It was the end of world for young Amir when he lost his eyesight during 2010 uprising. He resigned himself to his fate. He was sure that love will soon turn into sympathy. But his childhood sweetheart surprised everyone including Amir by marrying him against her parent’s wishes. Bilal Handoo narrates the bravest account of the traumatic love
In bustling old town of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, Amir and Nadia married quietly. There were no wedding celebrations. No firecrackers. No lavish feasts as is trend in Kashmir. But it was no ordinary wedding either. Amir and Nadia are no ordinary couple. Amir, an aspiring painter who lost his eyesight during 2010 uprising, made newspaper headlines for his unflinching courage in face of tragedy. His wife Nadia, on the other hand stood by her childhood sweetheart even when his future looked dark. She surprised everyone by marrying Amir despite her parents threat to outcast her. But in the end, love triumphed.
Having feelings for each other since childhood, their parents dreamed of their marriage till Amir wasn’t leading a blind man’s life. It was one pellet fired at him by government forces on September 18, 2010 that shut down his vision forever.
Amir Kabir Beigh, of old town Baramulla looks much older than his actual age of 21. He has put some weight ever since he lost his eyesight, which has curtailed his movement outside. The family of this once adventurous loving youth recently shifted from Mir Sahib locality of old town Baramulla – where anti-establishment feelings run very deep, as per locals – to nearby Taweed Gunj.
Narrow alleys, crowded households and grocery shops in Taweed Gunj bear stark resemblance with Srinagar’s old city. In one of the medieval households at the back side of this locality, Amir lives a hushed life with his family.
In one of the rooms of this ‘withered’ mud house, Amir is spending his days memorizing the Holy Quran. “I want to memorize it all,” Amir, clad in a white traditional Khan dress, says. It is during his Quranic session that his family allows him to stay alone, rest he remains with them. “They don’t allow me to sit alone, as they love my presence,” he says.
After a while his mother, Jehan Ara entered the room with a smile on her face. Her smile and friendly nature couldn’t arrest the frequent silence spills that loomed large in the room. It was hard to ask twenty-year-old and his mother to narrate once again: What happened that day, when pellet hit him? What they went through after he lost his eyesight? And how is Amir finding life in darkness? All these questions and more came out of my mouth hesitatingly.
I was not the first reporter who was about to listen ‘woebegone accounts’ of the family and I won’t be last one, given the nature of human tragedy Amir has become in his early life. His mother smiled to greet one more stranger in her home, who had come to refresh her agony and that of her family. Like her son, she too has apparently learned to put up a brave face and mustered courage to rewind the events once again.
His mother was hospitalized the day when he was hit by pellet. Like most parts of Kashmir then, the old town Baramulla too rocked with clashes between youth and government forces. Later in that day, Amir went to purchase medicine for her mother. “As I reached near the market, the policeman standing on other side of road fired a pellet at me which hit my face and exploded,” he recalls. Silence again fell in room. He dropped his head down, as if, to overcome the sudden pain inside him. There was no moisture in his eyes. He sighed, but sighed at length and then he again broke the silence.
“With the flash of light, everything went dark for me,” he says. Pellet specks had entered in most parts of his upper body. When he was taken to Srinagar for treatment, he was first operated upon his stomach, which was badly bruised. Next day, he was pleading before surgeons at Srinagar’s JVC hospital to operate upon his eyes, as dark cover in front of his eyes was taking toll on his nerves. But medicos turned down his plea!
“Only day before, I was given anesthesia and medicos said that repeating the same dose would have a serious consequence on my health,” Amir, who frequently wipes his left eye with white handkerchief to ease out itching, recalls.
The hospital authorities decided to delay his operation for one more day, which meant that Amir had to live one more day without a light, as his badly injured eyes were covered with bandage.
But he hardly had a hunch that his ordeal had just began. A day later operation was performed and after some days, he made medicos, patients, attendants in hospital to shed helpless tears for him. He was hopeful that he would be able to see things after the operation. But to his woes, the darkness remained relentless when bandage over his eyes was lifted. He wailed, cried, mourned hard by finding himself sightless, but he had no alternative but to swallow the bitter pill.
“Born blind is one thing, but losing sight after having seen the world is simply demolition for a person,” Nadeem, 22, elder brother of Amir, who looks years younger than him, says.
His family, who survives on the income earned by selling used clothes in busy market of old town, had to shell out all savings to arrange for his treatment, besides they took loan. He was first flown out to New Delhi, then Indore and finally to Chennai for treatment, but damage control of his eyes had already gone out of the scope of eye surgeons. He was told a ‘blunt truth’ that his eyes, his amber eyes, have lost the sight permanently. It was during his stay in Chennai that his left eye was replaced with an artificial one. “Such was the severity caused by the pellet that his left eye damaged on spot,” says Jehan Ara, his mother who showed me his X-rays and some of his photographs clicked before tragedy struck him.
The caption of one his photographs read: Live like a legend. It was clicked some fifteen days before he was rendered sightless. “Ten or fifteen days before I lost eyesight, I went to an extensive adventurous trip around Kashmir,” he says. “Since adventure attracted me always, I saw so many beautiful places around the valley. And just when I was nurturing dream to work for National Geography, I lost view of my adventure, forever.”
Initially, the loss was colossal for him. He would cry, wail and yell over the sudden change in his life. “But time is great healer,” Nadeem, his brother, says. “He learned to endure it with his devotion towards the Holy Quran, that helped him to ease out his mental burden and lessened his frequent depression bouts.”
In between, Amir’s wife, Nadia entered the room. Veiled from head to toe, she looks much younger than Amir. She is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree from Baramulla Girls Degree College. It was one month after Amir lost his eyesight that she knew about it. “I couldn’t do much, but to cry for days together,” says Nadia, while lowering her head. Being relative to Amir’s family, she tried many attempts to meet him, but each time he would avoid her. “He was deliberately trying to create a rift between us,” she says, “as he was under an impression that he won’t do justice to our relation anymore.”
But she kept persisting and pressing her will, till he couldn’t avoid her anymore. They started to weave dream for their marriage, but Nadia’s parents wouldn’t accept a blind man as their son-in-law. Their relation soon ran in rough weather. “Earlier they had no problem with him, but as he lost his sight, they objected the marriage,” Nadia says.
Both Amir’s as well as Nadia’s families hail from Sultanpur, located some 33 km from main town of Baramulla. Amir’s family moved to old town Baramulla some 24 years ago for seeking better prospects of life. Being relatives to each other, both families had decided for Amir-Nadia’s marriage. But things didn’t remain the same after the son of Beigh family lost his sight. Back home, Nadia would nag her parents for the marriage. And then one day, her father dropped her at Amir’s home by telling them: Now take care of her. But later in that day, he took her back home.
The matter took a new twist, when Nadia decided to live with Amir in his home. This made her parents to lodge a police compliant against Amir’s family. The police called both the families along with Amir and Nadia at police station. After verifying all angles involved in the case including age of the girl, the police handed over Nadia to Amir’s family. “I never wanted to leave him alone and will never do that,” she says, “But at the same time, it hurts to find my parents not at talking terms with me. I know one day they will realize their daughter took a right decision.”
Her friends back in college are terming Nadia “rare and exceptional” girl, who stood to her commitment to Amir. “My friends think that I did some out of the world thing, but as a matter of fact, I just did what I should have done,” she says. On the other side, Amir says Nadia’s obliging nature makes him hard to avoid her.
After the marriage, Amir’s sense of responsibility towards life, parents and Nadia is only growing. With family still surviving on modest earnings made from selling second-hand outfits, Amir wants to lend helping hand, but for the moment he is far from getting any help.
It was late afternoon, when I bid him adieu, but he insisted stranger to spend some more time with him. Most of his friends don’t meet him anymore, as they are yet to come to terms of his tragedy. He opened the door and stepped out like a normal person. And just when I tried to lend my helping hand to him, he made me quiet, by saying: “Mye chu wyenje ghaash wentey barkaraar.” (Mine inner sight is still intact).