Srinagar: This is not about Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Old Man and the Sea’, where there is hope and light at the end, but it is about an old man, who is courageous, but at the same time hopeless as he takes on life with no support.
He sells winter wear such as socks and gloves just outside the famous momo market of Hawal, but least are people bothered about him while they pass by his stall on the road.
Abdul Rashid Bhat (75), a resident of Haak Bazar, Hawal is crippled, with one of his leg amputated when he was as young as 12 years-old, due to some ailments. For him, his wheel chair is everything. It is, as if a helping son, he hops on to it in the morning and reaches to the spot where he has started a make shift shop—a stall rather-on the road side.
But when his wheel chair broke down recently, it added to his helplessness and hopelessness. He finds it hard to operate his wheel chair, and now has to request pedestrians to push his wheel chair to home in the evening and to his spot in the morning.
“It recently broke down, and it was, as if my back was broken into pieces,” said Abdul Rashid Bhat. He would have repaired it, but he just cannot.
For Bhat, there is no set timing for him to come home in the evening and reach to his spot in the morning, as it all depends on the pedestrians to stop and help him reach to his make shift shop, if they like, “I cannot force anyone, can I? At times people help and at times they don’t,” he said.
By selling winter wear, Bhat is earning 50-100 rupees per day, with which, somehow, he is feeding his family of three-which includes a widowed wife of his elder brother also.
“It is very difficult to feed my family with such a meagre amount, there is a person who is giving me a sum of 500 rupees per month which somehow is helping me,” he said.
Bhat knows that his meager earnings are not going to suffice, but it his self-esteem and self-respect that is making him to carry on every day. During the chilly days of Chillai Kalaan, Bhat spreads a sheet on the road side and he can be found there, sitting until evening, earning someday and even returning empty handed sometimes.
“During these days 100 rupees is nothing, but at the end of the day when I go home, having my hard earned money in my pocket, I feel a sense of extreme satisfaction overpowering me,” said Bhat, with his eyes glittering.
For Bhat, his earnings, though meager, instill a sense of respect in him, “it is like you get to have meals in the evening with a sense of respect, you don’t turn out to be burden on your family,” he chuckled.
In Bhat’s life, there is courage with less sense of expectations from people. He is carrying on of his own, accepting challenges every day. But there also is a sense of melancholy, deep rooted inside him- making him uneasy, a deep feeling of deceit somewhere in him, as he says that the society has forgotten him.
“Who is bothered about me, at least people are not, it is actually God who is waking me up in the morning, with courage instilled in me,” he said, adding during the day several thoughts cross his mind, which force him to curse his very existence, “at times I question my very being, why was I made to suffer, why me?,” he questions.