Deserted by her husband, she lived for the only son she owned after a legal battle over his possession. When he was supposed to earn and keep his mother happy, he joined militants and returned home after 100 days, dead. Now his mother has gone literally mad, reported Samreena Nazir
This gloomy room with light green walls holds a haunting silence. In the wrinkled face of Taja Begum, its sole inmate has wrapped an untold tale of agony and loss.
Begum’s nights are restless but she spends her days on the concrete veranda with an expressionless face. Nobody knows if she ever smiled or cracked into laughter. She is in this state for almost forty years now.
Her life came to a standstill after her only son, Jahangir opted for death over life. Her son was killed in an encounter, in some remote place.
Begum now 60, a resident of Noorpora Tral, was the eldest daughter of Mohammad Ismail Dar. Much adored, brought up with care and love, she recalls with a deep sigh, how her every wish was fulfilled.
“My marriage function was remembered for a long time by people,” Begum said. “It was for the first time in our village that a bride was taking a lot of luggage, gold jewellery and costly items along with her at the time of farewell.”
Begum was married to Mohammad Ramzan, a resident of Magraypora in Achabal. He was an employee in state industries department. A year after, Mr and Mrs Ramzan were proud parents of a boy. But when she returned to her Achabal home with the toddler son, she was shocked to see her belongings missing.
It emerged into a crisis, initially between the couple, and later between the two families. Eventually she left her in-laws home with an empty lap, without Jahangir, her son.
It was not an ordinary return. For 14 months, Begum lived in despair and stress. Her family, somehow, managed her a relief when they took the possession of her son after taking the case to the court. With Jehangir in her laps, she would live happily at her father’s home.
“My parents adored Jahangir more than me,” Begum said. But destines are secret. “After he passed his matriculation and joined Higher Secondary School, he came in touch with his father. His father showered his love on him.”
Gradually, Begum said, Jehangir started loving both his parents, separated by fate. He would not make a distinction between the two and would often avoid getting sentimental when his mother would tell him that his father had ruined her life and eventually married another woman.
“He never bothered about what society said about his parents or particularly about his father,” Begum said. “He used to love his half-siblings as a responsible brother and was very much possessive about them.”
Jahangir was a mature mind and polite in nature. In order to manage his support for his studies, he started a photo studio in Noorpora. Enrolled in SP College, he completed his BSC 2nd-year examinations and returned home quickly after he got the information that his mother was unwell. “I remember Jehenagir literally running through the fields to reach me where I was busy harvesting the paddy,” Begum said.
In October 2000, Begum said she sensed a change in Jahangir. He came very late that night. As the mother started probing, it took some time but finally, the truth came out. “I was attending to a group of militants in my shop,” Begum remembers him saying. “That night, I could not sleep.”
After a couple of days, Jahangir repeated the same and didn’t report back home in time. An angry Begum waited with frustration and questions but Jehangir did not return. She went to see his shop and it was locked. For two days, Begum did not move an inch out of her home. She was only waiting for him.
“I saw one of his friends, I called him and asked about Jahangir,” Begum remembers. “His answer shocked me. He said entire village knows that your son has joined the militants.”
Even his friends were shocked. Shabir Ahmad, one of his friends, said he had never seen any inclination in him towards the militancy. “He was a sensible guy with a lot of self-respect,” Ahmad said. “When we all of were enjoying life and playing he had started a shop to meet his needs.”
Jahangir’s rebellion coincided with Begum losing her mother. “She died because of mental trauma as the army and police used to launch an intense search operation in the village those days,” Begum said. “Just a fortnight had eclipse since my mother’s death that I finally saw Jahangir after nearly 100 days on February 10, 2001. I was just one of the few thousand people wailing, crying and mourning his death”.
Jahangir’s brief militant stint gave him the alias of Rashid. He was killed in an encounter at Kuchmul, Tral.
The death was a complete blow to Begum. “I get enough of rent from my three shops outside my house to meet my needs,” Begum said. “But there is nobody to take care of me. There is nobody with whom I can talk.”
This feeling has literally pushed Begum almost close to madness. “We often hear her wails during the night,” Muneera Begum, her neighbour said. “When we ask her, she says she has a heartache. It seems her son took her soul too along with him.”