Within moments, the situation changed. The army persons who were looking for her missing husband turned into caring angels.
It was getting dark much earlier than usual days. The sky was cloudy and there was heaviness in the air. It was a cold afternoon of December and residents of a hamlet located in the upper reaches of Pir Panjal, surrounded by Pine Trees were expecting a snowfall very soon. Zubaida was lying on her bed inside her wooden hut and her three year old daughter Rehana was sitting at her side. Her old father had gone out to collect some dry wood and pine cones before it started snowing. It was very cold since last two days as the temperature had suddenly gone down after gusty winds and now the mercury was likely to go down further. Sitting by the warm fire place was the main life support during such chilly days.
Zubaida was thinking of her husband Arshad who should have been at her side now when they were expecting the arrival of their second child. Every husband looks after his wife during such crucial period of life. However, the whereabouts of her husband were unknown. Her eyes got wet with pain & remorse as she thought of neglect and uncaring attitude of her husband in last two years. Her thoughts went into past like flashback of a movie. It was about five years ago that they had met first at a common relative’s place during a marriage ceremony. They got introduced and developed liking for each other. Arshad was a very caring husband who would do anything to keep his wife happy. His happiness knew no bounds when Rehana came into their life. He started putting in double efforts to increase their income and keep the household happy.
Suddenly one night four people came who did not look like locals. They were having bearded look and were carrying weapons under their firan. They gave some money to Arshad and asked him to meet at some place next day. They were asking him to learn to fire weapons and target army personnel and that would give him quick money and make him famous. This incident took away all the happiness of her household. Her husband kept on missing from house for unknown reasons for days together. Only on initial two occasions Arshad got some money but after that he was barely paid anything good enough to sustain his family. One night he came home after twelve days, carrying a weapon. He kept it carefully under the hay kept outside the house for cattle and left secretly after meeting his family members. After about six months of this incident, one night army persons came to their house and enquired about Arshad. Thereafter visit of army persons in search of Arshad was a monthly affair. He had become a hardcore terrorist of that area. Her neighbors maintained a distance and looked at her with fear in their eyes.
Her mind was busy in these thoughts and she felt quite depressed over the whole episode. How Arshad had lost all interest in his family and started leading the life of a fugitive. Her household was ruined. While she was thinking of the incidents of past two years, her father had come back after getting some dry wood and clouds had started showering white snowflakes over her wooden hut. Her father lit the kangri and the warm air of the room gave her comfort. She fell asleep.
She woke in the middle of night. It was dark outside and snowfall had stopped. She had intense pain in the abdomen. Baby had stopped movement in the womb and she was feeling breathless. She needed to be taken to a doctor immediately but who would care for her at such a remote place in bad weather. She was carrying the social stigma of a terrorist’s wife who had killed many innocent people. The one who was supposed to take care of her was not heard or seen since last one month. She looked at the innocent face of her daughter in the lantern light who was sleeping beside her. Poor child had hardly seen her father in the last six months since he would pay a visit in the darkness of night and would go away before the day break.
Suddenly, she could hear the sound of footsteps of some people walking in the snow. The sound was coming nearer and nearer and finally there was a knock on her door. Her old father opened the door and looked in the face of army persons in white snow coats standing outside his hut. They asked about Arshad and wanted to have a look inside the house if Arshad was hiding somewhere inside. Her father let them inside the house and told them about her critical condition. He begged them to help his daughter.
Within moments, the situation changed. The army persons who were looking for her missing husband turned into caring angels. They hung her cot with ropes over a thick stick and carried it over their shoulder while she lied on the cot looking up at the sky which had become clear after the snow fall. She had to be carried for about five kilometers like this on the hilly track before they would reach the road and needed to travel further six kilometers to the nearest hospital. Her old torn blanket was insufficient to protect her from the shivering cold and she could feel the chill of the air. The leader of this group of army persons could sense this and quietly took out his jacket and covered her with care as if she was his own family member.
They reached the road after the arduous journey when first rays of the sun were painting the eastern sky with golden colour. She could see sweat on the faces of the soldiers who had carried her over the hilly track on their shoulders. She was kept gently in the ambulance that was waiting for them. In half an hour she reached hospital and the doctor on duty promptly attended to her. With the medical care; her condition improved and she became much more stable.
Zubaida had a proper look at her saviours in the day light. A thought flashed in her mind. It is the same people whose blood her husband wanted to spill. However, these white coat angels did not leave any stone unturned to save her life.
They looked after her as if she was their own family member. In her heart she prayed to the god to keep these white coat angels and their family members always safe and happy. She could see them walking out of the hospital through the open door. Cool breeze touched her face as they disappeared from sight.