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Kashmir’s Secret Samaritans: One Man’s Quest for a Long-term Welfare Mission

Kashmir’s Secret Samaritans: One Man’s Quest for a Long-term Welfare Mission

To counter the lockdown-created destitution, one man has taken up the responsibility of 62 neighbourhoods in Kashmir.

In a hot and humid summer day in Srinagar, a boy in his early 20s—wearing shabby clothes and holding a paper slip—was looking for a man whose address he was carrying in his palm. He walked past the drop-gates, coils of razor wires, and a hawking sight of certain chary cops in gagged gullies of the downtown area.

“Why are you looking for this man?” a nosy shopkeeper enquired from the boy after he passed the slip to him for the address enquiry.

“I’ve heard he’s the helping hand for people like me,” the boy replied.

“Don’t worry,” the shopkeeper put the boy’s search to end with comforting words, “if he has your address, you’ll get help at your doorsteps.”

Before disappearing from the sight, the boy told the merchant that he had come from a ‘pauper’ pocket of Dal Lake, looking for the man who had been actively helping his distressed tribe.

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The boy’s potential helper is a street-smart gent sporting salt and pepper beard. At 50, Abdullah is an affable man — working tirelessly to counter the community crisis since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Valley.

From providing ration kits to needy families, to arranging basic items for Nikkah of under-privileged brides, this secret Samaritan is actively “working for the welfare of 62 neighbourhoods” in Kashmir.

Talking with humility, Abdullah attends a pressing phone call.

“She’s one of the brides,” he tells a caller after giving him a patient hearing, “for whom I’m inshallah [god-willing] arranging a feast for 40 guests.”

Such calls for help intermittingly buzz his phone throughout our conversation.

Abdullah, a volunteer, who helps needy with medical bills, children’s education fees, and ration kits for underprivileged families. / Maroof Riyaz for The Mountain Ink

As a member of the Sunni community, Abdullah is robustly managing destitution in a Shia community, with a sense of religious devotion.

He frequents the least-paced Dal Lake parts—predominantly populated by Shia community people—and secretly delivers help at their doorsteps.

But before venturing into the Shia heartland’s deprived zones with relief kits, he contacts their elders and prepares a list of needy families.

“We’ve to work together in these trying times,” Abdullah says ardently. “As Kashmiris, we’re sailing in the same boat. And therefore, we should always treat each other fairly and with empathy.”

Abdullah’s charity caravan has, of late, grown with the active participation of those who love to guard their welfare works for “the sake of almighty”.

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But apart from dispensing the routine, short-term charity, Abdullah is now mulling to make his volunteer work as a long-term endeavour.

“Those dependent,” he says, “should be made independent, so that they’ll become helping hands tomorrow.”

This conviction took a concrete shape recently when he approached his close contacts to raise funds for setting up shops for two family breadwinners — out of work since last summer’s lockdown.

At the time of this interview, Abdullah carries a cheque of Rs 10,000, which he has to deliver to a family for their kid’s prosthetic leg.

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Abdullah providing monetary aid to a family for their kid’s prosthetic leg. / Maroof Riyaz for The Mountain Ink

As someone actively attending the community health crisis, he lately raised funds for a patient who couldn’t afford his eye surgery.

“His father has taught me Qur’an and I felt obliged to do whatever was in my power,” Abdullah says.

“I contacted well-known NGO and made a pact with them that they’ll provide medicine to my referred cases, and in turn, they can refer cases to me from my area.” Such silent services haven’t gone unnoticed in the pandemic.

But even before Covid curbs and crisis would make him a busy volunteer, Abdullah was actively working for the community welfare.

He was out on the streets last year helping the labourers affected by the previous summer’s paralytic move in Kashmir.

Abdullah is equally mindful of children’s education in lockdown keeping students away from schools.

He plays a watchful headmaster of students from disadvantaged families by monitoring their study performance, apart from taking care of their tuition fees.

In the run-up to Eid Ul Adha now, Abdullah is preparing Eid kits for the needy families.

“I don’t want to do advertisement of my work,” he says, with modesty, “when Allah is aware of our good or bad deeds!”


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