Treish Tamouk Or Chaai- Paani is a work of pure fiction . The names and characters appearing in this story have no connection whatsoever with any
person either living or dead.
BY AVTAR MOTA
Pal Singh was a cool driver who always cared for the safety of the people he was carrying in the vehicle. He was also friendly and smiling that made him an affable and much liked individual. Despite what senior assistant Ghulam Hassan was saying about Pal Singh, he had kept the official vehicle in perfect condition.
Inside the office, it appeared as if everyone worked for commission. Commission for allotment of the work. Commission for identification of the work on Ground ( Nishaan- dehi ). Commission for the preparation of the bills, commission for supervising the work, commission payable to the junior engineer, commission payable to the assistant engineer, commission payable to the executive engineer. No one in the office knew how superintending engineer, chief engineer and the concerned minister got their commissions. Employees would gossip that the executive engineer himself paid the commission to the superintending engineer who in turn paid it to the chief engineer though none had seen it. Some said that the contractors directly paid the commission to the superintending engineer. Some employees were also curious to know how and what amount the chief engineer paid to the minister. The contractors also paid a commission at the treasury for encashment of their bills.
Inside the office, one would hear a different language and codes. Words like measurement book, tender, pooling, site inspection, WDC bill, audit party, drawing disbursing, direction office, original work, earthwork, culvert, breast wall, retaining wall, voucher, SRO, rate schedule and treasury came up repeatedly during any official discussion. The employees often discussed that the boss made some coded entries in his diary while allotting work to contractors. The stenographer had seen the boss writing CP and NCP in his diary. He had also seen the pages of the diary where Bhat Sahib would enter the date, name of the contractor, amount of work and then write CP or NCP. The storekeeper and the senior assistant had heard about CP and NCP entries in the diary of Bhat Sahib but did not know what these words meant. They thought that office accountant Moti Lal knew what CP or NCP meant but had been cleverly avoiding any discussion on the subject. and senior assistant Ghulam Hassan would often say to the storekeeper:
“This Moti Lal needs darkness to accept ‘ Chaai Pani ‘. He is a shrewd man but I respect him for his gentle and helpful nature.”
And one day the storekeeper said that he had cracked the coded words of Bhat Sahib. According to him, contractors were connected with various political parties and the department had to follow the system of obliging politicians.
“CP is Communist Party,” said the Storekeeper.
“Where are Communists in Kashmir? If they are they have no role to play in this tender business and engineering divisions. I think CP is for Congress Party and NCP is for National Conference Party. What do you say storekeeper Sahib ? ”said Ghulam Hassan senior assistant.
At this point, the storekeeper dug out two cigarettes from his pocket and offered one to Ghulam Hassan before putting one under his lips.
“That is most likely what it is. You are a genius Hassan Sahib .”Said the storekeeper.
Farooq too would hear these discussions but never engaged himself in this gossip. Office Accountant Moti Lal too avoided any discussion on this issue.
It was a practice in the office that every Friday the staff would go out for prayers from 1 p.m. to 1.30 p.m. to a nearby mosque. So Bhat Sahib, senior assistant Ghulam Hassan, storekeeper, peon Nazir Ahmed and stenographer would leave the office on Fridays. Else on all other days, no one usually went out or observed any lunch timings or mid-day break from routine office work. The office accountant Moti Lal stayed in the office. Though Farooq despised the company of senior assistant Ghulam Hassan, storekeeper and Nazir Ahmed yet he had to join them on all Fridays as Moti Lal would ensure that Farooq also went for Friday prayers.
“You must join Friday prayers. God is always with you and shall help you to shoulder your family responsibilities.” Moti Lal would often advise Farooq.
And one Friday the storekeeper suggested to senior assistant Ghulam Hassan for a change of the mosque. Nazir Ahmed had told them about some non-Kashmiri Imam at another mosque who read impressive Khutba on social evils after the prayers.
Accordingly, that Friday, all of them went to the new mosque without any intimation to Farooq Ahmed. Having failed to locate the storekeeper or the stenographer or the senior assistant or even Nazir Ahmed in the mosque where they would normally go for Friday prayers, Farooq returned to the office early that day without attending his prayers. Knowing that Moti Lal would not like his returning without prayers, Farooq Ahmed tiptoed to Moti Lal’s room and looked for him from the window. To is a surprise he saw contractor Ali Mohd Khanday sitting before Moti Lal.
Ali Mohd Khanday would sometimes come in his car and quite often he would be seen coming in matadors or public transport. That was usual with contractors in Kashmir. Since payments were made to the contractors at irregular intervals, their spending and living style also turned irregular. The storekeeper, senior assistant Ghulam Hassan, stenographer and Nazir believed that Ali Mohd Khanday was a rich man whom they nicknamed as Lakhpati. Certainly, he had built a new house at Chhanapora bye-pass but that was still incomplete as his bills were pending in the division. The second-hand ambassador car purchased by him had been sold to ease his liquidity crisis on account of non-settlement of his work completion bills. He had also borrowed some money from a bank at clean overdraft interest rates and the recovery notices from the bank had started coming to his residence. He was in deep financial crisis.
“I have discussed with Bhat Sahib about my pending bills. Please put up and draw at least two WDC bill tomorrow. You know I need money badly. Please take a personal interest and get my bills cleared tomorrow. I forgot to bring the walnuts this time. Next week I am going to Shopian and shall bring a special variety for the Shivratri Pooja. Till then keep this Please. This is a small packet of new currency notes. You may need it for Shivratri. ” said Ali Mohd Khanday to Moti Lal.
Avtar Mota is a blogger, writes for local and national papers and journals