This is to wish Shahabuddin – fondly known by all in the village of Pore as ‘Zalzala Khan’ – a very happy first birthday. May he live long, may he prosper greatly, and may he never get to see anything like the events of the day on which he was born.
I realize I am a little early in wishing him, but my own heart was warmed reading about him and I thought yours might also find in him a symbol of revival.
According to a news item published in The News and elsewhere (by Waheed Khan) Shahabuddin, “a chubby-cheeked boy with big brown eyes and curly hair will have his first birthday on Sunday, Oct.8″ and has been nicknames ‘Zalazala Khan’ (‘Earthquake Khan’) by people in his village.
According to the Reuters version of the story:
His mother gave birth just moments before their home collapsed in the earthquake that ended more than 73,000 lives in Pakistan, and 1,500 in Indian Kashmir, and rendered over three million people destitute. Mohammad Sajid, the father, described how he and a midwife had carried the mother and child outside, with the roof falling, walls collapsing and ground shaking.
“We named our son, Shahabuddin, a few days after the quake but the villagers like to call him “Zalzala Khan”, as they say his birth on that terrible day was an omen from God that life would go on,” Sajid said. Zalzala means earthquake in Urdu and the healthy baby boy was the couple’s first child.
Neighbour Mohammad Iqbal said that Shahabuddin was testimony to new life emerging from the ruins of the quake. “His parents don’t like us calling him “Zalzala Khan” as it reminds them of the destruction. But he has given everyone the will to live on,” Iqbal said. Twenty other neighbours in the small hamlet of Pore died that day. They are buried in a graveyard surrounded by pine trees close to Sajid’s two tents. The highland community lives a narrow, twisting rough track through the mountains, a few kilometres (miles) from Garhi Habibullah, one of the worst-hit towns in North West Frontier Province’s Mansehra district.
“His birthday will be simple on a day of mourning for us,” said Sajid, a tailor, as he hugged his son sitting on concrete debris of his former home. Sajid has received a cheque for 150,000 rupees ($2,500) from the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra) to help him rebuild his house. Meantime he’s using the roof of his old house as a floor for the tents in order to prevent waterlogging.