She values his photo, Rs 30 most

A passport-size photograph is 65-year-old Mughli Begum's most precious procession, besides Rs 30 which she never spends. The photo is that of her missing son Nazir Ahmad Teli. He had given her Rs 30 on September 1, 1990, the day she saw him last.

Teli, a teacher at a government school, went missing in the early days of insurgency in the valley. That day, Teli, who was then 30 years old, left for the school at Dalgate as usual. "He would return by four every day," says Mughli Begum. "But on that day he didn't. When he didn't return for seven days, I was sure something had happened to him. I left my home with an intention to commit suicide," she recalls. She was saved by a neighbour who had, perhaps, sensed her intentions. "He stopped me, took me to his home and gave me some tranquillisers". Thereafter began her search. "I have spent every penny in his search," says Mughli says. "I went to every jail and every security camp in the valley. People thought I had turned mad," she says.

That September morning, the Teli had given her Rs 30 for buying vegetables before he left for his school. "I haven't spent them. No matter, how dire the need would be I can't spend them," says Mughli, who stays in a multi-storey house in downtown Habbakadal. "Those thirty rupees are more precious to me than this entire property".

Her son was her only support. Only three months after her marriage, she was forced out of the house by her in-laws and her husband married for the second time. Sometime later, her parents died. For 30 years, she nurtured her son. "He was my heartbeat, my life," says Mughli in tears.

It was the agony that took Mughli to Mecca, thousands of miles away from her home. "When I failed to find my son, I turned to the Almighty," she says. "I went to Kaaba to pray for his return". Back in the valley, she visits every shrine. "I spend my days at shrines. That gives me solace".

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