A Cancer Destitute

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Destitution that comes as a result of disease to individuals otherwise performing well is very difficult to comprehend. Tasavur Mushtaq meets one such case to explain the phenomenon

Volunteers of al-Madad NGO in Lal Bazar busy in a medical camp. KL image: Special Arrangement

Confident and capable, Tariq Ahmad was a happy man. A resident of Srinagar, selling handicrafts, he earned handsomely and expanded his family business. Energetic, he managed and supported his family well.

Settled in life at a young age, he had a grand wedding that his relatives still remember. They had a comfortable life and the family prospered. “We had everything a happy and contented person should ask for,” says Tariq.

This dates back to around 2008.

As the years passed, Tariq fathered three boys. Increased happiness led him to have opportunities to expand and explore. Blessed to have children, his joy was to help them in growing better. He ensured their admission to a reputed school in the city. “Education was always a top priority,” said Shabnum, his wife.

A few years later, he shifted to a new home, to allow his family a proper space. Life was moving on smoothly.

One day as Tariq was home, he was exhausted, but that was no usual. He left it unnoticed. But the symptoms felt strange on each passing day. Finally, his routine was affected.

He first went to a nearby chemist, then a local doctor, and finally landed in the hospital. The diagnosis declared dread. As he heard the word, cancer, he was frozen. Back home when the details were divulged, he had intestinal cancer. “That moment changed our life completely,” said Shabnum.

Shattered, the family knew they had the battle to fight. As required, he was admitted to the tertiary care hospital in Srinagar. Doctors there had little hope of his survival. They told the family it is beyond the scope of medicine to treat him. “The way doctors bluntly told us about his fate, we were dejected. Nothing seems to be in sight except a divine help,” she said.

Accepting doctors’ the declaration was a difficult decision for his wife and three young kids. They did not lose hope. “We explored other option of his treatment,” said Shabnum.

But the crisis started to develop on the financial front. When the only earning hand was down with the disease, the resources had dried up. “We had savings, they were all consumed,” said Tariq.

Courage was the only companion of the family of five. As advised by a friend, they flew Tariq to hospitals in Chandigarh, Delhi and Mumbai. Finally, doctors found the way. He was treated there for ailment and he responded well.

Drained resources became the only handicap. As nobody was around to help, desperate, his wife sold their dream house in distress. The jewellery and other expensive gifts also find their way in the market.  All the money she got was spent on Tariq. With nowhere to go, once proud owners of a dream house rented a couple of rooms and started living there. “For me, it was important to save my husband and father of my children, rest everything can be recreated,” said Shabnum.

Tariq as on date is well, though not fine. He has an underlying condition to deal with. But the joy of his family is he is alive.

Taking the responsibility on her shoulders, his wife does some work at home. She removes lint from the shawls. But that is not enough to run the hearth and buy the medicines, leave aside the school education of their child. At times the rent of the landlord is paid with a lot of difficulties. Their life is in shambles.

Once prosperous, now 40-year-old, Tariq was a source of happiness for many. His relatives and friends made efforts to be in his circle. But as life turned the page, no one came to support. He has been abandoned by his loved ones. “Once I was at centre stage, pride of my family, but now they ensure distance even from my name,” he said.

Understanding his state of helplessness, Tariq is being supported by few concerned residents of the area. But that at times is not consistent.

The only support Tariq relies on is from Madad Trust, a charitable institution operating from Srinagar’s Lal Bazar. “The trust in its own small capacity has adopted his one child for education and also helps the family with essentials,” Zahoor ul Haq, the trust administrator said.  “A lot needs to be done to secure the future of his children, respectfully, and also help him to live longer for his family. We strive to help him to survive at his own level. For that, we plan to get him an auto. If possible, he would drive or we can keep a driver. That could emerge as a consistent source of income.”

So the Trust’s challenge is how to make Tariq earn again.

 (Name of the main character in the story has been changed to protect his identity.)

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