On bed number 10 at the Government Medical College Hospital, Jammu, a nine-year-old boy waits in silence for a glimpse of his mother. A wound on the left side of his neck is covered with a white bandage, which moves each time he breathes or tries to open his mouth to speak inaudible words.
It’s been hours since Kaushal has seen any of his family members other than his elder brother Kuldeep (14) who is lying on bed number 16, opposite to him. Kuldeep, too, is injured and he is even more silent than Kaushal with two transparent tubes coming out of his nose.
Kaushal’s mother and grandmother are dead, but he doesn't know that. Two floors below, his father is in the ICU, unable to breathe by himself and still not out of danger. Kaushal doesn’t know that either.
“Secretions,” a nurse said, pointing to Kuldeep’s nose and the little transparent pouch half filled with a dark red liquid. “He is stable but has injuries on his stomach and arm and he is in pain.”
Kuldeep and Kaushal are in ward number 11 of the government hospital along with several other patients injured in Pakistani shelling in the last one week. Their injuries are similar, their grief common.
Kuldeep and Kaushal are residents of Chalyari village in Samba sector that has seen the maximum shelling in the latest spate of cross-border firing. On Wednesday morning, their house was hit by a mortar shell which killed their mother and grandmother. The remaining three injured members of the family admitted to the government hospital, injured and unaware of the two deaths.
“Don’t mention his mother. He doesn’t know she is dead,” said Mahinder Kumar, a relative. Each time Kuldeep drifts into sleep, an uncle gently slaps his cheek and wakes him up. “We have to keep him awake,” he said.
Kaushal has wounds in his scrotum, legs and chest. “A bomb,” was all Kaushal could whisper after trying to form a word for a long time.
More than 75 people have been wounded on the Indian side in the last one week since shelling and firing started from across the border. Most of the villagers living along the border have moved away to “safer areas.” They return in the morning and around noon to feed the cattle and leave before sunset fearing more shelling.
Bano Bibi, 26, was returning home to Jorha farm with her husband, three children and a sister-in-law after spending the night at a school in a safe area. Around 8 a.m., a huge explosion threw them off the tonga they were travelling in.
Ms. Bano, on bed number 6, has splinters in both her legs and arms. She said she was married at 15 and has been working hard in the fields since then. “Now I don’t know what will happen. Will I be able to walk, work and do household chores,” Ms. Bano asked.
Her sister-in-law, Fatima, too has splinters in both her legs and arms. Ms. Bano’s youngest son, Rafiq, is on bed number 8 with a bandaged ear. Her husband, Shahku, has been moved to another ward after being operated for the splinters in his back.
“His condition is worse. He can neither move, nor speak,” said Makhan Din, Shahku’s father.
Meanwhile, in the ICU, Kuldeep and Kaushal’s father, Saudagar Chand, sit propped against a raised bed. A wire wound around his neck is fixed to a transparent tube in the middle of his throat. He cannot speak, nor breathe on his own.
“He thinks his children are fine and their mother and grandmother are with them,” said his brother. “He hopes to join them soon.”