A Wish to Walk Again

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Circumstances forced aged father back to work as labourer when his only bread earning son was paralysed for life in a police action. Qazi Mudasir narrates the story of Khanday family who struggle to keep their paralysed son alive and happy

Jan Mohammad dreams of days when he would walk. Pic: Ahmad Mukhtiyar

Jan Mohammad dreams of days when he would walk.
Pic: Ahmad Mukhtiyar

For 20-year-old Jan Mohammad Khanday, a sand-digger by profession who singlehandedly supported his six member family – two sisters, ailing parents and a mentally retarded brother – life outside the small window of his room is constantly moving while he sits static on a wooden bed.

In last one year Jan has not seen anything beyond the four walls of his small square shaped room. The bed on which Jan lies all day is cut from sides to fit between the walls. The walls are lifeless and bereft of any pictures adding to the gloom that has befallen over Khanday family.

Jan, ‘the legs and arms of the family,’ as his father would often call him, vividly remember the events of that day when he was chased by policemen and after getting hold of him, beaten ruthlessly, and finally thrown from the first floor of a house, where he tried to hide. His lower body is left paralysed ever since.

It was July, 2013, and there were peaceful protests in Srinagar against alleged desecration of holy Koran in Gool, Ramban and subsequent civilian killings. That day, Jan was returning home after work when he got caught in one of the protests near his home in Palpora, Noorbagh in Srinagar.

“Before I could understand anything I saw policemen charging towards me. Sensing trouble, I ran for my life,” says Jan while unsuccessfully trying to shift in the bed.

But they (policemen) caught hold of Jan and started attacking him with bamboo sticks and gun butts. “All I remember is that I pulled myself together, gathered whatever courage I had left inside me, and started running towards a house,” says Jan.

But the policemen were in no mood to let Jan go. “They were overtaken by rage. They chased me to the house and dragged me all the way up to first floor. Then they started kicking me with their boots and finally holding me from my arms and legs threw me down,” says Jan.

It was concrete floor where Jan landed on his back but his ordeal did not end here. Policemen came running down and started trampling his almost lifeless body with boots. “They acted like beasts. They did not care if I die or live. They kept beating me. One man was hitting me in the abdomen with his boots in a mad rhythm. It seemed he was enjoying my pain,” recalls Jan.

Since that day Jan’s lower body is completely paralysed because of the injuries he sustained during that half an hour long ordeal. He can move his arms only; his legs are completely lifeless.

“It seems I have forgotten what it feels to have legs that once moved freely without any glitch,” says Jan painfully.

Jan, who dropped out of the school when he was just in 3rd standard to help his father sustain the family, feels guilty that his ailing father has to work again to manage his medicine bills.

“Everybody wants to have a long life but what good is it if you can’t move. Your life is worth nothing if you can’t work and earn. It is embarrassing for me when I see my ailing parents work for my sake. As a son, I was supposed to help them,” says Jan.

Jan had worked hard to elevate the lives of his poverty ridden family before his dreams were cut short.

He had made his list of priorities that he was sure he will achieve if he works hard. And getting both his sisters married topped that list. “As a brother, I am obliged to take care of them and get them married. But who will care for them and take their responsibility. I am having sleepless nights when I think about my sisters,” says Jan.

Jan’s father, Abdul Sattar Khanday, 65, who seems unmindful of his ripe age, frazzled saggy shoulders, gashed hands, deep and sunken eyes, weak, unhealthy and exhausted appearance, now extracts sand from the same spot where his son used to work before the tragedy. “My son worked hard to get us all out of the financial mess. He always talked about marrying his sisters in good families. But that was before those policemen devastated his life,” says Sattar in a low tone that was barely audible. “He told me straightforward that ‘father you should rest now as I will take care of the family’. But that could not happen. “They (policemen) did not paralyse only my son that day; they paralysed our entire family,” says Sattar.

Among many dreams of Jan Mohammad was to marry off his two sisters. Pic: Ahmad Mukhtiyar

Among many dreams of Jan Mohammad was to marry off his two sisters.
Pic: Ahmad Mukhtiyar

Jan who listened to his father in utter silence seems to have been transported back to that day, that spot, when he was lying unconscious on the road, outside that house, where policemen had left him, probably thinking he was already dead. Finally after a brief silence, Jan spoke, “You know, such was the terror of those policemen that nobody dared to come near me. Only after policemen left the spot, some women came and lifted me up. Next thing I know is that I woke up in the hospital.”

“By the time me and my wife reached the hospital Jan was already paralyzed in his lower body. He had suffered respiratory arrest and was rushed to the intensive care,” recalls Sattar.

Next one week was tough for Sattar and his family as they had to manage huge costs of Jan’s surgeries. But Jan could not walk again. And the costs did not come down either for poverty stricken Khanday family. “Whatever I earn, half of that is spent on his diapers excluding medicine. We need to change his diapers several times in a day and make certain that he is comfortable, happy and at peace. We know it is stressful for him. But it is equally painful for us too,” says Sattar.

The tragedy has left Jan in such a condition that he could not even answer nature’s call on his own. He uses a catheter and diapers multiple times a day to drain his bladder and bowel.

The diapers need to be changed at least twice daily, which is a costly affair for this poor family.

“If the diapers are not changed on time and regularly, his skin becomes susceptible to rashes raising bacteria. It (skin) even starts bleeding or sometimes oozes fluid,” says Sattar.

Lying quietly on that wooden bed Jan listens to his father with pained expressions on his face. Then his thoughts seem to wander outside the widow where a small flock of sparrows make noise. Jan raises his head and says softly, “All I want is to walk again!”

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