It was the December of 1971. I had been sent to boarding school in the city as my father wanted to empower his daughter with a stellar education. And , then the war between Pakistan and India disrupted my six year old existence.
Cold December days have a way of turning into dark nights before one knows it. A group of twenty or thirty ,first and second graders sat huddled over their desks trying to finish their homework. I, as always, needed to use the restroom. Walking timidly to the teacher's desk , I asked in a quiet voice if I could leave the room. "Roopinder, go with Kulbir. And, remember girls, rush back! I don't want you to dilly dally."
As we walked to the restroom, which was quite a walk away, we clutched each other's hands tightly. I barely squatted on the toilet seat, hurriedly finished up my business , and rushed out to my trembling friend. We scurried back like little mice who've just escaped from the paws of a pouncing cat.
Roopinder knocked on the door to be let in. We were taught that rule; always knock on a closed door. Just when Ms. Teresa called us in, I heard a loud , deafening sound behind us. I quickly glanced back as Roopinder entered the room. It seemed like a huge , green bird was descending in a swooping move. It was dark green in color and had a picture of a crescent moon and star on it. I stood transfixed unable to move. Then the door opened and Ms. Teresa yanked me in.
All my classmates were huddled under their desks as the sirens were piercing the air. I, too, went and crouched besides my partner. We were all in a daze. After what seemed like ages , we were asked to come out. With fear on our faces , we pretended to go back to our homework.
The war did not last very long. School was suspended for the duration of the war and all of us had to go home. When my father came to pick me up, I shared my experience with him. He told me it was an enemy plane and proceeded to explain the complicated reasons behind the conflict between the two countries. Of course, my little six year old self could not make head nor tail of it. I just closed my eyes, and laid my head on his shoulder and went to sleep.
As I have grown older, I have often wondered about the effects of war on little children. All they hear is loud sounds as they sit huddled under desks , beds, tables , or whatever it might be. They hear the sirens with pounding hearts and wish it would all go away and life would return to normal.