I have an unbreakable bond with my childhood. That perhaps holds true about everyone. Often on festive, even not-that-jovial occasions, I instantaneously get connected to my childhood. ‘Childhood memories’ as someone has rightly said ‘come crashing like a wave, and one reaches to them with arms out to grab them, to catch them and hold them close’ and I take great pleasure in sharing them with my friends; young and old.
Traditionally, the seasons of ‘fruitfulness’ and weddings began at the same time, I don’t know if the tradition is seven hundred years old or it has been there before also, but the general belief is that wazawan-the multi-mutton-dishes cuisine is most tasteful during the times when branches of trees are drooping with ripe fruits, and the singing insects fill the air with their melodious songs. During, the season of marriages from midnight merry songs coming from nearby Mohallas, or women clapping hands in symphony with the send-off songs to the bridegroom or welcome songs to the bride or giggles and titters at the Mohar-Tulin (Bride’s veil lifting formality) anything takes me to my childhood, when my siblings, my mates and I enjoyed every moment of the festive occasions.
Truthfully, I have no idea about the weddings of the ‘loyalists’ biggies’ who “loved to reap where they never sowed,” Nonetheless, one of the bitterest anecdotes about weddings of this class that I heard at a shop front and still lives in my memory is of a servant of a Khoja.’ His master had asked him to go running with an invitation to a far of the village outside and return within hours. The poor servant after completing marathon running died at the doorstep of his master. Instead of mourning his death, the master bragged to his guest about his command and loyalty of the servant.’ But for being born in the city of toiling artisans and craftsmen, who for centuries had enriched the landscape art and artifacts, I have vivid impressions about the wedding celebrations in and around my birthplace.
Some days back at a marriage ceremony, I overheard some youth talking about arranging a top-notch BMW car for their bridegroom friend and bedecking it with best garden fresh flowers; the conversation instantly took me down the memory lane. I remembered, some prominent ‘tanagawalas’ (chariot drivers) famed for hiring out tall Peshawar breed horses to bridegrooms. Of all of the top horses, the one owned by Qadir Chahan, a stout tanagawala, known for donning a huge Gilgit-Baltistan cap was counted best of all. Many bridegrooms wished to ride his horse to the bride’s house. But, only the most influential could afford the tall white horse of Qadir Chahan, notorious hoodlum an ardent supporter of the local MLA. In our Mohalla, two tanagawalas brothers Sona Gour and Jamal Gour were known to have the best stallions, one white and another black. During the wedding seasons, they always had the advanced bookings for their horses.
Those days , there were just a few cars in and around the Ward four, perhaps there were three only in our locality, and the owners were the upstarts who after 1947 for their political connection had made some very quick money. During those weird times, fiends were projected as saints. Interestingly, one of the car owners an unlettered hugely turbaned contractor had been introduced by Bakshi Sahib to Prime Minister Nehru as Qazi-i-Shahar at a musical function in Badamwari. During those times, I don’t remember having ever seen a bridegroom arriving at the bride’s house by car. However, the bridegrooms married outside the city would use festooned boats- Shakaris and Dongas as a means of transport to the brides’ house and return through the same mode of transport.
In our Mohalla, a tall and hefty roasted soya beans, chickpeas, boiled red beans and the chestnut vendor was married somewhere near the sixth bridge on the Jhelum. He could not win favor Sona or Jamal for hiring one of their tall horses to ride on the bride’s houses; some friend had hired an ass height pony for him. Sitting on pony’s back his feet literally touched the road. My mates and many other joined the singing women accompanied him to the bride’s house – to see lest the pony collapses.
Z.G.Muhammad is a noted writer and columnist