Srinagar: From the unknown corners of distant villages to the dense forest glades, there are people across Kashmir who personify courage and commitment to their service. The Kashmir Monitor spoke to two such men who stand strong like the tree when the gusts of corona storm are rattling the entire world.
Abdul Rashid Bhat, 45
Clad in a blue raincoat, and a pair of worn-out shoes, Abdul Rashid Bhat, a class IV employee in Public Health Engineering Department in J&K, faced the biggest setback of his life a few days back when his six-year-old daughter was put in hospital quarantine after Rashid’s brother-in-law tested positive for coronavirus.
Hailing from Naidkhai village in Sumbal, 45-year-old Rashid, however, remained firm like a tree and refused to break off in the tempest of sorrows. He faced the challenge thrown head-on and report to his duty every day without fail.
“Earlier it was my brother-in-law who tested positive. We were yet to get over the shock and another problem hit us. My daughter who had been stayed at her aunt’s home in Sadarkot, Sumbal has been put under hospital quarantine,” he said as he fixed the creaking leakage in the pipe.
While fixing leaking pipes to ensure the water supply to interior villages remain intact, Rashid mutters a few prayers as well for his daughter’s well-being.
His home is a single-storied mud-brick house which he shares with his old parents, wife and a four-year-old child.
“He has faced the pangs of poverty since childhood but never shied away from hard work and commitment to his job” said his childhood friend wishing not to be named.
In the absence of any personal protective equipment provided by PHE Department, his friend has lent him a raincoat.
“Since there is no provision made by the department for their protection, I gave him my raincoat. It breaks my heart to see him going out for work every day knowing a part of his heart, his beloved daughter is admitted in an inaccessible hospital ward,” his friend said.
“Life may be ruthless at times, but we have to face it without running away from such situations, Waqt chuni rozwun (All good and bad things come to an end),” Rashid said.
Bashir Ahmad Bhat, 33
Donned in personnel protective gear and armed with a lathi, and binoculars, the weather-beaten Bashir Ahmad Bhat patrols the huge tracts of jungle on foot.
Bhat, a tough soled front line worker at the Department of Wildlife Protection, Kashmir, guards the forests of Dachigam National Park round the clock to ensure the safety of its denizens.
“Our job became more challenging after the first COVID-19 positive case of a tiger was reported in New York City’s Bronx Zoo. Since then, we are being more proactive in monitoring the behaviour of animals in the park,” Bashir said.
Hailing from Bane, Nishat, 33-year-Bashir lives with his wife and two young children. Often, his duty compels him to stay back in the forest for days together away from the family.
“I don’t feel sad about it. The animals are as dear to me as my family. I can’t afford to see them getting killed or ill. These are the testing times and ensuring the well-being of animals is my priority,” he asserts.
Every day, he monitors their behaviour by checking on their gait, fecal matter, feeding habits, and urination.
Additionally, Bashir points out that often villagers sneak in to cut wood or collect fodder or graze their animals despite the advisory issued by the department.
“Without flouting the protocol, I have been reaching out to every person and educating them about the pandemic,” he said
On starless nights, Bashir bravely guards the boundary line of the protected area to ensure that no leopard ventures into the habitation.
“I have dedicated my life to these forests and animals and will continue to protect them. Aane posh teli when waen posh (Food will suffice if forests will thrive),” he said.
(An earlier version of the story stated that Abdul Rashid Bhat’s young daughter had tested positive for coronavirus as claimed by the father. The same has been updated now after it was established that the child was put in hospital quarantine and has not been tested so far)