My Distant Star

Nazenk Khurshed
I had had a rival since the first year at school. Her name was Rafia and she was the girl against whom I measured myself. As time passed, I realised she was that bit ahead of me – in studies and everything. And now she is not. She is buried a few feet in the ground, leaving me with the biggest regret of my life: having never met her.
Rafia studied at a government school and me at a private one. The only link between her and me had been my mother, who taught her at the Government Girls Model High School, Turbat. My mother loved her for she was better than everybody else in her class and the stories of her exploits inevitably made it to our home. Every day.
I’m not that bad at studies. I do well. But she was better. Sometimes I thought she had no right to be that good. I am taught at one of the very best private schools in the city and she was only from the Model. She made me jealous at times. But I loved her. She was a position holder without fail. Delivered loud speeches, acted elegantly on the performing arts stage and her drawing was excellent. She was so ambitious that she started writing doctor before her name from the third class. This thirteen-year-old doctor was truly a super star.
Rafia’s submission in a school drawing competition. Before she joined her siblings to buy snacks at the stall where the cylinder blast caused havoc, she was asking her teacher if she stood a chance in winning the drawing competition. Albeit, she died before finding out.
On top of that, her three siblings were also superstars in their own right, all position holders, confident speakers, fine actors and, in his elder brother Ayub’s case, a good singer.
She was not alone in her brilliance in life. But, tragically, she was not alone in death either, as all three of her siblings died with her too. Her younger sister Muradatoon succumbed to her burns on the first day of the blast. On the second day, her brother Ayub died. On the third, she herself. On the fourth, her sister Naseema. The blast injuries claimed them all, one at a time.
Ayub, 22, with his three sisters, had stopped his motorbike in front of a shop (where the blast occurred on November 28) to buy his sisters pakoras as he often did on their way home from school. A few minutes earlier in front of the Model, his two younger sisters came out of the gate but Rafia was a little later than usual. She was asking a teacher of hers about the announcement of the results of an inter-school drawing competition she had participated in and expected to win.
It makes me incredibly sad today that she is no more. I feel, with her, my compass is gone. She set the standard for me. I wanted to prove to my mother I was made of the same stuff she was. Rafia kept me on my toes.
Now that she is gone I feel the urge to say that she is at a place better than here and that she is resting in peace. Then again, I feel she was not born to rest in peace at this age. She had to perform on more stages. She had to know if she had won that drawing competition. She had to see the rise and fall of life for years to come. She had to keep me honest about my studies some more.
I hear people saying when a little girl dies she becomes a star in the sky. It’s supposed to be consolation. It is not. No one looks up at the sky anymore. But I, for one, will do. Nothing has changed between us. For me she was a star when she was here, and now that she has literally become one, I will keep looking up to her.
Nazenk is a 13-year-old student. Her uncle Naimat Haider helped her write this story.
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