Language of Love

After her husband’s death, Aziza tried hard to come to terms with the loss, but she couldn’t. With nobody except a pair of goats and a calf to talk to, Aziza slowly rebuilds her lost world under the thatched roof,  Bilal Handoo reports. 

Aziza Begum infront of his modest house with two buckling.
Aziza Begum in front of her modest house with two buckling.

In the calm ambience of Rukh Mohalla in Sumbal village, 25 km towards north from the summer capital of J&K, a woman in her mid-forties is feeding her goats and a newly bought calf near her modest house.

Clad in soiled Pheran, Aez, as villagers fondly call Aziza, a widow with stoic expressions on her face lives all alone. Her only company is these goats.

Surrounded by poplar trees and vast paddy fields, Aez spends her days quietly in Sumbal, which was once a bastion of Ikhwanis (renegades). During peak militancy, Aez’s village was one of the most volatile areas in north Kashmir. However, as guns fell silent, Sumbal assumed a deafening calm. But if there is anybody in this village, who seems far from peace, it is Aez.

A few months ago, she wasn’t alone. Her face wasn’t so gloomy. She hadn’t assumed a mysterious silence. She wasn’t visibly engrossed, wasn’t sighing heavily and wasn’t carrying a sense of loss with herself.

But Aez’s life changed after the demise of her husband, Ghulam Mohammad Ganai. “He was suffering from some heart ailment,” she sighs, over the mention of her husband. She pauses for a while, turns her face towards her pets, who stare at her and without lifting her eyes, she continues, “Doctors said his recovery was irreversible. And then, one day he left me to bear the burden of this life alone.”

After her husband’s death, Aez had nobody to look after her which made villagers worry about her future prospects. “Since she has no children it becomes even more challenging for her to survive on her own,” said one neighbour.

For the time being, villagers tried to explore some means of livelihood for her. “But before we could have done anything for her, she had decided to help herself,” Misra, her neighbour, says.

With some savings in her hand, villagers say, she bought two goats and a calf. And now, she spends most of her time nourishing and taking care of them.

It takes 15 minutes of ‘arduous’ sumo ride on dusty, potholed, and succinct zigzag lanes from the main bazaar of Sumbal to reach Aez’s residence. The roof and sides of the house are covered with plastic sheet. At its front side, calf and goats are roped inside a temporary shed. Their frequent rants compel Aez to woo them in an empathetic gesture.

“They are my family,” Aez reluctantly quips, as she puts a bunch of twigs in front of her pets. “They are the reason for my survival.”

Aez’s remarks have a context, besides a reason. Living a solitary life, she is dependent on her pets. Every morning, she milks her nanny (female goat) and sells it to milkmaid, some 5 km from her village that fetches her around Rs 100 daily.

In between, two buckling (young goat) came running towards her from near the stream, which flows in front of her modest dwelling. She lifted the earthen pot, went to the stream and came back after filling it with water. As she went inside her house, two buckling also followed her.

Villagers still remember the day, when a childless couple came to Rukh Mohalla to settle down beneath its serene atmosphere forever. But the poverty-ridden couple of Aez and her late husband couldn’t afford to purchase a house in the village.

“One of their relatives in the village gave them a small piece of land,” Abdul Khaliq Malla, a retired official in water works department and a close neighbour of Aez, says. “The couple later raised a modest house on that land.”

In order to sustain her family monetarily,  Aez started working on peoples’ farms against a small share in the crop. Her husband, on the other hand, would sell   Mounjguel (a fried delicacy) on the dusty streets of Rukh Mohalla and in the adjoining areas.

“When Aez was not working in the fields she would help her husband with the business,” Malla says. “But after the death of her husband, she hardly moves out.”

In her scruffy house, Aez often spends her time now brooding over her fate. To add to her woes, she is also now feeling the burden of being childless. “I have nobody to rely on,” she almost said in a disgusting tone.

“But my Allah is sufficient for me. He lives with me in this house.”

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