United Commitment

Orphans for different reasons, two boys from the frontier district meet each other at orphanage in Srinagar. Once out of orphanage, their paths crossed once again, but decided to stay together to battle out the fate, Riyaz Ul Khaliq details the struggle of the orphan duo

Ishfaq Ahmad and Bilal Ahmad
Ishfaq Ahmad and Bilal Ahmad

Two and a half decadal conflict in Kashmir has been paradox in many ways. While it manufactured and piled up a destitute lot, it also helped the affected young to derive and live their lives on their own, at least.

Hailing from the frontier Cherkoot area in district Kupwara’s Lolab valley, both boys are victims of conflict. After losing their childhood to four walls of orphanages, the boys are presently in Srinagar pursuing their study. Ishfaq Ahmad, 21, and Bilal Ahmad, 20, don’t have any blood relation, but they live like brothers, always trying to help each other. The duo is currently pursuing their under-graduation from Islamia College in Srinagar.

But being orphan and to study don’t always run hand in hand. The monetary woes keep disturbing. But the boys are working part time to meet financial requirements.

At the crack of the dawn, both of them ride on their bicycles. Collect bundle of newspapers from nearby news stall. And distribute newspaper around the major parts of the Srinagar city. And as the Sun moves just over head, they leave for their colleges. “We move around city early morning with Newspapers and once we are done with it, we prepare for our classes,” Ishfaq informs.

While Bilal is First year Commerce student, Ishfaq is final year BSc student.

In the evening, the duo goes for a one hour computer course daily. As the Sun shifts towards West fully, they slaughter poultry at a local poultry vendor in Old City. “We have been doing this now for quite some time,” Bilal says. “It helps us to maintain our daily expenditure.”

With his mother and younger brother back home, Ishfaq says he doesn’t remember his father’s face. His father had just joined ITBP in early 1990s. He had returned from his nine months training and one day he went to Sopore to buy a cow for the domestic use. “He didn’t return home since then,” he says. “Locals say that my father got killed on border but we have no information about him.”

With no one to care about him and his family, Ishfaq’s elder brother was diagnosed with Jaundice in 1998. “He was taken to hospital,” he says, “but he died there after eight days. We had no money to cure him.”

And the same year, someone came to his home, who Ishfaq describes as Godly man. “He asked my mother to give me to him as he would help my upbringing,” he explains. “As the domestic problems galore, I was sent with him.”

The man dropped Ishfaq at Shehjaar, an orphanage run by J&K Help Foundation at Saida Kadal in Srinagar. “I studied there for 12 years. They provided me with everything and I had no problem,” he says, with high regards for the organization.

As he passed his class 12, he left the organization in 2011 and managed some rented accommodation with the help of his friends. “My friends helped me a lot,” he says, “and I worked day in and day out to sustain my life. I secured an admission with the money I earned. And then I had to work again to buy books. The process is on and now it is my final year.”

The case of Bilal Ahmad is slightly different.

His father divorced his mother in 1998. “My father’s mental balance deteriorated in late 1990s and he divorced my mother. I got divided from my family, only then,” Bilal says in a choked voice.

Bilal too was taken to Shehjaar of J&K Help Foundation by one of his neighbours. “I studied there for thirteen years and after my tenth class results, I left it,” he says.

From there Bilal was rehabilitated by Raahat Manzil run by Muslim Welfare Society at Bemina crossing in Srinagar. “After I did my class 12, I had no idea where to go as no one was back home to live with,” he informs. “My father seldom comes home as he is out of his senses and no one from my uncles takes care or enquires about him or me,” he rues.

But idea of meeting Ishfaq struck his mind. “Ishfaq was my senior at Shehjaar and as we are from same village, so I thought meeting him but to my surprise he offered me shelter,” Bilal exclaims.

Now, the duo is living at a rented accommodation in Old City and are working jointly. “Our landlord is a very nice man. He is very kind to us as the rent is meagre and has kept every facility for us,” the duo says.

The struggle of the duo, they say, has made them teach the worth of life. “Whatsoever be the situation from now on wards, we will try to live an honourable life,” they say. “Destitute can make a mark.”

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