Once there was a family. An ordinary and happy family. A family that had hopes and aspirations and felt special in its own way. In a way a family should feel.
Naseema and Rehman had a son and a daughter. Elder boy one was Rizwan and younger girl was Kulsooma. The family was enjoying beautiful days of their life. Rizwan was in class 7th and kulsooma was still in kindergarten. Rehman had his own shop next to the house and he was earning good from his shop and everyone in family was satisfied with his earning. He always used to fulfill every demand of his blooming buds and also his love of life Naseema. Naseema felt blessed to have a doting husband and loving children. Everything was going their way. They had enrolled Rizwan in a private school and he was a brilliant boy. Both Naseema and Rehman had a dream to see Rizwan as a doctor and he too wanted to become a doctor. And Kulsooma! She was too young but her parents knew that she would make her own name one day too; she was the star of the family who brought smile through her playful antics. The family was ordinary, but also special. Everyone had a good impression of them in village.
One ordinary night when they finished their dinner together, Rizwan left for his room and begin to study and Kulsooma on the other side was crying. Naseema took her little daughter in her lap and begin to sing songs for her. As Kulsooma listened to her mother’s melodious voice she slept. By 11pm, all were asleep, Naseema, Rehman and their angelic daughter in one big room and Rizwan in his own room filled with various posters including of doctors in white robes, map of the world where his own country seemed to not exist, and one that said ‘Think Positive’.
There was a loud knock on the door. A rude knock. The wall clock showed 4.04 am. Naseema, whose sleep was lighter than Rehman, got up worried who it might be at this time of the night. She did not want Rehman to be disturbed since he had been having tiring days in his shop. She went to the door and opened it. She never thought it would be something dangerous, maybe it was a neighbour with some urgent problem.
There were no neighbours when she opened the door. “Where is the man of the house”, the policemen on the door shouted. She felt fear for the first time in her life. Before she could answer, Rehman had come out and asked “What is the matter?”. “We are searching for a terrorist and we are informed he is hidden in this area” said a cop with anger. Naseema and Rehman were still puzzled as to why they were being disturbed. Theirs was an ordinary family. “Come out immediately. Accompany us so that we will be able to find that ‘son of a bitch'” shouted another policeman with fury on his face. Rehman did not want his wife to feel afraid or the neighbours to gather outside in this ungodly hour and witness this. He got ready. On the contrary, Naseema was not allowing her love to go since she did not trust the cops but one of the cop assured her “Do not worry, your husband will be back soon”. They left, with Rehman with him. Naseema could not control her tears and maintain her composure. She went to Rizwan’s room and the boy with his sleepy eyes said “what happened amee?” Naseema told him the whole tale and after listening to her mother, he begin to console her. Now she turned silent and was desperately waiting for his husband. She begin to tell herself “Oh God keep Rehman safe and send him back soon”.
The dawn broke. The sun came. But Rehman didn’t come. Naseema was crying and while she thought something is wrong, she kept hoping he would be fine, maybe delayed for other reasons. Life plays sometimes strange games with you and puts you in deep somberness. The family who was joyful yesterday is in dejection today. Implausible that one who was there bread earner is not around them . Rizwan didn’t attended the school. that day Both the mother and their two small children were crying. Kulsooma had no conception of why her mother and brother were crying but she cried with them. For her, Abbu had gone to the shop and will get her candies as he always did when he returned in the evening. How would she have known that the return of the father, the gift of candies, is not always a constant in life.
How would she know that, she was in Kashmir where many other fathers and brothers were disappearing, many never to be found again.
Running around officers and police stations was of no help as the policemen refused to acknowledge that there was an operation in the area on the evening Rehman was taken away. They laughed at her request for FIR for a missing person. They suggested maybe her husband had abandoned her, run away, maybe was himself a militant. Life after this was a blur for Naseema. She lost her sanity. No one visited to console them nor even their close ones, as rightly said by someone, “laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.” Naseema kept waiting for her husband but he never came.
The family changed. Without Rehman and with Naseema in trauma and uncertainty over her disappeared husband, the dreams they had seen for their children shattered. It was as if their family’s life had disappeared.
Rizwan went to school but he was not allowed to join because he didn’t have the money to pay the tuition fee. Rizwan came back and told his mother why he came so early and her mother cried and said “ oh God why are you doing this to us? What had we done? Please I beg you return our Rehman to us”. God did not seem to hear her words. Rehman remained unreturned. Naseema was wailing but no one was their to listen her wails. Her heart bled and her soul cried to see the pain and agony she was going through. She lost her love, that love who was always there in her bad and good times, that love who gave her every happiness, who gave her everything but suddenly a catastrophe came and snatched them everything they had. “Where should we go? Who will give us money? who will give us food ? who will pay Rizwan’s tuition fee? Who will console Kulsooma? Who will laugh with us again? And what about those dreams we saw for our children. “Alas! No one was there to answer her questions. No god, no cops, no state, no neighbours, no society. No one answered her questions.
Rizwan gave up his school and begin to work in a roadside stall (dhaba) to support his family without telling his mother that he was working. Naseema, who lived in a permanent cloud of misery, uncertainty and shock, did not ask him. She went about the household chores but was no longer there. One day, not many days after Rehman had vanished, Naseema was walking on road in her state and was hit by a bus. She died immediately.
Rizwan and Kulsooma had been waiting for their mother to come home that day of the accident. He had earned some hundred rupees in that dhaba for a day and he had brought some biscuits and vegetables. With the help of his tiny sister – who suddenly seemed to be growing up and never cried, as if to not put burden on her close ones – he had cleaned the house. Both had been waiting. When they found out that Naseema was no more but had died on the spot due to the accident, he knew that his mother had died days ago. She had died when Rehman had disappeared.
Rizwan and Kulsooma survive. Their mother gone forever. Their father disappeared.
This is the story of an ordinary family. In Kashmir.
Malik Aabid is a writer who resides in Trehgam Kupwara