Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Closure

By Naseer A Ganai

“You remember Gulzar. I am his elder brother,” an elderly looking person told a doctor immediately after he darted into his clinic. “Have a seat and give me your arm. Let me check your blood pressure,” the doctor responded. He had not heard the patient’s rumblings.

The patient felt embarrassed. He sat down but repeated a bit loudly this time, “Doctor saheb, I am Gulzar’s brother.” The doctor now looked at him intently, trying to recollect the face. After few seconds had passed, the doctor give him a simile and asked him about Gulzar.

“How is Gulzar, what he is doing these days,” the doctor told him while adjusting a stethoscope on his right arm to check blood pressure. “And why you look so old. All well?” he asked.

The doctor’s warm response put him at ease for a moment. 

“You don’t know anything about Gulzar? He was your classmate!” He didn't wait for the response of doctor.

Instead, he went on with his talk, recalling the events when Gulzar crossed the LoC in nineties, like hundreds others. “We thought he will become a doctor but then destiny had something different in store for us!” he said and took a deep sigh.

The man’s beard had aged ahead of time and he seemed to be in a hurry. He wanted to tell his tale and it seemed he had finally got someone to hear his story.

“Gulzar returned after four years,” he continued.

“He came back but Ikhwan had picked up in South Kashmir then. It was difficult for him to move around. He would remain in the village and didn’t go anywhere.”

By now, the doctor too wanted to know everything about Gulzar. He did not interrupt him and allowed him to open up.
“One evening, some Ikhwanis came to our house and they took Gulzar along. We thought they would release him. We waited and waited, but he did not return.”

Anxiety took over the doctor. He kept the stethoscope aside and started scribbling on a prescription letter. The doctor knew the man as Gulzar’s brother. Gulzar was one of brightest students in his school. He and Gulzar had together appeared in matriculation exam in 1987 and then he did not hear anything about him.

Now years after seeing his brother, whom he knew as a dashing young man, broke his heart.

“Days turned into weeks and weeks into months and months into years but my search for Gulzar did not stop,” the patient continued.

“One day we got information that a bullet ridden body is lying on the roadside in Seer village. I rushed to Seer. But it was not Gulzar’s body. I came back to home. I was used to it Doctor saheb."

“I asked my daughter for a glass of water. I was tired. Dead tired. When she came with the glass, I got the shock my life. I looked at my daughter and she was no longer a kid. She was of marriageable age. I went into deep thought. I was crushed and defeated.”

 “Next day, I went to Seer again. When I came back that evening, I told my mother, my younger brother and my father that Gulzar  has been buried in Seer. I told them that I identified his body yesterday when villagers were burying it.”

“I took my mother, sister and other relatives to Seer and showed them the newly unidentified grave. ‘This is Gulzar’s grave,’ I told them.”

The family mourned for four days.

On fifth day, he started looking after his family. He had to marry off his daughter. His mother had turned diabetic, younger brother had left education and was working as a day labourer, father had a heart-aliment. For years together, he didn't do anything except searching his brother among the unidentified bodies. He had forgotten his whole existence in search of Gulzar.

“Seven years have gone by since I passed off someone’s grave as my brother’s. It kills me. I don’t know whether I did a good thing by closing the case of my brother. I had no other alternative. I want to sleep. Give me some tablets, which can bring me some relief, even if for some hours. I have not slept for a long time. The closure of my brother’s case always haunts me. Help me, doctor.”

Then he broke down. He cried for a long time.

The doctor consoled him and started looking at the scores of prescription letters he had handed him over. He provided him some medicine and advised him to come back

What happened to the patient, I asked the doctor.

“He died last year!”