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A bullet that shattered a young mason’s dreams

Tirelessly working to fulfill his dreams, a young mason from Kashmir’s Islamabad was hit by a bullet in June 2018 and became crippled for life. Today in his enforced state of trauma, the young man often stares at his amputated limb and wonders: ‘How will I do my work again?’

In a trauma-filled ward, a fashionable youth of yesterday’s is badly struggling with his inflicted fate today. As he continues to lay helpless in a bed at SKIMS Soura, his attendants and visitors often spot him transfixed, gazing at the front wall. In that state of stupor, he perhaps mulls over the lost world he once was so passionate about. But now, life for him seems bereft of dreams.

At 22, when he had freshly acquired his youthful looks and feelings, Abid Hussain Sheikh of Nanil village of south Kashmiri’s Islamabad district became another tragic count in Kashmir’s perpetual state of suffering. Every now and then, he haplessly steals a cursory glance onto his bandaged left leg.

“I’ll never be able to walk again properly!”

It’s this excruciatingly painful thought that plagues Abid’s mind repeatedly. Perhaps it makes sense too, given how he was looking forward to his life. But now, the physical pain is manifesting into mental anguish.

“How will I earn a livelihood? My sister is unmarried yet. How will I help my parents? Our house is under construction. My treatment has stopped my family from having a proper house,” are certain questions that he asks himself.

It was Friday, June 22, 2018, when Abid was riding his motorcycle back home from his aunt’s, who lives in Sirhama, Islamabad. To reach his home, he had to pass through Nowshera, Sirgufwara, where a gunfight had suddenly erupted between militants and armed forces that morning.

As the internet had been cut off as usual, immediate news was unavailable. Oblivious of the gunfight, he continued riding towards home, before he came in the range of the gunfight, and a bullet struck his left shin and he fell from his bike. Knocked unconscious, he was rushed to Bijbehara hospital.

His deteriorating condition compelled doctors to refer him to Barzulla hospital, Srinagar. From there, Abid was shifted to SKIMS Soura.

“Dilshada, my sister-in-law had invited him,” says 52-year-old Abdul Salam Sheikh, Abid’s father. “He went to his aunt’s for a night after returning from his work. He left early morning next day because the construction of our own house was going on. Instead of returning home, he ended up in a hospital.”

It was one ‘good Samaritan’, who dialed Salam’s number through Abid’s phone to inform him that his son had been shot in the leg and was unconscious. Wringing his hands in shock, Salam informed his family about the incident in a mournful state.

“While rushing to the hospital, it seemed as if the highway was stretching along with the time,” the distraught father says. Upon reaching SKIMS, where his son was being operated upon, he cried like a baby.

After rupturing Abid’s leg, the bullet had completely shattered the central nerve and the shin bone. It had penetrated from the side and left his lower leg irreparably damaged. Eight days later, when surgeons beckoned him, Salam got the biggest shock of his life.

“They informed me that my son’s leg was badly damaged and they need to cut it,” says Salam, while his wife, Haseena Akhtar sitting beside him breaks into tears. “It was the most difficult moment of my life when I signed on the mandatory hospital papers that read that my son’s leg was to be amputated.”

A few days back, Abid was operated again. Doctors had taken the flesh from his right thigh to clot his wound on the amputation point on the lower part of his left leg.

Pointing towards his own leg, Salam says, “Yeten Ousus Aamut Fire, Kahar Ousus Gamut (He was shot in this part of leg, it was completely destroyed).”

Although Abid is yet to come to terms with his tragedy, he’s figuring out how to train his body to keep on moving forward without it.

“His uncle and cousins are taking care of him at SKIMS right now,” says Salam, a marriage-mediator by profession. “We don’t even prefer to call him directly. We don’t want to remind him of the incident. And he himself does not like to talk about it.”

Abid might have become a reluctant talker, but his trauma is already speaking for him. Struggling and growing weak, he’s unable to perform his daily activities like using the washroom, eating, walking, or even changing his clothes because he has not yet been given proper therapy, neither a prosthetic replacement.

And after passing through three surgeries in a month, his parents are now struggling to maintain his treatment costs. They’ve already borrowed ‘enough money’ from their relatives, neighbors and friends for the same.

“We’ve already spent more than Rs 4 lakh on his treatment,” Salam says. “Till recently, his daily medicines would cost us Rs 6,000, but now the doctors have reduced his medication and still it costs us Rs 1,500 per day.” The family is presently struggling to raise finances for his prosthetic leg.

Back home, his crippling injury has already forced Salam to stop the construction of the new house. His family lives in a single-storey mud house along with his uncle’s family.

“I’ve spent all my savings on Abid’s treatment,” Salam says. “It was difficult to continue the construction of our house under these circumstances.”

A mason by profession, Abid was the main breadwinner of his family. But now, his loved ones say, life won’t be the same for him. “He’ll not be able to work again,” Salam says, wiping his tears. “That single bullet has shattered our dreams.”

Abid’s teenage brother shows a photograph of his bedridden sibling, taken a few months back, with his friend’s DSLR camera. He poses glowing with grace displaying his youth in full bloom.

Another photograph of the same 22-year-old, on a hospital bed, bandaged up and limbless, shows the face of a young man who will have to find a way to put together his shattered dreams, whether being successful in doing so or not, and against all the odds.

Waiting for the same tormented lot on the main doorsill of her house, Abid’s mother keeps asking all, “Manis Nechwis Kya Galti Ais” (What was my Son’s fault?)

 

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