Friday, January 6, 2017



( Photo Autar Mota )



Unforgetable Nazir Ahmed  ( Srinagar  ...1979...)  ….

 “ .  Ba Maahra  Imaai Maamus Saae’t  Account kholana Baapat . Tse Daep’zeiss  Myaaen Zamaanat  Chae’lli  Na  kenh . Me chhu Basaan me ti Gotchh na Daarith Dyun kunni Khoduss . Khabar Kyaa Cheque   Chhuss Athhus Munz ta  Khataavihey “

“      Sir , I shall come with my maternal Uncle  who has to open a Bank  account. You should  tell him that My Guarantee  will not do.  I have an apprehension that he  may   throw me into some Ditch  . He has some  cheque in his hand and he wants to cash it.”

This is what Nazir Ahmed told me one day as I entered the Bank at 10 A.M .  Nazir  was reluctant to  sign as  Introducer in  his maternal Uncle ‘s New  savings Bank Account . This was conveyed to me in strict confidence .  And I  was required to  say something to his maternal uncle  that was not correct. His maternal uncle or  the prospective new account holder  was expected to come in the afternoon that  very day.

 We would often hear this typical kashmiri idiom  in the loan section of the Bank :

“Daep’zeiss  Myaaen Gauarntee Chae’lli Na kenh “
 “Tell him tactfully that I can not  be a surety or Guarantor .“

  Those days , kashmiri Pandits  and  some Educated Muslims     tried to avoid  signing   Loan   Guarantee Deeds  to secure  credit  facilities  that  their  close / intimate friends or  relations  intended to raise .   They never said  straightaway NO  to  the hapless  relations or close / intimate  friends. To them these proposed Guarantors would say :

“ Maa Hey  Gham.  Ba Dimaai   Gaurantee. Roz Khosh. Pushraav   Khodaayus or Vuchh Kyaa Karrie Maejj Bhagwati .  “
“ Why Do You worry ?   I shall stand surety for the loan. Be happy . Trust  Your Khudaa ( Almighty  ) or  Have faith in Mother Goddess .“

I would invariably ask every  prospective Borrower a simple question at the time of initial appraisal    ;

“ Is your Guarantor educated ? Has he agreed to sign the Guarantee deed ?”

“  You Possibly don’t know us  . He is not from illiterate Lot. He is ready to do anything for me.”  

The person coming for Loan ,  hardly understood what turbulence  this Guarantee issue  had created  in the mind of his Proposed Surety or Guarantor .           Quite often,  educated   Guarantor ( Proposed )  would ask for a Blank Guarantee deed  and then  read   various   clauses   to know what  and where he was  actually signing .  The moment  he reached the last clause , You could read anguish and agony  visible on his face  .  Many  Guarantors would put me a question;

“ What is meant by this  term “Legal heirs” , “successor” or “successors ”,”  Administrators  “ Assigns  “ and” Executors  “written in this deed ?“

“ This means that not Guarantor only , His legal heirs or successors or to whom he assigns his assets or who executes or administers   his will after his death  is also liable to pay after his death in case the loan remains unpaid .”

With a heavy sigh  , the  proposed Guarantor would comment :

“  This means that a Guarantor’s children and Grand Children are also Liable . No Problem sir.  He will  finish  this loan in  two  years  .  He is a hardworking man .  And  Sir  what if some   person makes advance payments  of the loan ? Will the bank accept advance instalments for loan ? “

And then most of  these proposed   Guarantors  would come alone next day and  start making requests for a graceful exit from the  execution of Proposed Guarantee  Deed. Most often these persons would   say :

“ Hey Maahra me kudd ta Amie Tafreeqa Munz .Mey  Tchhein Athh Dolaabus Panaai Zung . Ha’taa Honnie Khyetaa Zung. Ba Chhuuss  Korri Moa’l . Yimun Pallvun Kun ma Gutchh. Me mataa Laag’ta athh Taavnuss. Maahra  Amiss Vaenizi na Ba oussus Yor Aamut Ta me Kyaa Vonn. Dapuss Maahraa Myaan Guarantee Tchaeili Na  .  Vanus Maahraa kenh Ti. Tche Chhukh Paana Zaanun Vo’al .Dapuss Maahra Aeimm Chhu Akiss   Badh- zaatus Godaai Guarantee Ditch’mitch.  Ya  Diya na vaapus ta mey  Vassie jaadaaduss  Kurikk. Ya nai chha’na  marith ti Moklaan  bunk Guarantee.  Me bachaav.  Zun  Gatchuk Hardwaar  Teerthus .  ”

“  Sir , Get me out from this Guarantee Worry  .  I am myself responsible for this mess. I have myself invited this trouble  . I am a poor man . I have Daughters . Don’t go by my dress. Don’t put me to this unhappiness .Please don’t tell the proposed  Borrower that I had come here and what transpired between us . Tell him  something . You know it better how to avoid such issues . Tell him that I have already stood surety for a defaulter and I can not be a Guarantor any more  now.  Who knows this gentleman  may not   repay the Bank loan and my property may be put to Public auction ? This Guarantee is not Over even after the Guarantor’s death.  Save me from this worry . God will send you to Haridwar  Teertha . ”

Illiterate people would come and sign any and every paper to stand  as surety for loans raised by their  intimate friends  / relations .  No Hassles or arguments or double speak.

Here Nazir Ahmed   was not required to sign any Guarantee. He had  simply to  introduce his maternal Uncle. For this simple  introduction issue , he felt nervous  . Nervous for a man who was known to him since his own childhood .He had a reason for that as well . Nazir    knew about some fraud that had occurred in the bank and the Innocent  Introducer of a fake Account  had   been  roughed up and  Interrogated by the Police   to locate  the real culprit.  Some Bank employee had also warned him not to introduce  any and every unknown  prospective customers of the bank  .   May be  this could also   be due to the simple fact of his friendship with educated Employees of the bank  or  he had started treading on the path of literacy / Education .Nazir  also had a strong feeling that his maternal  uncle might have stolen someone’s  crossed cheque or added his name as payee fraudulently  to some cheque already signed by the Drawer .  And on the top of it , he  felt that he had   nothing to do with people who still threw themselves before running vehicles to earn a living. 

 Nazir sold  Rubber and Plastic  shoes and Sandals   on the footpath  just outside our Bank  Branch at Amira Kadal ( near the office of N D Radhakrishan and Co ). He had dissuaded himself from  his maternal uncles  who were engaged in the disreputable  ( as he felt it ) activity of throwing themselves on the road. During winters ,  he sold  ”  BOLA ” Brand shoes   where word “ BOLA ”  was made to appear  as BATA  .
These shoes were supplied by a Punjabi Trader from Amritsar . BOLA  shoe had shining rubber uppers ;  More shining than the usual  “DUCKBACK “ shoe popular in Kashmir valley during winter season. BOLA  had an inner lining of Flannel cloth that made it an ideal winter shoe. But with use , the upper surface  of a BOLA rubber  shoe  would start wearing out.  Cracks would appear on this upper rubber surface  . To protect a “ BOLA “ shoe from this damage  , you had to keep the foot straight and motionless and walk.  In a way you needed to give comfort to the shoe and not the other way round. User’s  Feet discomfort gave longer life to the “BOLA”  shoe.

As a token of our friendship,  Nazir had gifted a “ BOLA “ shoe to me that my mother used  as Snow shoe.  It survived  just one  month .  He  gave a shoe to My friend and Colleague Basharat Fazili  also .  And  when we tried to pay , Nazir said:

“ Ammie kho'taa Kaddizehv Thhaapur “

“ You should have slapped me instead of paying the price of the shoes  “

Nazir would complain  about   the driver   of the Branch Manager.  The  driver would pick up a pair of new shoes  every month from Nazir’s stock. In settlement of this, he   would  exchange  some old or mutilated  currency notes  of Nazir  or help  him  to get a five- or two- rupee new notes packet from the bank .

Nazir had  also revealed to us  that  the plastic   shoes were not for his  friends in the bank.   The plastic    turned stiff in winter and gave trouble to every user.  Also ,  in winters , size 9 shrank to become   size 8.  In summers, it turned so soft that size  9  would become   almost size 10  and  give discomfort  while walking.  It kept the wearer busy in putting the feet in the shoe   at every step  . The other alternative was to put some additional cloth inside the shoes. The shoes would undergo  something like a reversible seasonal metamorphosis. In summers it loosened itself while in winters it shrank.

 Nazir had the skill to   sell anything and everything on the footpath. Prior to  selling shoes , he sold cloth   that some Punjabi supplier from Amritsar would bring to Kashmir.  He  had a fixed deposit and a savings bank account in the bank. Through his bank friends, he had also purchased a life insurance policy. Now he  desired  to build a Pucca house. We  had suggested to him to save money by opening a Recurring Deposit Account .  And he did save money. 

 Nazir’s  customers were mostly villagers and Gujjars (who were  addressed as Khan Sahib  by him). Sometimes  locals from the city would also buy his shoes. Bargaining was a   “Win Win” situation for Nazir as well as his customers. Before a customer could divide the quoted price by two and enter into what he felt  a solid bargain, Nazir had  already multiplied the cost price by three  and  quoted it to the intending buyer. He would thus earn minimum of  50%  profit  from every pair of shoes that he sold. That was normal for all Footpath Traders in Lal Chowk.

 Nazir  lived in Tankipora locality near   Habba Kadal . Tanki Pora   was a notorious area where every innocent bicycle rider had to pay  for allegedly hitting a hen or cock . This hen or cock  was deliberately thrown   at opportune  time on the road  the moment a cyclist was seen. It could be a Pandit or a Muslim.  Anybody could be a victim in this area. And sometimes , some elderly  Pandit Victims were offered  a  Glass of  fresh  Curd  Lassi by shopkeepers who  felt that these elderly persons   had been unnecessarily put to rough treatment by some  swindlers  operating in the area..
Through Nazir Ahmed, I came to know   about  a  strange activity  going on the road near our bank.  He revealed that  some  persons  threw  themselves on  the road  at opportune time as and when some vehicle passed by. This act was performed very close to the vehicle so as to confuse the driver who applied instant breaks.  Immediately  three or four accomplices would appear on the scene and  join him. They would   help the man to get up and then  start an argument with the driver.  The man would be made to get up and act as if he had suffered a fracture in arm or leg and had escaped a  fatal accident.

To an outsider and  ignorant passerby , it looked as if some serious accident had taken place.
 “ Hey  Drivera ! Ye   Bichaara    Khaaryothun Boa’th . Tche Chhukhaa Driver ?  Pukh Sa Haspataal  Godaa. Vaen Goss Batchun. Kar Sa Number Note .“

“O, you driver!  You had almost killed this   poor man. Are you a driver?  Come, let us take him to hospital. O God, he should survive now. Note the number of the vehicle.”

The driver could hardly grasp as to what actually had  happened and where from the person had suddenly appeared on the road that looked clear to him. In the heat of the arguments as also to save himself from further harassment by the police and onlookers, he would hand over  fifty- or even a hundred-rupee note  to the alleged victim and  drive out from the crowd.

Sardar Baja Singh, the  head peon cum Jamadaar   in the bank  had once  told  me and my friend Basharat Fazili  about some people doing this reprehensible activity in Lal Chowk. At that time, we thought he was just  making a story for our entertainment.   Sardar Baja Singh was  friendly with Nazir  Ahmed and other footpath vendors of the area. For performing his duty,   he always  positioned himself near the entrance of the bank  close to the  Main Grill gate   .  This position  made him  to gossip with all footpath vendors and also  keep his ear close to the  Bell calls of the Manager .  He was  respected by almost all footpath vendors   right from    Little Sons  Petrol Pump to Taj Hotel Entrance .

Nazir would often Gossip with Bank’s  Bill Collector Mohan Lal . And Mohan Lal bought a new shoe every Month  from Nazir.To Mohan lal  , Nazir would sell a shoe at cost price . Mohan lal was a bachelor who spoke a mixture of  kashmiri and Punjabi. For speaking this mixture of a language , Many employees called him “Gola Pa’rieum “ .We were paid salaries on 25th   every month and Mohan lal would start Borrowing   from  26th by delivering post dated withdrawal slips to so many people who were paid on first come first served  basis on next salary date . The Bank’s  Canteen Manager exercised preferential rights  over his salary and his payment was first settled on salary day. Mohan lal mostly had his Breakfast in the bank and would also eat lunch from the Bank  Canteen.
During extreme exigency,  Nazir would   come to Mohan lal’s help  by offering him Interest free long term Credit repayable  from  Yearly Bonus.  Many times Nazir had written off Mohan lal’s borrowings as Bad Debt without even  making  a Demand. May be he took Pity on his plight .
Once we took Mohan Lal  to Ali  Mohd foot path  Barber   for a shave and hair cut as Our Manager had turned furious Looking  at  his personal Hygiene   . That day onwards , Mohan lal started  using  backside gate of the bank to enter and leave so that Manager could not see him. As and when  we sought reasons from Mohan lal for not shifting from Sutra shahi House , he would say :

Taeti Chha Flesh Lettering .Habba kadal Mein kahaan hai ? “

“ There is Modern Toilet In Sutra shahi House . It is not so in Habba Kadal .”

 Some employees had told me that Mohan lal had a real brother in Mumbai who was well off and doing some furniture  Business. Many times Mohan Lal would come to my seat  and say that very shortly he was applying for  a transfer to Mumbai to  join his brother ‘s business . He would also relate stories about actor Pran and Jeevan coming to his brother’s shop for Buying Furniture .  While he came closer to reveal all these details,  he passed on a puff of repulsive odour   emanating from his clothes that had not been washed and  changed for many days.

 To make Mohan Lal  order  Egg Omelette  , Butter Toast and tea  from the Bank’s canteen, you had to tell him that the branch Manager was Looking for him . He was terribly scared of facing the Branch Manager .

“ Mukaa Yaara Mainu Iss Jhamelay vichoon . Paanaai karrus Zaar- Paar . Ba Gatchhna na  Tamiss nishi . Me Khuli seva karsaan“

“ Free me from this worry . Request him on my behalf. I shall not go to him. I shall serve you generously “

That is what he would tell  after  offering  Tea, Butter Toast  and Omelette.

Mohan Lal would always keep a pencil in his left hand while his right hand was either in his pocket or holding a small bag in which he would keep signed Hundis or proof of acceptance of Bills by Traders . These traders were customers of our bank. Mohan lal would leave early for his field duties and come at Lunch time after finishing his work. When he spoke to you, he would smile , turn serious , move away and come closer all simultaneously but his left hand would always be shaking. The Pencil held in that hand would also keep shaking . That was a typical Mohan lal Trait. All this looked like a contrived stage performance .

Mohan lal  lived as a paying Guest with some family in Sutra Shahi Locality and  was always in shabby Dress  without a purse  in his pocket.  Once Nazir  arranged a room almost free  for Mohan lal in Tanki pora Locality but he avoided  shifting. Nazir had told us that Mohan lal was being exploited by his land Lord’s family .

And then  one day , something serious happened in Lal chowk .  We saw  a mammoth crowd agitating  near  the spot where the Clock Tower stands at present. The Footpath Bazaar  vanished all of a sudden. Vehicles were off the road. Shopkeepers pulled down their shutters.  The road leading to Budshah Bridge  from  the Telegraph Exchange was totally deserted . KMDA buses were   off the road and  hurriedly parked inside the   stand that had been almost sealed from the front entrance.  Fearing   disturbances and  violence, most of the employees in the bank rushed to their homes. The main Grill Gate of the Bank  was  closed and locked  by the  armed sentry.  Main gate leading to  N D  Radhakrishan Building  adjoining  the bank  was also  locked  by the  watchman. Six employees could not leave early and got   held up  inside  the bank.  They were busy with some  urgent Audit  and Balance tallying   work.      The Strong Room Currency Chest  had also been locked and secured. I happened to be one among the six.

 The  crowd  was agitating against the execution of Zulfiqar  Ali  Bhutto.  Loud  noise and  high pitch  slogans   could be heard inside the Bank. We moved to  the third floor  and kept  looking  from the closed window glass panes. Slogans , emotions , raised fists and uneasy  atmosphere  made us worried.

 To our surprise , Nazir  suddenly appeared  on the scene . We saw him waiting near the Bank’s Grill Gate.  We also  saw  a long stick with  black cloth hanging  from the  top of the main Grill  Gate of the Bank  on ground floor. The crowd had to pass by our Bank  to go Across Budshah Bridge. . 
As this agitated crowd    moved towards Budshah Bridge, Some  mischievous  persons / Street Urchins  pelted some   stones  towards United Commercial Bank ‘s Signboard just opposite our Bank.  The  Bank had already pulled down its shutters. Some Stones were also thrown  towards  J&K   Government Owned  Budshah Hotel .

Raising roaring slogans against General  Zia Ul  Haq,  the agitators   moved ahead after seeing the Black flag   on our Bank’s Grill  gate .  And we heaved a sigh of relief.

Next day,  Ali Mohd Barber, who sat on the footpath outside  United Commercial Bank,   told  me :

“ Maahra Raath Ouss Nazirun  Kroohun Jhandaa Thovmut Bunkuss  Darwaazus Saaet . Su Chhu Tohi Khaas yaar . Me Vaentuv Agar Me Kooni Khaatus Zamaanut Aassie Ditchmitch  Yuth  U K  Bankuss  Munz , Me ti Karryaa Police Tafteesh . Ba Maahra Lognuss Nazirien Humsaayan Taawnuss . Su Maahraa ouss me nishi Muss kasaan ta vaen Guv gaa’b .  Ba Gayo ’ss Naziruss magar Nazir Dapaan me Pruchhthaa Zamaanat  dina Bronh . Aaiem Chhu bankuss Munz galat  Cheque  Khataavmitch . Ba chhuss sakh Pareshaan .”

“Sir , that black flag outside your Bank’s Gate   was   Nazir’s brainchild. He is your special friend. Sir, tell me  if I have introduced a depositor’s account in  this U. Co. Bank, Will the police subject me to interrogation?  I have been put to  great trouble by Nazir’s neighbor .  He would come to me for his hair cut  but now he is nowhere to be seen.  I tried to seek Nazir’s help but he told me plainly as to why I did not ask him before signing Bank papers .He has drawn cash  for a  cheque fraudulently  from  the bank. I am extremely worried now. ”

( Autar Mota )

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