Every few days, I will stop at a coffee shop in Z block DHA and grab a cup of coffee on my way to work. On an average day, it takes me less than two minutes to drive from my house to one of the many coffee shops in that area. I know because I once calculated the distance as a joke to prove to my friend from the US of how we weren’t as deprived as portrayed in the media.  In an average week, I use the UBL ATM right next to the bomb/gas cylinder incident site two to three times. As a student and then a teacher in the school a stone’s throw away from the site, I would frequently walk to the same shopping area for a snack or just walk home at the end of the day and not give the freedom this small act represented another thought. Just two days ago, I was walking in the park a street away from the site of the incident and speaking to my mother about how we should get out of the house more, especially since we were lucky enough to live in an area that is so secure.

I thought of all this on my way to work on February 23. I had left the house at 11:20 am, planning to stop for coffee and was quite annoyed when an unusually timed traffic jam in front of Beaconhouse Defence forced me to choose another route. Barely a minute later my mother called and told me about the blast. I parked my car on the side while the shock set in, wondering what to do. Do I just continue onto work as if this was a normal day? Do I go and hide at home? After a few moments of indecision, I decided to continue driving to work and see if my students were still in the mood to study.

My commute is approximately 30 minutes, so after all the relatives and friends from the area had been confirmed safe, I couldn’t help thinking if this was an act of terrorism then no place is safe anymore. If this can happen here too, what will we do?

An hour later, after being bombarded with what would later be declared false reports of other attacks in well-to-do neighbourhoods in Lahore, my students and I sat discussing what this day meant. Many of them also live in areas like DHA – rich, secure neighbourhoods which seem to be separate from the rest of the city, and in fact, the country. We spoke of how horrible it sounds… let’s hope it is an accident. How it being an act of terror would mean something entirely different. It was then that it hit me how extremely selfish our reactions were.

In fact, I realised that all that I had thought of since hearing of the event were things I had been able to do for the past 20 years and was now afraid were being threatened. I realised that my fears reeked of privilege. My fear of this being so close to home was just a realisation that my tiny little bubble of privilege, of an artificial sense of security, had just been popped. If it truly was an act of terror it would unfortunately be one of many that has happened in my country in the past decade. But never had one been so close to home - to be blunt, never had one been in an affluent, ‘secure’ neighbourhood. And that is what was more frightening than anything else. Had my privilege, unbeknownst to me, given me and those of my social class a false sense of invincibility? Why should I not be equally terrified, angered and affected when such an event happens anywhere else in the country? Why should the lives of anyone lost in senseless violence be any less tragic, any less an atrocity than the lives lost in communities like DHA - in big cities like Lahore?

These are the questions I’ve been asking myself since. These are the questions I asked my students to think about. For that one-hour class, we didn’t discuss the effects of colonisation as seen in post-colonial drama from Africa and Ireland. Instead, we discussed how I and, you and, we, the privileged, the one’s studying in private schools, living in elite neighbourhoods and socialising in fancy coffee shops and delis had become comfortable in our bubble of safety, feeling just the appropriate amount of anger and sorrow at violence in our country, but then going back to our safe routines.

And then, I apologised to my students. I apologised for letting their country come to a point where classroom discussions can sometimes begin with questions of ‘Is your family safe?’, ‘Do you live in that locality that was just hit by what could be a terror attack?’ I apologised for letting their country get to a point where they cannot just walk out of their homes.  Where some spaces were safe and others were not, some people could feel safe but others could not. And most of all, I, their teacher, apologised for not having learned and taught that selective safety, selective freedom of movement and selective quality of life is not acceptable.

The freedom and the sense of safety afforded to a few is worthless unless we are all safe and we are all free, irrespective of where we live and what advantages we enjoy. It may not have been a terrorist act, I hope to God it isn’t. But even then, maybe the bubble that burst for many of us that day will mobilise us to make sure we use our privilege to ensure a safe country for all. If not, then we are going to be ashamed and apologetic to our students, our children, for a long, long time.