Zehru Nissa|Rohmoo (Pulwama),
The face of Ifrah Shakoor, a class 9 student, like that of several other young boys and girls, became emblematic of the horror unleashed by pellet ammunition.
Like some precious family heirloom, she has preserved the newspapers that published on their front pages the pictures of her scarred face and the dead left eye.
She flips the newspaper pages and then turns towards her grandfather.
“Look how swollen my face was then. There were pellets all over my face and in the eyes too,” she says and then giggles.
The 15-year-old girl was hit by pellets in her eyes and face outside her home in Rohmoo village of Pulwama district on October 31 last year when Kashmir was in the middle of an uprising that erupted over the killing of popular Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
Seven months and four surgeries later, Ifrah can’t see anything with her left eye and her right eye has “severe vision impairment”.
“Yesterday I was pouring tea in the cup and it spilled all over. If I try to focus on my books my head aches and my eyes get watery, my eye balls hurt,” Ifrah says.
At this moment, her grandfather Abdul Aziz joins in.
“I am not worried that she cannot pour a cup of tea for herself. Yesterday while she was getting down the stairs she stepped onto the grills of the stairs and injured herself. Her foot bled profusely. I cannot bear that,” Aziz says.
Ifrah had lost her father in a firing incident in 2006, when she was five. Since then, Aziz said, he brought her up.
She is scheduled to undergo another surgery in her right eye in a week’s time. The family’s hopes are high.
“Doctors at the SMHS Hospital had told us once that when they remove the oil (silicon oil) from her eye, her vision might improve,” Aziz says, showing her hospital records to this reporter.
The records clearly say she only has a “perception of light” in her left eye and the retina of her right eye has also been perforated by pellets.
“When they shine that torch in my left eye at the hospital I can see its light. But why can’t I see other lights and the people around with this eye?” she asks.
“I can’t see words in smaller font. When I read a book I feel like my eyes are shrinking, tightening,” she says.
She picks up a newspaper and reads the headline in big font.
“But I can’t read what is written beneath this (headline),” Ifrah says.
That Ifrah isn’t able to see isn’t the only worry for the family. Nowadays, Aziz said, his granddaughter “loses her cool easily”.
“Once we visit Srinagar we will see a doctor who will fix your temper,” Aziz tells Ifrah to cheer her up.
The family seriously plans seeking psychiatric help for the girl. There are no psychiatrists or psychotherapists in the vicinity.
To bring some sense of normalcy in her life, her family has insisted that she fills up her application form for class 9, though Ifrah has not been able to attend school.
“I went once but what will I study there. I cannot focus on books for long,” she says, adding, like an afterthought, “I do not like the noise in the school anyways.”
Her family also does not seem to be comfortable with her going to school.
“She has become very short tempered after the injury. She does not want to meet anyone,” the grandfather says.
Ifrah interrupts: “I do not like anyone talking. I do not like the noise…I like complete silence.”
Then she suddenly gets distracted from the conversation and starts fiddling with the X-ray of her skull that is pocked with white spots, indicating pellets, all over it.
Suddenly, she smiles again, pointing to her jaws in the X-ray and shouts, “Look, I have a pellet here as well!”
The family says Ifrah is not able to come out of the trauma. She has these pellets all over in her head and face and she can feel them under her skin, they say. The pellets are a constant reminder of the horror.
“Perhaps that adds to her pain,” her grandfather says. “Some days ago she pulled out a pellet from her scalp and it bled,” Aziz says.
“They (doctors) said that there are 4mm pellets and 6mm pellets and she has both types in her body,” he says.
Hearing this, Ifrah says, “They fired pellets of all sizes at me.”
Abul Aziz recalls the fateful day when Ifrah’s life changed forever.
“It was just two of us at home that day, just like today. Everyone had gone to fields. We heard loud shelling. My heart almost stopped as I have a pacemaker. We went out into our lawn, Ifrah with me. She suddenly left me and rushed out crying her brother’s name, who she thought might be outside, amidst the chaos. And that is when the tragedy struck us,” he recalls, as the teenage girl got lost in her thoughts, again.
Courtesy: Greater Kashmir