Broken Bonds, Broken Health: What Money Couldn't Buy This Srinagar Man?

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) Srinagar- The harsh fluorescent lights of Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital cast long, sterile shadows across the ward. Fractured conversations echo, a disjointed chorus of worry and comfort. A young woman, her voice choked with tears, promises her ailing grandmother they'll be back home soon. A man, his arms wrapped around his son, chuckles softly at a whispered joke.

Unlike others, Mukhtar's (name changed) bed is an island of solitude. No concerned face hovers above him, no comforting hand holds his. Loneliness, a monstrous beast he spent years trying to outrun, has finally cornered him.


He sometimes jumps out of bed and tries to run away from everything. At other times, he mutters words, some barely understandable, a jumbled mess of thoughts and frustrations.

For Mukhtar, it has been a whirlwind these past few days. Just last week, Mukhtar existed in a self-imposed exile within his own home. The once opulent residence, a monument to his past success, now echoed with the deafening silence of abandonment. He shuffled through his days, a shell of his former self, haunted by the ghosts of broken relationships.

Then came the phone call. A concerned neighbor, unable to bear witness to his deteriorating state any longer, alerted SRO Kashmir – a non-profit organization in Srinagar.

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“We received a call about someone living alone who was in critical condition,”
Mohammad Afaaq Sayeed, Director of Social Reforms Organisation (SRO), Kashmir
told Kashmir Observer.“The caring neighbor said that there is no one to take care of him and wanted to know if he dies, could we perform his last rites. We immediately agreed, but felt compelled to pay a visit first.”

When their team arrived at Mukhtar's residence at Batamaloo, the stench of neglect that greeted them was a stark contrast to the grandeur of the quarter.
A foul odor hung heavy in the air, a testament to the neglect that had taken hold.

The man who once moved through life with an air of quiet authority, who once wielded wealth and influence, was found in a state of disarray. Disoriented and weak, his clothes were soiled, and despair etched deeply on his face. Convincing him to leave was a negotiation fraught with resistance and tears.

“We rolled out sleeves to do what was needed first. We bathed him with hot water. We dressed him in neat clothes.

Then we tried to convince him to shift to the hospital. He was adamant and resisted forcefully,” Afaaq said, adding,“We somehow managed to take him to SMHS.”

Doctors revealed a close call – a near-fatal heart attack that could have been avoided with earlier intervention. He now battles multiple ailments including Kidney failure, but the pain of“abandonment” seems the most persistent.

The story of how Mukhtar ended up in this desolate state remains shrouded in whispers, with details revealed only in bits and pieces gleaned from those who knew him.
Was it a bitter falling out that drove his loved ones away?
Did life's harsh realities slowly erode the bonds he once held dear?
Where are his children,
the ones who should be a source of strength in his time of need?

Most say that it were his own choices, made in his pursuit of happiness, that led to unintended consequences.
His once-illustrious career as a high-ranking officer had secured him a life of privilege, a family, and seemingly, everything he desired.
However, his life took a sharp turn when he chose to leave his first family for a new marriage.

While such choices aren't uncommon, life had a harsh lesson in store. After his second wife passed away, he was left utterly alone.

“He would go to restaurants,
and wherever his appetite took him, brought cooked food in Tiffins, enough to last him for the whole week. He would repeat the same, next week,” Mukhtar's neighbors revealed.

Retirement brought isolation, and his health deteriorated. According to a neighbor, Afaaq said,“He
grew dependent on medicines. There was no one to take care of him. No one would give him food on time and no one would take care of his medication. His house would stink and he would stay awake during nights, seething in pain. He would cry during the nights, much to the inconvenience of his neighbors.”

“His neighbors would occasionally feed him and clothe him.”

It was during this increasingly isolated time that Mukhtar made a perplexing decision.
He donated a significant portion of his wealth to a local religious seminary.

Perhaps, he feared that someone after his death might claim it all.
His children from his first wife (a son and two daughters), harboring resentment from his past decisions, distanced themselves.

“His family members have abandoned him after he abandoned them in his youth, when they needed him the most,” a neighbor said.

“It's a sorry state of affairs all around.”

Now, as Mukhtar lies in a hospital bed, vulnerable and battling his ailments, his close relatives remain unresponsive. Despite his dependence and the need for constant care, including a diaper, he finds himself without any support.

Even the religious seminary, a beneficiary of his past generosity, has turned a blind eye.

SRO Kashmir tried contacting Mukhtar's nephew, but he refused to take any responsibility.

“We came to know that one of his very close relatives was a doctor working in SMHS. He was called. He came and asked us to leave him in the hospital. He promised us that he would take care of him,” Afaaq said.

But nothing really changed.
It was then that Afaaq
decided to take matters into his own hands. He crafted a poignant post on his Facebook handle, detailing Mukhtar's story and issuing a public plea to his family, relatives, and the seminary to fulfill their moral and religious obligations.

“I warned them that if they didn't come forward,
we shall name and shame them publicly,” Afaaq told Kashmir Observer.

The post somehow has proven to be a catalyst. A stir of activity has broken the monotony of Mukhtar's hospital bed as
his daughters and ex-wife come to visit him. But their visits are brief, only during the day, an uncomfortable formality punctuated by long silences and nervous glances away. They stay for a short time, and then retreat, leaving Mukhtar to the oppressive silence of his solitude.

Judgments have been swirling in Mukhtar's case. Some claim Mukhtar's son, despite financial struggles of his own, should step up. Others point fingers at Mukhtar himself, accusing him of hoarding his wealth and neglecting his daughters' well-being, even during their weddings.
Regardless of past hurts, regardless of financial limitations, the belief resonates – in this hour of vulnerability, a basic human decency demands that the family step forward, if not for love, then for shared humanity. The question remains: would they rise to the occasion?

“It's not about who's right or wrong,” Afaaq said.“Right now, this man needs someone by his side.”

“Our responsibility was to rescue him, but SRO Kashmir
does not have the required manpower to look after the abandoned patients in hospitals,” Afaaq added.

Afaaq has another concern too.
While the seminary undoubtedly benefited from Mukhtar's generosity, he wonders whether a more thorough due diligence process might have revealed the potential for competing claims on his resources. Perhaps a deeper understanding of his personal circumstances could have ensured his well-being remained a priority, even after his donation.

“Given that his son is financially struggling, my plan is to reach out to the seminary and explore the possibility of redirecting a portion of Mukhtar's donation to him. This way he
can step forward to take care of his father,” Afaaq said.

Mukhtar's story also underscores the critical role that well-managed old-age homes can play. While the introduction of such facilities in Kashmir last year received mixed reactions, with some fearing a breakdown of traditional family structures, Mukhtar's situation highlights a harsh reality.

“Old age homes are a necessity. This can be a lifeline for those who lack strong family support or require specialized care,” Afaaq said. According to him, SRO Kashmir has been increasingly receiving distress calls about people abandoning their old and sick.

While Mukhtar's side of the story remains largely untold, a puzzle missing key pieces, one truth shines undeniably clear. Wealth cannot buy the most important things in life – neither health, nor relationships. Despite having everything, he had nothing.

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