Shehjar Series from anectdotes narrated by the educationist Brij K. Dass
Humor is inherent in life. It should not take a sage to understand this. Brij K. Dass’s anecdotal humor with banter, satire, exaggerations, wisecracks and ready wit make us see this truth. From this issue forward, till we can, Shehjar will run a series titled In My Lifetime, quoting anecdotes narrated by the renowned educationist.
For the well-being of all, no real people or names are being referenced or referred to in these anecdotes and identities or profiles quoted may be considered imaginary.
Alarming Loss of Water Bodies in Kashmir
Within my seventy summers, I am witness to drastic changes in the face of my Kashmir valley. A beautiful water channel Nallaie Maer would connect water bodies; the Nigin Lake, the Dal Lake and the Anchar Lake. It was naïve Government planning under Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah that converted the famous water channel into a circular Road in 1975. Planners misguided the Chief Minister, just to make a fast buck and enrich their personal coffers. Corruption in the valley in that era was at its apex. Even at the cost of massive short term financial gains, water bodies in western countries are preserved. Unfortunately in Kashmir, even the famous Dal Lake, of international fame, is dying at a very fast speed.
Within these seventy years, its area is now reduced to its one fourth. All bureaucrats and men of influence have converted the catchments of the lake into residential colonies. The Government itself has encroached upon the water body and created a peninsula to house Centaur Hotel in the Lake. Asia’s biggest lake, the Wular Lake has now become history. It is now a big pond of slush. Snowfall in the valley too is not that frequent. I am afraid that time is not far when land under these water bodies will be allotted to Housing Colonizers. All the water channels that once connected the River Sindh and the River Jhelum, from Shadipora to Khir Bhawani, have become paddy lands. Dudh Ganga, beside the Karan Nagar Cremation Ground was in its prime during my childhood, with pure water. On each ‘Sumree Mavas’ (Amavsi that would fall on Monday), during my childhood, I used to accompany my grandmother to have a dip in the water channel. Dudh Ganga was first dried up and then the Government built a shopping complex on the raised bed that was once the bed of the water channel. The road leading to the shopping complex is mercifully still called the Dudhganga Road. Keteakoal (water channel) that ran parallel to the River Jhelum from Tankipora Bridge to Chattabal is water thirsty and gasping for survival.
Gone are the days when our water bodies were worthy of navigation. From Habbakadal to Rainawari we used to enjoy a shikara ride. We have enjoyed many ‘Doonga’ excursions in our school days through these channels, to Nishat and Chashma Shahi. Today we have become so affluent and educated that our (mis)planners instead offer us a busy road in its exact place, to ply our luxurious cars. Kashmir valley has drastically changed within this short geographical period. It will soon be a dry desert like Ladakh if this rate of “progress” continues.
Awake today, tomorrow will be too late. Contribute a little to save the planet-our Mother land.
Meim Sahab Salam
Immaturity also takes time to mature! I among others spent most of my childhood as a street urchin sitting on the bathing ghat of Kathleshwar temple on the bank of the River Jehlum. We used to chant in one voice “*Meim Saheb salam patea patea Golam” * to any spring shikara ferrying a foreign tourist, little understanding that we were no more slaves. Today I feel that it was only because of our ignorance and immaturity that we used to chant like that, to the waving of their hands in response. I have no regrets for the past because maturity ultimately took over, after immaturity completed its run.
By now foreign rulers have been replaced by the local ones. Some committed slaves are their ready stock. Even knowing well in advance the outcome of election results if they were all to contest, many KP participants jumped in the fray. Unwittingly, they created gains for their opponents. KP contestants thwarted the boycott call of their own community leaders and thus multiplied their community efforts with a big zero. Had the boycott call of their leaders been generally adhered to, may be a KP or two would have sneaked a seat in the Assembly.
Who knows some KPs may have been directed by their masters to plunge into the fray, to ensure that KPs fight against one another and also to prompt a majority of the majority community to feel threatened and therefore participate in a much bigger way?
*(Respects to you the foreigners, we the slaves are always at your service.)
Be blessed along with all others around you with a virtuous, healthy and prosperous life free from any vices. Bríjû dàss chhú vanàn låsív tû båsív.
Zini Mazoor ( The woodcutter)
Zini Mazoor ( The woodcutter) was a favourite Kashmiri folk lore in sixties. Listeners would enjoy it and pity the poor Zini Mazoor.
Zini Mazoor was a poor woodcutter. Despite his hard labor, he could scarcely manage the bare minimum for his family. Day and Night he would cry and ponder how to feed his family in the evening. Seeing his plight, pitying, the Goddess Fortune gave him a pearl. The blessed woodcutter placed the pearl in his turban. On his way home, he had to cross a desert. While crossing the desert, a hawk dived and snatched his turban. His happiness had been short lived. He resumed his usual mourning of the loss. The merciful God, pitying the plight of the woodcutter again granted him a pearl. This time, he held it fast in his fist. Dreading the hawk, the woodcutter changed his route and now he had to cross a river. On this way to his home, a fish jumped, pounced on his hand and startled him to drop the pearl. The woodcutter ended up crying again for his family.
At this stage realization has dawned on me and it appears to me that the poet has narrated my plight. I believe that the Zini Mazoor is none other than me, Brijdass. In the full-bloom family consisting of my father, brothers , the only sister, nephews and nieces ..sixteen in total, I had to seize opportunity to enjoy privacy with my newly wedded wife. Seeing the plight, the Merciful blessed the family with a house where each couple could now enjoy a private life comfortably. As it is, the happiness was short lived. One day the only house in the midst of an area of eight kanal of land, caught fire. This was an event beyond one’s imagination. All except the clothing on the body got blazed. Again, the family put in hard labor and the Merciful, the Goddess of Fortune blessed the family with a bigger and better house. Private life was once again restored to the married couples.
Then came the devil in 1990 and I was again on the road, now in a hostile surrounding and hostile environment at a hostile place. Still thanking and surrendering before the Goddess Fortune, I got a pearl once again. Now in exile, we could not remain “We.” The family consisting of sixteen dispersed into six micro families of twos and threes. Goddess Fortune granted each enough to recover from our miseries. By the time I could enjoy my pearl, my wife lost both patience and confidence in me. She did not wait to see that her earnest demand for an additional room fitted with an aqua guard too has been met.
It seems that all from the middle class group are the cousins of the Zini- Mazoor.
I was six. The World War Second had ended. Father gave us a pleasant surprise. He arrived along with a new bicycle. It was a ‘Hercules Made in
England.’ Each part of the vehicle was engraved with the word ‘Hercules’. The bicycle had been bought from the wholesale merchant at Harisingh High Street, second shop on the corner of the lane leading to Hunuman Mandir, for rupees forty nine and eight annas. The saddle was attached with a tool box, carrying a few wrenches, solution tube and a few rubber patches. The frame of the cycle had an arrangement to fix one small pump.
The scene was festive. An astrologer was consulted in advance to look for the auspicious day. The news of the new arrival reached neighbours, friends and relations. The evening was unlike all other ordinary evenings. People poured in to congratulate us. Mother changed ath-athore of her dejhore. She changed her sari too. The new ath athore and the sari had come from her mother. The bicycle was garlanded. The whole family offered prayers at the local temple. The next day satidev prashad was distributed amongst neighbors and relations. It worked as an announcement of the purchase. The week turned out to be a week of celebration. Housemates were thrilled to entertain the guests. The local baker was instructed to be in readiness. Being at number three, the first day I did not get any chance to touch the bicycle. I had to be contented with a distant look. I could not resist the urge to touch it any longer. All others, tired, went to bed. I waited and managed to steal a chance to satiate my thirst a touch.
People around used to borrow our bicycle. It gave us momentary feel of being from the privileged class. The facility could be availed by others on holidays only. The bicycle was the sole property of our father. No other family member had any right on it. I usually stealthily used to seize an opportunity for a joy ride when my father would go for a nap. To carry someone on the carrier and cycle after dusk, without light were legal offences. Besides managing law and order, the police usually used to arrest people for cycling without light after dusk or carrying someone on the carrier. The accused would be charge sheeted in the court of law and fined to the extent of rupees two to three. A token tax of one rupee and two annas was charged by the Municipal authorities. The brass token in exchange was screwed on the handle of the bike. At times the authorities would aggressively come to the road to boost state revenue collection. The head of the collection team was our neighbour. Our bicycle as such never bore the liability of the token tax.
In 1954, I joined first year of the four-year degree course at Amarsingh College, Srinagar. The Principal of the college, Sahibzada Mohmud Ahmad used to come to the college on a bicycle of green color. His peon Mahmud would always be in readiness to take over the bicycle. While dusting the bicycle, he would look around with an air of authority. Professor N.L.Darbari, Professor Rehman Rahi, Professor T.N.Kilam, Professor Aslam Khan and a few more professors did not have facility of a caretaker. We the students would often discuss the quality, color and condition of the bicycles of the privileged professors. Many others were either not so affluent or did not know cycling. After a lot of pleas, in order to facilitate my education, I was handed ownership of the bicycle that had once rested with my father. The night that followed the auspicious day, somehow became too lengthy for me. The whole night I did not get even a wink of sleep. Musings kept invading my mind. At last the day dawned in my life. The day had been a long awaited one. While cycling to college, my eyes were fixed on the row houses along the road instead of on the road itself. Four rupees as parking charges was an allied worry to me. I somehow managed to dig out some relation with the keeper, Vesh Nath at the parking booth and escaped the liability.
To be an owner of a cycle was not a smooth sail. A number of times I had to land in police lockup for carrying another person along or cycling without a light. In 1960 I purchased a bicycle from Duran Cycle at Exchange Road Srinagar for rupees two hundred ten. This time it was a ‘Raleigh Made in India.’ The owner of the shop, Durani Brij Nath was kind enough to provide installment facility to me. Ten rupees monthly installment was fixed. My friend J.L.Pandita (retired DIG police) also went to Duran Cycle. He was refused the facility for want of a guarantor. On my guarantee, Pandita became my equal. Maqbool the mechanic at the shop had the additional assignment of collection of installments. He was glad for smooth installment payments of rupees ten each. Within eleven months the interest free finance was liquidated. Both of us -the cycle and me- lived in close harmony for a number of years. It stood by me in sun and shower. It accompanied me to Zainapore, Verinagh and many other places. It served me well during my post-graduation from 1963-65. It saved me eight annas a day, the to and fro bus fare to the university. It added not only to my personality but swelled my pocket too. For its smooth behavior it had endeared itself to me. I had developed a lot of love for it. Its services in period of adversity were immense. It charged me nothing. It was unlike today’s Maruti, which does not move an inch unless I fill its belly with costly gasoline. Had the Bike not been stolen, I would have loved to give it the feel of a joy ride in my selfish Maruti.
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