Abbas Town: Rebuilding hope from rubble
I was preparing to leave for the Teen Talwar Collection drive when I learnt that well known architects, Mr. Sikandar Hayat Khan and Mr. Iqbal Rizvi were looking for a photographer or two to accompany them and document the carnage at Abbas Town so that they could mobilise the architecture community into figuring out a plan of action to rebuild the site of the blasts. I immediately volunteered my self and fellow photographer Ali Khurshid and we left promptly at 3:45pm.
Spotting a few rangers and one or two police mobiles at a short distance from the point of attack, we made our way towards the wrought iron gates of the destroyed building. A young teenager asked to check our bags, not allowing us to go further in till he finished checking us. We opened our bags and gently told him we were there to help. Respectfully but sternly, he shook his head and said he still had to check and that it was his duty. He was so emotionally charged; I could feel his sense of betrayal and the lack of trust toward everyone who was making their way through to the building.
Inside, significant amounts of people were hanging around taking in all the action. Children were running around amongst shards of glass, mothers yanking them out of the way as a large van full of debris tried to maneuver its way out of the compound.
The main affected area was cordoned off and manned by scouts. The architects explained the purpose of our visit and they let us through. Dolls lay broken and bicycles hung off the balconies. A pink wallpapered room that probably belonged to a young girl stood exposed towards the street where we were. A man with a bandaged left hand and head roamed aimlessly in dusty clothes, staring at the destruction. We spoke to him later and discovered he had been driving by in his taxi when the bomb exploded and after tending to his injuries he had returned to help the victims.
The people (whom we assumed were the residents of the place) returning to see what of their belongings could be salvaged, at this point, did not appreciate photography. Despite that, we documented as discreetly as possible because an analysis cannot be done without visuals.
Leaving the compound, I listened to bits of conversation around me as we made our way to the street. Amongst the “how did this even happen”, “we know who is behind this” and other random chatter, I heard plenty of laughter too – mostly children. Almost everyone was taking pictures from their cellphones.
Outside once again, we saw the teenage boy body checking a motorcyclist on the road who wanted to cross that area. We made eye contact and his look was softer this time. I motioned him to come to me and he jogged over. We asked him what were the immediate needs of the people. He looked at us and just shrugged helplessly;
“They’ve lost everything. How can I tell you what someone like that needs?”