream in agony, he didn’t grimace in pain. He was being rolled around on the ground, trying to dodge the kicks and the bats, but still he felt no pain. The blows were cushioned, the kicks were softer than they seemed. Am I being preserved? Am I being protected?
For all the insecurity he had experienced in a land of peace and harmony, he finally experienced security amid an angry mob.
Was this a point of no return? Was there still a chance to go home? He regretted leaving home,
he shouldn’t have left. But there was nothing more that he could do. It was too late, and the rest was beyond his control. He needed a miracle to save him, he would need divine intervention to rescue him from the state he was in.
There was a loud gun shot. The people dropped their bats, panicked and dispersed. He was semi-conscious by then, and the last images he saw were of people in army uniform surrounding him and tending to his injuries. He saw bandages soaked in blood, he felt some army men wrapping his legs up. The wounds must be severe, he thought. The men were wearing blue berets with a blue and white logo on the top left corner.
He finally understood that miracles are only found in the harshest times of trouble.
He was asleep for many days. Word did travel back home, of a young boy that was found by the United Nations peacekeepers along the India-Pakistan border, beaten and severed by a mob. Little did he know that people back home did care, that while he was away and while he was exploring a devastated state, he was searched for and waited for. He was flown into La Guardia Airport, and pushed through the arrival doors in a wheelchair. Vision blurred, he saw a small crowd with banners waiting beyond the doors. He knew who they were. They were people who loved him. People who waited and will still wait for him.
Deep down, he sank into the assurance that there are always second chances for those who chose to return.
He didn’t need to read the banners clearly to know what they said.