The pain of losing a loved one can feel devastating. You feel all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions, from utter shock, intense grief and profound disbelief, to guilt and deep sadness. The pain of losing someone forever will disrupt your psychology and physical health, making it a herculean task to even sleep, eat or think properly for days, months, years together. These are the normal reaction to loss—and more weighty the loss, the more intense your pain/grief. Losing someone you love is one of the biggest challenges life throws at you. The death of a loved one is often the cause of the most intense sorrow and trauma.
It has now been three years that my cousin Altaf left for the heavenly abode. We miss him with profound grief. He was a beacon of love, sympathy, and care. His sudden death has created a big void, which refused to be filled. Three years ago I had the opportunity of visiting Gulmarg with some of my colleagues. In that thrill who knew that something will come to haunt you, that the world may end for someone, the cousin who had been skilfully driving for more than a decade would meet with a fatal accident? A few hours before the tragic accident, Altaf had called home for the last time talked to his younger son, promising him that he had bought new garments and toys for him. And that he was going to see him next evening. The small child is still waiting for his beloved papa, though papa kept the promise of coming home, in a coffin.
So many questions kept bothering me: had he died in pain, helplessly asking someone for help, for a sip of water, for someone to rescue him? Tears keep gushing from my eyes even after three years. My fingers are shaking as I type on the keyboard. Altaf, you left us miserable, shaken, and broken.
I recollect the fond memories of his coming to our home in the wee hours of the morning and asking my mother for namkeen tea and walnuts. Altaf was a person loved by everyone. On that unfortunate day on 10th of November 2018, when my phone vibrated in silence, it was a call from home. ‘Where are you?’ It was my brother on the phone. ‘Oh! Altaf Biya met with a tragic accident.’ The earth slipped from beneath my feet. Is he alive? was my abrupt reply. In which hospital? My brother paused in his speech. Probably he too was mustering the courage to say the words. ‘He is no more’. Shit! The whole world went dark before my eyes. My dearest cousin had died in the dark of the night on the Udhampur highway. He was a driver by profession, an expert in his profession. I had seen him driving different buses and lorries. He had such skill in his driving.
I got down from the bus that was going to Gulmarg. I went to give my shoulder to his coffin and to put perfume on his body.
I remember one drive with him during my college days. Our college mates were going on a trip to Nishat Garden. In the wee hours of that beautiful day, I was pleased to see Altaf Bhai wearing a new green T-shirt, having come along with a group of drivers for the tour. I was so happy to see my dear cousin; he had an angel’s smile on his face. I along with my group of friends boarded his bus. It was one of the most unforgettable days spent with him. He drove so fast that day, ahead of everyone else. The students in our bus chanted, ‘Wasta She’ (Tiger driver). He asked me to capture some pics of him at Nishat. The picture is still in my album, but Altaf has gone into the mist, never to come back. Ah! The song of Mohd Rafi speaks to me: “Wo jab yaad aaye, bahut yaad aaye’. Alataf’s mortal remains were carried from Udhampur to his home in Lolab the next day. The whole night we only heard the cries of near and dear ones. Everyone at home was devastated. Hundreds were assembled for the funeral. He had a large circle of friends and colleagues. His elder sister had gathered an army of women to rend the sky with their wails. His wife had torn the earth in her pain. His mother’s grief cannot be put in ink. His younger son, barely two years old, was hardly aware of anything. Altaf was laid in rest on 11th of November with tearful eyes and sobbing hearts.
Altaf was down to earth, a great human being full of love and care. He was the dearest of all my cousins. Driving was a passion to him, and he gave his life to it.
Rest in peace, dear cousin. May Allah shower on you all His forgiveness and mercy and bless you with a special abode in Jannat-ul-Firdose.
—The writer is a doctoral fellow at University of Kashmir. [email protected]