Som Bhat with his wife Sona Batin lived for the last five years in a small room at the end of narrow and A small room at the end of narrow and dark alley of Mubarkpur. He loved the narrow, dark and slushy lanes of this locality, nestled in the midst of the two posh localities of the metropolis. It was a nostalgia that had made this place dearer to him. The lanes, by-lanes, alkeys , roads , shops , vendors, roads, shops, vendors, stray cows, cow-dung cakes, milk cakes, milk- maids, were all reminiscent of his childhood. He lived continually in his childhood, and loved to nurse his memories: cascades of fragrance and milky way of dreams. He would always say, “Long live memories.”
Today, he was posing second time in his life for a photograph with his wife in Lucky Photo Studio, thirty years back he had posed in a similar way before the camera in Radix’ Studio on the New Road, in Gulshan Abad. The memories of this day were fresh and fragrant with him. It was hilarious day, on this day he had entered a new phase of his life, he had been just married and he was posing for a picture with the most beautiful woman of the town. A marble chiselled by deft hands, a goddess emerged out of lotus in the fresh water lake, an apsara which had descended from Hurmukh. Thirsting for the sight of his youth he would look at the face of his wife. Age had not withered marble and rubicund face of his wife. The Scene of his marriage lagan, deogun, hawan, saz, posha poza, vugn, laganichir flash one by one before him. Shahgas and Rangadang head torch man were most important characters of the marriage party over a period they had assumed a symbolic meaning for him.
We never had an alert “ Rangadanga to lead us, he would always say to his wife. “ So we are gropoing in the dark to this day”.
After three days Som Bhat had to retire from service. He laughed at his own retirement.
“What retirement “ “ he would tell his wife,” I have retired five years back. I am receiving pension for last five years. Retirement is said to be painful. I do not feel any pain.” Pasting polaroid pictures to his pension papers, he said to his wife,” I got a job by writing a three lines application on a small paper. For receiving pension, I have to fill about two dozen forms. Those who have devised these cumbersome and intricate forms might not have thought of their own retirement. Why cannot our officers think of introducing American system of social security after retirement. This archaic…” He abruptly stopped in the middle of his talk as winter bird stops after a long hissing sound and his face suddenly became sullen.
Retirement has its charm too. It also means lots of fanfare, speeches, appreciations, eulogies, gifts and garlands for the retire done. It is like driving in oblivion with a big bhang. In his forty years of service he had seen so many of his colleagues retiring from services. But retirement of Gasha Patwari had been a pageant in itself. It had that feudal touch about it. He was taken in a procession on a horse back with musicians playing traditional tunes on clarinets and beating the drum. He had built huge mansions and acquired hundreds of acres of paddy land and orchards of almonds, peaches, apricots, pears and apple. Export of dried pears and apricots was his business when he was still in service. Money lending at high rate of interest had filed his coffers. The retirement of Bodhe Bhat, Vazir-Wazarit had left an indelible imprint on his mind. He was taken in a river procession on a gondola with a bee line of Shikaras bedecked with flowers in tow. He was deeply feeling about his retirement which had come with a whimper. There was none to bid him adieu. There were no get-togethers organized for him, no farewell parties thrown for him. With a deep remorse he said to his wife :
When I look back. I see I have no major achievements to my credit. Had I retired when land had not been handed over to the tiller, public debt not abolished and education made available to common man, my assets would have been very huge. During forty years of service I have
added much to my ancestral property only a few hundred acres of land and a shopping arcade.
Soft and suave manners attracted friends toward him like iron fillings to a magnet, he had a very vast friend circle but now there was none to say good bye to him. None to praise his drafting and typing in this nondescript locality of the metropolis.
His wife with a sparkle in her eyes replied to him,” whatever you have made by all methods is no more yours. And you believed Bodhe Bhat’s saying that Kashyap Reshi was reborn and took a flight from Solomon’s Garden to this arid-land”.
Som Bhat was feeling caught on a wrong foot by his wife and his face turned stony, without reacting to terse words of his wife he said to her, “ let us go I have to deposit these papers and I do not know how many months it will take to obtain N.D. C. (No demand certificate) from the forsaken place”
“Who will send your N.D.C? No letters go to Gulshan Abad these days. Better is if we go there personally.” Sona Batin said to him.
“Bitoo is a green card holder. He is coming and in his letter he had written that he plans to visit Gulshan Abad.” Said Som Bhat to his wife,” He will follow my papers there”. Som Bhat thought of writing a letter to his friend Sidiq Butt in Gulshan Abad to follow his NDC case. He said to his wife,” Why should I not write to Sidiq Butt, to follow my case.
“Did you ever write to him during last five years, his wife said to him,” his son was killed in cross firing, his house gutted in devastating fire, his wife had received bullet injuries.”
“He will not mind my not having written to him,” Som Bhat said with tears welling up in his eyes,” I also have my grouse against him….”
“What grouse could you have?” his wife interrupting his sentence said, “you look the Pied Piper to be Kashyap Reshi and followed him blindly till he got us buried in the arid land. Did we not follow him jumping and jostling to this place? His magic spell is still living with us.”
Without replying his wife he started writing to his friend in Gulshan Abad to follow up his NDC.
Retirement had not daunted him at all. He was used to feckless life for the last five years. He was getting wages without work. With a heart as heavy a Pandu-slab, he collected his wages from the camp office. Camp office was totally alien to him; he was unwelcome in the camp as a foreign pigeon is to the pigeon house. He looked at peons, clerks, accountants and officers as a child looks at birds in a bird house, amazing but no communion. Today, he was in a fine fettle, he had to present his retirement papers at the camp office.
Looking into the mirror fixed on the wall. He murmured:
KARSE MOUN NAI ANDEE MAR MATI MADOUN WAROO
…..to be continued
Z.G.Muhammad is a noted writer and columnist