Except death and misfortune, nobody seems to remember Faze’s address. The latest visit was in September 2014. Survived by her eighteen-year-old granddaughter the octogenarian thrives on alms. Humera Ashiq Hussain narrates their story
The devastating flood, previous year, in its wake, has left indelible reminders in the house. The cracks and crevices look like a reflection of the wizened face of Musmate Faze, the octogenarian owner of the house. The single room house, located in Mehjoor Nagar, looks like a forgotten ruin of misfortune by its dilapidated condition, the metaphor of loss for the old lady. However, more than the abject condition of her house, the tragic episodes of her life have broken the spirit of Faze, a lady once known to be exuberant and vivacious.
Presently, living in a dingy room, less spacious and insalubrious, in a small house in Zaffran Colony of Mehjoor Nagar, Musmate Faze, with her draped in a tattered veil, relates the events of her dejected life.
“I was the lone daughter of my parents and had 6 brothers. Being the only daughter of the house I was raised with a silver spoon in mouth,” recalls Faze, with eyes that have a dreary aspect to them. “However, after marriage, my life changed drastically. From a life of mirth, I had to face a life of consternation and difficulties at my husband’s home. My in-laws, particularly my mother-in-law, were very callous towards me.”
Their behavior would dishearten Faze and torture her soul. “I had to bear the brunt of their wrath every day. Working like a galley slave, they made me work in the fields the whole day. And in the evening they would give me a meager meal of rice.”
However, these troubles fade when Faze weights what she has suffered as a mother. “No male progeny of mine survived. All my seven sons died very young leaving me to bear the pain all my life,” sighs Faze with a dismayed face.
The aged lady elaborates on her misfortune.
Faze’s elder son Gulzar died when he was eighteen. His death was very mystifying. Faze believes Gulzar was possessed by evil spirits who killed him. According to some, he had spitted at the cremation ground which had infuriated evil spirits residing there. “I saw these spirits in my dreams, intimidating and revengeful. I begged these ghoulish beings for forgiveness, imploring them about the poverty of my household and innocence of my son, as he had spitted there without any intentions to disrespect. But those spiteful beings took their revenge as after some days my son left his home, never to come again alive.”
Faze’s voice modulates to a whisper and a flicker of incoherence comes from her. She loses the thread of the conversation, recalling other events only to come back to the present point of focus after some time. There is a tremor in her voice as she continues her tale of tragedy, “My other son, Bashir Ahmad Bangla, was three-year-old when he died. He drowned in the river after his aunt, my sister-in-law, took him for a bath. It was Friday, a day not deemed auspicious for bathing at rivers as it disturbs the praying spirits, and I had a presentiment which was proven right as my son returned as a sad corpse.”
All the sons of Faze died very young, except her third son, Gulam Nabi Bangla. A laborer by profession, he worked from dusk till dawn to make the ends meet. But when he turned 30, he had brain hemorrhage due to abrupt increase in his blood pressure adding another chapter in the epic tragedy of Faze.
However, her son had died after marrying, leaving a daughter Asiya. It was no consolation to the family, as Asiya’s mother, Maymoona was a mute lady. No words escaped her lips all her years of existence, besides she only understood Bengali as she hailed from Kolkata.
Unable to afford a Kashmiri wife because of poverty, Asiya’s father had bought his wife for a few hundred rupees.
Asiya, now an eighteen-year-old, narrates the tale of her hapless family. “My family has suffered terribly. My mother had her share of tragedy too. All her children were born dead, before me. She was widowed at a young age.”
In the last years of her life Maymoona became paralyzed and Asiya took care of all her needs. “We never exchanged a word in all her life, as she couldn’t speak and understood only Bengali while I could only speak Kashmiri. But we understood each other through the language of love we shared,” says Asiya.
Leaving her studies in the first standard after her father’s death, Asiya has been pillar of support to her grandmother. Clinically, she related the tale of her mother but her stoicism wavers, and she sobbingly says, “One has to put up a face in society, a masquerade for hiding your hurt and emotions before people. This is what I do but inside, I feel I am carrying the corpse of my spirit. If I keep thinking about the tragedies of my family I would feel too depressed to assist my grandmother, and it would be difficult to survive. We live on crumbs but I am a kind of person who would die starving but would not ask anyone for penny. With the sufferings I had, I don’t want to marry.”
Donning a yellow decrepit Shalwar Kameez with a tattered maroon veil covering her head, the only outfit she owns and has been wearing for a few years now. “With every wash it looks better,” says Asiya with a wry smile.
Faze has assumed the aspect of a statue, immune to questions, deeply engrossed with a contorted face. Suddenly she animatedly pulls her Pheran (a long sleeved cloak) and her shirt which is tucked in her Shalwar to reveal her abdomen marked with faded stitches, and laments, “this is the surgery that English doctors conducted at SMHS for the removal of pancreas when I was nine months pregnant with my first son.”
The scarred abdomen, with stitches, faded corporally but imprinted vividly in her memory, draws a perfect analogy of her sufferings. “Everything and everyone belongs to Allah. Even our children don’t belong to us. Sometimes I request people to pay me a visit,” says Faze with a twinge of pain in her voice.
Faze is virtually a deaf person now. It is extremely difficult to make her understand spoken words. Ailments have affected her body. Complaining of acute back and knee pain, she has a hard time buying medicines for herself. Every day she frequents Ram Bagh Bridge and asks for alms. A common sight at the bridge – listless with a frothy mouth, only some pass without sympathy for the aged lady. Originally hailing from Chattabal, Faze lives in the neighborhood of her daughter in Mehjoor Nagar.
Last year, floods ravaged her house gobbling in its wake all her meager savings. “We didn’t have much, as you can see how poor we are, but whatever we had we lost in floods. We starved for 5 days and nobody helped us, because of our poverty as we could not afford money for rescue and help.”
Asiya lost her life time possession in the floods, a suit case; which contained some dresses she had preserved for her wedding, a gold chain, a gold earring. “Flood had taken its voyage. God knows where it found its harbor,” chuckles Asiya.
The family lives in a dilapidated room with no concrete roof. Polythene bags have been used as canopy for this unfortunate family. Some neighbors have come forward and have promised the family assistance at constructing a roof for them.
Neighbors claim that Faze is possessed by an evil fairy. Faze confesses Kashmiri songs ringing in her ears sometimes. She has come to live with the ailments both physical and spiritual. Confessedly, she is happy on this day. There is a glow in her faded green eyes, reminder of the beauty of her former years. Donning a turquoise Pheran with a floral imprint, and a white floral scarf, Faze smiles languidly.
As I take leave of the family Faze sighs and looks at the canopy of polythene bags. A streak of light has escaped the chink of her roof dappling her face. An amulet hanging down her neck shakes, she pressed the amulet to her bosom with a withered hand.
“Ameen,” escape her lips.