A short story
*Consecutive Serial: How Much to Say?
Original in Kashmiri 'silsilûvàr- kyà kyà vanû? - *M.K.Raina
Translation: T.N.Dhar 'Kundan'
hat night I could not sleep well. At around midnight I woke up and looked towards the timepiece though it was dark. It was more than fifty years old. Its dial was dirty and misty and it was difficult to figure out the time from it at that hour. But I would not give up since I was well aware of every nook and corner of the timepiece. And why not, it was now a good three years that I had been observing time from it afresh. I could spot its hands even when it was quite dark.
I saw that it was only one O’clock in the night and it would take a lot more time till it would be five in the morning. But the sleep had gone away from my eyes. I had to pass time and what better way than to think about this masterpiece of a watch? It was brought from Amritsar by my grandpa some fifty years back. It was very attractive. It had three layers of covers on it and the alarm was so loud that the whole locality would startle when it was on. According to my father the time on this watch was accurate to the minute and would always tally with the radio.
Unfortunately about three years back there was a mishap with this timepiece. It fell from the shelf and stopped. No amount of winding would make it get activated. I took it to a watchmaker in the neighborhood. He examined it thoroughly from inside out, nodded his head and said, ‘It is not possible to rectify it. It has a different mechanism in it.’ I felt proud and thought, ‘Indeed, how can it be repaired by a common watchmaker? It is no ordinary watch. It is an imported one as was stated on oath by our grand father.’
Although the watchmaker could not repair it, yet he was knowledgeable. He directed me to an expert who alone could repair it. I was grateful to him. I took along with me my friend Raja and we both rushed to a locality called ‘Gurgari mohalla’. There I traced the house of the watchmaker. He was known as Master Razaq. He had no shop of his own and worked in his house itself. He was an expert no doubt. When we reached there and entered his room we were aghast. There were hundreds of different watches on the shelves in his room. Most of them were imported from Russia, Japan, Germany and other countries. Of course this was my guess. I thought a few were made in India too. Some were in order and ticking and some were out of order and silent. We saluted the master. He just glanced towards us and then again bent his head on the watch that he was in the process of repairing then. The owner of the watch too was in front of him. I thought in my mind, ‘this shows that the man is in reality an expert. See how busy he is in his job and he has no time for any question answer.’ After about an hour he lifted his head. The customer before him felt relieved that the job was done. But the master addressed him thus, ‘Ama Lala! You will have to come back again tomorrow. I lost one of the hands of this watch yesterday and now I will have to fabricate a new one.’ The customer was pale and said to me, ‘Tell me what to do? This watch was brought by my father from Congo after the world war. It is made in America and it is not possible to get its original hand. I do not know whether the hand fabricated by Master Razaq will at all look nice. What a combination, American watch with a locally fabricated hand!’ He took back the watch from the master and left the room in a huff.
Master Razaq must have been around fifty or fifty-two years of age. He threw an angular eye on me and said, ‘See how the times have changed. Now tell me where shall I get him an American hand for his watch and fix that? Strange are the ways of people. If they purchase a watch from a trash seller, they will say that it has been brought for them by a relation from abroad or from Arab. Tell them is there dearth of good watches locally? By God, only yesterday Manzoor Ahmad got a new watch sent by his uncle from Karachi. What a watch it is? The sound of its ticking is a dove’s music to the ears. Let me share a secret with you. Manzoor’s uncle told me that the Americans mark these very watches made in Karachi as ‘Made in USA’ and sell them like hot cakes. O Manzoor!’ The master wanted to call the boy but he did not show and he said in a low tone, ‘He must have gone to show the new watch to his friends.’ I had my self-interest to get my watch rectified and so I nodded my head in agreement to every word he said. I was apprehensive in my heart of hearts that he would speak some invectives about my watch too. While I was thinking all this I heard the master say, ‘Now let me see what you have got to show.’
I took out the watch hesitantly from below my long robe and placed it before him. I held my breath not knowing what he was going to say. He picked up the watch and declared, ‘Now this is what is called a genuine imported timepiece. No body can deny this fact. By God you are a lucky guy. Where can you get such stuff these days?’ I was elated to hear these words of his and my face brightened with pride and pleasure. I told him, ‘Sir, the timepiece fell off the shelf and stopped functioning.’ He placed the timepiece on the floor. His face reddened and almost scolding me said, ‘you should not have been so careless about such a valuable stuff. One should know how to preserve such things or else it is as good as having been thrown in a river.’
The master kept the timepiece aside and asked me, ‘where do you reside?’ I replied, ‘Sir, I live at Bal Garden.’ ‘O.K; you may go home for now. You can gladly come on the day after tomorrow and your timepiece will be repaired and ready,’ said he. I asked him how much would the repair cost and he replied that I should bring with me a five-rupee note. This he said without looking at me while he was busy opening the lid of another watch. I left for my home but all through the way I was thinking that he should not replace the genuine parts of the timepiece by locally made parts. But I was helpless. I had no control on the situation. That night I could hardly sleep because of this fear and apprehension.
I reached Master Razaq’s home on the third day at about mid-day. He was having his lunch. He told me, ‘Congratulations, my son! Your timepiece has been repaired. However, you will have to leave it with me up to Sunday. How can you come here time and again, I shall keep it ready and duly tested.’ I was relieved and praised my intelligence that I should have brought this timepiece for repairs to such an expert hand. I thought that perhaps the hands of the timepiece must be intact or else he would have said something about those. I looked around but could not spot my watch anywhere. I was pale with apprehension but consoled myself. I presumed that he must be keeping the watches for test in another room.
On Sunday I reached his home rather early. A young boy was sitting by his side. He had a shining watch tied on his wrist. I guessed that he must be Manzoor Ahmed and this watch must be the one brought from Karachi. He had two brass tops in his hands, which he was rotating on the wooden writing board. Master Razaq took out my timepiece from out of a bag and placed it before me. He said, ‘look how your watch is working nicely.’ I looked at the watch. Its dial was dirty and smoky. My timepiece had a snow-white dial. I asked him, ‘Sir, I think there is some jumble up. This cannot be my timepiece. That has a white dial on it.’ He sighed and replied, ‘no doubt, you are quite right. This Manzoor Ahmed is my favourite child, born of my second wife after a lot of prayers. He only removed the dial from your timepiece and made a flying toy of it. What could I say to him? Thank heavens I was able to locate a dial of the same size from an old timepiece, which I removed and fixed on this one. Otherwise this timepiece would have been rendered useless for want of a small item.’ I took the timepiece in my hand with tearful eyes. The dial was not only dirty but worn out too. He allowed me a discount of one rupee for the dial and charged me only four rupees. As soon as I bade him good bye, he called me back and said, ‘Dear, take this item with you as it is yours and I cannot keep it with me.’ I was at a loss to figure out what item he was talking about. Before I could ask him, he slapped his son, and snatched the top-like items from his hands. He roared, ‘Are these any toys that you should play with them? You wretched one, your father’s value is hardly equal to the price of these items.’ He handed over these tops to me and said, ‘See my child! God knows, I never keep any one else’s belongings with me. When I dismantled this timepiece and then reassembled it, I could not figure out where these two top-like parts were fitted. So these belong to you and you please take them along. In future if the timepiece stops bring it to me along with these spares and I shall see if I can find the place where they need to be fitted. But let me tell you, the timepiece is genuinely imported. Even after breaking it down to the last part, it is still working and showing time correctly. You cannot find like of it these days.
With a broken heart I left the place. The two top-like spares I kept hiding lest somebody at home sees them. The master proved his worth and workmanship. Even after three years of repair by him, the timepiece is working all right and showing time accurately.
I looked to the timepiece once more. It was three in the morning but I was to get up at five O’clock. I made an attempt to go to sleep again and in no time was fast asleep.
*M.K.Raina (MKR) is a civil engineer by profession and has been inclined to write short stories and poetry in Kashmiri since his college days. He is also fascinated by Kashmiri literature especially old classics, which he is trying to rew-write in Devanagari-Kashmiri for the net. In addition to his own works, MKR has put a plethora of Kashmiri literature of other authors on net (www.mkraina.com) after re-writing it in Devanagari-Kashmiri. MKR's self-authored and published material include 'Basic Reader for Kashmiri Language', 'tsok modur' - a collection of 6 short stories in Kashmiri, 'kenh non, kenh son' - a collection of 5 short stories in Kashmiri, and 'Pentachord' - a collection of 5 short stories in English. He has co-authored Information Digest Series of Project Zaan and has also developed a Work Book for reading & writing Kashmiri in Devanagari script.
MKR was till recently editor of 'aalav' published from Bangalore and 'Milchar' published from Mumbai. He is currently the editor of monthly 'här-van', the net-journal of Project Zaan. MKR was instrumental in development of Akruti-Kashmiri-Arinimal software for writing Kashmiri in Standardised Devanagari Script in association with Cyberscape Multimedia Ltd. MKR hails from Chhattabal, Srinagar, Kashmir. Post-exodus, he is settled in Mumbai.
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Good story. Please continue.
Added By Rockey Kaul
Added By Chander M. Bhat
Oh that Ali Kadal! Got there instantly. Something more like that ...?
Added By Ashok Razdan
Hi! Can you help us? I and two more friends are searching for one Ms.Madhu Zutshi from Brijrajnagar (Orissa), who studied with us in Nagpur and then got married in 1974 to one Mr. Ravi Raina, a civil engineer by education, working in one of the steel plants at Bokaro or Rourkela. Ravi's father worked for Income Tax or Excise Department . PL. suggest where we can trace her. - Ira Sheorey
Added By Ira Sheorey