“Kaleem, din hai ya raat..boliye, din ya raat? (Kaleem, is it day or night, tell us, is it day or night?).” Kaleem Ahmad, 28, blinks his left eye and then, shaking his head, turns over to the other side. It’s been four days since he was admitted to the AIIMS trauma centre, and doctors are hoping that Ahmad will be able to at least detect sunlight using his remaining eye.
Two days after doctors closed the lid of his right eye in which he had completely lost vision, the M.Tech student from AMU lies on his bed in a recovery room, his head and eye covered in bandages. “Each time the doctors visit, we hope he will give a different answer. They said that will be a good indication that there was some chance of his vision returning. That hope is all that keeps us going,” said Mahfooz, Ahmad’s friend.
Ahmad was allegedly shot on the AMU campus after Friday’s World T20 match between India and Pakistan. His friends claim he was protesting against the celebratory firing on campus after India’s win when a gun accidentally went off. “He never even watched cricket…he loves to read and paint. He is also one of the fittest in the class, a great sportsman who loves going to the gym,” said Mahfooz.
Ahmad’s friends say he was hoping to clear his course in June and was all set to join the Railways. According to them, he had recently cleared the written exam conducted by the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) for the post of a junior engineer. On March 9, he had cleared the document verification process and was to appear for his medical fitness examination next week.
His friend Shadab Alam says that was the only fear he expressed before giving his consent for the surgery on his right eye. “We were not sure if he understood what was happening because when the doctor said they would have to close his eye, he agreed. But when they left, he said he would probably fail at the medical… I did not know what to say,” said Alam.
“After he returned from surgery, we asked him: ‘Now what’?” He said, ‘Now let’s hope I can tell day from night. Otherwise, what will Ammi say?’”
Looking back on the events that led Ahmad to this hospital bed, his friend Saif Masood recalled returning together from their evening gym session that Friday. “He was talking about reading up for his interviews that night. Then we went to our separate hostels. Barely 15 minutes later, I got a call about Ahmad having been shot. I can’t believe in that 15 minutes his life changed like this,” Masood said.
Doctors say Ahmad has hundreds of pellets lodged in his skull and eyes. “He has no vision in both the eyes. We closed his right eye where there was absolutely no hope of vision recurring to prevent any infection to the rest of his body,” said Dr Sushma Sagar, additional professor of surgery, AIIMS.
“He has no vision in his left eye also, but surgeons are considering a procedure to target it from the brain. We are still deliberating on the management of his left eye, but the chances of vision returning are minimal,” said Dr Sagar.
Ahmad’s friends said his mother was still in their native village in Azamgarh while his father, who is a textile businessman in Dubai, flew down to Delhi before his son’s surgery. “We have not told her he has lost one eye. Ahmad spoke to her after his surgery, and said he was fine. She asked him when he was returning to campus for his placement process,” said Mahfooz.
Doctors say Kalim may not need any surgery for the pellets lodged in his brain. “There are hundreds of them showing up on the CT scan. Some of them are lodged very close to critical nerves. If we attempt to dislodge them, some of those nerves may be injured. Since he is conscious and no body function appears to be impaired because of these pellets, we will not touch them for now,” said Dr Sagar.