Wednesday, October 21, 2009



   ' Singh Ji tussaan baayi ( 22)  number chaabi haisaan. Povey treath , gaddi khat khat karsaan . Mein kadseen zudd, ki   pataah kithhey   pareshaan karseen '  meaning  ' Sardar Ji, Do you have number  22  key?  The hell with this vehicle! It sounds of some trouble. I would have compromised with this trouble  but you don’t know where it shall put you to some serious breakdown .' ”

 This is what our J&K State Road Transport Corporation bus driver Kartar Singh said to a fellow truck driver who was also sipping tea in the dingy roadside hotel at Qazigund. Kartar Singh wanted to set right some mechanical trouble in the bus that was being driven by him without a proper toolbox.  Zudd is a typical Kashmiri word. Those who live by Zudd know its usage. It implies doing things in a casual way or attending to skeleton work only. It also, quite often, implies to live very ordinarily making no demands on anyone. One could also say that Zudd  means doing things without applying mind primarily to pass time .

Kartar Singh had brought Zudd to a level where it involved safety and security of the persons he was carrying to Jammu in his A class bus.

Once the bus had departed from Tourist Reception Centre, Srinagar, Qazigund was the first halt. Inside the bus, one could see some passengers managing their full bladders by shifting postures on their seats. You could see ladies speaking to their husbands or close family members:

   How far is Qazigund now? My bladder is full. I am now unable to withhold it.”

Sometimes a Kashmiri Pandit women travelling on the bus would say to her husband:-

  Just talk to Sardar Ji. You want me to die like this. Can't you speak? I believe Sardar Ji will stop across Banihaal tunnel now. Get up. Sardar Ji understands. He is a family man .”

And the husband would get up from his seat and go near the driver. Finding him focused on his driving, he would come back and look in a different direction after sitting back on his seat. No communication with his wife even if she looked at him with anger for his failure on this front. The husband would simply mutter:-

“ Just a matter of five or ten minutes more  .”

Sometimes if the driver noticed a passenger getting up from his seat, he would cry:-

   Sit down. Sit down . We are about to reach Qazigund.”

And Urdu poet  Firaq Gorakhpuri also could not wait for more. He had also desired the end of miseries created by the second world war when he wrote:-

“ Sipaah e roos hai Berlin se aur kitni door?  or  How far is the Russian army from Berlin now?”

  A man turns impatient should he be made to carry trouble. He wants to unburden himself at the first available opportunity. So Qazigund was a place more connected with unburdening or release than consuming tea snacks or refreshing.

 This was Qazigund. Lined with rows of rickety and shabby looking shops some of which were also owned by Sikhs hailing from   Palapora, a village nearby.  Wearing  Pherans (  cloaks worn by Kashmiris ), they would come closer to the bus windows and cry:-

“ 'Andaa  ,Chai  , Paraatha ,  bathroom '  meaning ' Eggs , tea  , Paraatha   and urinals .' 

“ ' Bathroom, Bathroom, Valeev Mahraa,  Valaa Behen Ji, Valaa  Huz ‘ meaning   ‘ Urinals, Urinals,   Come, Pandit Ji, Come Sister, Come Khwaja Sahib .'  

“ ' Rajmaah, Chaawal,  Murga,  Bathroom'  meaning   ' Rajmaash, rice,  chicken and urinals .' 

 Some Muslim hotel owners also lined up closer to buses to market their toilets:-

 “ 'Valaa Sa,  Tamaek Jejeer, Maaz, Bataah, Thool , Chai Ta Bathroom '   meaning     ‘ Come, tobacco Hookah, mutton, rice, eggs, tea  and urinals .' ”

Buses would arrive around 10 a.m. at Qazigund during winters. Many Kashmiris would be seen going for the’ Maaz Bataah’ or  ‘Mutton rice’ lunch straight and then relishing a puff or two from the busy  Hookah or smoking cigarettes outside the hotel. They also kept pricking the gaps in their teeth with a  toothpick held in one hand.

“ 'Kyaa sa khyova bataah vaen    ? Ramban taam praaerzeih  ' meaning ' What you had your lunch so early? You could have waited up to Ramban.' ”

“ ' Kyaa pataa buthhi kitchh vuthh aasi ta kar vaatav'  meaning ' Who knows the condition of the road ahead and when shall we reach Ramban? ' ”

There was a Punjabi shop a little away from the main market. The owner had a water tank in the backyard. you could get Poorie, Channa, Pakoda at this shop. He would also send his boys near the buses parked in the main Qazigund bazaar. These boys kept crying:-

" ' Aao, Bathroom, Garam Chai, Poorie, Chhola,  Pakoda,  Rajmah, Chaawal, Paani Tanki, Haathh munh saaf karo, Bathroom ‘  meaning  ‘ Come!  Urinals, Hot tea, Poorie, Chhola, Pakoda, Rajmah, Rice, Water tank, Wash your face and hands, Urinals  .' ”

When some passenger would say:-

“ ' O yeh hotel door hai. Idhar se gaadi nikal jaayegi.'    meaning ‘ Your hotel is far off. The bus may leave dropping us here only.’ ”

The hotel boys would reply:-

  'Driver naal gal ho gayi.Aap ko udhar se hi uthaayega. Chalo Chalo do kadam hai .Khula Bathroom .'  meaning    ‘ It has already been fixed  up with the driver. He will pick you up from that shop. Come ! Come !   Just a few steps. Spacious  urinals.’ ”

The drivers of the buses carrying people to Jammu would be entertained free by hotel owners. They would generally stop near the hotels which offered them free breakfast. On this Jammu Srinagar highway,   annual ‘Darbar Move’ rush would continue till Schools in Kashmir valley closed for winter break. The buses of J&KSRTC held something like a monopoly on this highway. You had A and  B class buses that moved almost together and covered the hilly journey of about 300 km in 10-12 hours. No Tata Sumos, no video coaches and no taxis as these ply currently round the clock.

Urinals were known as bathrooms in Qazigund. This specific meaning was known to travellers and the hotel owners. And for any hotel at Qazigund, the bathroom was a USP. Every hotel or tea stall owner marketed them. Once inside these dark and dingy wayside hotels or tea stalls, you were led to open fields from the back door. The world outside was a bathroom. Kashmiri Pandits would straightaway go to a Sardar Ji's hotel.

“ 'Sardaar Ji, bathroom kidhar hai ?' meaning  Sardaar Ji, Where is the urinal? ' 

  ' Baahar sara bathroom hai. Yeh duniya bhi bathroom hi hai. Jahaan marzi hai baith jaao . peeth parto aur karo ‘  meaning    'Outside the shop, everything is a bathroom. Isn't this world also a urinal? Don’t look back.    Sit and unburden yourself .’ 

Neither humour nor satire was intended in the reply from the hotel owner. Fed up with recurring questions from passengers who desired to know where the bathroom was, the proprietor had no other argument to offer. That also put end to further questions.

Sometimes a Punjabi passenger would tell the hotel owner:-

" '  Sardaar Ji gussa kaade waaste kardhe ho? Koyee gal nahin. Oney te poochha si bathroom kithey hai , tussi peeche dus  dena si ta gal mukki .’  meaning ‘Sardaar Ji,  Why do you get angry? He  simply asked where is the urinal  and you should have told ‘ on the backside of the hotel ’ and it would have been all over.' ”

The hotel owner would promptly reply:-

“ 'Me jaanda inna noo. Aey Kashmiri pandat hegain. Chhada mootar karan vaasde Ithay aandhe hain. Aey te safar vich  apni roti naal laandhe hain.  Asaan ki khatnaa inaan kol. Haan kadhe koyee ekk adhaa andaa paraatha le leve to o vakhri gal hegi. ‘  meaning  ’ I know them. They are Pandits. They come to these shops only to urinate. They carry their home-cooked food in this journey. What have we to earn from them? Yes sometimes someone among them buys our egg  Paraatha . ' ”

Yes, except the hotel, the world outside was a bathroom. You had the fresh air, greenery and natural beauty around this huge bathroom. It was all up to you. You had to grab your share in it. Gender distinction was beyond the comprehension of these hotel owners. This applied to Muslim hotels as well.

Tea prepared with firewood, smoky in taste, served in shabby cups or poor quality glasses with Paraatha smelling of raw edible oil was what you could order for. No biscuits. No cookies. No butter toasts. Coffee was unknown to them. Hardly any shop sold cold drinks though Coca Cola   had arrived in India and at  Ramban  across the Banihaal  tunnel, you could get some local brands like Tanza, Fanta   and   Baanta Soda.

After getting free from the bathroom worry, some passengers would pull out Kangris held underneath their Pherans and make a request to the hotel owners for some charcoal to be put in their handheld braziers.  During the winter season,  many Kashmiri passengers carried Kangris to keep their bodies warm inside the bus. It was followed by the usual Gupshup or gossip and payment for something that was forced on you. Albert Camus had rightly felt :-

'Human beings suffer should they be denied freedom of Choice .’  And  Camus was proved right by the hotel owners of Qazigund.

Everything in Qazigund has changed now. You have so many shops selling dry fruits and handicrafts, cricket bats, saffron, Kangris and fruits. About 90 km from Srinagar city, It is a Tehsil head quarter now. The road has been widened. It has also been put on a railway link presently.  New shops with new owners demonstrate progress and affluence.  The new hotel owners continue to be obsessed with the bathroom which they keep marketing to the travellers.  A few residual old hotels owned by  Sikh community stand upgraded and present a new look. The new crockery and plates convey progress and prosperity.

Sikhs continue to live in the Kashmir valley. Most of them stayed back and lived through the dark days of armed insurgency even under very grave provocations like the Chithi Singh Pora killings. The community has moved to a better life with education and hard work. They have proved quite enterprising and now many families have built good houses in new colonies in Srinagar city. The community has also produced some good doctors, engineers, lawyers, bankers and businessmen. So many families own trucks and other commercial vehicles and some of them have become successful transporters. Young boys and girls from this community are as competitive as children from any other community. The younger generation is opting for better professional education and that has brought about a sea change in their lives. They readily move for employment to any corner of the country or overseas. This mobility is sure to pay them rich dividends.

Sikhs living in Kashmir speak fluent Kashmiri, Pahari, Punjabi  (spoken in Malwa and Doaba)   and typical Punjabi spoken in Multan and erstwhile frontier provinces of British India. Some trace their origin to Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army. Some are Kashmiri Pandit converts to the new faith. Some have come from Punjab. Some have come from  Muzaffarabad and other villages along the old Jhelum valley road and POK. They continue to hold an unshakable belief in the culture of service to humanity or traditions of their glorious  Gurus. This was demonstrated by them during the devastating floods of  September 2014 when every Gurudwara in Srinagar city was opened to accommodate flood victims irrespective of their caste or religion. Although they have adopted some of the Kashmiri traditions, they maintain a distinct identity.

Unfortunate victims of time and circumstances, some among them are still poor or dependent on their agricultural output only.   This group that lives mostly in villages, has also faced inattention and apathy from successive governments. I end this write up with two couplets of Mirza  Ghalib…

Aey partavey khurshid jahaan-taab  idhar bhi,
Saaye  ki tarah hum pe ajab waqt  padaa hai...
Begaanagi  e  khalq se bedil na ho "Ghalib",
Koyee  nahin  tera to meri jaan  khudaa hai.

( Avtar Mota )

CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.Based on a work
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  1. Mota sahib,
    Andha , Paratha, Chay and bath room peeche , how lucidly you have convered the reality. Is is still like those olden days ? If not we have then missed the innocence of those times.

  2. i want new hotel moonlight and restaurant contact no.


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