Six years ago, a tenth standard girl felt threatened in a situation and jumped from the first storey of her home in north Kashmir, breaking her spinal cord. After staying bedridden, she finally decided to fight back and is not as unhappy as she was when doctors operated upon her, Saima Bhat reports
For the last one decade, Kashmir has been living between unrests. Every time, there is an anniversary, people impacted by the unrest, relive their memories. One of them is Ishrat Rashid, whose confident light-brown eyes turn restless while looking at her motionless legs.
Smart and beautiful, Ishrat ensures her blonde hair is properly maintained. But what the 19-year-old is unable to maintain is her emotions especially when she revisits the minute detail of August 24, 2016, the day her life changed. Then a student of the tenth standard, she did not know that she will have to be on a wheelchair instead of writing her Board examinations.
That day, her Bangdara village near Sangrama (Baramulla), witnessed continuous ding-dong battles between the police and the stone pelters in two by-lanes. Breathing became a struggle as tear smoke and pepper gas filled the area. To avoid tensions, Ishrat’s family, living on the main road, decided to shift and live with a neighbour living a few miles away from the main road.
Her father Abdul Rashid Mir, step-mother, grandmother and two younger sisters left the home in a hurry and told Ishrat to lock down the main door before she could join them. “It was around 2.30 pm and I was rechecking if all the windows and doors were locked,” Ishrat said. “As I started locking down the main door, 4 to 5 boys, most probably stone pelters, were being chased by a column of CRPF and police and they entered into our premises as rest of the main gates in the area were locked from inside.” During tensions, it is a new normal, people stay indoors after keeping entries to their homes locked from inside.
Admitting very honestly, Ishrat said she couldn’t say no to these boys from entering her home and getting into a room to save their skin. “As the cops entered our premises, instead of running after the boys they started running after me,” Ishrat said. “In this chaos, I ran towards the stairs and reached the open slab area of our single-storey house. They came to slab too and tried to touch me, I jumped towards the slab of our close neighbour’s two-storey building but they came running there as well. I sensed danger. I was so frightened that I couldn’t make out what should I do. I still can’t forget those dreadful eyes. It seemed like I had to make a choice so I jumped down from the slab.”
Ishrat knows nothing beyond that. She opened her eyes in District Hospital Baramulla from where she was referred to Bones and Joints Hospital (B&J) in Srinagar in critical condition. She later came to know that she was in excruciating pain, was not able to talk and doctors expected the injury might have interrupted the blood circulation.
In the emergency ward of B&J Hospital, where she waited for three days for an operation, Ishrat realized her pilot’s decision had a serious implication on her body.
After the surgery of her spinal cord, Ishrat realized the senseless lower portion of her body has permanently changed, something she will have to live with for her life. Her spinal cord was damaged in two places. She was discharged from the hospital soon and shifted to her home in Bangdara.
For the next six months, the completely bedridden Ishrat was dependent on her family for support. Her eldest sister, a nurse, shifted along with her husband to her father’s home to take care of her. This landed her in depression.
“I suffered from depression because I was not the same,” Ishrat said. “The lower portion of my body was motionless, and every time, I wished to come out of the bed, I had to wait for my family to get free from their engagements and then help me. It took at least five people at a time to help me to come out of bed. My condition was haunting me.” She confessed to taking extra medicines to remain asleep for almost 24 hours. She even attempted damaging her body.
Six months later, her sister informed Ishrat about a camp in Baramulla by Voluntary Medicare Society (VMS) where she was taken in her cousin’s car. The VMS volunteers suggested her to visit their office in Bemina next day where she would get examined properly and then provided with the required help.
At VMS, Ishrat saw many others suffering from spinal cord injuries. She saw them enjoying while playing basketball on their wheelchairs. This raised a hope that life has not come to an end and she too can start afresh.
The treatment started the same day and she was admitted to VMS for eight months. Her younger sister, who was then studying in class 8th, dropped out of the school and stayed with her.
“My treatment included physiotherapy, counselling and playing games, but before all these things, I was abled to be independent,” Ishrat said. The first thing she learnt was how to shift out of the bed without support.
A year later, Ishrat uses the washroom of her own and does all of her daily chores herself including washing, bathing, and cooking while being on a wheelchair or walker or sticks.
“I remember last time I was home, my father saw me making a cup of tea for myself,” Ishrat said. “To believe his eyes, the next day he bought some vegetables and asked my sister to stay away. I cooked it. Believe me, he had no bounds of happiness.” A mere thought of her father’s response to her change makes her jubilant even now.
Besides doing her chores, Ishrat started taking interest in games as well. She is part of VMS’s basketball team.
“Last year, I participated in a national event in Tamil Naidu,” reveals Ishrat. “That was my first game and I was alone with the boys of our team so I was a bit shy. But recently, in June 2019, we participated in another event at Mohali in Chandigarh where we won two matches.” Ishrat said, because of the performance of her game she has been selected for an international event.
Back to VMS after this tournament, Ishrat was waiting for her sister and brother-in-law who were coming to take her home for a few days so that they could celebrate her success.
“My family is my great support. My father, who is a private employee in PHE department, sold off three kanals of land for my treatment initially, because nobody, from government or society, came to help us and even my sister’s husband also spent all of his savings on my treatment,” Ishrat said. “But the biggest sacrifice was that of my younger sister who dropped out of her school to stay with me. I am glad she has resumed her studies now.”
Ishrat’s physiotherapist, Dr Zeenat, a BAMS (Bachelors in Ayurvedic medicines and surgery) at VMS told Kashmir Life that Ishrat has been discharged from the society and she can continue with her studies from anywhere she wishes to.
“When she was admitted here, she was totally bedridden and was zero in her balance,” the young medico said. “She had a burst fracture in L1 section of her spine, but today, she has improved a lot and walks using a walker. She is in good condition as she has good control over her bowels and bladder.”
Dr Zeenat said she has treated many spine-injured patients and such patients are very prone to depressions. “The treatment of such patients depends on the condition of their mind. It is a mind game. Ishrat has no chances of 100 per cent recovery but the great thing about her is she is not dependent anymore.”
But a confident Ishrat has not given up her hope of fully recovering one day. Her only regret is that no action was taken against the personnel, whose action compelled her to jump from the second storey.
“Many relatives suggested us to report the incident to the local police station so that an FIR could be registered but I thought it is useless as the worst was done,” Ishrat said.
The concerned police station in Kreeri has filed no FIR in the case. “Those days, many protests and stone-pelting incidents were reported on a daily basis but there is no mention of this particular case neither in the FIRs nor in the daily reports,” said the concerned station house officer.