Kashmiri Man’s Oxygen Drive Becoming Hope In Despair

Manzoor Ahmad Ganie. KO Photos by Abid Bhat.

BEFORE using his load-carrier to ferry life-support for his brethren gasping for breath at the moment, Manzoor Ganaie’s ‘oxygen drive’ was defiantly solo—and years away from becoming a fraught community race.

But after the invasion of the invisible enemy—in its second fatal form—created a desperate hunt for oxygen in Kashmir; all-weather oxygen-seeker like Manzoor also became part of the race.

Prior to Pandemic’s pernicious return, the unassuming simpleton from Ompora, Budgam would earn bread—if not butter—for his family by fighting his own bad lungs.

In the similar act, his pictures lately went viral on social media, showing him carrying an oxygen cylinder in his vehicle.

Behind the image that caught everyone’s attention, there’s a tale of torment.

In 2017, when Manzoor was declared an asthma patient by doctors, his  exhaustive hospital visits yielded no relief and ended up creating an existential crisis for this jovial man.

He grieved over his wretched state of health at length. He thought of his family and the impending misfortune in their lives due to his crippling condition.

“Doctors were quite candid about it,” thoughtful Manzoor, flummoxed by the sudden online solidarity, says. “I was told that I would now survive on oxygen support at home only.”

Like any headman concerned with his family welfare, Manzoor was gutted by his medical report. His breathing became heavier, as he thought of his children. After all, he had to put food on their table.

Days passed in literal lamenting before Manzoor became resilient and refused to embrace victimhood. Soon, with some clarity, the asthma patient did the unthinkable.

He raised funds through bank loans and purchased a load-carrier. To counter his breathlessness, he fitted an oxygen cylinder in his vehicle as his life-support, and fixed his driving seat.

The modified vehicle was now his mobile workshop—and means to feed his family of four, including three kids aged 14, 11 and 10, and wife.

“I didn’t want my family to suffer because of my health condition,” Manzoor says. “So I came out on the road, even during lockdowns.”

With the second wave of Covid leaving many Kashmir breathless, the man on life-support is now shipping support for others.

Manzoor now transports oxygen cylinders from Budgam to Srinagar for people gasping for breath.

But life before breathlessness was a commoner’s dream for him.

He was a contended father who wanted to give good education to his children. The growing cheerlessness of his children now makes him restless and forces him to push harder.

“But it’s very hard to get some work in lockdown,” Manzoor says. “Despite a daily slog, I fall short of managing my home expenses and monthly medical bill worth Rs 7000.”

Before lockdown, this Budgam man was working with a private company that would take care of his labour costs and vehicle maintenance.

However, he was rendered jobless after lockdown made the company a shut shop.

“Things have worsened since then,” he continues. “Apart from my routine expenses, I’ve to deposit bank installments. At the same time, there’s no work.”

However, Manzoor’s gutsy nature and will power is making him fight for his family welfare even in trying times.

But his taxing routine often leaves him breathless and forces him to rely on his oxygen support.

“I can’t let my family suffer because of my condition,” he says looking at his kid sharing the front seat with him.

“My kids would die of starvation rather than seeking help from anyone. And that’s prompting me every day to come out, and breathe hard for their welfare.”

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Auqib Javeed

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