I am a witness- witness to an era. So is the whole crop of my generation and the generation after. Born and brought up in a city, should I say of defiance or desolation; I have been the witness- in the words of a poet ‘ to the threshing of the grain’.
Something eerie was there in the zephyr- yes the morning breeze that blew across our city; it sang different cradlesongs for us. Songs, which for over three centuries have mixed with chilly wintry winds and soothing summer breezes. That taught ‘us no love for the authority but for the defiant’ and abiding love for the ‘commoners’- the devout. I do not remember in my childhood having ever seen a minister walking through our streets or visiting our school- top man ever to visit our school would be the school inspector. I remember every majzoob pacing barefoot in freezing winters in our city. I remember every friar and mendicant walking through Bazaars in ward four but I do not remember having ever seen an “assembly member” pacing through the streets or the maze of lanes that even today like un-deciphered manuscripts reveals unspoken to the discerning eyes. However, I have foggiest idea about an election- perhaps 1957 in which Ghulam Rasool Renzu of Khanyar was pitied against Gazi Abdul Rahman of Maharaj Gung. It is for a slogan “Mashalee Sundooq Ko’ Vote Doo” that lives buried somewhere in the hinterland of my mind that I remember this election. It was friend, Dr. Abdul Wahid, who sometime back narrated an interesting incident about this election: ‘Gazi Rahman, who was independent candidate with tacit support of Bakshi Sahib accused his rival Renzu being a communist and not believing even in Nikah- and Renzu next day with his Nikah-Nama in his hand countered his rival at a public gathering near Nowhatta.’
Those days when pegging pictures of leaders on clay daubed walls of Bhataks (drawing rooms) was in fashion, I do not remember having ever seen picture of any minister or even then Prime Minister adorning walls of our house or the houses of my friends Bashir, Majid, Ayub and Nazir. Or on the drab walls of shops and workshops of our neighbors, the darners, the coppersmiths, the tailors, the woodcarvers and the walnut wood-polishers. Contrary to this pictures of the then jailed leaders Sheikh Abdullah and Mirza Afzal Beg along with that of Allama Mohammad Iqbal, with beautiful verses of the poet in ornate papier-mâché frames adorned the walls of shops and houses. Out of greater boldness, some political workers like Abdullah Sodagar and Qadir Shakhsaz outside my first school provocatively displayed pictures of these leaders in front of their shops earning ire of powers that be. A year or so back, I wrote in this column, my first introduction to the second Prime Minister, Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad was a picture of his, carrying a willow-vat filled with bricks on his shoulder in Muhammad Kak, grocer’s shop in our Mohalla. In blood and flesh, my peers and I saw him and some of his lieutenants only on 13 July ahead of a great pageant of flowers and drumbeaters on top of a bedecked truck. It was the day to remember the martyrs of 1931.
Truthfully, the prime ministers, ministers and political hanger-on’s that were many in our childhood had no attraction for us. They made no difference in our life but it were the legendary ordinaries that counted for us. We looked at them as larger than life. I remember a lineman – Abdullah Bijli and his brother Hassan. He was dwarf, his brother was taller, and it was he who carried the ladder for him. They looked like characters picked up from Charlie Chaplin’s movies placed on the streets in our locality. Mostly at dusk, the twin was much sought-after for fixing a fuse or restoring a disconnected electric service line. Sitting on a tailors shop in Daribal and puffing smoke from the Hubble-bubble he looked like El Cid in his kingdom. With his area of operation starting from Gojawara to Nawpora, he was a king in his own right. Sometime back, it was iconic newsreader Abdul Rashid Banday, who reminded me of this legendry lineman and about the authority he wielded. Those days the news about an inspection by electricity department caused goose bumps in people. Out of fear people not only latched their doors but placed massive limestone mortars on their doors…this too has its own history.
Z.G.Muhammad is a noted writer and columnist