My daughter, one of 63 students of the third year, taking their last clinical test this year, left the house in high spirits in anticipation of a long summer holiday starting in several hours time. Abu Ahmed, the regular taxi driver who transports her and four of her fellow students, to and from college was very pleased that I had put away ten liters of precious petrol for him. They drove off to attend to their business, as did I. God willing they would be safely home at about one in the afternoon.
At one, my phone rings. It's Abu Ahmed, "Have the girls made plans I know nothing about? I have been waiting for them this past hour, but I don't see them." My heart missed a beat.
"I will call her straight away and phone you back."
I ring my daughter's number; no answer. Her cell is switched off.
I ring again and again, still no answer.
"Abu Ahmed, have all the students left? Can you see any familiar faces? I can't reach her."
Abu Ahmed couldn't find any of her classmates, but familiar faces were present; drivers and parents with bewildered expressions on their faces were showing signs of anxiety. They started comparing notes and it turned out that all third year students were missing. They were supposed to have finished their exam at noon; where were they?
I don't know how I got there. Which route I took.
I approached the security person; the college was more like a fortress than anything else.
Test the system.
"Is it possible they may be still in the exam hall?" Far fetched ... but maybe...Dear God
"There has been a problem with the generator. Perhaps it …."
Generator?? What on earth …
He hurries away. We, of course, are not encouraged to enter.
Ten minutes; twenty …
The Deputy Dean approaches us with hurried steps and a strange expression on his face.
"Please, everyone, please. Can I have your attention?"
We all looked at him, waiting to hear our children's fate.
I was shaking, and a scream was mounting in my throat … They were all kidnapped, no… killed …
"We were not able to provide enough diesel for our generator (it serves the hospital!!), and it stopped in the middle of the exam. Understandably, we couldn't let the students out after receiving their test papers. It was only at one that the fuel arrived. It also turned out that the generator needed some repairs …."
At half past three, "Oh, Mum. Our test was a large number of slides shown on an over-head projector for us to recognize and give detailed information about. The power kept going off every ten minutes, and the monitors weren't about to let us use our cell phones to call our families .."
It is most unfortunate that heart doctors are all targeted and have mostly fled the country .... they would have had their fortunes made in these circumstances.