The private hell of a freedom fighter

The private hell of a freedom fighter

A solitary man has lost the umbilical cord that kept him attached to this land  
Baramulla: Seven years ago, when Mohammad Arif was 19 years old, his father married another woman and left his mother forever. Arif’s mother tried to kill herself on many occasions, once by slitting her veins at another time by consuming rat poison. “Mom once begged me to let her die,” Arif said.
Arif didn’t give up on his mother and tried everything to save his home from another calamity. He took care of his mother as if she were his child. He fed her, bathed her, took her to the doctor, and made sure that she didn’t miss her favorite serials on TV. “Sometimes I felt like I was her mother. She was just like a child,” Arif said while talking to Reader.
“I was raised like a prince,” Arif said. “I was so happy. We were so happy. We were the happiest family.”
After his father left, a few close relatives came to comfort them. But his mother’s indignation and rudeness towards them put a stop to their visits. Mother and son were left alone with an old maid servant who had been serving them for the past thirty years.
Arif’s father had left them a huge estate, an expensive house, fixed deposits, and a monthly income of thirty thousand rupees. The father owned a chain of carpet showrooms and had wished his son to take over the business after he completed his college.
“But the money didn’t buy us happiness or peace,” Arif said.
Arif was raised with a keen appreciation of the value of money. He saved the money that his father sent them – “because I know one day he will stop sending it.” Arif limited his monthly expenditure to ten thousand rupees. He bought new clothes for himself and for his mother once in a year. Much of the money he spent on buying books that he would read during the night – “all night,” he said. “In reading I found peace with my loneliness.”
Arif continued his studies. He never went to class but he managed to appear in the exams after permission from the principal. His mother was a former teacher at the college where he studied. She took voluntarily retirement after her first attempt at suicide.
In 2013, his mother started to show signs of recovery. “It was like she saw a hope in me,” Arif said. “But how could I tell her what I went through during those years. It made me both happy and sad to see her recover. I was living a nightmare each day. This was not the life I had wished for.”
As her mother took back the charge of her house and accepted her fate, she insisted that Arif take admission to JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) to study literature. What she actually wished was to separate him from herself. He had never argued with her; he left for Delhi.
He came back only in June last year, after completing his masters in literature. “I didn’t want to come back ever because there was no reason for me to be with my mom. She wanted me to go away,” Arif said, still seething from her mother’s decision to send him away.
Arif quotes the American mystic Thomas Merton, who said that “the true solitary does not seek himself but loses himself.”
“If you like solitude,” Arif said, “you are never alone.”
His mother was ill again. She told her son to go back to Delhi, instead of wasting his life taking care of her. “I was so mad that I wanted to kill myself,” he said. “Everything was falling to pieces again. She wanted me to run away from reality.”
Then came the killing of Burhan Wani and the eruption of Kashmir into protest. Arif now, more than ever, did not wish to go back to Delhi. Instead, he joined the street protests and started throwing stones on government troops.
He had finally found his catharsis.
“I was not ashamed of myself,” Arif said. “I just wanted to release my frustration on something and I did.”
Arif took to the streets with a baseball bat and stones in his hand. He said he wounded many cops, smashed windshields of cars of those who defied the shutdown call, and assaulted anyone who questioned his authority. Once he almost killed the driver of a car who didn’t stop at his command.
While he was out on the streets, fighting his own war, his mother came to know about his activities. Her health worsened from the anxiety.
One day, in September, his mother fell seriously ill. Arif was nowhere near home. It took the maid servant three hours to take her mistress to the hospital. When Arif came home late in the evening, tired, sweat rolling down his face, he didn’t know how to react. His mother had been brought dead from hospital. Women were wailing and crying near her body.
“I didn’t cry,” he said, “Mom was at peace. I sat beside her body and watched her face.”
For the next four months, Arif stayed confined to his room, studying day and night, eating once in the day. “I was punishing myself for the sins committed by my father,” he said. “I wanted to see how far I can go living like this.”
In February this year, his uncle and aunt, who live in London, came to see him. They were moved to see their nephew in such a condition. Arif has accepted their request to come to London and spend some time with them. He is leaving this month. “I wish to never return to this place. It is no less than hell for me,” Arif said.

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