By Quaid Najmi
Pune, April 3 (IANS) A 22-year-old Kashmiri girl, who ran away from home to Pune with the intention of committing suicide, returned home with a smile and renewed hope in life, thanks to the love and care provided by a NGO.
It was around a fortnight ago that the girl – identified as Rabab (to protect her identity) – fled her home in a small village in Baramulla district, in a deeply disturbed state of mind.
“Her issue was she faced malicious accusations of having an affair by some persons as her distraught family was preparing for her betrothal with a boyï¿½ It left a deep scar on her mind and brought disrepute to her family,” said Sanjay Nahar, founder of NGO Sarhad – which helped Rabab reunite with her happy family, early this morning (April 3).
With barely Rs.2,500 in her purse, she went from the village to Baramulla, then to Srinagar and Jammu, where she bought a ticket and hopped onto the Jammu-Pune Jhelum Express, and landed in Pune after around 4 harrowing days, resolved to end her life far away from home.
On the long journey, Rabab – a dropout after SSC – was mostly crying, barely ate anything, hardly communicated with the co-passengers and largely kept to her tormented self.
“In the final few hours of her journey, two persons from Pune, Laxman Jadhav and Bharat Sonne, happened to board the train. When they noticed her, they sensed something amiss and attempted to break the ice with her. They offered her food, made small talk, tried to make her comfortable as the train reached its destination,” Nahar told IANS.
In Pune, the Jadhav-Sonne duo worried what to do with the strange girl in alien surroundings, apparently penniless and not knowing anybody, and they decided to seek assistance of the NGO Sarhad.
“We readily took over her responsibility, made her undergo a Covid-19 test, informed the Pune Police, gave her food and shelter and started her counsellingï¿½ That’s when she gradually relaxed and revealed her family background,” Nahar added.
The NGO put her up at the Lalleshwari Girls Hostel for Kashmiri women and a counsellor Zahid Bhat held sessions with her.
“She was very depressed and vulnerable, and being away from her family could not have remained safe for longï¿½ As her confidence grew, we called her father and two policemen from Jammu & Kashmir who reached here earlier this week,” said Bhat.
Among those who chipped in to boost Rabab’s confidence is the well-known Pune-based Kashmiri singer Shameema Akhtar, who croons songs in Urdu, Hindi, Bengali and Marathi – among her fans being Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, his cousin and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray and social crusader Anna Hazare.
Akhtar gently spoke with Rabab, understood her disturbed psyche and convinced her against resorting to any extreme steps, which soothed the lonely, forlorn girl.
“When I left my home, I did not want live anymoreï¿½ After the time spent in Pune, I have realised how beautiful life isï¿½ I should live and love it. It’s a gift that comes only once, and I shall convey this message to all Kashmiri friends,” Rabab said, bidding an emotional farewell to her guardian angels in Maharashtra’s cultural, academic and IT capital.
Early on Saturday (April 3), a drastically changed and well-poised Rabab entered her home with her dad, hugged her mother, brother and sister, feeling rejuvenated to grapple with life’s challenges with soaring self-confidence, said Bhat.
Nahar explained that Rabab, hailing from border territory of Kashmir, belonging to a minority community, landing in a strange city under the grip of the Coronavirus, could have resulted in serious security concerns, but fortunately she escaped it all.
Sarhad has been working in the country’s border areas, adopted Kashmiri orphans, helps the students and youth from the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir living or working in Pune, especially during the pandemic lockdown, and other activities.
He rued how due to various issues, Kashmiri people have suffered loss of jobs or livelihood, but with the help of Sarhad and other groups, they are brought back from the brink.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)