This Article is From Dec 28, 2017

Despite Limited Means, Kashmir Village Supports 4 Orphaned Children

Despite being the only Pandit family in a village in south Kashmir, the orphaned children say they don't feel alone after both their parents died. The village has come together to adopt them

The villagers say they treat the children like their own and will not let them face hardships

Srinagar: When 40-year-old Baby Koul died on Sunday, hundreds of villagers turned up at the funeral at Levdora village in south Kashmir. Women were wailing and crying over the death of their neighbour.

Koul has left behind four children and it's the second tragedy for the siblings who had lost their father just a year ago.

Despite being the only Pandit family in the village, the orphaned children say they don't feel alone. The village has come together to adopt them and take care of their needs.

"People are very nice here and they take good care of us. Our neighbours are very good. They helped us when our father died and they are helping us when our mother has died," said Sushil Koul, son of Baby Koul.

Last year, when Baby Koul's husband Maharaj Kishan Koul died, villagers raised money for the family and ensured a job for Baby Koul in a bank. They even deposited Rs 55,000 in the bank account of two sisters -- Minakshi and Saroj.

Now, villagers are again raising money for the siblings and are urging Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to find a job for Saroj, who has left schooling. A neighbour, Showkat Ahmad, has already taken her school certificates to start the process.

"We will give these certificates to the government and the chief minister and ensure that they get a job. Last time when their father died we got a job for them in a bank," said Mr Ahmad.

It's this tremendous support and bonding, the siblings say, that they have turned down the requests from their relatives who want them to move to Jammu.

"We will not go to Jammu. We are feeling comfortable here. Jammu, not at all. We will stay put, no matter if no Pandit is living here, our neighbours are taking good care of us," said Saroj.

The bond between the Pandit family and the Muslim villagers is much deeper, say the neighbours. Naseema, who lives right next to the family, is the foster mother of the children. She has breast-fed all the four siblings and says she will never allow them to feel alone. After Baby Koul's death, Naseema is staying at the children's home.

"She is our mother; she has breastfed me and she has always taken care of us," Sushil said.

 It was Naseema's 75-year-old father Ghulam Nabi Dar who took Baby Koul to hospital on Saturday last after she fell ill. Before her death, she spoke with Mr Dar and handed over her children to him.

"She said my time has come. Take care of kids and don't let them leave this place," he said.

While most people in this remote village are poor, they say they treat the children like their own and will not let them face hardships. The siblings are also convinced that the support of the neighbours is not momentary.

They say it was perseverance of villagers that their mother got a job almost eight months after the death of their father.