On that day, reading my twitter feed, i had never been so scared in my life. You see, living in Pakistan, you have a thousand and one other things to think of, you don't really realise what being a Pakistani is, and certainly, being a Muslim is no problem. In the west, erm, it is pretty different. Nearly two years now, and for the first time, i felt scared leaving the house the day after the Woolwich incident.
I had to go attend my last day of college, i wouldn't have gone, if it didn't mean so much to me. As i left, mum told me to recite Ayat-al-kursi. I did. I popped in my earphones, didnt turn anything on, and set out to reach my bus stop in time to catch the bus to college.
It was a busy day, with a pretty dull atmosphere, thanks to an unpredictable and utterly damp and grey British weather. As i walked, i heard a figure across the road come out of the bushes, now you see that's NOT normal. The figure was a fairly skinned man, in a black hoodie with black jogging bottoms, something you'd be scared of. I didn't quicken my pace to make it obvious, there was no other human around. At that time i had a 1000 things run in my mind. 'Sanna, he's going to kill you!'. I thought to myself, or maybe physically harm me, maybe just pull my hijab off or racially abuse me for my get up, skin colour, or religion. It was like i was ready yet not ready to die.
At that moment, i saw a lady in a hijab, walk towards my direction after dropping her children off to school. I could hear the man behind me, i could hear him breathe right back there. The lady's presence comforted me. I continued walking. Curiously enough, i looked back when the woman crossed me and found that the man had vanished. He wasn't there anymore. Maybe hid in another bush to scare of an innocent person like he had before.
Anyhoo, i prayed that the woman reached her home safely too. As i reached the bus stop, i thought so many times of continuing my journey or just abandoning it. I thought to myself, if this can happen in a relatively populated area with more Muslims, how will the reaction be towards my college which has the opposite trend?
I saw my bus, breathed a sigh of relief.
As i waved my hand for the bus to stop and got onto it, i experienced something, again, out of the ordinary. The bus driver, a white man, didn't seem too happy with my presence, the usual showing-your-bus-pass-and-moving on didn't work for him, he grunted loudly and signalled me to come back as i took a step to go upstairs. He scrutinised my card for some time and rolled his eyes to tell me to go.
As i reached the upper deck to settle myself down, i was nearly in tears. The whole bus journey, i was pretty upset. I just couldn't make anything out of the whole scenario since morning. The fact that i was already a bit down knowing college was ending, didn't help.
When the bus stopped, i vowed, to not care, just let things be the way they were going on and not think of it. I put on a stern face, hid my teary eyes and stood up to leave. I was the first in the queue that lined up from the upper deck to leave. I stood on the stairs, waiting for the people on the bottom floor to leave, when a white man of a sturdy build, stopped. In my mind i prepared myself for another upsetting episode. When i looked at him, he gave me a comforting smile and gestured for me to move, and said, 'After you my child.'
That fraction of a second gave me hope, he didn't do anything, but his voice and actions said it all. In the eye contact that we had, he said there was nothing to worry about, as if he was reassuring me, he signalled, and put his hand on his chest.
I gave him a faint smile, left the bus with teary eye a funny feeling in my nose, the one that you get when you 'feel' a situation.