THE tipper crossed Marhama village, and took to the National Highway 44 at Sangam towards Bijbehara. I walked from the tipper’s back-end towards the driver’s cabin, requesting the driver to drop me. The driver didn’t stop until he reached Bijbehara town. There, he stopped at a petrol pump and I de-boarded. The driver didn’t look at me. He just came down from the vehicle and walked towards the public convenience at the fuel station as if he didn’t notice there was someone on the backside of his vehicle. I was wearing a black coloured burqa given by Lateefa Mam which had turned red because of the brick dust. I tried to dust it off but couldn’t. I crossed the road to board another vehicle which could drop me at the Sangam bridge. I was waving at every vehicle coming from Anantnag side. After a long haul of around 30 minutes, a Maruti 800 stopped. The car owner, while looking at my dusty burqa, hesitantly asked me to board on the back seat. He was disappointed by the kind of clothing I had on. The disappointment was written all over his face. He would have imagined of a beautiful woman boarding his car in the wee hours to enjoy the travel! Anyways when I asked him in a very low tone to drop me at Sangam bus stop, he got more perplexed, as my voice was uglier than my clothes! He immediately applied brakes and with an angry face, pointed towards me to de-board! To this day, I feel for that young man who would have taken it as a bad omen thinking he had given lift to a person as ugly as I was at that time! The poor man had no idea that the person under the burqa had just dodged the angel of death with the help of that beloved mother who, later, I heard, died at a young age and who I never met after that incident.
After getting out of the car, I started walking gently on the Marhama road. I was in dilemma whether I should remove the burqa, unveil myself and go straight home or should I hide for some more time, fearing consequences of running away from the custody of dreaded terrorists. There was a riot of thoughts running in my head. There were more questions than answers. What would happen to Lateefa Mam who, on hearing from the terrorists’ commanders about my abduction, had actually fought with them the whole night and had given them an assurance of handing me over to them after serving me something in the morning and then without caring about the consequences, had helped me run away from their custody? How must have my family spent the entire night knowing that this mad guy was in the custody of killers?
Knowing that people roaming around could easily notice something suspicious, as, beneath the burqa, I walked wearing men’s shoes. It was very difficult to hide my identity. Fortunate I was that a burqa-clad woman was coming from the opposite side, with her face exposed. Oh it was Mubeena, my class fellow Nazir Wani’s wife! We were neighbours too. As she was about to cross me, I gently called her, “Mubeen!” She quickly identified me. “Bhaai Jaan!?” she explained. “Yes, your Bhaai Jaan,” I responded. The news of my abduction had spread all over my neighbourhood and Mubeena and her in-laws too had been in shock. Mubeena was intelligent and sharp. She quickly removed her burqa, asked me to remove mine which was full of dust. Then I put on her burqa and her shoes. She wrapped my shoes in the dusty burqa. I was now following Mubeena silently, at a distance. She took me straight to her home.
Now this is where a third ‘mother’ enters the sequence of events. Azi, who I would fondly call Azze Mouj (Mother Azi), burst into tears on seeing me. Her two sons Nazir Ahmad Wani (Mubeena’s husband) and the eldest one (Gull Muhammad Wani) were home at that time. Azze Mouj immediately asked me to take a bath and directed Mubeena to go to my house and inform Saabe (my mother) that Bashe (Bashir) was back and safe at their house. Gull Muhammad informed me that Gani Chechi (my father Haji Abdul Gani), Khaliq Cheche (my uncle Haji Abdul Khaliq), Ghulam Hasan (my elder brother), Muhammad Ismail Dar (a relative) and a couple of neighbours had gone to Waghama early morning to get me released. My family has been known for being aggressive and fearless. I knew my family would take on the dreaded terrorists and loaded guns without caring for their lives. One argument that my father would always put forth was – “Bloody, my son is not an informer, nor is he a characterless guy”. He was so confident of me being totally innocent that he would face bullets for my sake.
The story that followed, went like this: As my family members, friends and neighbours reached the Waghama locality and started searching for the terrorists, the locals got a sense that there would be a bloodbath because this time, the terrorists had chosen a wrong target. Everyone who knew our family profile bet that the ‘Mujahideen’ had to repent. On sighting the terrorists, my father and uncle straightened the long wooden sticks they had taken along from home. It was apparently foolish on their part to fight guns with sticks but it also reflects on their fearlessness and character. This was not the first time they were eye-ball to eye-ball with the terrorists. More such anecdotes would figure in the coming chapters.
As reported by Muhammad Ismail Dar, my father, on locating Gul Drange, tried to hit him on his head with the wooden rod but missed the target. As the terrorists (12 in number) unlocked their guns, my father and uncle, unmoved and undeterred, didn’t submit. They were resolute on facing the ferocious terrorists. The commander, however, came in between and started a conversation. My parents insisted they produce Bash Lal (Bashir) before them, and only then, they would listen to them. On this, the terrorists reported that I had fled from their custody. But my family didn’t believe them. There was a heated argument which continued for some time, till Ghulam Qadir Najar, the husband of Lateefa Mam and a dear friend of my father, appeared on the scene. Najar took my father to a side and narrated the story. Now, they relaxed. And terrorists got furious, demanding that I should be handed over to them for interrogation.
My father challenged the terrorists with full confidence, “Haath lagakar dekho, haath nahi kaate to kehna (I dare you to touch him. We will cut your hands)”. My family members and neighbours returned home relaxed and relieved. My mother Saba and wife Parveena were in complete shock till Mubeena informed them about my return. My son Sohail was just two at that time and had not slept the whole night. Upon listening to Mubeena, he insisted he be taken to his Abu (father). Mubeena brought Sohail to me. I fondled him as I sat with Azze Mouj who looked at us with so much unconditional love.
Well, mothers aren’t only those who birth you. There are also those who give you rebirths. I was indeed a favourite child of these mothers who touched my life so beautifully.
Rest in peace, my beautiful mothers.