Ask Dear Son, Ask

“Dear son. Hold my hand.” while giving her hand old ma saw towards me with piteous glances. I felt entangled while entering the bus stand but gave a hand to her.

The passengers were huddled together in the bus. All were longing to reach their destinations, even before being late.

However when I took down old ma from the bus, she turned back and said, “Get down I am here. Be cautious. Let not your foot slip away.”

She was casting a glance at me and the other at the tense and hopeless old man who was handling the door of the bus. His crutch was not touching the ground despite his attempts and as such he was not able to figure out where to land his foot. This was apparent because he was advancing his foot and taking it back again and again.

The conductor of the bus was perplexed in the hub-bubb of passengers. He was pleasing some by giving back the balances but fighting with some and listening to the abuses. They were even pouncing on each other.

I had to get down the old man from the bus by shouldering him. I kept him beside the old ma and went deep in to my being. Due to the dark fortnight, the darkness had early in the evening eroded away the faces of the ways. Due to the darkness the directions to the nests would drop from the minds and dissuade the passengers.

The people were coming and going however without raising their eyes to anybody, the passengers laden with their bag and baggage were hurriedly going to their destinations. I was at sixes and sevens standing between the old couple. Neither my foot could move on nor could I turn my back towards this innocent old couple. The old couple was as if fallen from the sky or erupted from the Sheol. This clipped winged couple was wearing the long white cotton pherans (outer gowns) to their knees. The moon light washed hairs shinned as if they were godly informers. They were disheveling in the hussle and bussle as if they were devoid the living features.

“You will come with me.” Beckoning towards taxi driver, I said to them, “you cannot reach to your lodge now. “Dear son, which lodge we have! If we reach to any shrine, we will pass the night there peacefully,”

If we get some charity well, if not it doesn’t matter. Along life we had been eating.

I broke down! As if somebody hit me with sword by both the hands. My eyelids filled with the tears, “No, it should not be said. He is your son if you don’t go along with him, come along with me.”

After getting down from the taxi, driver was saying while supporting the oldma,  “Whatever will leave after your eating that would suit us to take.”

“Hundreds of times we praise the God.” I too said while supporting the old man. With the right hand I was swiping the tears of my eyes.

All the obstacles of the otherness had ragged. While talking we were laughing, replying and listening to replies. We were asking each other the questions of different sorts. By inviting and saluting we were planning the rough surface of the way of relationship. However my mind was sometimes failing to comprehend. I felt pained when I recollected my landlady. My landlady’s temperament is eccentric, too much eccentric. The old man whose beard and hair greys, are despised by her. Her husband is doing a job at a far off place where he lives without her.

“I abandoned my father-in-law and mother-in-law due their grey hair. I vomit when I see it.” She often says with pride. “The grey hair breaks me down.” That is why I have kept long hair. I apply hair dye. Even after that if I find grey hair in the mirror, I selectively take it out.

The driver had switched on the bulb of the taxi. The raindrops had started pouring. The street had been splashed. The coldness was being felt as it was autumn season. It was very late on reaching the lodge. In the electric light the rain drops had spread the collection of pearls on the grassy ground. In the Syed sahib’s mosque reverberating sounds of holy blessing were illuminating the darkness of negligence and on the other side the melodious recitation of devotional songs from the temple of mother was satiating the thirst of the souls.

I opened the board of the door slowly and silently.  My landlady did not like the loud creaking of the door. As soon as we entered the room, the old couple began fondling the walls. Gazing upon the figures and pictures and talking aloud. I said to them, “what are you seeing?” These are pictures.”

“No dear son. These are not mere pictures. There is our imagination of Iife in them. Here we smell the scent of ownness.” They said. We did not see when the old ma had sat after getting tired. But the old man who was fondling the figures and images by her hands, was saying such things which were not understood by me. He was wandering like a butterfly from wall to wall. He was saying, “This is Tolstoy- sainitly writer who left imperial throne and adopted destitution. This is the chairman Mao Ze Dong, who educated his nation, which was treating the life of a curse, art and meaning of the idea of living. This is Josh, Faiz, Gourki, Iqbal, Tagore, Mehjoor, Azad, dear son. These are the personalities who aroused consciousness of humanity along with patriotism and Nationalism in us. He was suffocating but not tiring. I wondered. While wiping a framed picture by her hand he was more pleased to express. He said aloud, “Ask dear son, ask….who he is? I will reply…. He is the person who gave us ideological capability- who showed the hunger-stricken and aimless people the new style of living. He was very far from us, speaking a different language but our soul could undersstand the meaning of his words.” He was speaking fluently as a nightingale sings but I could not understand the most of it.

“Yes, the farmer got right over land and harvet and weaver got its own shop which was taken over forcefully by the evil minded who feigned to be his own. Then he said, “Have-not is a means of income for the have and merely a sole of a shoe. The sole of such a shoe piece which turns useless due to rupture and is thrown into a drain when it ruptures. Do you listen? We were toiling hard in spring and summer and in autumn. Before tasting even the boiled rice water of new harvest, we used to go out of the Pir Panchal. We would fall down from the mountains in order to earn some pennies. Those who remained here used to chew the rice-bran cakes due to which their mouth and lips bleeded. They used to drink the huge sips of milk less tea weaving the grass mates and the grass seats layer by layer. They used to sigh and shed tears consoling themselves and their family members by praising the Graciousness of Almighty.

“New harvest, rice-bran cakes, boiled rice water… I don`t understand anything.” I said to him.

“It was such a law that our mortars and pestles and even small stone pestles used to be sealed by government inspectors and land tenants. To handle these tools was a crime then. Chicken and maize cobs were counted then.” Saying this he broke into tears.

He took his shirt off from his back. The signs which landlords whipping had imprinted on his back were visible. I came to know that he was whiped as he had cut-nailed a maize cob.

“Now we are free” He said, “but, dear son, there was a dead body of an old man hanging onto the electric pole in the street. The face was defaced. His clothes were taken out and the trousers were ruptured and ragged. The people whispered that the man was condemned for trying to save her daughter`s virginity.”

There was pain and expression of hopelessness in his information.

He further added, “Unscarfed and bare footed daughter and wife were shedding tears which were sufficient to put off the fire of the hell. It is said that they were prohibited to cry in the morning. Then isn’t it said nonseriously, “destitute got freedom as well.” He said without any pause.

On hearing ‘abba abba’, we turned to old Ma. She was wiping tears from her eyes. She was laughing too. My landlady was supporting her to stand aright. Old Ma’s grey hair had stuck to her lips and chin. I wondered.

“Ask, dear son ask” she said as if from the sky, awakening those in deep slumber on the earth, “here is our good odour: the scent of emotions. She is my daughter in law, my daughter, life giver to my lineage, my solace.

In the room there was the reverberating voice of old Ma or the tearfull sobs of my landlady.

About the writer: Rasheed Sarshar is a prominent writer in Kashmiri language. He is a poet, critic and fiction writer. He resides at Wangam shopian.

Ashraf Raavi is a poet, translator ,fiction writer and critic. He writes in Kashmiri and English.