Death is the only reality of life. Nobody has ever escaped it. But an untimely death is an agony that leaves behind an incurable heartache.
I’m writing this piece today to narrate a tale of the desolation of a woman who was forsaken in an umpteenth hour when nothing but darkness surrounded her. It’s the tale of the real and blunt face of our society where dignity & chastity of womanhood were torn apart every single day.
I, Dr. Afroza Iqbal entered into the bliss of marriage 14 years ago with Dr. Saleem Iqbal. It was an arrangement finalized by our families and little did I know that the euphoria I felt at that time would be so short-lived. My husband, Prof.Saleem Iqbal was H.O.D Veterinary Physiology SKAUST-K. We spent years together, & a life was good despite the fact that we could not have any children. However, we never let it take a toll on our marriage. Dr. sahab were well-versed in the Sciences, Literature, & religion. He was very liberal & had an aura of sainthood around him. He was a man of principles, very humble, grateful, & compassionate. He lived a sophisticated life. People who knew Dr. Saleem Iqbal will agree with me if I call him a man who was one in a million!
Alas! My world turned upside down the day my husband was groped down by a cardiac arrest immediately after which he was diagnosed with “Post-cardiac hypoxia-anoxia encephalopathy” The syndrome, according to medical sciences is factually incurable. He was very sick and thus admitted in the SICU (Surgical ICU), SKIMS for 26 days. Unimaginable as it may seem but, from the very first day of his treatment, my in-laws turned a cold shoulder towards us. They denied me any moral support, & literally left me in the lurch. They would visit in the evenings and stay for an hour or so in the waiting hall of SICU, SKIMS. They actually abandoned their son and it was quite a shock to bear. During this long stay of 26 days at SKIMS; Dr. Salem’s colleagues, friends, my family, & the staff of SICU at SKIMS encouraged me, & helped me in every possible way to fight against the ill-fate that lashed out untimely at me. I warmly thank them all.
On a doctor’s advice, on 06th of January 2016, we traveled to New Delhi to continue my husband’s treatment at to Max hospital. He was not in a position to travel and was thus airlifted in an air ambulance. My younger brother was the only one to accompany us. My in-laws also came to Delhi, but they decided to live separately at a place which was very far from the hospital. I believe, their only purpose of being there was to torture me by their inexplicable behavior. Doctors at Max hospital advised nursing & physiotherapy as the only remedy of husband’s ailment. Both I & the team of doctors were hopeful for his speedy recovery so, I returned home on 07th April 2016. Unfortunately, I returned to the in-laws who would hurl abuses all the time while my husband had lost around 70% of his consciousness. This attitude of his family wood upset my husband and infrequent panic attacks, he would scream at them. Needless to say, I tolerated every form of abuse & exploitation for the sake of my ailing husband. We’d promised each other to stay together through thick & thin. I couldn’t betray him. This vow made me stay by his side in spite of the inhuman behavior of his family towards me. I would work 21 hours a day and would sleep from 2:00 to 3:00 am every night. This was the hardest phase of our lives.
If that wasn’t enough, they stole the SD card from my phone & morphed my chastity into obscenity and on 30th June 2016, around 10:00 Pm, when I was alone with my husband, my in-laws scared me to death. I was frightened by their threats and called 100.
Some major breakthroughs:-
01) On my arrival from Delhi, I’d arranged for a male nurse & a 15-year-old orphan boy to help me out in taking care of my husband. My in-laws somehow managed to use the male nurse, Anooj Zakaria, whom I paid 60,000 per month as a household, against me. The guy would always be at loggerheads with me. However the 15 years Monis Khan was a hurdle in their way as he didn’t approve to any of their dubious plans. In order to get rid of him, my in-laws sullied my reputation by asserting that I was having an illicit affair with this 15-year-old chap.
02) The situation turned worse on 13th of August 2016, when my husband’s brother-in-law & his eldest son in broad day-light found me alone with my husband who was crippled on the sofa chair; they kicked me, & knocked me down on the floor. I regained my consciousness after 2-3 hours, & found myself beaten to the pulp, blood-bathed, & blood was still oozing from my mouth. I managed to reach SKIMS & got admitted to A&E ward under MRD number 931759. I underwent a good number of tests which revealed a visceral injury. My mouth was swallowed & my tooth was broken.
03) Another shade of tragedy that swallowed me was when my father-in-law off & on persuaded me to sign the divorce papers & surrender myself to their filthy intentions. I kept on refusing and decided to bear the brunt of their wrath. Meanwhile, I’d like to mention that my in-laws tortured me so gallantly only under the assistance of our Mohalla president, M. Ashraf wani. He has a pivotal role to play in ruining my marital status forcibly. I wonder why this man mauled me so much.
04) In March 2016, I sought the intervention of Nayeema Mehjoor, Chairperson of State Commission for Women, for the legal custody of my ailing husband so that I’d leave that house. Alas! The worthy Nayeema Ji proved of no help & my hopes shattered further.
As I stood against every form of abuse & exploitation, letting the dubious intentions of my in-laws go in vain, they were agitated. So, they phoned my brothers without my acknowledgment & hurled them with abuses, categorically saying to take their unchaste sister back. A meeting was held which included my family, my in-laws, & some respectable persons of the mohalla. It was decided that I should accompany my ailing husband to some other place. However, my in-laws didn’t let it happen. So, the meeting went awry but the tale of torment continued each & every day.
After a prolonged illness, Dr. Saleem Iqbal breathed his last on 09th August 2017 at SKIMS. He had contracted a contagious urine infection eleven days before his demise. Again I was lonesome these eleven days. I lost the battle for survival of my husband. The dead body of the deceased was taken home by some strangers. The inhumanity didn’t end here. On the 3rd day of my husband’s demise, my in-laws thrashed me out of the house. They disowned me & my husband.
The sole reason for this inhumane & reproachful attitude of my in-laws towards me was the nomination that my deceased husband had acclaimed in my name.
Despite all the odds, I stood strong against all the brutalities of my in-laws who exploited & abused me in every possible way, & left no stone unturned to cripple my confidence. However, I survived.