Arif Badoo in his class | Image by Vikar Syed

Earthquake collocates with horror – but not always. Pounding heartbeats and trembling arms came as a blessing for Arif Badoo – who could shape his fear into words for the first time in fifty days – after an hour-long unconscious state made him lose his voice earlier this year.

The soothing effect of his mother’s hands made him speak for a while – only for a while first – after which he could not speak again, this time in surprise.

Arif fell unconscious on 21 February 2016, when only his mother accompanied him at home. He woke up an hour later with headache, but could not narrate his ordeal, as he was suddenly unable to speak. It was the International Mother Language Day, and Arif could not speak any language.

Terrified Arif rushed to his doctor, who had treated him for nearly five years for neurological problem Epilepsy. The missing voice was an outcome of the same problem. Arif could not speak now and for indefinite time – until today.

A strong earthquake with epicentre in Hindukush region of Afghanistan, nearly 400-kilometres from Arif’s house, blessed him with the gift he would always remember. As the tremors shook his house in Kreeri area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla district, he and his mother rushed out under the safety of skies.

His mother – who knew his fear of tremors – held his hand and suddenly both of them forgot the quake. Without conscious effort, just like a reflex, Arif spoke out, “Mumma, m’e kar thaph, yelle ma traav,” (Mother, hold me, don’t leave me). The earthquake was a history now.

Eager to speak his story, and not write it like he would earlier, Arif said, “When I said this, I looked into my mother’s eyes and she looked into mine.”

“For about five minutes, I was just thinking about it. I was in a shock again, having loud heartbeats,” said Arif. “I was clueless of how to talk again… Then slowly things started getting normal and I talked well.”

Arif’s mother, Tameeza, is among his best friends. “She is the ocean of love and patience,” says Arif.

During his time as a “mute spectator”, Arif said, everything changed for him. “I was shocked initially. It was tough to manage, but with time, things went easier and I started to live a different life,” he said.

“Sometimes people teased, some encouraged,” he added.

“I am the only child of my parents and this factor proved helpful for coping up with the tough situations in life,” said Arif. “My parents always stayed as a great source of support and encouragement, and my friend Auqib who stayed with me at every moment.”

Arif is a student of journalism and losing voice could be a great trouble for him, though his teachers always praised his writing skills and creativity. He was and will always be a treasure for his class at the Department of Convergent Journalism, Central University of Kashmir.

His classmates, most of whom had never heard him speak, were excited to call him this evening as their teacher broke the news in a Facebook group. The joyful comrades could not wait for the next day. And I am one of them.

Shahnaz Bashir, our teacher and a renowned writer, made our day as he broke the news. “Thank God! Our Arif Badoo’s voice returned with boneul (earthquake). He just called and shocked me. Now, not only will he write the news and ads but read them too,” he wrote.

Arif always wore a smile, even when someone condoled with him, and his serenity became our inspiration.