I was driving back to home from my workplace, located on the wedge of a mountain range in the southern districts of Kashmir.
On the way back, I could see the picturesque paddy fields, a bunch of apple orchards and a cluster of Katcha mud-brick houses.
Men with turned up trousers, carrying sacks of rice seedlings from the nurseries. Kids playing cricket in the widespread playgrounds. Women, wearing their traditional tilla pheran and carrying baskets full of vegetables, reaped from their respective kitchen gardens. It was a captivating milieu and I was totally lost in this alluring beauty of my land.
Suddenly, I could see a woman in front of my car. It seemed as if she appeared from nowhere. To my dismay, I somehow managed to slam the brakes, the car stopped and luckily, she was saved.
I hurriedly stepped out of my car and asked the old lady, if she was alright. Her mouth widely open, as she continued to gaze at my face.
She appeared at a loss of words. She was trying to murmur something. She stuttered and stammered, struggling to find words.
Finally, she gave an anguishing cry,
“Jaana, where were you? I have been waiting for you since the morning. ”
Puzzled on hearing this, I wondered what she was talking about. But she caught the hold of my arm and began to stretch her crus frontwards. I was quiet as it was a bizarre situation and I didn’t wish to bring her back to reality, thinking that she may faint.
As we were marching onwards, I was trying to move ahead, with the intention of looking for the destination towards which we were heading, but couldn’t find any resting place nearby.
Finally, I could find myself in front of an old mud brick decrepit house. She pushed the gate open and took me with her to the little kitchen of the house.
Finally, I was allowed to settle down between the crumbling walls as she offered me a cup of tea. The old lady hurriedly left for the kitchen garden to water the unripen vegetables. And asked me to call her, in case I needed some more tea.
While having the sips of traditional Samovar Nun-Chai, suddenly I could see a middle-aged man standing before me. A weak man, with a broken jaw, wearing spectacles and staring at me with utter curiosity.
He introduced himself as Ali, the eldest son of the old lady and apologized for the inconvenience caused due to her mother’s unconventional behavior.
I asked what the reason was.
“It is a long story,” his chest heaved, as he sighed.
On my constant urge to know. He agreed to share the unforgettable tale of her mother’s heartbreak.
He began to narrate the ordeal of his mother, who was the worst sufferer in the family. This is a long story.
This happened a few years ago when she was separated from her daughters in the name of marriage. Then, Ali was captured by the state militia, Special Operations Group (SOG) and was brutally tortured. His jaw was broken, a mark of that memory. After a year, she lost her another son who was murdered in cold-blood by a gang of local criminals.
She somehow overcame that too. And now the only reason of her life was her youngest son, Abbas.
When the villagers observed this recurring theme of mourning and wailing trussed to her home, they insisted her to move to another place. Maybe it was the good luck that her new house would bring. But superstition may have led her to move to a new house, but the sorrows stayed.
Being a staunch believer of all these things, she had made a temporary shift to a tin shed to protect her family from the ill-fate. Abbas would often complain to her mother on these superstitious beliefs she had.
He was very different from his siblings; he would never spare a moment without igniting a gentle smile on the face of her mother. He was trying to fill the vacuum in the life of her mother. She watched over him constantly.
On that fateful morning, as usual, Abbas took a bath and started to sip his morning tea.
“But that day, he seemed quite disturbed,” recalls his brother.
He usually used to start his day by bringing a smile on the face of mother early in the morning. Improbably, on that day he didn’t. While sipping tea, he would also make funny faces to her mother to which she responded with smiles and gentle laughter. But on that very day, he appeared quiet and aloof.
Ali casted his mind back to that unfortunate day, “Abbas left the cup of tea unfinished and pleaded to go outside but Mouj didn’t let him go, as he tightened the straps of his slippers, a strange feeling sparked inside mother, she wanted to stop him but couldn’t, as if her mouth was locked. He looked thrice towards her, but didn’t utter even a single word.”
Ali goes on, “As he went out of mother’s sight, her strange feeling gained intensity and she left completely restless.”
“After few minutes we heard some bullet shots, Mouj just runaway towards the street bare feet to get Abbas back.”
“I saw people running for their lives once I reached there, all the crowd seemed blurred to me and my Abbas was only visible to me amid the crowd.”
“I tried to call him, suddenly another bullet shot banged in air and I am seeing Abbas guarding his head with both of his hands and groaning in pain “Mouji!” (Mother) and falling with an audible thud on the road.”
“As I saw him falling, I felt complete darkness before my eyes, once I stepped near him, I saw my son in the pool of blood and I would feel the warmth of his blood in my lap and that aroma of his blood as fresh as that of fragrant blooms.”
“Still, I was trying to categorize it just as a dream but the harsh reality was soaked in blood before my eyes.”
These were the last words of Mouj before she lost her mental stability.From that very day, whenever she sees a youngster, he confuses him with her Abbas.
People call her mad, but they don’t know the story behind her behavior. How a bullet ruined her life and shattered all her hopes.
I stood up and began to look outside from the derelict window of the house, where I saw Mouj engrossed in her work of loosening the clods of mud in her vegetable garden and she was hardly bothered to turn her head around. Her eyes, covered with acute dark circles and her cheeks deep-sunken.
As I went out to bid a farewell to her, she was busy with her work.
It was difficult, but somehow I tried to convince myself and went ahead.
Finally, I approached her, “Mouji, I am leaving now”.
To this, she replied with a cry full of disquietude and anguish.
“Jaana, please come back soon, don’t leave me the way you did on that very day, ” while tears continued to roll down her sunken cheeks.