Alas! He died in an old age home
Octogenarian Subhana was clearing his throat with a lot of difficulty when his semi-blind wife ‘ Rehti ‘reprimanded him with disgust, “Why don’t you visit a good doctor? “Phlegm is stuck in your throat, you have become hollow within inside. Your coughing sounds have irritated the sleep of others in this old age home”.
It was not her anger, actually she was worried about her husband’s deteriorating health as he was her only helper and caretaker in the whole world. Subhana, who was reduced to a mere skeleton with sunken eyes, wrinkled face, blurred vision, trembling hands, bowed back, tilted knees, managed to solace his wife, ” Don’t worry ‘Rehti , I am alright, I won’t die yet”. He spread his right hand for the glass of water placed to his right near the bed, and the tumbler full of water came down with a thud. Poor Rehti stood up from her bed and brought a fresh glass of water for him.
After having a few sips of water, his voice improved magically ( but still not interpretable fully as his teeth less mouth was distorting it) and said to his wife, ” I curse the day when we decided to send our solitary son to Delhi for to become a doctor. I remember the days when I used to work as a band-saw driver for a meagre three thousand rupees at city saw mills. I curse the day when I sold my ancestral paddy and land and orchards for his studies at Delhi. I had many dreams and longings. I wished to be called and known as the father of a doctor. I was looking for his bride, I too wished to enjoy the giggles of my grandchildren. I too had dreamt of good days and comfortable life. I had brought him up to be the stick of our old age but he proved treacherous. ( Tears were rolling down from his eyes).
Bashir Ahmad was Subhana’s only son who was brought up like a prince by his parents despite their extreme poverty. He was very bright in studies but could not crack the state level common entrance test (CET) to secure a place for himself in the government medical college Srinagar. This shattered him, and he began to skip his meals. He was looking extremely broken. Subhana could not bear to see his son dejected because a father is the only man in the world who would bring smiles to his children at any cost.
He called Bashir Ahmad into his own room and said, ” Basha, why are you looking so upset? Though you could not crack the entrance test but you are destined to become a doctor. I will send you to Delhi for MBBS “. His father’s words gave him goose bumps and sent a wave of joy across his nerves but his castle of hopes demolished in the blink of an eye when he imagined his father’s financial status.
After a few days, Subhana asked Bashir Ahmad to pack his clothes and get ready for Delhi, ” This is your air ticket for Delhi, and these are the fifty thousand rupees. I will send you money periodically. Be brave and chase your dreams “.Basha could not believe his eyes, embraced his father and their eyes became moist.
Years kept passing, and finally, Basha completed his MBBS, and did his internship from a reputed hospital in Delhi. He was now Dr. Bashir. He sent a letter to his parents in which he gave them the good news of the successful completion of his degree. The letter brought festivities at his native house back in Kashmir. His mother prepared the crimson colored fried rice (Tehrri ) and distributed it among the children of the village. They served Kehwa to every visitor who would visit their house to convey good wishes and congratulatory messages. Some two weeks later, the raw road leading to his house was beautifully decorated by his father. Basha too was eagerly waiting to fly back to home.
Basha bought the ticket, he was scheduled to fly back to his home after some five years on the 5th of next month. He went to the market for shopping and bought many things for his parents who were the only members of his small family. Since Basha was very handsome as Kashmiris are very bright in their looks. His eyes caught sight of a beautiful young lady in the shopping mall. He fell for the girl who was running a clinic next to the market. Basha at once proposed to her, and the two decided to go for a date tomorrow. Basha’s homesick inclination began to diminish. The two met and continued to meet regularly. Now, they were in a relationship. The decoration hanging above the road was torn . His parents lost the hope of his return. He would now rarely reply to his father’s letters.
The coughing Subhana continued to grumble, and Rehti was not able to sleep as well. Even other old people present in the home were worried about Subbhaana’s deteriorating health”
After completing his studies he had promised to comeback. That tattered letter is still in my torn waistcoat.(Kashmiris call it wasket). Delhi absorbed him and he forgot his parents ! Rehti, I am a ripe apple, death can separate us anytime but I am worried about you. Who will take care of you after my death? I fail to understand how our Basha grew so hard and rigid”. His voice grew fainter, Rehti tried to console him but Subhana could just utter a single word, “Rehti” and closed his eyes forever in the oldage home.
The writer is a teacher and can be reached at [email protected]