The Stepbrother

Shehjar e-magazine



sif and Kasif are stepbrothers. And they don’t know that. In fact they don’t know each other and have never met. They have different mothers who live in two different places. It is the father who is the common bond and he lives at both the places. Abdul Ahad is a businessman who deals in apples. He has an apple orchard at Sopore, north of Srinagar, where he also has his house. He lives with his family, his wife Fatima and son Kasif, at Sopore unless he is away at Srinagar for his business and he is usually away for most of the time. He also has a family at Srinagar where he lives with his other wife Shabnam and son Asif and he lives in the house of Haji Sultan, his father-in-law, at downtown Soura. Sultan has an only daughter, who is married to Abdul Ahad. Abdul Ahad is well known among the acquaintances and relations of Sultan who in turn believe that he is a devoted son-in-law and loyal to his wife. Sultan considers him as his own son and heir apparent to all his property for which he has drawn up a Will that is registered with the court. Abdul Ahad does not know about the existence of this document but his wife has a fair idea that her father has drawn up a will. Sultan is a transporter and has half a dozen trucks that operate on the Srinagar-Jammu route carrying goods. He also transports Abdul’s apples from Sopore to Jammu from where the consignment is directed to the rest of the country. Abdul’s orchard is quite sizeable, which he inherited from his family and the annual crop brings him a fortune that he shares with no one else.

Muslims, by law, can marry four wives and there is a process that needs to be followed in order to allow such liberty. Abdul Ahad did not follow the routine and he married the daughter of Sultan by deceit. He liked her pretty face and young body and lied to her father that he was unmarried. It was a business visit to Sultan’s house one day where he first met her and made a decision to own her, one way or the other. It did require quite an effort to achieve his motive including charming the young lady, bringing her expensive gifts and paying attention to all her needs. He always got away with what he wanted. It was not the greed for money that made him do it. He just felt lonely whenever he was in Srinagar and away from home. He had to spend many weeks at a time in Srinagar for pursuing his business deals. He needed to have someone by his side as a companion and share his thoughts, his feelings, and of course his love that he thought his first wife was incapable to deliver. In fact no one knew that Abdul had two wives, not even his family at Sopore. Within a span of four years he sired a son and daughter with Shabnam. He was happy he got married to her.

Abdul Ahad is not a liar, but circumstances turned him into one. He became a chronic liar just because he had to tell lies scores of times a day in order to live two different lives. It pained him to do that and a lot of effort went into keeping things under check. So much so he named his two sons just alike so that he may not by mistake pronounce the names of one for the other while living under two different identities. But the boys grew up different. Kasif, who was four years elder to Asif, did not like to study and he roamed the streets all day with the rowdy boys of the town and picked up habits that his father did not like. In desperation he asked him to mind the apple orchard, as soon as he grew up to assume some kind of responsibility. The younger one, on the other hand, was a different kind who went to school and was ever eager to learn his lessons in whatever field of learning he engaged in. He was intelligent and carried the traits of his mother in his appearance and habits. He in fact excelled in his studies at school and equally participated in games and sports. It was finally in 1990 that he passed out with distinction from his school at age 17.

At the same time Kasif had turned 21 and his mother looked forward to marrying the boy thinking that way his attitude towards life may change for good. They had no shortage of money or any other resources to lead a good life, but his habits worried the mother. Sometimes he would disappear for days on end and then resurface with buddies she had not seen before and who did not look comfortable as company. Fatima did not tell her husband about her son’s behavior thinking he may harm the child, beating the crap out of him. Abdul Ahad could be short tempered when it came to disciplining a family member. She missed him so much when it came to sharing the responsibility of bringing up her son. She wished she had another child to share her feelings with, as she could not do so with her husband who was away most of the time. Of late her health did not look so good and she visited the local hospital for treatment. But she never said a word about it to her husband thinking he would get distracted from his work. After all he was the bread winner doing all he could for the good of the family.

Asif was admitted to college in the science stream and he started solidifying his dreams to take up a career as a Doctor and he knew his studies have to be hard and his ranking high to seek admission in a college of repute. He was already eligible for admission to the Medical College at Srinagar at this stage itself but he thought it would perhaps be good to go out of the state and do his graduation elsewhere that did not look like the home-made type. It was in fact the mother who discouraged his moving out at this young age on his own till she was confident he could look after himself. Moreover there was an insane amount of cruelty and killings going on around him in the last four months. He decided to watch the situation and continue with his academic education till things got sorted out. A section of the populace was hounded out of the city and he felt very uncomfortable about it. Some of his class friends had left town along with their families and he had no idea how he could help them. His best friends were not there to chat with and he felt lost without them. In fact he had a lot of respect for the Pandits whom he knew as an intelligent community. He told his father about the happenings and discussed the issue with him as his thoughts overtook his emotions. He was surprised when he found his father not very responsive to his line of thinking and blamed it on his being busy in his activities of business. But when he learnt about the killing of his close friend Ashwini and his entire family a month later in their house at Habba Kadal he felt disgusted and distraught. He knew the divide between two religions was unnecessary and he could not comprehend how it mattered to anybody to take recourse to religion to commit a crime. He talked to his mother and was pleased that she was with him in his anguish and together they lamented the unnecessary loss of lives. They both agreed they could do no more than becoming a mute witness to a crime conducted in the backyard.

It was in the spring of 1992 when Kasif returned home after missing for over a year. His mother had given up on him and his father did nothing other than lodge a missing report with the local police. Militancy in the state had taken wider ramifications and Fatima was uneasy about the behavior of her own son. At the time of his arrival home he found his father present and he got a good thrashing from him when he could not explain his long absence. His mother had turned very sick and was bed-ridden. The Doctors had given her at the most six months to live due to her being in an advanced stage of cancer that was not detected in time. With a lot of indulgence Kasif took control of his mother’s health and started nursing her with all his attention, devotion and detail. He loved his mother as much as he hated his father, who was never at hand to steady him in his growing-up years. Once the father left for his dealings in Srinagar, he summoned all his efforts and courage to take up his mother’s responsibility. He would wash her, clean her, and feed her with as much attention as a mother would her child. He would fetch the Doctor whenever she cried with pain and administered the medicines with lots of attention and alacrity. The father would come home to look up his wife on every Saturday and by Monday he was gone. It was finally on a Friday, three months later, that Fatima gave up her struggle and breathed her last. Kasif made arrangements for her burial on the same day without his father being there since he had no idea how to reach him. He could perhaps have waited another day but the summer heat was too much to prevent the dead body from rotting away and he did not like that to happen. When his father appeared on Saturday he was relieved to see his wife dead and all necessary arrangements cleared by his son. For once he was pleased with his actions and declared his appreciation for him. And when father left home as usual on Monday, Kasif was outraged. He decided to take matters a little further and investigate his father.

A small rented house located in the by-lanes of Sonwara became the hiding place for Kasif and his team of three others, one of whom was a Pakistani national illegally staying in the valley. In fact it was Kasif who had accompanied him on his return from Islamabad after receiving his training at one of the training camps there that lasted almost six months. For the other six months of stay in Pakistan he visited all other training sites in order to gain an insight of the organization he worked for. He was given enough money to look after his needs and he did his best to learn all about being an adult that he never felt he was. The box bed in the room was occupied by the Pakistani and contained an assortment of arms smuggled in from across the border. Only he had access to the stuff inside and no one else was allowed to fiddle with the contents. Kasif was fighting for a cause that he did not really care about, but he had a lot to do to settle scores with his father who had treated him badly for unknown reasons. He was aware that Hindus in the valley were being targeted but he had personally no grudges against them. He only wanted to take care of the enmity with his father and learn all about his doings in Srinagar and he started looking for him in the town. He visited places where he was likely to be seen and entrusted additional duty to his other two Kashmiri boys who were out all day collecting information. It was no surprise for Kasif when he learnt about the double life his father was living and all about his family in the suburban bungalow. He started planning an attack on his father and he wanted it in such a manner that when his father was about to die he should learn that his death came from his own son.

Asif had cleared all his final exam papers and he was waiting for the results that would be declared in a couple of months. He collected all documents he required for his admission to the medical college at Bangalore. He was as well ready to move out to the city in advance for setting up a place to stay during his training on the advice of his mother who thought it necessary to visit him once every month for a week at a time so that she felt confident he could look after himself. Staying in the hostel was not on his cards and that was ruled out entirely. He well knew the hostel activities would interfere with his studies. In fact his mother planned her daughter to go along as well and take admission for training in Computer Applications. She was brilliant in her own way and required a proper schooling to get along. That way both siblings could stay together. A cousin of the mother worked for the Kashmir Arts Emporium at Bangalore and his assistance was taken to set up a decent accommodation in town.

Kasif learnt about the plans of his step-brother and kept watch on the goings on in the family. During his surveillance he also saw his step-sister and felt happy to have these siblings and emotions got the better of him as he watched them. He suddenly felt protective about them and realized that he now had a brother, a sister and a mother whom he had lost in his callousness of not being around to look after. He felt lonely and wanted to be a member of this family and figured out the reason for the hatred of his father for abandoning his own and creating another he didn’t need. His resolve to take revenge hardened in his mind and he started to work out a strategy to eliminate the devil. It was unfortunate for him not to have sighted and identified another person living in the house, the grandfather of his siblings, who was ailing for a long time now and was bed-ridden. His other friends in the meantime were busy creating diversions for moving the Pakistani to Delhi for a reconnaissance with the sleeper cells located there as a prelude to a strike detailed at three places in the capital on the same day. A reconnoiter team was already drawing up the maps for the strike locations and would soon submit it to their leader.

It was another hot day in Srinagar and there was a lot of activity in the house of Haji Sultan, where preparations were afoot to dispatch two lovely children to Bangalore by air accompanied by their mother. At around 11 am a car started off from the front door leading the occupants to the airport. From a location a little further down from the house Kasif counted out the time lapse he required and then slowly approached the boundary wall from where he jumped inside the compound at the rear end. He cautiously crept inside the house and started looking out for his victim who he knew would be alone. He removed the gun from under his belt, kept it ready in his hand and moving from room to room he finally observed a man lying on a bed covered by an expensive looking shawl. He tip-toed a bit more close, cocked the gun and pumped all the six bullets into the body. No sound escaped the hit person and when Kasif intended to have a look at his dead father he instead saw him standing at the door looking horribly at the carnage he created. The realities of the situation dawned on him and in panic he pulled the trigger of his gun once again but no bullets were in the chamber. He panicked and tried to run but fell when he hit the table round the corner. In a jiffy his father held him tight and shouted for help.

Kasif is now in jail serving a life sentence. His vôrú-bhôí is a doctor working in USA.
Shri BL Dhar was born and brought up at Srinagar. After completing his Master’s Degree in Mathematics he ventured out of the state and found a job in the Civil Aviation Department joining as a Gazetted Officer. His area of activity was at Delhi and Mumbai International airports. He was selected to undergo training at the school of aviation; Luxembourg under the UNDP program and later posted at the Corporate Headquarters in New Delhi. He had in the meantime joined the newly formed PSU, Airports Authority of India, from where he retired as a General Manager in 2000. He has written innumerable articles about aviation that was published in the house magazine. He is now settled in Delhi and keeps his interest alive in writing..
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Very nice story. Memories of old days.
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