Srinagar: Ward number 5 of the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Srinagar, Kashmir (IMHANS) is shrouded in deep silence.
It is as if the whole room is silently grieving and struggling to erase the whirlwind of memories left by its most beloved patient.
“Aane wala pal jaane wala hai, Hosakhe toh isme zindagi bita do, pal ye bhi jaane wala hai. She loved singing and was crooning this song a few days ago. Her presence and cheerful singing alleviated the gloom associated with this chronic ward,” recalls the staffer on duty at IMHANS.
Aarti (name-changed), the 55-year-old female, belonged to the Kashmiri Pandit community and was a resident of Habba Kadal locality in the old city.
Back in 1989, while she was bubbling with youthful energy, she got diagnosed with Schizophrenia (a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally) and got admitted to IMHANS, Kashmir. On Tuesday, she breathed her last at the same hospital. For 33 years, the institute stood by her side and was her friend of all seasons.
“In 1990 her family migrated to Jammu. Before they left, a lady introduced herself as a mother of Miss Aarti at the hospital. I asked her if she could take her daughter to Jammu and get her admitted there as she would be provided with a proper referral. However, her firm faith and conviction in the Muslim brethren brought tears to my eyes. Her parting words were, `I know she will be well-taken care of by her Muslim brothers. I cannot trust anyone in the new place (Jammu).For three decades, we have tried to live up to her expectations and delivered the best care we could. This is evident from the fact that the entire staff at the hospital broke down after she passed away. She will live in our hearts forever,” the psychiatrist treating her said.
Spotting short hair and an ever-cheerful smile, Aarti donned a charming persona. She was unlike other patients and would make all the doctors and nurses smile and laugh with her playful actions.
“She snatched my pen during my rounds and wrote “I love you” on the prescription. She was so mischievous. She often hid the plates and belongings of other patients. This was followed by loud laughter. I would often ask her, “Kuch Khaogi, she replied gleefully, haan chalo chai piyengey. Now when I think of it, I can’t help crying,” a doctor at IMHANS said.
The institute held a condolence meeting to commemorate her beloved memory, and hardly an eye could be found that was not moist.
The family of the deceased too paid tribute to this unlikely bond. As in life, Aarti represented the old syncretic culture in her death that refuses to yield to the ravages of time.