'132 hearts snuffed out. 132 coffins. 264 bereft parents. And hundreds and hundreds of classmates traumatised for life...'
Vaihayasi Pande Daniel mourns those unfinished lives, murdered on a cold morning in Peshawar.
Yesterday, my younger daughter turned 15.
Yesterday, 132 children died on her birthday.
I didn't tell her till late last night, after her celebrations were over, about the horrific tragedy in Peshawar.
Two years ago, a Delhi girl was raped and fatally maimed on her birthday. She said to me, ruefully then: 'Why did it have to happen on my birthday?'
When I told her about Peshawar there was a long silence.
She asked if the attackers were ISIS or Taliban. Then she sat stunned. She had no more questions. She couldn't comprehend what had happened.
Can I really expect her to?
How do you make a newly-minted 15 year old understand why murderers would enter a school and shoot 132 children, of her age -- she's in Class 9 -- at point blank range?
You tell me. Give me the words.
Which religion can explain that to me? Or her?
Which concept of god can explain that to me? Or her?
Which prayers will help me? Or her?
If there was a god, as you all say, would he have allowed this?
As I often tell a friend, I am truly ashamed to be human. To share a species with such lowlife.
*Being human* these days means all kinds of repulsive things. The phrase ought to be rested. It has no meaning. Humans are the most inhuman.
These people can't exist. There can't be people who would do this to children who dreamed of growing up and becoming doctors or engineers or astronauts.
It took a lot of courage to even open the newspaper this morning. To glance at the headlines or photographs. Or watch television.
How could you look at photographs of teenagers in neat uniforms slumped over, dead. Or the pictures of endless coffins?
As my mother-in-law asked me: "Don't they have children?"
I looked up North Waziristan on the map. I wanted to understand its exact location. I read articles on Pakistan's military offensive in that area to hunt out Taliban terrorists and how nearly half a million people have been displaced.
I am still looking for an explanation for why a handful of murderers did this to 132 children.
Was there something that flicked a switch in their brains? Did they lose their children? Were there pictures of a child they loved, who is now dead, in their mind's eye when they pulled the trigger on other children?
If you have been a parent, and lost your child, would you want others -- random others -- to lose their children? Would you want to hurt a child the way your child was hurt?
You might want to hit out at an adult for the way your child was hurt. But would you extract revenge by killing another child?
Just the other day I watched Malala Yousufzai speak in Oslo. I made my daughters hear her too.
As I heard Malala speak courageously, I thought to myself, sometimes there is some good in this mostly awful world where humans, with their infinite capacity for cruelty, have the upper hand.
How was I to dream that a few days later 132 children would be the cost of that Nobel Prize.
That 132 hearts would be snuffed out. 132 coffins. 264 bereft parents. And hundreds and hundreds of classmates traumatised for life...
Maybe this world was never meant for them. They had a lucky escape from a vicious world that it is our misfortune to have to live in. A world where each day's headlines makes you weep.
O joyful children, bring white winter roses
with bright burning candles to welcome the Lord.
O joyful children, bring rings of bright berries
and white winter roses and green holly boughs.
Our hearts were sleeping.
The cold winter storm is gone.
The night is done.
The world is dressed in silver light.
Image: A soldier escorts children from the Army Public School that came under attack from Taliban terrorists in Peshawar.
Photograph: Khuram Parvez/Reuters