A treacherous journey had ended. I was finally home along with mates. They had shown us door—as we cheered for greens! We were told: cheering for greens is sedition. They left us in midway. Few sleepless nights passed in transition. Pockets were empty. Food and fluid were mere cravings. Foes were countless. Friends were scarce. Haggard, traumatic and miserable; we returned home.
My mother had sniffed something shady. As I stepped into home, she didn’t hug me. She just fell flat on the ground. Her hand on her heart and her growing moans of pain. I quickly lifted her and brought her to hospital. They referred her to Intensive Care Unit. A few hours later, I was informed: your mother had suffered a minor heart attack!
Her condition was disturbing. There is none in my life than her. She is the only treasure I have—especially, after I lost my father. Medicos assured: she would be fine. She was there on bed; her eyes, closed. And her face, pale. I sat by her side, quietly. The room was silent. It had some ten beds. And on them, ten ailing humans were overcoming their health conditions.
Among those hapless patients—was my mother, who is my everything. The room was dark. Perhaps, it was midnight. She was lying calm on her bed—with drip continuously feeding her body with vital fluid. I was lone person awake and brooding in the room.
Mother was at the centre of my thought that night. She brought me up with all the care—that perhaps, my father wouldn’t have provided me had he been alive. I lost him when I just seven. They martyred him.
A horde of them had barged inside our compound. It was a damp dark twilight evening. They pumped couple of bullets into his chest. And then, they ran away like cowards. Except this, all other childhood memories have faded in me. I lost him at a tender age. I was yet to receive his guidance and wisdom.
Later when my senses matured, I raised questions: was he a militant? I was told: no, he was just a commoner. Then I ask: why then they made me orphan? I was informed: it was God’s will. They whined me for raising ‘too many’ questions. “Learn to endure harsh realities of life in silence,” I was advised. I didn’t ask questions after that.
After father’s departure, my mother started working to feed us. At the outset, she started sewing clothes. But, she soon realized that she was not able to save enough money. Then she switched over to labouring at construction sites. A single day wage was between Rs 200 to Rs 300. At construction sites, she had to lift stones, bricks-mix cement, mud…She never complain. She kept doing it for my sake.
I was enrolled in a private school. She did not buy good clothes, shoes or jewellery for her—only to cover my school expenses. Sometimes, I would catch her staring out of the window at the women who were clad in fancy dresses, nice footwear and jewellery. She had no such life to live. At times, it would have been pinching her a lot. But she never whispered a word about it.
At times, I would weep bitterly, thinking about her toil and work. Sometimes seeing the cuts and bruises on her hands, arms and feet; I would ask her, what happened. She would always ignore the topic by saying: it was nothing, just a slight slit.
One day she told me: It is my dream to watch you become an engineer. I was always interested in machines and stuff. Years after, I passed my Class 12 with 96 per cent marks. That day I was really happy having made my angel, my mother proud!
I told her once that I was all set to make her dream come true, but she grew worried. Her face flashed an anxious look, and then she told me: I did not have enough savings to pay for your engineering college. I told her that it was no issue and I would be trying next year. Till then, she would have assembled some more money to pay for my fee. I did not even think of appearing in the Entrance Test. She urged me to at least give a shot, but I was sure: if I got selected, she would land herself in a river of debt for paying my fee. So, I skipped the test.
Then one lucky day, one of my friends told me about the MHRD Scholarship program. It was later part of 2010. I applied for it and got it purely on my merit. That is how I came to Meerut University.
But when Afridi’s twin sixes sealed victory for Pakistan against India in Asia Cup, I along with other Kashmiri students were shown the door. I called her up when I was thrown out of the campus. She told me: “Don’t worry, come back home.” But I could feel from her voice that she was shocked! Maybe, she thought that my chances of becoming engineers were, henceforth, very bleak.
My mind was continuously reflecting all this while she was lying placid on her hospital bed. The silence inside the room had peaked. And in that hour of stillness, I thought: why did we bunch of Kashmiris supported Pakistan that day. I had no clue. Perhaps, it was all natural, spontaneous and automatic.
And yes, the adrenaline rush when Pakistanis hits across the rope, the hustle of energy in every part of the body, the passion, the enthusiasm—is all inside Kashmiris. I too supported green shirts that day. You know why? Because, I can’t support the one who made me an orphan! How could my conscience let me support those who are responsible for making my mother, a widow; and gifting her with everlasting life of struggle and loneliness. No, I can’t.
I was promising my ailing mother that night: mother, I don’t need their scholarship for becoming an engineer! You son would become an engineer on his own merit.
And with that vow, the last person awake in the room joined others in sleep.
(A bibliophile and an aspiring writer, Muntaha Amin is from south Kashmir’s Islamabad district. She has just passed her Class 12 exams)