And everything slipped through her hands

A house -- which once chirping, filled with people -- is now dark and desolate.

 

From many members to just two people, Syeda and her adopted son Mohsin, it looks as if the angel of death has not liked the liveliness of this home.

 

Syeda – with her frail body and waning eye sight – isn’t able to carry out her daily household chores but she is left with no alternative support.

Neither could the disposing off bring respite in her life nor could her husband survive.  

Bullets and bloodshed robbed her joys and left her alone in the fight for survival.

 

The odyssey of joy to mourning, for Syeda, began with the death of her husband Ghulam Mohammad Dar.

 

She had to sell almost everything she owned to treat her husband who had met an accident. Neither could the disposing off bring respite in her life nor could her husband survive. 

 

At the age of 25 to 30 she became a widow.

 

Dar was a fruit merchant and whatever he had saved was spent on his treatment.

 

“My in-laws used to reside in Baramullah town of North Kashmir and when my husband met the accident we sold all our property over there so that he can get his treatment done.”

 

Syeda was left with nothing not even the house to live in -- when her brothers came forward and give her a share she deserved from their ancestral property.

 

“Had my brothers not helped me I wouldn’t have even a roof over my head right now.”

 

Her two room house in Darish Kadal area of old city was once too little to accommodate her five kids but is now perfect for two of them. Though there are many things in the house that needs to be fixed but Syeda is content with it. 

 

A responsibility to keep her home running, after death of her husband, came over her three sons -- who were very young then. 

 

Her younger daughter was just an infant at that time.

 

All the four boys chose different jobs and began to earn. They were happy with whatever little they would earn.

 

“It was like unbelievable for me when my kids brought home money for the first time. I thanked Almighty for everything.”

 

The situation in nineties was politically volatile – curfews, crackdowns, protests, firing – were all daily happenings.

 

Uncertainty would prevail. Anyone would get a bullet anytime and no one was held responsible.

Syeda’s elder son had started selling fruits and vegetable on a makeshift stall right outside his house.

 

“I didn’t want him to go to distant places as the situation was not good.  I asked my children to restrict their business to the vicinity so that they would remain safe and near to me.”

“My son was shot outside our home. I heard the bullet which was pumped inside his head. They quenched their thirst by the blood of my son.

 

However, death has sinister designs – it isn’t bound by distances, love and relations.

 

In 1998, Nazir Ahmad was calling it a day with a content earning. 

 

Army in the area was going berserk as one of their personnel was killed in Darish Kadal.

 

Chaos had gripped the area; people would take to the streets to gauge the situations.

 

“Troopers were bloodthirsty that evening. They were looking for the person who had killed their man.”

 

Few rounds of fire and cacophony dissolved in the silence.

 

“I warned him to come inside but he listened to nothing. As I heard the bullets my head began to spin and I went out to find out my son.”

 

Syeda was stopped by her other children and in just a little while, the news of Nazir’s death broke out.

 

“My son was shot outside our home. I heard the bullet which was pumped inside his head. They quenched their thirst by the blood of my son. He was innocent and died a death of a martyr which I am satisfied about.”

 

Collecting the shattered pieces of her life, Syeda built herself up again; again for the sake of her other children.

 

However, as she would console herself properly, her other son died. 

 

Darish Kadal is a volatile area and clashes remain happening here.

 

During nineties the situation was very different than what we experience today.

 

“Every now and then forces would kill or arrest someone. They won’t spare anyone be it a child or an elderly.”

Frequent raids by police to know his whereabouts would give sleepless nights to her and her two children. 

 

One day during the same exercise to catch hold of some youth, Tariq Ahmad, middle son of Syeda, jumped into the water.  

 

Tariq, who would work as a driver, couldn’t find a safe passage, when forces were chasing a group of youth, and jumped into the Jhelum.

 

“He preferred to jump into the water than to land in the clutches of the oppressor.”

 

Relatives looked for his body for three days running and on third day afternoon he was finally fished.

 

So far, two of Syeda’s sons had already died and the third one had joined the militant ranks -- only when he was 15.

 

Frequent raids by police to know his whereabouts would give sleepless nights to her and her two children. 

 

“We were being harassed and tortured when Ishtiyaq became militant. I had a young daughter at home which used to make me all the more uneasy.”

 

Within just two years, Syeda had lost her two sons and third had already gone into hiding – which she was sure would never return.

 

Misfortunes, Syeda, would say had found a permanent address at her dwelling place.  

 

Her youngest son Ishtiyaq was dead also.  

 

“Tragedy after tragedy would knock at my door and I would brave them all.”

 

Nazir, Tariq and Mushtaq – all had gone -- one after another.

 

Nisar Ahmad – now the only brother left – had no one around.

 

“He was very funny and would crack jokes with his brothers but the situation changed his behaviour. He became stifled. He stopped talking to us and would remain alone. Sometimes I would catch him smiling for no reasons and would find him often shedding tears.”

Today the sole purpose of Syeda’s life is Mohsin – her young son – whom she says:”is a gift from God in return of my four sons.”  

 

He eventually lost his mental balance and when the condition went out of control, Syeda shifted him to the mental asylum on the mercy of psychiatrists which either didn’t help. 

 

However, after sometime they had to bring him back home but he left never to return. 

 

Today it has been eight years since he left his home.

 

Syeda was left with a daughter only and the two would work to run their house. She was devastated until the day one of her neighbours put an infant in her lap. 

 

“My neighbour’s relative was poor and had given birth to twins. She straight away came to my house and hand over one of the twins.”

 

Welcoming him with tears Syeda opened her arms to him. “He was godsend to me and I accepted him with all my happiness.”

 

Today the sole purpose of Syeda’s life is Mohsin – her young son – whom she says:”is a gift from God in return of my four sons.” 

 

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