Jameel Ahmad Digoo — Epitome of unshakable faith & compassion

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Ambulance driver Jameel Ahmad Digoo
Ambulance driver Jameel Ahmad (in yellow mask) says his family stands by his work | Photo: EPS

Given the sufferings of Kashmiris and then the additional trauma of COVID-19 pandemic, my people have always looked for the rays of hope to survive and to be happy.

COVID-19 has not been a threat to only physical health but it has been affecting mental health very badly. Social distancing and precautions take a heavy toll on us but we should be determined in restraining ourselves as we could get in contact with a COVID-19 positive patient and lose our calm.

However, there is someone who not just deals with such patients but also treats them including victims with generosity and sublime confidence. He is Jameel Ahmad Digoo who works as an ambulance driver in the Health Department.

Jameel has been ferrying COVID-19 patients across Srinagar and has been giving the victims a decent burial, which is not even his duty but does it for the sake of his community and for his people.

He has till now ferried more than 1000 COVID-19 patients and buried most of the deceased in Srinagar. The hefty PPE kit and the sweaty droplets doesn’t make a difference to him anyways.

Having a telephonic conversation with Jameel Ahmad Digoo perforated me with motivation and inspiration to stand up for my people and my dear Kashmir.

Assigned as an ambulance driver for 10 years, Jameel says, “Firstly, I had been ferrying COVID-19 patients only. It was not only about ferrying them, it was mental upliftment what I would give to the patients. I used to tell them that you have to be strong and that grit to fight it back.”

Atal Dulloo presenting a certificate of appreciation along with a Shawl to Ambulance Driver, Jameel Ahmad Digoo
Atal Dulloo presenting a certificate of appreciation along with a Shawl to Ambulance Driver, Jameel Ahmad Digoo.

He further adds, “My words had a strong impact on patients who were already struggling emotionally and mentally, so I would use my words very wisely and tell them to be happy in quarantine centres if you want to return back COVID-19 negative.”

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He remembers the first burial of a female dead body hailing from Rainawari Srinagar whose family had been positive and were in quarantine centres and who basically had none to perform the last rites. “8×3ft wooden box didn’t haunt me much but the grave, to be dug just 5ft wide, did. Still, I dug it on my own,” Jameel says.

Jameel Ahmad Digoo speaks of that night and states that it was 12 AM and thoughts rowing across his mind were like, “Kaénsi na kaénsi haz chu eyon bronth – agar saeeri khoosén teli kyah banií – Mei dop Khudaya bi neari yath wabahas frontas magar myanis ayaalas karzi raech – Tim chi hawalé” (Someone has to step forward. If everyone would be scared, then what would happen? I asked my lord to protect my family as I decided to volunteer for being a frontline worker). Jameel is thankful to his lord as his two sons and wife have been safe.

Jameel Digoo says, “When I would return home, I removed my PPE kit and gloves. After taking shower, I would find my sons sitting next to me. I used tell them to maintain some distance else I’ll get isolated in a separate room. They used to downplay my warning and would say that they were ready for same fate as mine. The immense support and such an understanding family is what I am thankful for.”

“It’s not been that easy — I have seen people change their path after encountering me so as to avoid contact with me. But it doesn’t matter to me because I knew I was doing it for the sake of my lord,” Jameel says.

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A COVID-19 recovered patient, who was ferried by Jameel, said, “I felt well only at that moment when he came to pick us. He made the journey till hospital so good and told us to wait for 10 days till he comes back to drop us home. His words were gospel.”

“When he came to pick me, he took my luggage and said ‘Haesaéb thui chew theekh, yi chu bas aaram karun thui hospital’ (Are you alright Haseeb. You have to only take rest here in the hospital), another recovered patient said. The patient was all praise for Jameel Digoo and said, “Gobra Kashir chi aabad yéli yeth lukh chi zindí (Daughter, Kashmir is going to rise amid all odds until we have such souls in this land).

Concluding the conversation, Mr Jameel said that he doesn’t work to grab some medals or money but it’s all for the sake of my lord. “When loudspeakers of four Masjids echo around with the prayers for my safety, I don’t want anything else in this world. I have been born in this community and if I can lessen the misery of my people, I feel I have achieved the utmost wealth of making my own people content,” he says with an expression of thankfulness.

Amid all this, he wishes people to take precautions, avoid social gatherings when not required. “These are the only ways through which we can defeat the virus. Importantly, we also need to worship to see our sufferings easing,” he appeals people.

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