In our childhood, one could hardly imagine a house without a Jajeer. In our social milieu, it had a central place. It was unimaginable to think about any social gathering or oriental bhahtakhs’, deewan khanas of rich and elite without ornately carved copper hubble-bubble or modern day drawing rooms. Souvenirs of small and not that small hubble-bubbles along with the best porcelain crockery and silverware adorned the drawing rooms of rich. Musical sounds, of Jajeer mixing with songs of thrush and doves added mystic aura to the vineyards- abodes of the mystics. Smoke from Jajeer had its kick for vibrant political discussions inside a tailor shop in our Mohalla. For always resounding with boisterous political discussions, it had been nicknamed as parliament.
In our earliest chronicles, there is no mention of Jajeer. Despite, being there some phrases and nicknames connected to Jajeer, I have no idea about the exact etymology of this word. If it is an indigenous word or derived from Persian word narjile meaning coconut. The hubble-bubble is known by this name in countries such as Armenia, Syria, Turkey Greece, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Palestine and Israel. Imprints of culture of some of these countries more particularly Central Asian are traceable in our society even to this day. Thus, making me believe that the name Jajeer has its origin in word narjile. Some believe that it made its way into Kashmir along with the Mughals. History testifies that Persian physician Abul-Fateh Gilani at the court of Akbar first passed the smoke of tobacco through a small bowl of water to purify and cool the smoke of tobacco and invented the hookah. It might have come to Kashmir along with the Mughal caravans, but it took an indigenous shape at the deft hands of our potters. The archival finds dating back to thousands of years indicate that our creative art was at its peak in great artefact’s of terracotta.
I have many tales to tell about Jajeer; the greater conqueror that had reigned supreme in royal courts, mystic havens and thatched shelters. Many times, I look at Jajeer as socialism incarnate. It recognized no status, stature and class, and allowed the nobles and paupers, aristocracy and artisans and patricians and peasantry to enjoy a puff of smoke with equal equanimity.
That reminds me of a shop of a silversmith, a lone communist in our locality. His ten feet square shop remained filled with clouds of smoke coming out of always-roaring Jajeer. I rarely saw him working but found him always engrossed in political discussions with some of our neighbours who often visited his shop for enjoying smoke. Many times as a curious child, I often stood in front of his shop to listen to the discussions taking place inside. As I can make out today the discussions would often revolve around the debate over Kashmir in United Nations and the Soviet Union vetoing one after another resolution on Kashmir in the Security Council. Out of resentment against the Soviet Union’s role about Kashmir some boys taunted people sitting inside his shop and casting aspersion on the owner and called him Da’dae Rusy (Perhaps Russian duffer).
Elders had nicknamed his shop as shoda-pend. Notwithstanding people out of resentment calling silversmiths shop as shoda-pend (Hashish-parlour) a good smoke from Jajeer was great a stimulant for lively political discussion inside shops of barbers and tailors. For many in our part of city discussions on Kashmir on shop fronts or inside shops had almost become an addiction.
An evening without discussion Kashmir problem or progrmmes like Zarb-i-Kaleem and Ma’nat Dab broadcast from the Tradkhal station of Azad Kashmir Radio would cause sleepless nights to many people.
Talking about tailor’s shop named as ‘parliament house in our neighbourhood a friend remembered his doctor brother.Narrating his story, he said that after duties he would not directly return to home but visited the tailor’s shop. Took out his necktie and coat, hung them on peg on a wall of the shop and sat in a corner in the packed shop. Before joining the discussion, he filled the chilam with fresh tobacco and picked up ash-free embers with a pair of tongs for placing in the chilam. After having his lungful smoke and allowing the smoke pass out through nostrils like a mystic in a meditative mood he joined the discussions. The unending political discussions on Kashmir, UN, Sheikh Abdullah, Jawaharlal Nehru and General Ayub Khan would last for hours. It was by ten or eleven the doctor would return to his home. Doctor brother of the friend was not an exception; this was true for all office goers who felt concerned about Kashmir related developments at the international level.
Z.G.Muhammad is a noted writer and columnist