We must have been students of 8th or 9th the class, when she appeared or emerged on the scene and within no time got ‘known’ in the Mohalla rather in the whole area. In age, she might have been few years senior to us. As far as her complexion and appearance was concerned, say that once you had a look, you would not find it necessary to look again. But if one observed her demeanour and style one would feel that some bully type person is in a daring confrontational mood. An ordinary and simple man would also try to ‘assess’ her from top to bottom. Two long braids (plaits) of hair dangling in front, she would throw such a glance on the onlooker or observer that he would get scared and leave. As for her, she would leave singing a song passing the observer, or she would hurl abuses and just kick a stray cow, dog or house, or even the electric pole. It was her own style to sing a film song while walking. During winter, when she would have a Kangri within her Pheran and move, it become a special type of walking.
She was born in a common middle class family and she was the eldest of four siblings. In the beginning, when she began playing hop-scotch with boys and freely moving with them, nobody even scowled. But when she began to play marbles and hitting the coin (a gambling game in which coins are to be hit from a distance, to win), with boys, it seemed the cover or wrap was off and hundreds of tongues were set wagging. Oh, this girl has no sense of shame, no consideration for honour. She is worth putting into an incinerator The neighbors’ jealousy was wailing. “The first child!, don’t know which shrine her mother has yet to untie the wish –knot”.(It has been a custom in Kashmir that people, who had some wish or desire that had not been fulfilled, he or she would visit a shrine and tie a knot of thread or fibre and untie it when the wish was granted)
“That was the view of the majority, “She is under the eivil eye of Satan. If her parents would go there with a humble heart.’ That was what some people said. The parents had tried to make her to change her behaviour by imposing certain restrictions. They stopped talking to her, stopped her food, was kept confined in the room behind the brairkani – the chamber near the roof – for many days. For months together, they fed her talismans along with food, but of no avail. There was no change in her behaviour or temperament. On the other hand, she became more and more uncontrollable and unpredictable. She would leave early in the morning and like a bully singing a song or blowing a whistle, roaming about till evening. She would be gossiping, playing with boys from four mohallas, picking up quarrels, playing – hitting the coin game or marbles, or football and her pet expressions (to overawe) would be, “Go, your nose is still flowing”. And in this process she came of age or became a young lady.
Now she was regularly and openly smoking cigarettes, and she would also join the gamblers who would be sitting in shady places and have a hand at gambling. In these meetings or sittings, if she had an argument with some Ghulam Adah, Mati Kaloe, Nizir Vatchas, she felt no hesitation in abusing him or even in pouncing upon him and use her pet expression ‘Go, your nose is still flowing’ In fact, now she used a different word for the flowing material. You Ardab, I will break your bones, swear by mother, you donkey, do you think I am also like Nazir Machay?. During the quarrel, she would begin to shout. On such occasions, she would catch hold of the opponent by neck and give a head stroke, or strike Kangri on the skull or even have a bite. She would calm down only if some respected person like Rajab Kak would walk that side or Beur would intervene to stop the quarrel. Oh, yes, who was Beur? Yes, the group of boys, with whom she would be playing or moving, also included a boy of her age, with blond hair, who was also a distant relation of her. He was called by all, including parents Beur. He was a boy of few words, but his blue eyes would always be shining and his lips would have a smile. When she would be playing or gambling with cards or marbles, Beur would silently watch. In fact, he did not have any interest in such pursuits or engagements. Of course, if friends would start playing football on the tiled lane or in Putli Bagh, Beur would show full enthusiasm and show his skill of playing. When she would select her team for a football match where the bet would be 50 paisa or one rupee, Beur would always be in her team. I came to know after a long time that boys would be together in a conspiracy, to take money from her, and then they would go to Bohri Kadal to enjoy grilled meat by spending that money. Very interestingly Beur would be with them (at the feast).
Now she had reached the age, when her hair would have to be dressed up, Mehndi (vermillion) applied as per custom and then make her to board the bridal coach. But whom? She was neither here nor there. Observing her behaviour and style, one would feel that she thinks boys are like her and may be she has interest in girls. But as far as love and romance was concerned, she was beyond it.In fact nobody could talk about such things before her. She hated such matters and if she would see such tendency in any boy or girl of the mohalla, she would abuse he/she and would strike anything or anybody. I remember that there was a public water tap outside her house. One day, it happened that two girls of mohalla were washing utensils at the tap, when two young men from different mohalla passed that way and made some comments about the girls (as in films rendered a dialogue). The girls had perhaps been having a smile on their faces, when she threw her Kangri from third storey of her house. The young men just ran away. Then she came running down and pulled the hair of the two girls and dragged them. This was that tune when she had got the distinction of being the bully of the Mohalla, and had even led the procession from Maharaja Gunj, with the slogan ‘God curse the Gaddas ’, and to Dalal Mohalla and returned.
Much time passed. In densely populated mohallas, some houses were demolished and lanes were made wider, new roads built. As it is, the pet places (for play or gambling etc) were lost. Children became adults, young people began to search for livelihoods. The children who used to play football in Patli Bagh or tiled lanes were now watching ‘Chitrahar programme from TV. During these days, I saw her with Beuar in a restaurant at Gagribal (Near Dal Lake). I remained away from their sight. They were sitting at a corner table facing each other. In her appearance and demeanour, she was still the same, two braids of hair hanging in the front, sitting in the style of a bully. Beur also was the same, the same shine in blue eyes and a smile on his lips. Both did not seem to have changed. As it is, tears were flowing from her eyes and was telling Beur- ‘Beyera, I have given up everything. Accept my proposal, marry me. I will see that you live a life of luxury.”
Translated by J.L.Raina.
NOTE FROM TRANSLATOR
Matsi is the title of the story, that I have translated to Maverick. Matsi means a girl or a woman who is unconventional, easy-go-lucky not caring for social or traditional values. It should not be confused with mentally daranged or unstable person.
Kangri- The clay-pot with wicker covering, in which hot charcoal is kept, used by Kashmiris for warming themselves.
Pheran – The cloak-like apparel, much used in Kashmir, both by men as well as women.
Brairkani .. In Kashmir, in three storeyed or two sotreyed houses, there would be a chamber between the top room and roof that was used generally as store room.
Gaddas – nick name of political opponents.
Chitrahar – a programme of favourite songs that Doordarshan would telecast.