A promise to my mom – Prerna Pujari, Rajasthan

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Our unit has arrested some terrorists today. To grab them, our soldiers had to fight hard. We were all celebrating our victory. All the soldiers, officers, and other members of the unit were drinking, eating and were sharing their experiences of various incidents that happen in such battles. One of our officers asked about the inspiration that led each one of us to army. Everyone began to tell their stories, and my heart began to beat faster. I didn’t know what story should I tell, actually, I was scared of my reality. I am Ahana, a Kashmiri girl, brought up by my mother singly. Since my birth I have seen my mother struggle a lot to survive in this state, and I hate this. No, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to say that Kashmir is hateful, it is lovely, but surviving in this state, that too near the borders of POK is difficult. We never had a permanent house. Whenever there was emergency, we were forced to leave our houses and move to safer places. All through my childhood I have gone through this shuffling many times. My mother was a lecturer in the only girls college we had in our village. She valued education a lot and as a consequence I was benefited with the best means of education from my primary classes itself. I don’t know who my father was. Whenever I asked her, she just said that he died before my birth. She even never told me anything about my relatives from my father’s side. I always sensed a discomfort in her voice when I tried to talk about him.
In her fifties, she began to forget many things. Doctors​ said she had Alzheimer’s disease. A neurodegenerative disorder, which steadily vanishes your memory. She even forgot me many times. But I had no complaints. I knew when she was fine she had done a lot for me. She always asked me to join Indian army as a medical officer. She was very happy when I cleared entrance for medical studies. But I was afraid of this thought, the bombardments I had seen in our village every now and then​ scared me. One day, when I reached home after my college, I heard a male voice coming from my mother’s room. I hurriedly moved towards the voice. A man with a beard and a massive body, was sitting near my mom. I hadn’t seen him ever in my life. He was uncomfortable when I arrived there. I said nothing but moved out. Restlessness grew inside me to know who he was. He looked scary. I went in the kitchen to eat something. When I was busy cooking, I felt a human presence around. I turned back. He was standing there. He was gazing at me consistently. I was scared. “Your mom doesn’t remember me anymore.” he said. “She doesn’t remember many people. Moreover, I don’t think she had seen you ever.” I said rudely. He laughed at me sarcastically. “She is not in​ a good health now. She won’t be able to take care of you anymore.” He said. “I can take care of myself….And even hers.” I said dominatingly. My eyes met his. He didn’t like me raising my voice. I began to cook again. After a pause of few minutes, he spoke again, “Do you know who your father is?” My tongue glued and I looked at him shockingly. Now I really wanted to know who he was. I didn’t say anything. “Do you know your mother betrayed him?” He continued.

Anger grew within me. This was unacceptable​. I can’t hear anything against my mom. But before I could speak anything, he spoke again. “You should not live here anymore. I have come here to take you along with me.” He declared as if he owned me. “Shut up will you?” I shouted. “Who the hell are you? How can you speak against my mom like this?” My voice raised high. “My father died long back. And my mother can never betray anyone.” I said firmly. “Is this the story your mother has told you?” He said with his eyes red. “You have a whole family in Lahore Ahana. And your father is alive.” He said in one breath. I felt as if my whole world had changed with this statement in fractions of a second. This could not be the truth. My mother couldn’t lie to me. Although, she was no more in a condition to tell me her history, but, I trusted​ her. I didn’t need her clarifications. But whatever this man was saying aroused my hidden restlessness of many years to know about my father and his family. “Who are you?” This was all I could speak. “Aadil Khan. Have you heard this name before?” He asked with his eyes holding mine. “No” I said. “I am your father Ahana” he revealed his identity immediately. What!! My heart stopped to beat. I stared at him with eyes wide open. I couldn’t breathe….I couldn’t speak….I stood as a statue…. He stepped towards​ me. He placed his hand over my shoulder and pushed me to make me sit. He held my hand and begun to narrate the history. “My child…..I have longed to meet you since years…. I was in love with your mother ..we met in a college fest and eventually I married her twenty six years ago. We had a lovely life until your mother came to know that I work for the freedom of Kashmir. I follow Islam…and your mother follows it too….still…she never understood that our brothers and sisters are tortured in this country….I work for their freedom…isn’t it a noble work?… “…..she called me a terrorist….she betrayed me….she informed Indian army about me and my people….how could a wife do this with her husband….? I somehow found out about all this and succeeded to run away to Pakistan. I knew she was pregnant then. I wanted to live a life with my child. But I knew she won’t let me…..if she found out my existence she would have again trapped me and either sent me to jail or the army people would have killed me.” I heard all this and every word drilled my soul inside. ​My father is a terrorist. ​ This thought was killing me. I started hating myself being a part of him. ​I have blood of a terrorist inside me. ​ Tears flooded out with this thought. Respect for my mom appreciated multiple times. On one hand I hated myself to be his part but on the other I was proud to be my mother’s daughter. “I want to live with you now. Your mother’s disease is because of what she had done with her husband…..she deserves this….but you don’t….come with me….live rest of your life with your family….grandparents….in Lahore….” He spoke again….his eyes pleading me.

I had nothing to say, but I stood up and removed his hand from my shoulders. I don’t know what made me to slap him hard…..yes….. I slapped my father….and I had no regret….”Get out”….I shouted…. He stood up…..he was shocked by my response. “I am my mother’s daughter….and an upcoming officer of the Indian army” I declared with my head high. Even I was shocked at this statement, but somewhere inside I had made up my mind to fulfill my mother’s desire of me being a medical officer in Indian army. He stared at me shockingly. He didn’t say anything after this. He just moved out and away from my life forever. I rushed in my mom’s room and burrowed my face in her lap. I cried for hours then. I promised my mom to join Indian army. I will purify my blood with the national service…. I said to myself. I looked up at my mom’s face. She was lost in herself. She didn’t recognise him…and I was happy with this.

“Dr. Ahana, what is your story?” An officer asked me loudly and dragged me out of my thoughts. “My mom….she wanted me to be here….she is no more…and I just feel close to her when I serve my nation.” I said. I wanted to say that I am here out of the regret that I am a terrorist’s daughter….but that won’t be fair…. I was a daughter of a lady who had seeded love for my country within me…and who sacrificed her happiness for the country….she wiped away the name of her husband from her life…because he was a terrorist….when he was nothing to her….how could he be anything to me? My head raised high as I thought of my mom……… I missed her. ​

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