After rendered homeless in September floods, a mother lost her son who was out to rescue people. Four months after, her woe is yet to wane, reports Durdana Bhat
As brick by brick her new house in Srinagar’s Mandir Bagh is taking shape, Gulshan, 45, appears indifferent towards the construction activity, she once cherished. Nearby, her son is busy passing construction material to labourers. But his mother left ravaged in September floods looks, as if, in trance. Perhaps, the traumatic feeling of losing her 14-year-old son, Museeb Dar is yet to sink in her.
A sudden cry raised by his brother ends her lost stance. She has been putting up with her brother since September 2014. She trails behind a sign of helplessness as she walks inside her room. All sounds inside seem buried. Not a single word is coming out of her mouth. In this dimly-lit room, this mother bears a stark resemblance with a withered person.
Her ordeal started at the outset of September deluge. Jhelum was going berserk. With each passing moment, the alarm bells were getting loud in Mandir Bagh. For the fear of their lives, many had abandoned their houses. Gulshan too prepared to flee. She took shelter at her brother’s house situated nearby. Fearing for her medieval house of mud and bricks, she almost concluded: “I don’t think, I will again set foot inside my house.”
By September 8, the flood had set off a haunting peace in Mandir Bagh. No usual household chit-chats were heard. No vehicular din fell on the ears. No sign of life was visible. Amid this scene, Gulshan continued to peep outside the window of her brother’s house only to see desolation outside. This deepened woes for this widow and a mother of three.
Meanwhile, her teenage son studying in Class 9 had decided to be a daredevil. Along with other boys of his age of Mandir Bagh, he had left for a rescue mission. Among her three sons, Gulshan had given one son for adoption to her brother. After her husband died fifteen years ago, she was living with Museeb and her other son. It was Museeb who was working part-time to run the expenses of her mother and brother.
Museeb wasn’t a swimmer. But he still went ahead to rescue on a boat. By September 8 evening, the ‘shocking’ news broke out. Initially, it appeared an unconfirmed murmur. But as dusk grew darker, it became a piercing truth. And then one of her relatives informed her in a wailing tone: “Museeb drowned while saving people!” After a shriek, a thud followed. Gulshan had flattened on the ground.
Four months after the deluge that drowned her loving son, she is still wailing. The only difference though remains: lamenting sound has now turned into mad silence!
Back to the fateful day. Museeb’s body was fished out by her neighbour. No loud mourning was heard in Mandir Bagh. Gulshan was fast losing her sanity. She wanted to hug and kiss her son one last time. But she wasn’t allowed to do that. Her wailing was getting intense. Later when his body was being taken out on a boat for burial, Gulshan rushed to window to have one last glimpse of her son. She raised scream after scream, asking her son: “Please don’t leave me like this. How will I survive without you? Please, come back. Museeb Jana, please…” But Museeb was too quiet to reply.
These memories are still fresh and are apparently distressing her. A ray of light coming through a small window of her room is illuminating one part of her face. With that visible part, Gulshan looks like a disturbing image. Out of this background, her speech sounds like a whisper. “I couldn’t see his face for one last time,” she took a long time to say this. “He was my beloved son. Floods destroyed my small world. I couldn’t believe that he is no more now…”
Each sentence that comes out of her mouth weaves a web of gloom inside the room. Amid this ambience, Gulshan is counting her days. Her son was working at nearby photography shop for running home expenses. “He was too young to work,” she again overcomes her reigning silence. “But he never complains. No, he wasn’t a nagging child who would often whine. He was my prized son who tirelessly shouldered the burden of his mother and brother. While doing that, he never parted ways with his studies. He was too good in his class. But…” She breaks down. Her sobs are getting loud, very loud. But her tears remain invisible in the poorly-lit room.
After water level had come down, Gulshan went to access her house. All she could see was a mound of muck. Along with her son, her household items were too gone. Only cracked walls were staring at her.
Her wretchedness worsened after the government handed over a paltry sum of Rs 12,500 to her as flood compensation. The amount was too little to rebuild her house. It was then, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led ‘Akh Akis’ initiative decided to rebuild her home. But even then, the mother’s woe is unwilling to wane.