by Younis Kaloo
Five-month pregnant Rashida crossed the road and sat on the concrete step of a shop owned by a prominent businessman of the locality, knowing the impossibility of a ride to Srinagar. Looking around on either side of the road, with no vehicular movement in sight at all except for the parked jeeps plus the armored vehicles of the government forces, she made it out that she was the only civilian on a junction that would everyday witness fierce clashes between the government forces and the protesting youth. Only the scattered mirages in the distance born of the late July heat seemed to move on the asphalt.
Rashida had decided to make it to Srinagar’s women-only hospital, Lal Ded, from her place of residence, Narbal, at a time when Kashmir had just begun to mark yet another spell of protests that would go on for months, with people falling dead and blind one after the other following the killing of Burhan Wani. Despite the insistence of her husband that he accompanied her, sh
e put on a black burqa over the clothes she also wore the other day and left alone. Her reason to bar her husband from going along with her was, “I don’t want anything untoward to happen to you. As to me, I will return safe”.
To her luck, an ambulance stopped as Rashida walked towards it and waved with both her hands. It was more of getting in front of the vehicle than a mere request to hitch a ride, expressive of her urgency to see a doctor. The driver did not say anything to her as inside the vehicle there was already a pregnant lady bellowing in the agony. Rashida sat herself at the end of the seat and slammed the door. Her face was now drawn in remorse, thinking she added to the suffering of the pregnant woman by stopping the ambulance. It took her a while to roll her eye balls and see the other people sitting around, and with the exception of the driver, to her surprise, she found no male soul among them.
“I did absolutely right by not allowing my husband to accompany me,” she thought.
On the way, the vehicle was stopped at several places by the state forces and allowed to leave only after a look inside and few questions. In sheer silence of the surroundings, which was broken by the speeding ambulance and the moaning of the woman lying on her back, the driver drove to Headwun (SMHS) Hospital. The road to LD hospital was more perilous than it was to Headwun, as the clashes had broken out at several places along the way. It did not matter to Rashida, Lal Ded or Headwun, all she wanted was to see a doctor to reassure herself that all was well with the baby in her womb. Off late, with five months into the pregnancy, she had been feeling her baby move.
The driver entered through the emergency gate and Rashida was the first to disembark. She stood at the door’s length and made way for some youth— volunteering for some days at the hospital—who thought the ambulance was carrying the injured. Yet, they brought out the lady in pain and rushed her inside the hospital. A few minutes later, another ambulance arrived. This time Rashida witnessed the opposite: only youth inside, most of whom had their clothes smeared in blood, shouting to make way. As the injured were disembarked, Rashida could well see the extent of injuries, which was further corroborated by one of the boys accompanying the injured, saying repeatedly, “Amis ha aayi gyool (He has been shot)”.
Rashida saw three boys being taken in arms: two soaked in blood from ribs and below, and the other had his face and torso smeared in dark-red blood. She got to the edge of the steps at the emergency gate of the hospital and sat as she did while waiting for hitching a ride from Narbal. She took a loose end of her scarf, muffled her cries and prayed from inside, “If this in my womb is a boy, and has to bleed like these boys once he is grown up, may he not see this world at all, O God!”
She cried for a long, sitting there outside.
(Younis Kaloo is a Journalism Post Graduate)