Mr. and Mrs. Abdul Rehman Chechi

What would you do when you don’t have a son, you desperately want, even after five children? Abdul Rehman Chechi did not have the right answer. Hamidullah Dar reports.

Living in a house made out  of logs of wood in Kahvari hamlet of Lolab Kupwara, Abdul Rehman Chechi and his wife Fatima are poor and sad. A school, dispensary, tap water and other basic amenities are a far cry in the inaccessible place. Finding work is much more difficult.

Twenty five years ago when they got married, the couple shared hope and happiness. They had everything their little world would allow them to desire. They expanded their wish list with the desire of a having a son. A wish that would never be fulfilled.

A year into the marriage, Fatima gave birth to a beautiful daughter. Chechi was happy. Years passed by and more girls were born into the family.

“Initially I did not mind having daughters but when the fifth daughter was born I started worrying,” says Chechi.
He did not worry about providing for a large family. His desire for a son continued to have a place in his heart. He went to scores of Pirs (saints) to seek their blessings so that a son was born in the family.

“All the pirs assured me that I would soon get a son. Thousands of my hard earned rupees went into their pockets. I also went to many shrines across valley and tied mannat (wish) threads there,” says Chechi, “But when I understood that there is no son in my destiny and Allah does whatever He likes, it was too late.”

The couple, meanwhile, had 11 daughters. They also continue to live in the mud and wood logs house of two rooms and a kitchen.

“I don’t mind having insufficient residential space. What tortures me is absence of a permanent source of income to feed such a large family,” says Chechi.

Their lives are barely touched by the government or the facilities accessible to common people. All of Fatima’s daughters were born at their home. She has rarely visited a hospital. She has never seen a gynecologist.
“There was no health centre nearby and the health authorities at Kupwara did not visit our locality,” says Fatima.

For 49 year old Fatima and her husband, the desire for a son would wane only after two decades and 11 daughters. Now they are faced with much imminent concerns like feeding the large family and marrying off their daughters.

Fatima says, “Not only my husband but I also work whenever I find an opportunity. However, it is difficult to find work here and we have to be content with whatever comes our way,” says Fatima.

The few possessions of the family include some aluminum utensils, some old unusable bedding and a few lacerated blankets. Shafeeqa, fourth daughter of Chechi, says, “Where from can we get good clothes, when even adequate food is a luxury. We know the (financial) position of our parents, we don’t ask for any such things.”
So far 55 year old Chechi has married off three daughters. Marrying off the other eight is his biggest worry. “In absence of any resources I am extremely worried how I can arrange the marriage of my daughters,” says Chechi with tears welling up.

Talking about the marriages of her three daughters, Fatima says, “The marriage of our three daughters did not cost us much as their husbands were religious minded who came with marriage party and just took tea and left with their brides. There was no feast or meal served in those marriages.”

Village head and Fatima’s cousin, Subah Chechi says that in absence of any handicraft training centre in the village, the girls could not learn any skill to earn some money for their poor family. Fatima nods in appreciation. “If there had been any centre nearby where my daughters could learn some craft, they could at least earn for their marriages which will reduce our worry,” she says.

The National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme, which guarantees 100 days of work to every rural household is too inadequate for the family, which barely survives. Living a dignified life – when they can find work and earn a reasonable living seems a desire, bigger than the one for a son.

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