BY AVTAR MOTA
After actor-playwright Padamshri Pushkar Bhan (1926-2008) popularized word Machaama through his radio plays ( comedy), it has come to be a part of Kashmiri psyche. And here is a single word that brings a nostalgic smile on every Kashmiri’s face. Most of us are familiar with characters of these Machama series radio plays; I mean Machaama, Kaak, Kaaken, Khadiji ( wife of Machama ), Sula Gotta, Rehman Dadda and many more. Most of us also remember Tuvaan Bacha, Zingari, Singari, Djinn, Rakh ( huge bird ) and some more characters from Pushker Bhan’s radio play ‘Sindbaad Machaama ’.
I vividly remember how the food was served to us at 8.30 PM and my mother would finish everything by 9.15 PM. Thereafter everyone in our family kept glued to the radio in hush silence waiting till 9.30 PM when we would hear something like this :
“ Ye chhu Radio Kashmir Srinagar . Raetch haenz Saada Nuv Baajeiye . Booziv Drama ‘Sindbaad Machaama ’ Tehreer Pusker Bhan Peishkush Pran kishore ’
“This is radio Kashmir Srinagar. It is 9.30 PM now. Tune in to our drama ‘Sindbaad Machaama’ scripted by Puhker Bhan and produced by Pran Kishore.’
To be at home at dot drama time, many shopkeepers would close their shops early. children, elders, ladies and middle-aged persons would wait eagerly for the Machaama radio drama.
Machaama had touched the soul of every Kashmiri who somehow wanted a break from the monotony of gossip, scheming and ignorance. Those days, every young boy would be nicknamed as ‘ Tuvaan Bacha’. Girls would be nicknamed Zingaari and Singaari and many times police had to be called near women’s college Maulana Azad road as boys from S P College would come to the gate at closing hours and cry;
‘ Hataai Zingaari ! Hataai Singaari !’
In Kashmir, idlers and gossip mongers sitting on shops during those days were nicknamed ‘Sulla Gotta’ and ‘Rehman Dadda’ and idle daydreamers were satirically called as ‘Machaama Sahib’.
Machaama’s character has a tragic glimpse of unemployment and ignorance that prevailed in Kashmiri society. Machaama always dreams to be adventurous and rich. Machaama, a dreamy entrepreneur who desires to fly air-crafts, travel to distant lands, meet different people and try his luck to become rich and well known. And this poor Machaama is equally burdened with social / family responsibilities. These responsibilities always trigger negative momentum in his journey towards the realization of his dreams.
Fed up with the consumption of cheap green leafy Haak ( Collard greens ) in his native land, Machaama wants to relish chicken, mutton Wazwaan, Seeka Tujji ( fire-roasted mutton pieces ), Kebabs and Pilaf in his dreamy sojourns. And a cigarette is the first thing that he demands during this dream journey.
And then Machaama wants to do something so that his name is written in golden pages of history. In his dreams, Machaama becomes a pilot, a hero, a leader, a colonizer (colony for Djinns), a trader, a mechanic, a traveller, a sailor, a singer, an orator and a kingmaker. He desires to unfold the secrets of treasures hidden at untraveled places. After assuming power in dreams, he orders his wife Khadiji to be made a minister of social welfare. I tend to believe that a Machaama lies hidden in all of us.
Machaama is a surname of Kashmiris. Many Machaama families lived at Karapora Khushki, Rainawari in Srinagar city. Kuldeep Machaama is my close friend from Machaama family of Rainawari and one day his father informed me as under :
‘Machaama is a Kashmiri surname. You can see Pandit and Muslim Machamas. It means sweetened rice. Pushker Bhan made us popular though many persons started making fun of our surname. Bhan sahib later spoke in an interview that Machaama came to his mind just for the fun of the word. He never knew that it was a surname with some Kashmiri families. ’
Farooq Nazki ,Noted Kashmiri poet and broadcaster says this about Pushkar Bhan and Machaama series:-
“I remember when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon Pushkar Bhan created Machama in one night as a parody in which Rehman Gota, Sula Dada and Machaama went to the moon. He was able to create such a sound aura that one would feel transported to the moon literally. It is he who has elevated Kashmiri drama to the extreme horizons of perfection.”
In Kashmir, we had a renowned saint Ahmed Sahib Machaama who’s Ziyarat is located at Hawal near Firdaus cinema or Shribhat Kocha. He was a Sufi poet and a great believer of peaceful coexistence. He was murshid to many Sufi poets of his time including Wahaab Khaar and Prakash Ram.
Ahmed Sahib Machaama is credited with bringing the Sirhindi Silsila of Sufism to the Kashmir valley once he returned from Punjab.
In Hebrew lexicon, Machama’ah means something that is ‘curd-like ’. It also means words of flattery.
Avtar Mota is a blogger and noted columnist