A picture of an old woman went viral a few days back on social media platform Facebook and triggered instant sympathy. Shared by many pages and profiles—without cross-checking its veracity—the image caption termed the mother as a bullet-hit victim of Kashmir. But a quick follow-up and subsequent fact-finding has revealed a different story.
On a frozen February morning, an old woman in rags walks slowly with a hunchback and a trammeling voice towards the famous Dastigeer Saab’s Shrine in old city Srinagar. While people are still coming out to fetch the oven-fresh bread, the old mother spreads a nylon sheet near the shrine to sell Haakh.
This has been the daily routine of Kheat Dedd—adorned and esteemed as an ideal mother in the whole locality.
But while she lives by her sense of dignity, the old mother hardly knows that she has lately fared online, where some people are passing her as a bullet-hit victim, in need of charity.
Her photo first surfaced on social media on February 1, 2019, when a Facebook page by the name of ‘Journalist Shahid Khan’ first uploaded her picture, with a caption: ‘She was shot six times during the 90s.’
For anyone on social media, it was a disturbing detail about the mother, still earning for her family at a fragile age.
Many pages and profiles followed suit and shared her picture with the same caption without cross-checking.
“I was injured only once when a grenade exploded near the shrine during the early nineties,” the old mother says, turning down the bullet theory being spread in her name. “It was a minor wound.”
When contacted, and asked about the address of the old woman through this reporter’s profile, the page by the name of ‘Journalist Shahid Khan’ didn’t respond.
It took a message from another Facebook account to end his reluctance.
When asked, how can one help this old woman, the page admin said: “If you want to help her family, U can help [her] torow (through) trust (sic),” the admin replied to the text, giving the following bank details:
Name Wadi Kashmir Trust
Branch T p sopore
Upon asking her address, the admin refused to share any details.
But after quick fact-finding by Free Press Kashmir, it came to fore that the said bank account is registered in the name of Shahid Manzoor. As per the documents Shahid Manzoor acting as ‘Journalist Shahid Khan’, is named as the ‘secretary’ of the trust.
At Khanyar, Kheat Dedd defies the make-believe destitute image by braving another chilly day at work.
“She is too weak now, but hasn’t given up,” a local from Khanyar says. “She’s still single-handedly taking care of her family.”
Meanwhile, the said ‘Journalist Shahid Khan’ didn’t reply when asked why his Trust wanted to collect charity in the name of the old mother—who lives her every day with a sense of pride?
“Who’s this moron collecting charity in my name?” Kheat Dedd lost it, upon learning about the charity campaign. “I’ve never in my life received a penny from anyone.” Now, only an inquiry will establish why the fake details of someone’s life were shared in the first place, before privately seeking charity in her name.
“If not exactly, but she will be over 100 years old,” says Mohammad Siddiq, a grocer in Khanyar. “Her self-respect, will and dedication has no match, as still in this age she is earning bread and butter by her own, and hasn’t ever compromised on what would hurt her self-esteem.”
Given her daily slogs and sway over the locality, Kheat Dedd has always fought her odds like a fighter, says Mohiuddin, her neighbor. “Till this day she has lived her life with a sense of pride,” he says. “She is an inspiration for all of us.”
Her idol status has also to do with her local heroism. During the nineties, Kheat Dedd would always be at the forefront to rescue local boys from the armed forces.
“She always fought from the front when Indian armed forces would brutally vandalize the locality and take the boys during raids,” says Siddiq.
Lost in thoughts, Kheatt Dedd’s face reflects the journey she has travelled. “Soon after my three daughters and only son got married, my husband passed away,” she says. “But I’m thankful to Almighty that till this day, I haven’t sought a favor from anyone.”
In the nearby Kaw Mohalla, the old mother lives alone in one of the rooms of her ancestral house. Her son along with his family lives in the room next to it.
Her youthful days and elegance is something which has now become a local legend in Khanyar.
“Once I went to see my maternal uncle who was working as a hunter for Maharaja and the ladies there sung this to me: Teri pyari pyari surat ko, kisi ki nazar na lagae, cheshmae bad dour,’ ” she says, while blushing like a child.
As she makes her way back inside her home, she as usual finds a hand to hold with blessings pouring from her side. “Yezzat, sehat, zindagi, kaamyeabi”, Kheat Dedd goes on uttering with her fast breaths and trammeling words till she finds a resting place.
While her journey of self respect is turned into a sympathy campaign online, her locality takes great pride in her self reliant spirit.
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