This mother’s wait for her son began one Saturday evening in 1990. “That day, my bulbul just flew away,” she says.
Mogli Begum dreams of Kashmir’s tallest leader, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. In Srinagar’s Habbakadal area, Mogli, who doesn’t remember her age, lives alone in an old house. She hardly leaves her room on the first floor, half of which she uses as a kitchen.
Mogli’s world faded in 1990, but all she remembers is that it was a Saturday in the month of September. Her only son, Nazir Ahmed, a teacher, left as usual for duty. “He ate his lunch and said he was leaving,” Mogli recalls. He would usually come back by five in the evening. But that day he didn’t come back. Mogli waited till late night. And then the search began. The entire locality searched for Nazir Ahmed. In police stations. In Army and other security camps. In graveyards. In hospitals. In the local mental asylum. Ads were released.
But there was no trace of her son.
“My husband left me for another woman when Nazir was still suckling my breast,” Mogli says. “After that, I treated him like a bulbul,” she says, “and that day, the bulbul just flew away.”
Before leaving on that Saturday, Mogli’s son had given her Rs 30 to buy vegetables. She still has those currency notes with her. “I would have liked to vote for Sheikhsahib (Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah),” she says, “but he too is gone. Who do I vote for, then?” Years of yearning for her missing son have taken a toll on Mogli. Her vision and hearing have deteriorated. “Maybe Nazir would return before I close my eyes forever.” All that remains of her son is a black and white passport photo, faded over long years of caressing. “If Nazir returns, I will vote for anyone you ask me to.” And then she goes silent. The very thought of a ballot machine dissolves in a well of tears.
—text by Rahul Pandita