Growing old is basically going through series of changes that begin with life and continue throughout life cycle. In other words, it represents the closing period in the life-span, a time when the individual looks back on life, lives on past accomplishments and sophistications then finally begins to finish of his life course. Therefore, adjusting to the changes that accompany old age requires that an individual is flexible and develops new coping, new skills to adapt to the changes that are common to this time in their lives. We usually consider that there is not a universally accepted threshold of old age. Opinions differ according to the socio-economic and political situation.
Ghulam Mohammad Dar, who was born in the year 1898 has seen life with number of angles. Categorical note by him says that as people grow old, the likelihood of experiencing age-related loses increases. Such loses may impede the maintenance or acquisition of desired relationship resulting in a higher incidence of loneliness.
It was my routine visit to the nearby playground to watch a match between host club vs Kashmir Sports. On my way, suddenly I stepped backward to have a second glance towards the house of Ghulam Mohammad Dar who is living with his younger son Ghulam Rasool Dar who has a son Imran and a daughter Rubiya. Both of which are married, among which Imran has two sons Aatif and Aariz. Now it is only the determined hope and enthusiasm of Ghulam Mohammad Dar that makes him a competent player in the field of life. “it is not always flesh and blood which makes us fathers and sons but it is all the course of golden pure heart that makes us able to proceed forward in life,” says Ghulam Mohammad Dar.
In the courtyard, an old man sitting on an old-fashioned chair, that prompted me to change my mind and decided to have a conversation with the person of such a lovely wisdom and due flexibility in his physique and soul and is nearly 128 years old had seen the life from the time when nobody was not even wearing shalwar. I was thinking how can people who have such a big dignity living in their surroundings live a normal life without even meeting him on regular intervals. People were hardly able to arrange a phiran (traditional Kashmiri long coat) made up of suttal, the fabric that gets imported from different corners of the world. Ghulam Mohammad Dar had married in a time when people were hardly able to arrange shalwar for themselves. As far as his own marriage is concerned he stated “I was not having a single shalwar at my home but somehow, I arranged it on my marriage. The custom was that a groom’s family had to pay entire expense even I paid 60 boag (currency measuring system) to the bride’s family and when the bride reached my home the people accompanying her paid 10 Boags back,says Ghulam Mohammad Dar. “My family had to even arrange a girl “sazged” to decorate the bride. I consumed 40 rupees on purchasing clothes, 9 rupees on buying meet. This is one of the costlier marriages of the time,” he further added.
Ghulam Mohammad Dar who has 6 sons and 2 daughters among which the elder one, the daughter who died soon after her birth. Her age at present would have been approximately 93 years. The elder son of Ghulam Mohammad Dar who is living separate has married 5 times and is living with his 5th wife. Apart from this, the physiological decline in ageing definitely refers to the physical changes some individual experiences because of the decline in the normal functioning of the body resulting in poor mobility, vision, hearing, inability to eat and digest food properly, a decline in memory, the inability to control certain physiological functions, and various chronic conditions. “Old age means multiple things, sometimes you feel totally sad, sometimes, joyful, some nights I can’t sleep, but I feel happy anyway, I have my family and I do what I like, I plant Haakh (collard greens), Brinjal and when I can’t do that, I plant beans,” says Ghulam Mohammad Dar.
“However, the partition and the resulting conflict changed the whole scene. The fate of the state turned into an insoluble tangle, however, there are conflicting versions of the basic situation and the happenings,” says Ghulam Mohammad Dar. It was well known fact that the Jammu people wanted to get integrated with the Indian Union while the Kashmiris were in two minds, he further added.
He is the person who has not even took a single tablet till date and obviously doesn’t even know that there are 2 to 3 medical shops running in their village. We were too busy in our conversation when suddenly somebody broken in and offered a “Noon Chai” to his grandchildren Aatif. I was fascinated to hear that Dar himself doesn’t even know how Noon Chai tastes from last 15 years. “I find it boring, ill and wasteful, if I don’t take 4 time Lipton tea cups a day,” says Ghulam Mohammad Dar. It is all due to the prayers of my mother who each and every time used to pray to Almighty Allah (Mumme wuchen peanch (5) pushte panen) and Alhamdulillah I have seen five said Ghulam Mohammad Dar. Old age! It’s good, I keep on fighting and sometimes I miss my life when I was young, active, worked the whole day in the fields, went to relatives and on the next day I was just fine. Then the responsibility associated to being an adult, wife, children and the need of saving some money even it was just a farce for we people that time to earn and save money for our things, our obligations and responsibilities. Today Masha Allah I have my own family, house and very much property too but still sometimes I miss the old days. So, being old, getting old has been good because it went smoothly for me. I have no problems with old age. The health is now no more accompanying me as I many a times feel much tired than before even I had not stopped working still he further added.
During his young days, the key occupation was the Traditional Killam Kashi (silk yearing from mulberry trees). The people associated with the work used to transport the raw material to Srinagar through boats and finally handover it to the government. The boat used to carry 30 to 40 Manns (quantity used to measure) of raw material where they hardly get very little amount in return but much enough during those times,” said Ghulam Mohammad Dar. He further said that, the boatman used to charge 8 to 12 aaanas (currency) to transport it to Srinagar from Anantnag.
“Apart from this it was too much easier for we people to go to Pakistan than Srinagar as there existed no boundaries,” said Ghulam Mohammad Dar. He also recalled when the Pakistani raiders (kabails) arrived in Kashmir and according to him everyone was trying to hide himself and how at the end Sherwani lead them towards the wrong path for which they later killed him. “Dar” also said that life has become more complicated due to technological advancement. He said that whatever we are as independent (India) it is all because of the efforts of Gandhi, proceeding on vehemently he said, the development of village India, for Gandhi, was the development of India. Illiteracy, ignorance, and poverty characterized that vast population of rural India. “Gandhi organized mass movements to draw attention to the problems of the rural people, and also to involve the peasants in the freedom struggle, “he further added. “the description of the villages community in India was idyllic and superficial, although villages had their distinct identity and were ruled by the local heads,” says Ghulam Mohammad Dar. Villages were completely cut off from each other, i.e.; absolutely nothing to do with outside world he further added.
He remembers the time when the government arranged a small radio sized television and was installed in the nearby locality. How people use to assemble there and watch television. He says as the life started getting easy day by day, people still couldn’t live easily with each other. His grandson Imran Ahmad told that: “we used to hear so many stories from him when we were young that we would never forget. He is of course a living legend and an interesting man who has seen life very closely.
As far as the interests are concerned Mr. Ghulam Mohammad Dar used to be the great lover of music. Mukhtar Mir was a local Kashmiri singer who used to sing Kashmiri songs on different occasions. “He was a good Kashmiri funny poet also, we together were a Kashmiri singing band and almost I remained in the profession for at least for a period of 15 years,” says Ghulam Mohammad Dar. He says music may belong to any nation or place, the fact remains that it is always good to ears. He further said, everybody of us know, that there are no barriers of language or words that limit music lovers to listen and appreciate a good voice or a tone. “The sweet tones thus produced touch the heart and mind and even consoles human souls,” says Ghulam Mohammad Dar.
“The health and educational facilities during those times were available very less or we can say negligible. Among the doctors was, Rasool Naid who used to cure patients by homeopathic medicines. Rasool Naid was living in Wanpoh Anantnag so the residents from shamsipora and nearby villages would have to travel 6 to 7 kilometers by foot to reach wanpoh. Rasool Naid was not professionally well trained do remember “something is better than nothing,” says Ghulam Mohammad Dar. “Mumma Hakeem, Gani Hakeem were also unaani and ayurvedic doctors living in Chadroo Pulwama and Shangus Nowgam respectively, who used to cure patients by natural pure organic way,” says Ghulam Mohammad Dar. He says, these were the only medical aid options available to people of South Kashmir and in case of maternity related cases either a woman would give birth to child normally or would die in case the abnormality comes. The one more important and fundamental sector is the educational sector, he says, there was hardly a person who would read the letters coming from outside so people living in villages had to travel kilometers in order to make their letters read. “The entire village of shamsipora was having minimal fertile land of which the majority belonged to alone Prem Nath Chopra,” says Ghulam Mohammad Dar. He was having at least 22 khears (252 marlas) of land which approximately is very near to the entire fertile land of the said village added Ghulam Mohammad Dar. “How peculiar was the time when a single educated man was present in the village who used to be 5th standard pass and was highly educated in the entire NANDI BELT of Home Shalibugh,” says Ghulam Mohammad Dar. His name was Gafoor Dar, whenever a letter from outside the valley would reach in the village from the people who had gone to the other parts of the country particularly Punjab many a times even from Pakistan, people would rush with the letters in their hands towards the home of Gafoor Dar or Sansar Bhat a pandit living in the village. Since the pandits were in the majority added Ghulam Mohammad Dar. He says the extent of the poverty was so detreating that people had no shalwar’s to wear, they used to wear long tattered firans made of munnol.
I was first astonished to hear from Ghulam Mohammad that once a time when Mohammad Ali Jinnah arrived here in Kashmir, he made him wear the garland of dates that he had made personally. Ghulam Mohammad also remembers that he was carrying a goat with him. In order to see him, the people from the nearby villages rushed towards the venue that was organized at Pad-Shahi Bagh Bijbehara. He vehemently said, that people were evaporating from every side even some were carrying ploughs and daggers on their shoulders.
At last, he stated that blessed are those homes where persons of such age are present and therefore the need of an hour is to take care of them physically, mentally and even socially. The concluding notes from Ghulam Mohammad were that no matter even if I would live for thousand years I still have to leave at the end. Better are those hands who help others in any way in their young age as when old age advances, lot of physical, mental and social changes take place, he added further.
This is quite an evident fact that as age advances, lot of physical, mental and social changes take place. Physical conditions may restrict movements, social changes may force dependency and mental condition may lead to depression and anxiety, even in poverty like conditions, it can lead towards economic insecurity and aggravate the situation. Remember ageing is a universal problem and no country can escape it different countries have felt its impact differently based on their socio-economic and cultural conditions.