When I ask Jiji how she is she always replies “Sanaa meh teek hu, mera saath logohn ki dua hai. Logohn ke liye acha karo tou Allah aap ke liye acha karte hai. Bas tum dua karo.” [Sanaa, I’m fine, I have peoples prayers with me. When you do well for people, Allah grants you good in return.] And pray for her, I do.
I spent 6 days with Parveena Ahangar during her stay in London; every waking and sleeping moment by her side. I had heard of Jiji’s work with APDP in Kashmir; her nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize; her trips across the world to tell the story of the disappeared and I had hoped that one day I would have the honour of meeting this woman who had become such a great source of inspiration for me.
But even I had never dreamt that I would be spending the last week of my first year of Med School in London, with Parveena Ahangar.
Anybody who meets Parveena ji, meets Javed Ahangar. Javed is Jiji’s second born, her second eldest son who was taken by Indian troops in August of 1990.
Parveena Ahangar is the founder of the Association of Disappeared Persons, (APDP) Srinagar. It is estimated that 8-10,000 enforced disappearances have occurred in Indian Occupied Kashmir since 1989. Because of the work of APDP lead by Parveena Ahangar the victims of enforced disappearances in Kashmir have not become another faceless statistic.
Jiji has dedicated her entire life to the search for Javed and every son of Kashmir who has disappeared into the folds of the Indian Occupation. This has granted Parveena ji a place in Kashmiri society which nobody else has been able to fulfil.
She has become the mother of not only a disappeared generation, but all of the youth of Kashmir. In only six days I learnt more about the struggle of Kashmir than I have in my entire 19 years of life.
During her speech at the conference in London, it was clear that even those who did not understand her words were moved by them.
There are many people who speak rhetoric but deliver very little in Kashmir. Jiji speaks thoughtfully with conviction and humour and volumes can be written about the work and the relief which she has managed to impart upon those around her.
She humbly says “Abhi toh kuch nahi kiya, ageh jaa kar bohat karna hai” [To date, we have done nothing. There is still much to do ahead.]
What is learnt from Jiji, is learnt from the way in which she conducts herself, the manner in which she has achieved all that she has and her humility. Jiji never speaks in any sophisticated form; she has not adopted a foreign tongue to tell her story and she does not need to.
In her simplicity is eloquence and unwavering conviction which one cannot ignore.
During her speech at the conference in London, it was clear that even those who did not understand her words were moved by them. Nothing was lost in translation; Jiji’s sentiments are so clearly conveyed. She is truthful; her honesty is something I have grown to admire greatly.
People say that it takes courage to speak the truth; Parveena Ahangar does it with ease. She personifies the sentiment that there should be no second option, just the truth.
Jiji’s character is such, that within a few moments in her presence you become a part of something greater. You very fast come to the realisation that Javed bhai, is no other than your own brother and Jiji is your mother too.
Before her visit I would tell people that the three weeks I spent in my father’s village in Kashmir was the time which has changed me the most, now I tell them the six days I spent by Jiji’s side have changed me more than I could ever imagine.
If you meet my mother, tell her how she has left her footprints on my soul.
These days when I call her she tells me she will teach me Kashmiri over the phone and laughs at the way my Pahari tongue wraps itself around her Kashmiri words.
She asked me yesterday: “Sanaa tumne aaj roza rakha?” [Sanaa are you fasting today?] “Haan Jiji, meh rozdaar hu” [Yes Jiji, I am] “Meh ne kaha tha na tumhe, tum mat rakho roza, tum kitni kamzor ho gayi ho gi. Ammi ko phone doh meh uneh bataoon, tumhe kuj kilay.” [I had told you not to fast, you must be so weak now. Give the phone to your mother, let me tell her to feed you something.]
She made me give the phone to my mother and told her that she should feed me more. Every time I call, she asks me who is around so that she can tell them to give me hugs and kisses.
Her heart is such that despite the pain it has endured it has not lost its softness. Blessed am I to have the honour that Jiji bestows upon me each time she tells people, “Sanaa meri doosri Beti hai.” [Sanaa is my second daughter].
If you meet my mother, tell her how she has left her footprints on my soul. Tell her how I love and miss her dearly. Convey my love and hugs and kisses; tell her how I wish I could deliver them myself. If you meet my mother, tell her Sanaa is on her way home.