Dilshada, mother of Musharaf Fayaz, who died after fiddling with an unexploded device left at the encounter site in Pulwama district of South Kashmir. Photograph by Vikar Syed for The Kashmir Walla

The dust kissed horizon, and the Chaigund encounter on 24 January 2018 was over — Firdous Ahmad and Sameer Ahmad Wani, the militants were ‘neutralized’. Thousands attended their last journey; Fayaz Ahmad, the then 39-year-old, was one of them. Midway, an ominous call rang. His son, 10-year-old, Musharraf Fayaz sustained fatal injuries and was shifted to Pulwama District Hospital.

Musharraf was lying unconscious on a hospital gurney and the doctors, surrounding his blood smeared body, were attempting every possible method to proffer him a chance at life. Fretful Mr. Ahmad dashed toward the hospital — confused and thinking — “how deep the injury could be, and how?”

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Amid the sea of people, Mr. Ahmad made his way out to already choked emergency ward. Blue jeans outshone the indefinite crowd, and apparently, it was the one his son, Musharraf, was wearing in the morning.

He overheard from the crowd: “A shell exploded in boy’s hand, and now doctors are saying that he should be referred to SKIMS (Sher-i-Kashmir Medical Institution) immediately.’’ Shattered and numb, Mr. Ahmad stood there, without even trying to look at his lone son, Musharraf’s face.

Clinging between life and death

Mr. Ahmad, a carpenter by profession, would start his day by kissing his son’s right cheek, and this one moment would make him forget all the hardships the family had been living through. Following a tiring day, Musharraf would wait for his father; standing on the entry of their house, pretending to be a stranger, he would have a handshake with Mr. Ahmad, which eventually leaves the family in the guffaw.

This was the small, but ravishing, world they had.

The winter of 2018 froze the family. After referring Musharraf to the SKIMS, Mr. Ahmad couldn’t wait for the long nights to end, and for these tormenting days to just vanish. Dilshada, Musharraf’s mother, watching her son — clinging between life and death, breathing through coma — couldn’t stand to his condition, and was asked to go back home.

One day, Mr. Ahmad was asked to attend a doctors’ meet to understand his son’s condition.

“Do you know the condition of the son?” a senior doctor at the SKIMS asked.

Furious and tired Mr. Ahmad replied, “How can I? I am not a doctor like you. Tell me, where in this world, my son will get better treatment? I would do anything to save him.”

The doctors told him that whatever treatment Musharraf is going through right now, will be the same he would receive outside. “We are continuously monitoring his blood pressure,” which was going down the slope abnormally.

That day, 39-year-old father bought above 50 injections for his 10-year-old son.

Unlike other children of his generation, Musharraf was the one who never demanded anything from his parents. Sneaking the money from his mother, he would usually buy educational stuff, requesting her “not to tell the father, who was working hard to meet ends need.”

On 24 January 2018, after the encounter at Chaigund village was over, many people including kids and women rushed to offer funeral prayers to the militants and a civilian, Shakir Ahmad Mir, who was killed in a ‘crossfire’.

Musharraf, along with other children of Daramdore village of Shopian district had lifted the unexploded shells from the encounter site. “The shell exploded while he (Musharraf) was fiddling with it,” said a local, according to whom, other children were saved by taking those unexploded weapons from them after the incident.

After a crucial week, on 1 February 2018, the only hope was shattered, and Musharraf was coming home — cold and dead.

His mother, Dilshada, waited eagerly for her beloved son to come back home.

The then 35-year-old mother, who lost her ‘innocent’ son to not only stray explosives but to the stray idea of conflict, was now lifting Musharraf’s coffin on her shoulder, screaming out the anger; might be the first such case from the Valley.

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Dilshada, shouldering her son Musharaf Fayaz’s body during the funeral procession in his native village in Pulwama district of South Kashmir on 1 February 2018. Photograph by Vikar Syed for The Kashmir Walla

A year later

Today, 1 February 2019, Mr. Ahmad’s home is choking again with mourners. The path to Daramdore village is wrapped with the fresh snow; the twigs of the trees are reflecting like the diamonds.

Mr. Ahmad, a tall and skinny man, is greeting everyone with the smiles. Draped in the grey color pheran, is sitting like a calm wise man; worries are not evident on his face, but in his deep-sunken-eyes, the pain of loss reflects.

His mother, Dilshada, remembers the time when she would be working in the kitchen feeling unwell, Musharraf would come and sit near the window with her. “He would look at me and ask, ‘why are you tensed?’” she said, and told that she used to reply, “no, it is just a headache.”

“I swear you on my life, leave the work,” and he would take her away from the work.

The long depressing nights are fading, but the wounds seem to be fresh and green. Mr. Ahmad struggles for a comfortable sleep and keeps thinking about his son. Musharraf is buried merely 200 meters away from his home. The couple, as they say, is living for their two daughters, Mehwish and Sabrina.

Dilshada is sitting near the window of the dark room, and while her husband narrates the tale, all she does is staying sigh and silent. Now, after one year, whenever the father steps out of his home, all he feels like is, “My son is calling me.”

At night, when his father goes to sleep, he recalls his son, knowing he would never return. “There is no day or night when I don’t miss him,” says Mr. Ahmad, adding, as if addressing to his son, “Panni’ byeothuk shalimaran jaan gow, khash koruth myanen amaaran jaan gov (You went away to sit in the gardens, good! Good! You have trampled my desires, good! good!)

Quratulain Rehbar is a Features Writer at The Kashmir Walla.

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