Abdul Kareem Gujri, a newspaper vendor, was killed in Pampore as paramilitary opened fire on civilians. His widow and children are fighting a tough battle for survival in a hostile world since. Hamidullah Dar reports.
Life was so good for Shameema after her marriage to Abdul Kareem Gujri of Pampore. Her husband would provide him everything he could afford. However, her world came tumbling down when on January 31, 1991, as her husband would leave for his routine work of vending newspapers and magazines at his stall at Pampore Chowk, to return in a body bag.
“At around 12.00 p.m. a neighbour informed me that paramilitary forces have opened fire on the civilians at Pampore chowk where Kareem would erect his stall. The news made me nervous but I thought nothing untoward would happen to my husband who was a virtuous, good man,” says Shameema. “But when at 2.00 pm. his body reached home, I realised what tragedy had befallen me,” says Shameema.
When Shameema became a widow she had two sons, one a three-year-old and another a seven-month infant. She herself was only 24. She did not marry again. The loss of her husband started the struggle for survival and eking out a livelihood.
“The loss of my husband was followed by the belligerent attitude of my in-laws. My father-in-law would throw out our belongings and ask me to leave his home along with my two children. I resisted all this silently thinking that my children would face the worst if I left,” says Shameema occasionally looking at her two sons, sitting by her side.
Her two sisters-in-law, Shameema says, also tried every cruelty to throw me out of my husband’s home. “At times when I would be out on some errand, my sisters-in-law would lock all the rooms and stay at their relatives’ houses. I had to break the locks to enter my room. Then I would search for my children and bring them to the room. It was a torture of worst sort when on one side you became a widow at such a young age and on the other, your own family would throw you out of the home you had been living in happily for five years,” says Shameema.
Shameema fell into deep poverty within days. It became hard to manage the bare minimum needs of her children.
“When I was in dire need of money as my own relatives had discarded me, the newspaper owners did not help me in any way. Even those customers who owed my husband money did not pay up. Virtually I fell from heaven to earth in a matter of days,” says Shameema.
On one hand Shameema struggled for survival in the harsh domestic environment and on the other her two children had to face discrimination in the school.
“Some good people arranged our free admission in a school but the teachers did not like that. Many a time, the vengeful teachers would make us stand up in the class and then scornfully say that we were not paying fees so there was no need to attend the class. It was humiliating,” says Abid Kareem now a 22-year young son of Shameema.
The ill behaviour meted out by their father’s family, the humiliation at the school, the taunts of the relatives and the apathy of the society has taken their toll on the children. They have turned up shy, introverted and depressed.
“We were already facing many problems due to the death of our father and the teachers and relatives were adding salt to our injuries. It was quite unfortunate of the society”, complains Abid. His younger brother Adil Kareem does not talk to strangers at all and only blushes when addressed.
“I have tried my best to save my children from ill effects of the traumatic conditions we were living in, but could not do anything to keep the sense of inferiority from getting them,” says Shameema.
Only her brothers would chip in with some help. At times they would provide rice and other things. Shameema started spinning yarn to keep earn a living. “There were times when we had nothing to eat. I started spinning yarn so that my children get at least a modest dress and food than getting nothing at all. I had left the idea of remarriage for these children and was devoting all my time to their upbringing,” says Shameema.
Not only her relatives, but the neighbours also proved uncooperative. Their taunts and even stopping drainage of the rainwater from the compound of Shameema’s house added to her woes. “My life has been a struggle all along and even today, due to meager income we face numerous problems,” says Shameema.