Sunday, February 28, 2010



As children, I don't know why we used to sing: “Sheena Pyeto Pyeto, Maama Iytto Iytto ” meaning ‘O snow, keep falling. O Mama (our mother’s brother), visit this way .’

Mother’s brother is known as Mama in this subcontinent. Mama has a very important role in the upbringing of the children of his sister. Not always does he financially support their upbringing but yes the emotional chord of the children with their Mama is so strong that sometimes it outflows and overlaps the father’s role. This applies to Kashmiris as well. You have a marriage, birth, happiness or any gloom in the family, Mama is there to stand and offer more than his share of support.

Crushed under the burden of poverty coupled with the joint family system that existed in Kashmir, a woman had little time to attend to her own children. Quite often, a married woman would send her children to her parental home for a change. When the annual examinations were over, children felt free to demand parental time and attention; but such a thing was rarely possible in joint families. A mother had no time to attend to them for she was never free from the daily chores. At this time, a message went to Mama to come over and take the children to their Nani’s ( maternal grandmother’s ) house.

Mama was the person who was there to take care of children's fancies. He would bring new clothes, take them to the Bazaar and give them time and attention to cheer them up. I remember most of the children telling their mothers in olden days :

‘Maam kar Iyee . Me chhu matammal gatchhun ’

‘When is Mama coming? I have to go to his house .’

Mama’s mention lies in Kashmiri folk songs also. We have a popular folk song wherein a mother sings a lullaby to the infant saying:

“Maam laal oyei tai diyiyo dilaaas , paartho gilaas kulinai tal ”

‘Your Mama shall come and put courage in you my baby Let me dress you up under a cherry tree .’

When Kashmiris quarrel they say :

‘Tse Kyaa Maam Chhukhaa ’

 ‘ Hey shut up! you are not my Mama ‘

I also heard many Punjabis saying:

‘Tu ki Mama lagdhaa hai ’

‘ Don't think yourself to be my Mama and take liberties ’

 In a Maharashtrian marriage, Gurihar Puja is an important ritual. During this puja of goddess Parvati, the bride is made to wear traditional wedding attire gifted to her by Mama or maternal uncle.

I quote two   popular lullabys in Kashmiri Pandit household ;

"Rama Ji , Rama Ji

Nikas laaesanum Mama Ji

Rama Ji , Rama Ji

Billus laaesnum Mama Ji

( O Lord Rama! O Lord Rama!

Keep this baby's Mama /maternal uncle

Under your protective care.

O Lord Rama! O Lord Rama!

May this blue-eyed baby's Mama/ maternal uncle

live long.)

'Kaaw karaan taav taav
Goburra laalus moal aav
Kaaw karaan taav taav
Khaana-maalis maam aav.'

( There that  crow makes  noise,
For sure, my child,
Your father will arrive home today.
The crow makes the noise again,
Lo, there comes my
darling' s maternal uncle or Mama)

Well, known Kashmiri poet, Dina Nath Nadim wrote:-

"Ghaam pyath yechkaaley vothmut

 Treil heith zun maam hue

 Assi wattan ruut ghaam hue "

(As if Mama has come from the village after a long time,

 bringing with him *Treil.

 This country of ours is like a beautiful village .)

In a Kashmiri pandit family, Mama had a crucial role during the marriage of his nephew or niece. It was he who sat by his niece during her marriage ceremony. It was again he who received the wife of his nephew from her parents home through a window. Along with his wife, he was also there for the sacred bath or ‘Kanya shraan ’ of his nephews.

Whenever Mama would come, for the children it meant happiness and fun. If Mama had a bicycle, the nephews would steal a ride. A parting gift from Mama would also be a fifty Paisa or a rupee coin thrust in the pocket of the nephew or niece. A new shirt, a new shoe, fruits, biscuits, candies and so many other gifts . would travel to children from their Mama without even asking for the same.

At the onset of the winter season, a Mama would also come to his sister’s house bringing with him a bag full of dry vegetables and fish for the winter season. The bag always had fish, brinjals, tomatoes, gourds, turnips, and many other vegetables all sun-dried for consumption during the winter season. That added to the respect and dignity of his sister in her in law’s house. A smiling sister would always come up to the door to see him off. It was a moment to hug him, bless him and say:-
 ‘ Guss moojood roz .Ivaan assizeh. Mey chhai rozaan kal ’
‘Go, May you live long ! Keep Coming. I keep waiting for your visits ’

 Where have the Mamas and those children gone?
( Avtar Mota )



 In Kashmir, sun-dried vegetables and fish continue to be sold in plenty during winter season even when the fresh vegetable supply is received almost daily from plains. Kashmiri Pandits have also not abandoned them. Many shops in Jammu and Delhi sell this stuff. I have seen even the younger generation enjoying the dry vegetables cooked in the family. The tradition has been beautifully carried down by our ladies


Treil is a small-sized apple and late autumn fruit of Kashmir

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Saturday, February 20, 2010



                                  ( old photograph of waterways of Rainawari near Jogilanker Bridge  )

 ( old photograph of waterways of Rainawari 
near Jogilanker Bridge  )

                                ( old photograph of waterways of Rainawari near Naidyar Bridge  )
                        ( old photograph of waterways of Rainawari Near Naidyar Bridge  )

                                              ( old photograph of waterways of Rainawari )


                                 (GOSSIP   SHOPS   OF   JOGILANKER, RAINAWARI, SRINAGAR )

“Have you seen Mughal e Azam? If only  you see the movie, you shall come to know what Soshali  -Azm and seculari -Azm means .”

This is what Shadi Lal Koul told Rehman  Galdhaar ( Abdul Rehman  ). Abdul Rehman was asking me the meaning of words socialism and secularism. He had joined National Conference party headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and had heard his party leaders speaking these two words in most of the meetings. He had sought the meaning of these words from many Muslims and Pandits but none could simplify these terms to bring them down to his level of understanding. I did it. He was happy.

 Shadi Lal Koul lived near Jogi Lanker bridge. Quite often I found him sitting in Abdul Rehman's shop and passing on skills of  TV and transistor circuit repairing to him. Shadi Lal had also joined National Conference. They would also gossip while sipping tea with some new National Conference recruits. Before his transistor and TV repair shop, Abdul Rehman sold rice and pulses from a small shop below the Jogi Lanker mosque. Once he moved to a new shop,  his old shop was occupied by a naughty and mischievous person known as   Ali Mohammad,   a tailor by profession who was nicknamed  ‘National’.

Later, Shadi Lal worked as a freelance cameraman with  Srinagar Doordarshan. His father was a policeman who retired as A.S.I. We used to call him Shadi Police. Alas! This poor chap died in a tragic road accident at Jammu post-1990.

During my college days, I noticed that many shops in Srinagar city opened for gossip. We had our share of such shops in Jogilanker, Rainawari. We had one Ram Joo Handoo who had a chemist’s shop. Come evening time, many Pandits would enter the shop for pure gossip. They would occupy the entire sitting space in the shop. At a certain point of time, no customer entered the shop and the shelves, which used to be full of bottles and tablets,  revealed dust and emptiness.

Another gossip shop of Shamboo Nath Kalpushu also met the same fate. Shamboo Nath Kalpushu had a flourishing chemist shop once.  Dr Khashu,  a well known  allopathic physician from  Srinagar would practice from this shop.
Another chemist shop run by Chuni Lal Watloo in Jogilanker Chowk fell victim to this gossip virus and Chuni Lal finally became a broker cum agent for local police officials. He would intervene in all cases or disputes that were brought to  Rainawari police station.

This virus of gossip also entered a  dry cleaner’s shop (Moon Light Dry Cleaners proprietor  Abdul Rehman ) in Jogilanker Chowk. Abdul Rehman washed his hands off the flourishing dry cleaning business.

A cloth merchant named Radhey Nath ’ Massarat ‘ also fell victim to this virus. Come evening time, we would see many educated  Pandits and Muslims from Rainawari unwinding their day’s exertion inside this cloth shop. Radhey Nath ‘Massarat’ is a well known  Kashmiri poet who lives in Delhi currently.

Maheshwar Nath Zutshi popularly known as Mahe-Kaak had a stationery cum newspaper selling shop in Jogilanker  Chowk. There was a small sitting space of about 3 feet by 2 feet in the front portion of his shop. Though Mahe-Kaak was not a gossip monger nor did he keep track of current affairs or news, some Pandits still sat on that small space with ulterior motives. I have seen many people sitting by rotations on his shop and discussing settlement of Mahe -Kaak 's children with him while reading newspapers, magazines and Illustrated Weekly of India free. Mahe-Kaak had two or three sons. They were not educated enough to compete for a government job. They would render help to their father in procuring newspapers from Lal Chowk or in selling kerosene to the public. Mahe- Kaak was authorized to sell kerosene.

 Nath Ji, A Kashmiri Pandit from Machama family of Karapora Khushki had also a shop in Jogilanker Chowk near the post office. It was a small triangular shop close to the house of Bhasker Nath Raina contractor. This man had retired from the police (CID )  and gossip mongers started pouring into his cosmetic and stationery shop from day one. He had enough to tell. Stories of tough police officers like Ghulam Qadir Ganderbali. Stories about 1953 episode in Kashmir and stories about various visits of Pandit  Nehru to Kashmir. This shop was destined to close as the proprietor had brought the gossip virus with him from day one. Add to that,  as and when a female customer would visit the shop and ask for some facial cream or talcum powder or perfume, the proprietor would say:

“ ' Kyaa guv yimun saanienn koreyun. Tche chheyaa na saaf shakal . Zaroori chha falila ta cream laagun ‘. meaning  ‘I do not know what has happened to our daughters. Your face is clean and clear. Why should you go for all these creams, perfumes  and oils ?” The ever-present gossip mongers sitting inside the shop would immediately second the proprietor’ s message to the customer.

We had a saintly baker named Nil Kanth Bhan in Jogilanker. He was thoroughly professional. Beginning his day at 4 a.m., he would be free by 1 p.m. He would start with morning Tsoet ( Kashmiri bread) up to 9 a.m. and then he would bake Kulcha, Telvoru and Katalam,  etc. Before closing his shop, he would prepare his tea and call for one Ghulam Mohammad inside his shop. They would have tea together with freshly baked Kulcha. Ghulam  Mohammad had lost his mental equilibrium and one could call him insane. His family had abandoned him.  He would roam on roads but his command  area  or area of activity  was  from Jogilanker bridge to Kralyar  Chowk or between   Ismail butcher’s and Shera butcher’s shop. While sipping tea,  there was no communication between Ghulam  Mohammad and Neel Kanth. Summer or winter, Ghulam  Mohammad never abandoned his  Pheran and Kangri.

And Hell broke for Ghulam  Mohammad one day. A Muslim family known as Maliks had their cloth shop near the Jogilanker bridge. A boy from this family saw Ghulam Mohammad taking tea inside Nil Kanth’s shop. He immediately told every boy in the street about this discovery. That day onwards,  every boy in Jogilanker would cry “ Batta Chai ” (meaning Pandit tea ) when Ghulam Mohammad would pass by. Neel Kanth found a solution to this problem. He would daily pass on a small tin with milk,  dry tea leaves and sugar water to Ghulam   Mohammad. He would also put burning charcoal in Ghulam  Mohammad’s Kangri. The Tin with ready-made tea mixture was put on charcoal and Ghulam  Mohammad would prepare his tea on sitting space near a closed shop just opposite to Neel Kanth's bakery shop. When some boys saw this new arrangement, they started crying “ Dubba Chai  “ ( tea made in tin ).The butcher opposite to Neel Kanth’s shop, whom we called Ismail  Pujj  would also pass on a piece of raw boney meat to Ghulam  Mohammad for roasting it in his Kangri.Ismaal  Pujj was nicknamed as Batta  Pujj (Pandit butcher ) by the shopkeepers because his customers were predominantly Pandits. When the boys saw Ghulam Mohammad roasting the mutton piece in his Kangri,  they started calling him ‘Takka Addij’ (  bone eater ). This new name Takka Addij caught the fancy of one and all. Even the shopkeepers would then call him ‘Takka  Addij’. That made him aggressive and violent. He would pick up stones in frustration and throw on any person who called him  ‘Takka Addij’.

Another man who had lost his mental equilibrium would always be present in Jogilanker market. He was known as Gaffara. Gaffara wore shabby clothes and remained aloof. He would sit and sleep on the pavement or some times on shops.  His family had also abandoned him. Quite often a  Pandit lady from Braroo family living nearby would bring him food. Many Pandits and Muslims said that he was a silent Darvesh. I do not remember the name of another Hindu baker who would give tea and Kulcha to Gaffara. This baker was known as “Nikka Kandhur ” ( baby like baker ) by people from  Jogilanker. Nikka Kandhur was a Charas ( Cannabis ) addict. Some times he would pass on a  Charas ( cannabis ) filled cigarette to Gaffara.

A Kashmiri Pandit known as Gopi Nath was the president of the shopkeepers association of Jogilanker. Every time I visited his shop, I found him writing which made his customers wait even for a match stick box. Keen to know as to what was being written by him, I found one day that for every item he sold, he would write the cost price, sale price and the resultant profit. This writing went to such extent that he focused less on selling and more on writing and finally, a group of gossip mongers brought the virus of gossip to his shop too resulting in total dwindle of his business.

 In Jogilanker, there was a mischievous tailor, Ali Mohammad by name. He had his shop below Jogianker mosque. Many people told many stories about him. He would sing while stitching clothes on his old Singer sewing machine. Pandits came to his shop for repair work while people living in Dal  Lake area or the Haanjis ( boat people )  got new clothes stitched from him. He was nicknamed as 'National'.  The Word ‘National ‘  had got attached to him as he was a  staunch National Conference sympathizer/activist. He would ensure that his shop was open at 9 a.m. That had a purpose. The moment he saw some people leaving towards Jogilanker bridge for going to the office, he would Cry:

“ ‘Ora  chhu traeta buzun . Tche boozuthh na . Kaeni jung ha sa zabardast. Raathh chhu na sheikh sahbun taqreer kormut. Khaanyaar pyathha chhe saarisee military chhakkarithh. Vaen khassi jaloosa  . ’ meaning  ‘ Situation has suddenly taken a very tense turn. Didn’t you hear that? Crowds are throwing stone missiles. Yesterday Sheikh Sahib ( Sheikh Mohd Abdullah ) has spoken something in his address to the people. You will see the army in the entire city right from Khanyaar. A violent procession is about to pass that way. ’ 

Having spoken these words, he would suddenly go missing. Innocent Pandit and  Muslim ladies and some office going people would get frightened. This rumour would spread like a wildfire to Jogilanker market. Many would decide about not going to the office and staying in their homes. There was no immediate source to verify facts. Later in the day, people would realize that they had been fooled by Ali Mohammad.

There was a milk seller's shop in Ghat, Jogilanker near Vishwa Bharti college. This milk seller had a large family. One of the boys in the family was educated and we would call him Maama  Kol. He joined  Jammu And Kashmir Bank. This milk seller also worked as head Hamaal ( labour head ) in the Food and Supplies  Department’s ration store at Bagh, Jogilanker. The rations especially rice, Atta and sugar were stored in big boats ( near Jogilanker bridge ) known as  Bahuch. Each government ration Ghat had a Ghat Munshi ( clerk ), Kanda coolie ( weighing man ), head Hamaal and labourer.

 Whenever any Pandit would see the head Hamaal in the market he would  ask him :

“ Kyaa saa ghattus trovukhaha tomull   ?’  or ‘ Have the fresh rice supplies come ?”

The head Hamaal's replies would be different to different persons.  He would generally say :

“ Thahar  veini kharizi na tomull  ‘. or… ‘Wait,  Do not go for the rice as yet .”

“Praar daah doh . Saaf tomull iyee  . ‘ or ‘Wait for ten days, fresh  rice stocks are awaited   .”

“Thaav piece mey aithee . Ba khaarai paanai .’ or ‘ Keep the ration slip with me. I shall buy myself.”

“First class tomull chhuyee. Khaar subahanuss .’  Or ‘We have a good variety of rice. Buy it tomorrow.”

I never saw any Muslim asking this question to the head Hamaal. They would go and buy straight what was available at the ration depot.

We had another shopkeeper doing brisk business in provisions who was very popular with Pandits and whom every person called  Naba Bakhor.  While he enjoyed gossiping with other shopkeepers and customers, he had kept no space for anybody to sit inside his shop. Behind his back, Pandits called him a Pakistani agent. Muslims owing allegiance to National Conference called him a mischief man from Jamaat ( Jamaat e Islami ). 

He was all praise for Maharaja's rule. According to him, all ills in Kashmiri society had come after the  Awami Raj  ( public rule ). This was his indirect way of hitting at the National Conference sympathizers apart from appeasing his Kashmiri Pandit customers. You had to keep standing outside his shop for gossiping. He would sit in the shop during morning hours where after his sons would take over. They did not indulge in gossiping. I would often hear him say one line to close his argument :

“Ye  chhe  markazitch chaal  ‘.. or….’This is a trick played by the central government .”

For him, every disturbance or unpleasantness around was a ploy of the central government. He was intelligent, sharp and focused on his business.


  ( A scene at Govt Ration Store on river bank in Kashmir . ) 

In our Mohalla, there lived an old Kashmiri Pandit lady,  Raetch Maal ( meaning good women ) by name.   During discussions with my mother, she would often comment satirically about gossip mongers of Rainawari, who according to her, wasted their time and energy.  She would say :

‘Talla neythhanon pyathaa phernaa zyooth
Akki peinjji  vothh taai beyii peinjji byooth.’

( Look! he is naked within  but donning a  long Pheran over his body,
And there he gets up from one gossip shop and moves to another . )

( Avtar Mota )  

CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No
Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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