Srinagar: Two days before Afzal Guru was hanged 0in New Delhi’s Tihar jail, Ghalib Afzal Guru, his son, had gone to a relative’s house in Kanispora locality of Baramulla.
He stayed there through the night to enjoy a holiday with his cousins the next day. February 8 was the last day of urs (annual congregation) at a local saint’s shrine. When Afzal was a free man, he would take Ghalib and his mother Tabassum to the shrine.
Ghalib played cricket, his favourite game, throughout the day, satisfied that he had tried to follow his role model, South African cricketer AB de Villiers.
In bed, he was “imagining that I would play like de Villiers in tomorrow’s match”.
Next morning, on February 9, while his father had been executed and hurriedly buried inside Tihar jail, Ghalib woke up casually in his relatives’ home. His relatives were privy to the news that India satisfied its collective conscience by hanging Afzal, but no one could muster the courage to break the news to him.
They acted before Galib as if nothing had happened. Soon enough, he was offered tea, dressed in warm clothes and taken to the house of his grandparents in Azad Ganj locality of Baramulla, where he had been living along with his mother after his father’s arrest.
That foggy morning he saw uniformed men patrolling roads and standing behind barricades to check the antecedents of people who crossed them. The uniformed men were everywhere. He didn’t read anything unusual in such a huge presence of armed personnel, having spent his life in one of the most militarized zones of Kashmir.
Once he reached his maternal home, a group of people shouting anti-India slogans had surrounded the old multi-story brick and timber home of his grandparents.
“I was still thinking about the game. I walked into the kitchen and asked for my grandfather (Ghulam Mohammad Bhuroo). He had gone outside. Then my uncle took me to the lobby and said, ‘see Ghalib, everyone has to die. Your Abu has been martyred in the jail,’” Ghalib said.
“I had a mystic belief that my Abu was not dead. It would be after four days that the reality would dawn upon me,” said Ghalib, who was among the top 20 meritorious students in the recently declared matriculation examination.
His uncle then took him to his father’s home, in Jagir village of Sopore. He had lived there for a few days when Afzal’s mother passed away. For the next 20 days, Ghalib attended mourners, being the only child of the deceased, a role usually expected of the eldest son well past the bloom of his youth.
Twenty days later, he went back to stay at Baramulla, to resume his normal life.
“Time heals everything,” he said, “The time when my Abu was arrested has passed. The time when he was sentenced to martyrdom also passed. And the time when Abu was martyred has also passed. These time periods have just made me stronger to fight against any odds in my life.”
Ghalib was born on 12 August in 1999 at St Joseph Hospital in Baramulla. Tabassum was at her parent’s home in Azad Ganj village of Baramulla. A day before his birth, Tabassum had developed a shooting pain in her abdomen. Her parents took her to the Baramulla district hospital, where doctors had declared that the baby was dead. Next day, Afzal took Tabassum to St Joseph’s Hospital, a private hospital in the district, where doctors told the couple the similar story. But Tabassum was adamant. She kept telling the doctors that her baby was alive in her womb.
“But none of them would listen to me,” she says.
On the afternoon of August 12, doctors carried out a surgical procedure with an aim to take out the dead baby from her womb.
“A miracle happened,” she says, “Ghalib was alive. I knew all along.”
Actually, Ghalib had his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, a condition, called nuchal cord, which can lead to death by strangulation.
“It appeared as if he had been hanged. I could not decipher the meaning that time but now I believe a message of Afzal’s hanging was given in advance,” said Tabassum.
When Ghalib began to observe the world, he was told that his father was in Jail. At four, he met his Abu for the first time inside a court in New Delhi. Afzal’s first and last advice to his son was to become a doctor and live an honest life.
Cricket is Ghalib’s passion. He watched Hollywood movies (current favourite Tom Cruise-starrer Mission Impossible). He uses social networking sites (his Facebook account has been hacked four times so far, “every time it becomes prominent.”)
Ghalib said he had resigned his life to realising his Abu’s wish, which “I have inscribed in my heart and made a principle of my life”.
That is why he studies more, plays (cricket) less. In fact, after Afzal’s hanging, Ghalib has stopped playing cricket altogether.
The mother and son find solace in each other’s friendship.
Tabassum speaks of the boyish desires of Ghalib who “throws his hands in air, imitating cricket field actions” in sleep.
“Ghalib occasionally blurts out how foreigners allow their children to pursue their interests,” says Tabassum.
In the recently announced class 10 results, he secured 19th position in the Valley. But for Ghalib, scoring high percentage in exams does not mean much. He believes that every child should be allowed to pursue his own interests. His dream of become a cricketer was altered by the hanging of his father. Now, he wants to become a doctor, a dream his father had cherished in the Tihar jail. He has opted Science to make the dream a reality.
Ghalib, whose father was first arrested in 2001 as an accomplice in the Indian Parliament attack case from the capital city of Srinagar is an intensely skeptic, studious boy who was reluctant to open up during our conversation. But once the conversation warmed up, he opened up like a bosom friend.
“Baya (brother),” he calls me, “I just want to become a cricketer, nothing else but when I think about doctor’s dream of my Abu I forget becoming a cricketer and focus on my studies.”
Which country he would like to play for?
“Africa or England,” he replies.
“See, I won’t play for India because they killed my father.”