Stranded by Jhelum, saved by a brave-heart and comforted by women, orphans of Bemina’s orphanage had their share of woes in recent floods. Bilal Handoo reports the saga of poignancy, bravery and resilience
The deluge had started drowning the low-lying areas of Srinagar on September 6. At the receiving end of roaring Jhelum was Srinagar’s Bemina where 300 orphans were stranded in Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) run Yateem Khana along with orphanage chairman. The news was disturbing. And within no time, it created panic in Jama’at’s rank and file.
But before anybody came to their rescue, those boys— mostly rendered fatherless by Kashmir conflict, did unthinkable! Like brave-hearts, they started piling up sand bags in front of their orphanage gate to stop the marching Jhelum. But much to their woes, the troubled water played a trick. Instead of coming from the front, it started inundating the orphanage from the backside.
Those boys, however, didn’t lose their heart over Jhelum’s changed course. They straightaway started emptying the building housing 300 quintals of rice and other essentials. They shifted all the material to a safer place nearby. It was a back-breaking effort, but the boys did it on war-footing.
But with each passing minute, the situation was getting bad to worse. Jhelum had breached its banks at Qamarwari and was now moving towards Bemina with frightening flow.
Meanwhile, it was decided that 150 out of 300 orphans hailing from north Kashmir would be sent home. They were taken out from orphanage through the safest available route. But the management was taking its time to arrange a vehicle for those boys. And for the moment, the water level in Bemina was ferociously rising, putting the lives of orphans at great risk.
Somehow a few Jama’at workers reached orphanage to rescue the boys. But after a while when they stepped out of orphanage, the water level had reached neck-deep level. Among those boys were some kids of 5 years of age. They were carried on shoulders by relatively bigger boys. But after sometime, wading through water became impossible. In disappointment, they returned to orphanage.
As the clock ticked by, it seemed, there was no way out for those tender ones. Sensing the same had started unnerving them.
But then, miles away from Bemina, somebody was gearing himself to rescue those boys.
He is a Tata Winger driver from Soura. His name is Javaid Ahmad who was requested by some Jama’at workers for the task. It needed no ordinary courage to wade through ferocious Jhelum where chances of one’s survival were next to nothing. But Javaid without wasting any time started his vehicle and moved towards Bemina. He made multiple rounds to evacuate the boys from the orphanage.
During his last round, the water ran above his vehicle, but he held on his nerves and rescued all the boys, safe and secure. “His bravery won many hearts besides saving many precious lives,” says Ess Ahmad Pirzada, Jama’at press and publication officer.
All the 150 rescued orphans were taken to Soura. Most of them were soaked wet and were visibly shocked after witnessing wild waves of Jhelum. As the word about their presence spread in the area, scores of women came out of their homes and ran towards the Boys Higher Secondary where Jama’at had camped for rescue and relief.
Once inside the camp, those local women started beating their chests and cried their hearts out. They couldn’t resist the shocking plight of those boys. “They came closer to them,” says Dr Hameed Fayaz, General Secretary JeI Kashmir, “and put them on their lap and started hugging them as if they were their children.”
Some of the women were heard crying out: “They are the children of our martyrs!”
As emotions of these women started peaking up, the mood inside the camp turned poignant. “It was altogether a different scene where mothers of our nation were reflecting their touching motherhood,” continues Dr Fayaz. “By watching these women shedding tears and displaying an intense love and warmth for those children, it struck me that our Kashmir is indeed a resilient nation.”
Watching these children shivering in their soaked clothes, women rushed towards the market to buy new outfits for those children. They changed their outfits; and later, fed them in their laps.
After sometime, those women were seen insisting hard upon Jama’at workers for seeking adoption of the orphans. “It was understood that their motherhood had touched threshold,” says Dr Fayaz, “but adoption wasn’t possible as relatives of those children are still alive. This couldn’t have been done without their consent.”
The denial disappointed the women, but that didn’t stop them to comfort and look after these orphans during their stay in the relief camp.
Later when they (orphans) walked out of the camp for the orphanage, women were seen bidding them a tearful adieu.