For years, Taqyie of Kamal Sahib just near at Qutab-Din Pora (once capital of Sultan Qutab-u-Din), Nowhtta a five minute walk from our home bustled with the activities of hashish smokers and songsters. On Thursdays before dusk troupes of musicians and topmost singers from different areas started arriving at the Taqyie, (hashish-parlour) associated with a saint from Ganderbal. (Sometime back in this column, I have given etymology of the word Taqyie meaning ‘devoted to God’).
After the fall of night, it came to life with the mystic poetry of great Sufi Poets like Shah Gafoor, Souch Kral, Mahmood Gami, Shamas Faqir, Rahman Dar, Wahhab Khar and Ahmad Batavar. In the late sixties or early seventies, a deathly silence fell on this abode of the mystics and within days with a wild growth of cannabis it looked like a haunted place. The singers and musician stopped visiting the Taqyie and the plaintive supplications of Shodas in their peculiar diction no more resonated in the lane outside. I do not know if the administration had formally banned these hashish parlours with lots of mystic aura around them but all over the city the Taqyies were latched.
Much before the fading of Taqyie from the landscape of the city, the Sazandars – the ‘gypsy musicians and singers’ from the outskirts of the city or nearby village for making a living out of singing had also stopped now coming into the city. In our Mohalla, I remember these ‘gypsy-singers’ sang for a dervish in the Kaeni of comparatively well to do family. Or inside a long wooden shed of a timber merchant. To listen to their songs entire Mohalla gathered in the timber shop. These small time singers and musicians overwhelmingly were committed to the mystic poetry. In the seventies, it was technology, the tape recorders and stereo cassette recorders that replaced the Sazandars inside the timber merchants shed and other shops in our Mohalla.
In our locality, after the dusk, a tailor’s shop wore resemblance to the abode of the Kamal Sahib of yester years- now an abandoned place. Many of our neighbours after days work collected inside the tailor’s shop to listen to traditional Kashmir Music. The billows of smoke emitting from the chillum of the hubble-bubble added a supernatural ambiance to the surroundings. Many of our neighbours, some working on the carpet looms, some with wood hoopoe’s precision digging dreams out of walnut wood and some pulling a tumbrel for the whole day huddled inside the shop. On one of the shelves in the shop, there was quite a big cassette stereo recorder and a pile of recorded audio cassettes.
No sooner a recorded cassette of Kashmir songs was played an eerie silence descended on the shop. Some in their meditative mood put their droopy heads inside their pherans like pigeons in sleep. The most amazing thing about these unlettered lovers of Sufi poetry was their understanding and interpretation of this genus of Kashmir poetry cascading with longings of human spirits for establishing personal communion with God. Once I remember having heard an explanation of Sham Faqir’s poem “Shanyaha Gah’chetha” (Beyond space) from a tailor of our Mohalla to me he sounded like William Blake. Like Blake, he said, ‘Shamas Faqir saw the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wildflower. He holds infinity in palm of his hand and eternity in an hour.’
In the seventies and eighties artisans and craftsmen in our part of the city were madly in love with Kashmiri Sufi poetry. I have seen many in our locality boasting about having the best collection of Kashmiri song cassettes and the best “stereo” recorders. Many spent a big chunk of their earnings on buying the best cassette recorders and some arranged musical nights for recording best poetry by the top most singer. Poems like Shashrang sang by Ghulam Ahmed Sofi made them go into raptures. During, the carpet boom in the late seventies and early eighties I have seen many visiting Bombay just for buying imported expensive cassette recorder only.
Z.G.Muhammad is a noted writer and columnist