It is the dream of every parent to see their children grow up into healthy and capable individuals. Parents often sacrifice their entire lives raising their children in the hope that their children will provide them a shoulder of support in their old age. But not everyone is as lucky. Sometimes for a parent this blessing comes with certain hardships.
For 75 year old Mukhti Begam, parenthood means looking after two blind children. Sitting on the verandah of her humble abode in Sandoo, a village which lies at a distance of 3 kilometres from the main town of Islamabad (Anantnag), Mukhti Begam seems like any other ordinary woman. But after talking to her, one begins to see her in a different light. Mukhti Begam recalls being beyond ecstatic on learning about her pregnancy.
“The joy I felt the first time I held my child in my arms was unlike anything I had ever known before.” But this joy couldn’t last long because Mukhti soon found out that her new born daughter, Hajira Banoo (Now 46) was blind. “My husband and I were heartbroken. We weren’t so well off that we could take her to specialists so, we accepted it as fate and vowed to take care of her till our last breath.
When I learned that I was pregnant the second time, my husband and I prayed day and night that our second born be healthy. When my son was born, we were so relieved. We felt it was the end to our sufferings and that he would not only take care of us in our old age but would also look after his blind sister. But our miseries were far from over. Within a few years, we learnt that our son was not only partially blind but could also not walk properly.”
“It was like a mountain of sorrow had crashed over us. I couldn’t do anything except weep for days. My husband, having always been courageous, resolved to work day and night and earn enough for our kids treatment. But the anxiety took its toll on him. He died of high blood pressure when both my kids were quite young. Having left with no source of income,
I tried approaching the authorities for help but everyone I went, I was met with closed doors and hearts. Nobody helped me. I did my best to raise my kids. I started doing odd jobs just to be able to put food on my kids’ plates. I faced a lot of hardships but I bore them all for my two children.
Every day I die a little when I think about what will happen to my children after I die. Who will look after them when I am gone? Will they die of hunger? Will they be able to survive on their own? These thoughts give me sleepless nights. I don’t have any source of income. Whatever I earned, I spent it looking after my children. Raising a disabled child let alone two takes an entire village. I had to do it all on my own. I was able to save a little some years back and buy a shop. But being too old, I can no longer run it.” Mukhti’s son, Mohammad Shaban, 35, now looks after the shop but being partially blind, he faces a lot of difficulties while serving the customers. “He can’t find the things his customers want to buy due to his poor eye sight. So, most people prefer not buying from him,” sighs Mukhti.
Shaban on the other hand is a bit more optimistic. “It is true that I face a lot of difficulties but I can’t sit around all day blaming my destiny. I love my mother and my sister. I have to look after them. I can’t watch them suffer while waiting around for someone to help us. We can’t keep waiting for the help that may never come.” While leaving the house, a few residents approached us and requested us to appeal to the authorities on their behalf to help the family.
Gh Hassan Ganie, a resident said “The family is in a very difficult situation. We try to help as much as we can but we ourselves are not so well off that we can support them completely. We request the authorities to lend them a helping hand so that they can lead a better life.