Wednesday, October 21, 2009




Chewing ‘Paan’ is not new to Kashmir. Kashmiris used ‘Tambuli’ and ‘Nagarakhanda’ leaves as a luxury for chewing. Tambuli leaves were kept in a gold box in the custody of an officer in the court of mediaeval Kashmiri kings. As per Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, the official prepared the leaf with lime, catechu nuts and other ingredients and offered the same in the royal Darbars. Some verses in Rajtarangini make mention of these leaves being available in Kashmir. I quote:-

‘By that vendor of Nagarakhanda and other leaves, the king was induced to part with almost the entire revenue of the country at this time ’
(Verse 194 Taranga VII Kalhana’s Rajtarangini translated by R S Pandit )

“ So that she might maintain herself on the rent paid by the gardeners who in summer, keep flowers, Tambuli leaves and the like in that cool place ”

( Verse 19 Taranga VI Kalhana’s Rajtarangini translated by R S Pandit . )

Tambuli leaves are nothing but the piper betel or what we call presently as Paan. Nagarkhanda is a variety of the piper betel presently known as Paan.

"Mir Ka Paan Meri Jaan Zara Khaa Kar Dekh
Kaun Hai Shahar Me Jo Mir Se Waqif Na Hua ‘    

‘My love! once a while relish the Paan at Mir’s shop,
Who is there in this city who does not know Mir? ’

These are just two lines which I remember from the poem written by some local Urdu poet. Meer Sahib proprietor of ‘ Mir Paan House ’ Residency Road, Srinagar had put the neatly handwritten poem in a glass frame and hung it in his shop for every customer to read.

“I have left a major part of that graceful job. Though I earned less yet the interaction with intelligent people of the city made me always cheerful. I am missing those good old days. The lawyers, doctors, politicians, college teachers, artists, actors, tourists and medical representatives were all my customers. Shami Kapoor and Sunil Dutt have taken  Paan at our shop. Ali Sardar Jafri has come many times with some local friends. I miss Pandits in particular. I sold them Paan, cigarettes, cigars and tobacco packets with pipes. Wherever they are, give my Salaam to them. Tell them that this well-wisher from  Mir Paan House Residency Road wants to hug them before being buried in his grave. My health is failing me. I was told by my son that you had come three times to see me. I regret. I was in the hospital with black motion. Now I am better .See we sell cosmetics now. How can I leave selling Paan? I sell them in this corner. My son sells cosmetics. I shall not leave you unless you have a Paan prepared by me. Do you smoke ? Where is that tall man from Narsingh Garh who was always with you? How is his friend Vakil Sahib of Barzulla? ‘Allah! Raham Kar’ ( God be merciful ) ’ said Mir Sahib with a long sigh to conclude our conversation.

 ‘ Mir Paan House ’ Residency Road, Srinagar was a fashionable meeting point for city’s doctors, lawyers, artists, professors, tourists and medical representatives. Mir Sahib’s smile and affable mannerism attracted all. I have seen Prof Riyaz Punjabi, Zubair Rizvi ( Noted Urdu poet ), Prof Sattar Ahmed Shahid, Prof Surrinder Tiku, Dr B K Jalali ( surgeon ), noted Kashmiri Poet Ghulam Nabi Khayal, Mr Dhar ( manager SITA Travels ), Shri Trilok Dass ( theatre actor ), Shri Ali Mohd Lone ( playwright ) Shabir Jaalib ( engineer ), Girdhari Lal Dhar ( contractor ), Shri Maharaj Kachru ( senior medical representative Sarbhai Pharmaceutical Company ), Prof B K Bhan and many well-known persons of Srinagar quite often at his shop engaged in some serious discussion with Mir Sahib. During these discussions, Mir Sahib would smilingly hand over a Paan to all of them. He would wave to someone taking ice cream at ‘ERINA, a shop on the other side of the road just opposite his shop. He would signal to someone else standing on the footpath below the India Coffee House. You could ask him whereabouts of your friends if they passed by his shop at any time during the day. His eyes kept a day-long vigil along the Residency Road area.

Nobody wanted to know his real name or his relation with Abdul Rehman Mir the actual owner of the shop who died in 1980. For every customer, he was Mir Sahib.

There were many Paan shops in Kashmir before 1990. We had Chaurasia family that had three shops. Their shop near Palladium cinema was quite popular. We had a shop near Court Road and another ‘Misri Paan House’  near Exchange Road. Despite many Paan shops in Amirakadal, going to Mir Sahib’s shop was an act full of enthusiasm. It meant going to the fashionable area and meeting known and quite often well-known people from the city.

Paan continues to be sold in Kashmir but on a smaller scale. The old charm of relishing a Paan has faded away. The Exchange Road and Court Road Paan shops have since been closed. Will Paan find its lost place in Kashmir?

 I conclude this write up with a small Urdu Poem of well-known poet  
Zubair Rizvi'.

‘ Zindagi Tujh Se Mil Kar Zamaana Hua,
Aa Tujhe Aaj Hum Maiqade Le Chalein
Raat Ke Naam Honthon Ke 
Saagar Likhein
Apni Aankhon Mein 
Kuchh Rat-Jage Le Chalein
Kyaa Haseen Log Hain
In Ki Aaraaish-e-Khal-o-Khat Ke Liye
Apni Aankhon ke Hum Aaine Le Chalein
Ajnabi Chehre Mein Dost Bantey Nahin
Ki Chaandi Barasti 
Sohabatein Jin Ki Yaad Aayengi
Aise Kuchh Doston 
Ke Patey Le Chalein
Un Ki Aankhon Ne Jalatey 
Sulagatey Huvey
Manzaron Ke Siva Kuchh 
Bhi Dekha Nahin
Saba Zum-Zumein Le Chalein
Zindagi Tujh Se Mil 
Kar Zamana Hua.’

(Zubair Rizvi)

My English rendering...

" Life! An age passed by when we met last,
Come, be my guest at the tavern tonight.
Let these lips celebrate the night with the goblet,
let our eyes carry night’s awakening.
Beautiful are the people around,
Let us mirror affection through our eyes
to see them comfortable.
Strangers do not make friends,
Nor does the silvery bond of a the relationship take its birth.
Whose separation and the company shall be remembered,
Let us carry addresses of some such friends.
Those eyes which saw nothing except
blaze and hellfires,
Let us carry flowers,
morning breeze
and respite for them.

( Avtar Mota…Srinagar 2009 )

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  1. I remember Mir Paan House being a name to reckon with in those old golden days and it being a craze to visit his shop , savour the irresitible paans from his hands . may almighty give him Sahfa so that he regains good health, though his spirit appears to be evercharming even today as is apparent from his conversation. the pain is on both sides.

  2. How fast you visit the blog , i wonder . thanx haku sahib

  3. Today i try it so nice... n also u n ur shop mir unkl. im bob innayat (innayat)


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