A Half Widow And Her Family – Stories Of Hope And Despair


22 November 2015, while driving back home from a marriage ceremony of my friend it was 9:30 pm when I found someone lying on a street with his head completely dumped into a filthy drain. At first, I thought it is someone dead there, I got scared and at once I called my friend who lives in the very same street and informed him about the same. We tried to recognize him but his face was completely covered with mud. We washed his face and he was Aarman my friend at once recognized him, totally unconscious. We decided to take him to a local hospital and in the mean time, we informed his family about the same.

We reached the emergency block and few doctors were there, we described them about Aarman and they allotted a bed. After few minutes a nurse came and injected some medicine into Aarman’s arm, opened his mouth and unlocked his jaws with a probe. One of the doctors checked Aarman’s pulse rate, his tongue and eyes. He wrote something on patient’s ticket and asked, “From how long he is taking drugs”? We were shocked and told him that we are not from his family so we are unaware of the same. We informed his family. After few hours Aarman was recovering from his unconsciousness. Aarman’s family was there and we decided to leave.

Next morning when I visited Aarman’s home to know about his health her mother with her two daughters, were in the kitchen taking noon chaie(salt tea). Aarman’s mother at once came out and guided me to hall next to the kitchen. She then called her daughter “Kulsum” and told her to bring tea for me. I asked Aarman’s mother about Aarman, She told that he is fine, doctors have registered him in “rehabilitation and counselling cell” SKIMS Srinagar to get rid of drugs so his uncle is accompanying him today. In the mean time, Kulsum and her little sister “Tabassum” came with tea and lawasa (Kashmiri bakery). As I took few sips of tea the room was filled with a pause of silence which gave me a chance to go through the details of room, its walls were roughly white finished, a 32 inch television set sitting on a wooden table in one corner, few rugged red cushiness placed across walls on a faded red carpet, undulating electric wires and some flowers artistically placed in a green plastic vase on left side of television set acting like a hope of life in desert.

I asked Aarman’s mother about his drug addiction, at first she tried to divert my question but on my continuous efforts, she felt no option left other than answering. “It is a long story, it is a story of hope and despair, it is a story of my life, it is a story of my family rather a story of every Kashmiri family and what will you do after hearing this”, she told. She then paused for few minutes, breathed heavily, rolled her eyes down and told my name is Nighat Ara.

****

I was married to Fayaz Ahmad on 20th April 1989. Fayaz Ahmad was a science graduate while I have just passed 12th class. Fayaz was a fruit merchant. He used to call me ‘luck of his life’. Aarman was born on 13th February 1991 followed by Kulsum in the year 1998 and Tabasum in the year 2000. My in laws were taking care of my children, I and my sister in law Kehkashaan used to cook meals for my family, wash clothes and cultivate vegetables and cereals in the nearby kitchen garden.

It was midnight 4th April 1999 when army major Rakesh Gupta from X RR with his men cordoned our house. His men blatantly smashed our doors and windows while crying out Fayaz’s name along with a lot of abuses. We all got scared, Kulsum and her grandmother were crying upstairs. At first, we refrained from opening the door as we thought they might leave after some time but instead they started to yell more and more. Finally, Fayaz gathered some courage and opened the door.

Once Fayaz opened the door tens of hands from outside grabbed him from neck and pinned him down. They did whatever their boots want to do with his body; I chased them up to our main gate and protested. In the mean time, all of our family members were in the front yard. We asked them about their identity repeatedly but they were just pushing us backwards, one of their men even slapped Kehkashan, pushed her down the ladders and abused her. We even asked about the reason for arrest but they didn’t answer any of the questions. At last, I grabbed the legs of their officer and begged him to answer, who he was? and what is the reason of arrest? He kicked me in my face and told my name is major Rakesh, I am from X RR. Without telling any reason they left and we all are were crying. In the mean time, our neighbours came out of their houses and gathered in our front yard. We all were waiting for the dawn. I hardly know where were Kulsum, Kehkashan lying fainted on the ground.

Next day early morning I along with my brother and few neighbours went to Rakesh’s army camp. The gate keeper stopped us and told that nobody is allowed to go in today. Upon our repeated protest two of their men came out and started beating us with their guns and Teflon rods. I was having a bowl of rice and meat with me for Fayaz, they took that away and fed that to their dogs. We waited few yards away from the main gates till evening in a false hope that they might allow us but all in vain. This whole thing became a routine for me for about one month.When I realized that it is becoming more complex I consulted the village committee head Haji Gulam Mohammad Bhat. He got a permission letter signed by army C.O(Commanding Officer) Baramulla S.M Rajput.

Relatives of disappeared Kashmiri Muslims participate during sit-in protest organized by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in Srinagar.

On 5th May 1999 early morning I along with Haji sahab went to that army camp and showed them the permission letter. They allowed us with their faces full of anger. One of the soldiers guided us to a room full of darkness and cigarette smoke. An officer with his back towards the door was there watching some movie. The soldier informed him about us and left.
He (officer) said “kya baat hai” what is the matter?

Without turning his back he repeated the same. I narrated him all of the situation, then after an hour he turned his face towards us and stood up from his chair and asked again “kya baat hai, kya kaam hai yahan” (what is the matter, why are you here). I narrated him again my entire situation and in the middle, he stopped me.

“Come tomorrow and tell me what happened”, he said.

Next day I went at the same time, he was taking his breakfast in the front park so I waited till he finished.
Once he finished he asked me “haan ji bolo” (yes, tell me).

As it was my routine matter now I repeated each and every thing accurately. I told him about Fayaz and Major Rakesh. Once I said major Rakesh, he laughed with his full energy and a strange expression was covering his face.
“yahan koi major Rakesh ke naam se nahi hai” (here no one is with this name), he said.

“Are you sure he was major Rakesh”,he asked.

I replied yes and then he told: “so search for him at any other location not here”.

As he was about to leave I fell on his feet and begged him to tell me something about fayaz. He ignored for a while but upon my restless effort, he told to one of his guards to bring the staff register.
“Doundo iss mei Rakesh” (search rakesh register), he said.

I flipped through each and every page not twice or thrice but about thirty to fifty times but no familiar name was there.
Days and months passed but no news of fayaz was there. Now I was visiting each and every unidentified dead body whether it was at any encounter site or mortuary or morgue. I found nothing there except despair and disappointment.

Somebody told to my father in law that Fayaz is in Badami Bagh Cantonment Srinagar. I spent a month there searching for my husband’s face but this place also closed my doors of hope.My nights and days were roasting on ambers. My brain was now strange to sleep. My false hope was sometimes knocking at our door (as if fayaz was outside) and when I try to open the door no one used to be there. Our orchards dried and wilted because of poor care. My father in law suffered from tetraplegia paralysis.

We visited many jails but still, I was not satisfied so I arranged some money and got some help from our MLA to search in Central Jail Kotbhalwal Jammu and Tihar jail. I showed fayaz’s photo to each and every person there whether he may be an inmate, gardener, shopkeeper, security person, driver, doctor, cook, everyone but nobody said a word about fayaz. I also registered my case in APDP (Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons) forum Srinagar.

While retuning back from Tihar another trauma was waiting here for me, my mother in law had died because of high blood pressure and I even missed her last rituals. I noticed a drastic change in Aarman’s behaviour. He was showing meagre interest in studies as well as homely matters. After some time I came to know about his addiction while washing his jeans. I found some tablets repeatedly in his pocket and in his room as well. We asked him about the same but he didn’t answer. Later Kulsum took those tablets to a local dispensary and confirmed that these were narcotic drugs.

Relatives of disappeared Kashmiri Muslims participate during sit-in protest organized by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in Srinagar.

In the year 2003, we arranged a marriage of Kehkashan with one of our relatives. We kept it short and simple. After few months of her marriage, she suffered from some severe pain in the abdomens on examining doctor informed her that she may not be able to give birth because her uterus is permanently damaged or injured due to some accident. It was an accident to doctors but we only know what it was.

While Nighat Ara was reciting all this to me her eyes were all dry not a single drop of tear was around, her throat was like a flaccid piece of dead and dry wood. Kulsum was standing still at the door with her flawless face full of questions which time had left there; her scarf was porous because of its long age. Her fingers were perfect for a ring and hands waiting for the colour of henna. She had pursued M.Sc B.Ed and is working as a teacher in nearby school keeping her Dad’s dream of becoming an Engineer aside. Her monthly salary is Rs 2500. She is also giving tuitions to neighbour kids.“Dad used to say I want to see my beloved daughter as an Engineer so that she will build her own dream house” She said with her voice choking and tears rolling down.

In this room of destitution and lifeless bodies, Tabasum was the only hope and presence of life. Her broad and gushing smile had a perfect match with her name. Her round face was following all laws of symmetry with her eyes as black diamond placed in a glass pot. She is in class 8th of Govt Middle School Tarzoo Sopore. She was born in the year 2000 few months after Fayaz was arrested. She hasn’t seen her father yet. She likes mobile phones and playing candy crush.

The most magnificent and vivid way of answering I found was from Tabassum. She was talking million dollar philosophy in a few words. In spite of having Science as her favourite subject, she wants to become a lawyer so that she can help people to get justice. Disappearance is the only word she understands as injustices.

****

After few minutes I left from Fayaz’s house with my brain totally tangled in a sea of questions to whom my knowledge and experience of life was far away to answer. I wondered who was Major Rakesh? Who arrested Fayaz if not Rakesh? Who is providing money to Aarman for drugs? Where is Fayaz now? Is he alive or dead? What was his fault? Was he really guilty? Was Rakesh an army personal or from any other agency? Who will arrange Kulsum’s marriage? Will she be able to build her dream house ever? Why was Kulsum’s scarf perforated? How is Nighat raising her children in this world of dearness? Why Nighat’s eyes were dry while recieting all this? How is Nighat able to remember all the events, places and medical terms along with day, month and year? Is there any hope of Fayaz’s return in Nageen’s heart? Will Kehkashan ever taste the blessing of motherhood? If fayaz was the culprit (or not) why the family suffered? Who will take care of Fayaz’s paralyzed father? Who will take him to shower and change his clothes Nighat, Kulsum or Tabasum? Who will arrange a funeral and cremation for him? Who will shoulder the cot of Fayaz’s father? Does fayaz know about his mother’s death? Does his mother’s soul will rest in peace? Does fayaz know he has one more daughter Tabasum? Will he accept her as his daughter if he returned? What will Tabasum call him Daddy, Abu, abba, papa or stranger? Will fayaz’s family ever arrange funeral prayers for Fayaz? Who will buy a mobile phone for Tabasum? Will she ever be able to buy it and play candy crush on it? Why only disappearance is injustice in according to Tabasum?

Questions gave birth to questions like a chain reaction with each step I was taking on road and suddenly the muezzin called Allah-O- Akbhar

(The author is an engineer by profession)

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