Friday, April 24, 2009

Twenty Years of Absence-in Greater Kashmir

Come Spring and small streams emanating out of Doodh Ganga would be full of water and the perennial brook near my home would be enticing small boys to its muddy banks. The willows will be in a new green hue while the solitary apple tree in my courtyard would be quietly awaiting the arrival of its fruits of labour.

Swarms of men and women would be ready for “thal” or sowing of the paddy saplings. People would dig small pipe like canals from the flowing streams to their fields. There would be minor quarrels among people as they jostle for water. But all that would be amicably settled. Chirping birds would fly down to pick insects from the freshly ploughed soil. Young girls would carry samovars full of hot salt tea and bagfuls of bread to their family members working in the fields. The teachers would have it easy though. A ready stock of students would be eager to work on their fields in hope of a mass promotion to the next grade. My village, would hear women sing in mesmerizing tones Rasul Mir’s “Hariye thavak na kan ti lolo”. The mild sun would shine over my small, non- descript village Kanipora.

I was seven when the elders of our house decided to sell our ancestral house at 10, Qutubdin Pora, Ali Kadal, Srinagar and move to a new location on the outskirts of the city. There was a deep sense of loss as the truck moved out of the narrow downtown lanes to the wider roads leading out of the city. I thought of Sallam the butcher, Kare Kon the local candy man, the flowing Vitasta ,the Batyaar Mandir, Rishi Peers Aastan and the avuncular saint Rahbab Saheb. I would miss them all, I thought. These were the by-lanes, the narrow by-lanes where we lived among Nawchis. Sultans, Patigaroo’s ,Dar’s, Hagar’s and Kaul’s. Then of course there was a man who seemed like a lunatic to all of us; someone who would have tea in a 5kg P-Mark Tin and share his Tale-vor (a local variety of Kashmiri bread) with dogs. He was called Hone-Rahman. No one knew where he came from. I was scared yet fond of him. It was him who I was to miss the most.

I was now a student of The New Cambridge Public School (later re-christened as Angels Garden) the only English medium school in the entire village. The school was housed in an old dilapidated building near the saw mill not very far from the main bus stand, not that there was any other bus stand in or around our village. Kanipora was a block in the Chadoora Tehsil of Budgam district of Kashmir subdivision of Jammu and Kashmir. It had a non working post office, a branch of State Bank of India, an Elaqaui Dehati Bank, a Boys High School, a Middle school for girls, a terrible primary healthcare centre and a very bad road connecting Kanipora to Kralpora-an equally small village on the main road to Char-e-Sharief .It was on this bad road that we had our new house-a palatial house compared to the concrete pigeon hole called a flat, that I live in now.

The new house was bereft of any living neighbours. The only other house around was a huge house across the small brook. The owners, we were told were too scared to live in that house. This is a haunted house they would say. One of their cousins, a short man with a beard would come to visit the house from time to time. His name was Khursheed and he was a probably a teacher in one of the Government schools in Srinagar. But Srinagar was far now, thirteen kilometres from the main bus stand and fourteen from our home.The new house had a brook for running water and toilets were still a luxury. Endless vast expanse of green surrounded us and some hundred meters behind us was a small cremation ground. That seemed to be the only companion and neighbour that we had till a Peer Sahib with his three sons started building a house near the grazing field. The village had walnut trees, chinars, poplars, willows and yes it grew some strawberries and saffron too.

The village Moqadam was a pious man called Rasul Daar. He was a man with a great sense of humour and would often laugh at his own self. It was his grandson who was to be my best pal, my alter ego in times to come. It has been long; I have seen Yaseen or heard from him. I write this in hope that he may read it and get in touch with me. We would attend tuitions together in Nawab Bazzar where my uncle would teach us Mathematics. Another of my friends Ashwani met me here in Delhi after a gap of seventeen years. It was a tearful re-union as we talked about our common past, the village swamp and our uncertain future. Two of them, me, Mushtaq, Shafiq, Ameen and my younger brother Rinku would play cricket on Motilal Khar’s land, the land he was planning to build a house on after his spinster brother’s death. Neither did Mohan Lal die in Kashmir nor did Moti Lal ever make a house.

There was a family of Thokur’s pronounced locally as Thukre who lived in a dark lane near the biggest apple orchard of the village. The families of two brothers lived in a wood house with freshly painted wooden stairs and a big courtyard. The house was a picture of prosperity in an otherwise no so rich village. One early morning the elder Thukre and his wife were seen leaving the village, their only belonging being the metal trunk painted light green overall with purple coloured leaves and flowers adorning its borders. His unceremonious departure was talked about in hushed tones in the village. None had a clue where he would head to and none ever knew where he went. After a few days of his exodus no one even mentioned a word about him. Ramzan Thukre’s son Farooq, my junior in my school was now the only inheritor to the property of Thukrs.

I am sure the village would have changed now. The Railway Line might have changed the fortunes of the people who owned some land in the vicinity of the rail tracks. I just hope they haven’t cut the chinars of the village. The three Chinars near the green coloured mosque where the rivulet and the road take a bend are keepers of my yesteryears’ secrets. The second of the three Chinars, yes the one in the centre was already beginning to show signs of hollowness in late eighties. Is it still alive?

Twenty years is a long time. Ghlam Nabi the tailor must have grown old and his brother Wosta Ali must have excelled further in the art of masonry. The three shops near the Pomegranate orchard must have become more now. Would they still be selling Thoole Mithae ,I wonder. There must be no Prabha School anymore. Incidentally I could not attend Prabhawati’s funeral in Jammu.Men and women would now be returning to their homes after a hard days’ work. They would soon fall asleep. The night sets in early at my village. Far away someone is singing….Mae Chu basan mae ma gache shaam vatey.


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Anonymous said...

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Dead End

Dead End
The road to what was once my home in Kashmir....zuv chum bramaan ghare gachehae..