Jammu & Kashmir

Kashmir’s ‘tallest man’ dies at 38 due to crippling malnutrition

Bed-ridden Mohammad Iqbal Doonu, 32, then in 2017. [FPK Photo/ Umar Khurshid]

Kulgam: Mohammad Iqbal Doonu, the tallest man of Kashmir at an impressive height of 7.3 feet, passed away at the age of 38 on the afternoon of August 13, succumbing to the ravages of crippling malnutrition.

Doonu, a resident of Ghat Redwani Payeen in Kulgam district, breathed his last at 2pm on August 13 at his residence, one of his relatives informed Free Press Kashmir.

“His cousins brothers were taking care of him as he was not able to move his body. His mother, who had been taking care of him for several years after his illness, breathed her last two years ago,” he said.

Living in a dilapidated home on the reeking banks of Vishu nalla, Doonu has seen a lot of struggle in his life after his illness, he lived a miserable life, he added.

Unable to fit in the coffin due to an impressive height, the deceased’s body was taken in a cot openly till the graveyard for burial, the relative said.

Once known for his robust health, he was a symbol of strength within his village, tirelessly working to support his family. However, the cruel grip of his ailment immobilised him for eight long years, stripping him of his vitality.

In the last six months of his life, his struggle reached an excruciating pinnacle as his body grew progressively weaker, rendering him incapable of even basic movements.

The passing of Doonu not only marks the end of a man who once stood tall, but also serves as a poignant testament to the devastating toll that malnutrition and its associated hardships can exact on a person’s life.

His inability to move outside and the shackles of poverty rendered him powerless in seeking the medical treatment he so desperately needed. Despite his resilience and determination, his health continued to deteriorate, leaving him isolated and helpless within the four walls that had become his world.

In the areas of south Kashmir, Doonu was a unique figure with his exceptional height selling bone china crockery. He would often attract customers who wanted to buy his products and take selfies with him.

Diagnosed with pituitary gigantism as a child, Doonu underwent surgery to control his height growth, which led to a halt in abnormal growth. However, this surgery also ceased his natural production of growth hormone, necessitating a lifelong dependency on medications.

Poverty compounded his challenges, especially after his father’s death in 2008, pushing Iqbal to become the sole breadwinner. His height further complicated matters, as bus drivers would not accommodate him due to his space requirements.

This forced him to undertake a grueling daily 20-kilometer walk between Kulgam and Anantnag, until he managed to acquire a Tonga for transportation.

As time passed, Iqbal’s health deteriorated. Leg pain and weakness led him to seek medical help, and he was put on medications and calcium supplements. Yet, his impoverished state limited his access to proper nutrition and healthcare. His enormous body demanded a significantly higher intake of food and medicine than an average person.

The deceased’s another relative said that whenever Doonu used to be unwell, he would require a load carrier trolley and several people to assist him. This process often exposed Doonu to taunts, selfies, and laughter from passersby. However, despite these hardships, he had accepted his situation, attributing it to divine will.

The meager financial support of Rs 400 each from the social welfare department was the sole source of income for him and his mother, who died two years ago. His mother, Sundari Banoo, despite her own frailty and old age, used to do all the household chores and would also care for her bedridden son.

“The man who used to trek 40 kilometres a day. After his sickness, he would always yearn to be productive again and wish for a simple, normal life rather than the conventional aspirations of marriage, family, and a comfortable home,” the relative said, adding, “anyway, it was the will of Allah.”

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