Friday, May 21, 2010


( Boats carrying HUKH or  drifted wood at Kraalyaar Rainawari ..Photo..1920.. )


“Bobu Ji hukh chhuyi aamut. pataa mokalee . Buthee chhuyee krooth vandhaa”  or “ Pandit Ji, Hukh has arrived for sale. It shall be sold immediately. You have to face severe winters ahead.” said Ali Mohd Mattahaanz to my father.

 And we went to Kraalyaar Maar (canal ) and purchased about two quintals of Hukh( drifted wood ) for the winter season. Hukh consisted of pieces of drifted wood collected from rivers by a group of the boatmen and then brought to the city for sale in big boats called Bahetch. Hukh Collected from Doderhaama near Ganderbal town was marketed as special ‘Hukh’. It was used for burning in the kitchen hearth during winters. It made the kitchen warm when burnt in Dhaan ( kitchen hearth ) by our womenfolk. I would sit in the kitchen to have my food when my mother burnt Hukh for cooking. She would also burn a stick of willow or some other timber along with Hukh pieces. we used to get a good feeling upon seeing the Hukh burning in the kitchen. In extreme winters, we would come to the kitchen repeatedly to fill our Kangris. The kitchen turned cosy and warm with Hukh burning. Our ladies used to make charcoal from the burning Hukh or firewood in the kitchen. They would keep a Leijj ( earthen pot ) with a lid in the kitchen. Very skillfully, they would remove burning coal heaps from the kitchen hearth and throw them into the Leijj and then immediately keep the lid over it. The burning charcoal would cool down and the fuel so prepared would be used to make the afternoon or evening tea for the family.

In so far as firewood was concerned, its procurement from the government timber yards spread all over the city was a tough job. You had to get up early  in the morning and keep your Chendee ( timber cards supplied to each family by the government ) near the window of the Zeun Ghaat ( timber depot ) one over the other in proper order. Generally, milk selling families supplied the labour force at these timber depots. A labourer would carry 100 -120 Kg of timber log on his shoulders. Then he would suddenly throw the log with a bang in the courtyard making windows rattle. Thereafter the Tabardaar ( woodcutter ) would come and cut this log to pieces for ultimate use in the kitchen. We would then carry the pieces for storing them at a safe place. Hatab (timber from False Witch Hazel tree   ) was preferred stuff by  the Kashmiris. I vividly remember Kashmiris keeping a vigil on the arrival of Hatab at timber depots to buy it. It produced quality heating fuel for the Kangris.

Another fuel with Kashmiris was the sawdust popularly known as Kosh. They would use it in Kangris and more specifically for boiling water to wash clothes. Every Sunday we would use Kosh damchoola ( special mobile hearth made of iron for burning sawdust ) for boiling water to wash clothes. It produced an irritating smoke. The sawdust was also used in Kangris. For bathing, we had a special galvanized iron Hammam which used to give instant boiling water once firewood was burnt inside it. The wastage from Poplar tree wood sold by bandsaw mills was burnt in this Hammam. The wood used as fuel was called Mocha or leftover ( scrap ) by the bandsaw mills where sawing of poplar tree logs was done.

Electric heaters were also used in the kitchen as everyone stole power with the active connivance of the  linemen and meter readers. Every Kashmiri ( Pandit or Muslim) had some skill in this field. A direct hook on the main service line or bypassing the electric meter or making meters dead was a usual practice. Right from a petty trader to the  top bureaucrat, power theft was relentlessly practised. The field staff in the electric department made extra income from this power theft. They facilitated this theft and provided all type of help to the  consumers in this area.

Many families had kerosene stoves. My father had also purchased two kerosene stoves for our kitchen. In Rainawari ,  Triloki Nath Pandit whom everyone called ‘Treya Tsoor’  ( Treya the thief) and who reportedly had some criminal past in plains of the country, had opened a stove repair shop in Jogilanker Chowk. His shop was near the police station, Rainawari  just opposite to the shop of Chuni Lal Watloo. Chuni Lal Watloo had a small chemist shop where Pandits would sit for gossiping. These gossiping Pandits made Chuni Lal Watloo lose all customers. When new chemist shops opened in Jogilanker Chowk, Chuni Lal Watloo shifted his activity to a more lucrative trade and started working as an agent of the police officials in the nearby police station. Any person who needed police assistance had to come to Chuni Lal Watloo's shop for direct or indirect help.

Now coming to Treya Pandit's stove repair shop, every time I went with our stove to him, he would just change the burner. He did it to all kerosene stoves coming to him. For him, change of the burner perhaps solved all problems of a stove. He did so even for minor blockages in the kerosene passage of the burners which could be easily cleared by a stove pin. Perhaps he knew nothing else and also it made him earn instantly. His customers paid without any argument.
 My father had also purchased a kerosene cooking stove that had thick cotton strap wick. One could adjust the flame by raising or lowering the burning wick strap. This stove produced strange bang like sound at regular intervals when put to use. LPG cylinders in the kitchen is a late story.

To conclude this write up , I add Lines from Padamshri  Moti Lal Saqi’s Kashmiri  poem.

"Koat gatchhukh subahaai vaeni nai gaash  ph'oll
 Naag joyi  pyaath vothh  na vaeni sandhyaai  kaa'nh
 Masheidi mehraabus andher  katiejun nendhar
 Dhaan dalas munz geill chha traavithh zeeth lar,
 Kulleiy laenjen sosaraai chenna vathharan  gatchhaan
 Koat gatchhukh ?"

( Moti Lal Saqi )

"Where shall you go so early? It is not daybreak as yet.
 None has yet come to perform *Sandhya with Spring Water,
 Even the swallows are fast asleep inside the *Mehraab of the Mosque,
 In paddy fields, *Gill Birds are still in deep slumber
 Leaves of tree branches have not turned restless as yet
 Where shall you go ?"

( Avtar Mota )

 * Rudy breasted crake is Gill in Kashmiri. It is like a house sparrow and black in colour. Mostly seen around paddy fields. After harvest, it flies away from paddy fields.

*Sandhya is the daily religious ritual of Hindus performed at the time of two twilights or the opening and the closing of the day. It is generally performed on river banks or springs or any other source of fresh water or even inside their dwellings. Sandhya was a ‘daily practice’ with elderly Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley.

*Mehrab is the decorative groove in the wall of a mosque, which marks the direction of the Qiblah. The traditional Mehrab is a common element of Islamic mosque architecture throughout the world. During the summer season, swallows would make nests inside mosques, temples and residential houses in Kashmir.


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Thursday, May 13, 2010


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“Come put your feet under my Pheran. I shall rub them . Do not use Kaangri ”

Said my maternal grandfather to me . I went to him complaining sudden redness and pain in one of my toes. He said “ Ye Chhuyee Shooh Gomutt. ” Meaning this is frostbite . With his rubbing , I felt  warmth and a little comfort. The pain turned mild . I heard him singing in kashmiri

“Bisht Bisht Braaryo
Khotakho Vunn .
Torraa kyaah Voluth
Babri Punn.
Su Kamunn Chhokuth

I do not know when I slept and where the pain went . May be the  lines of the song had played their role effectively. This and many similar songs were meant for children . I was always amused when I heard some one singing them. Whenever I played with my Maternal cousins , we would sing

“Raaja Bhaai Raaja
Kyon Kotwaal
Srinagar Me Chor Aayaa
Kiss Raaste
Iss Raaste”

A cousin sister of mine would play with us and sing

Okuss Bokuss Tillwaien Tsokuss,
Onumm Batukh Lodhum Deghee,
Shawl Kich Kich Wangno.

I am certainly talking of a period when only some families had the privilege of having the radio sets or transistors . My Father had bought this luxury for us . Radio Ceylon with Amin Sayani as the announcer was quite popular. I still remember the advertisement for LOMA hair oil. Television was totally unheard of . We did remember many hindi songs but friends in school and my cousins would frequently sing the kashmiri children songs while at play. Money was a scarce commodity. The state government clerks would be offered a special selection grade on promotion satirically  still known as Rs 70-6-130.  we had a community radio set  in Jogi Lanker chowk . Generally people would come out and listen to news over there.  I remeber some boys in our locality singing

“Kaav Butt Kaavo
Khechri Kaavo

We had a teacher in DAV school Rainawari Radha krishen By name . He was Tall and would spend some time in his class on issues not connected with studies . He would ask two boys to get up and do “GUFTGU ”. The boys were supposed to curse each other in choicest words or call nick names . Entire class and the teacher would join them with  their sadistic smiles on this  so to say one act play .One day I heard Radah Krishen  saying

“Tsrind Grindumm Te Mong Daal

Okhun sahibuss Khatan Haal ”

I did not know the meaning of these words but they some how caught my fancy . later I heard many relatives also using these lines while playing with their children. The lines actually mean that a teacher( Okhun ) is generally poor . So When he performs circumcision of his child he just cooks Daal and ordinary food. No Mutton or lavish dishes .These songs had enormous effect on young minds  . Mothers would lull their babies to sleep with these songs. These were sung by children while playing . Elders would humour them with young kids. No Kashmiri  of my age  can say that he does not know them . Some other songs which we used to sing as children are

Habba kadal loraan
Zaina Kadal Ladhaan
Bisht Mouj vadhaan

Hop Lop Chhop Kurr
Mauj Gayee Greit bal,
Torra anni Saut Pull
Audd thaav Chunduss
Su Poshee Vanduss
Audd  Thaav Aaliss
su Poshee Reit kaaliss

In DAV school ,We had a class fellow whom we called Nikka Razdaan .He would sing Ladee Shaah . Here goes what he sang

LadeeShaah Ladeeshaah  Daari  Kin  Pyaav
Pyaavanai Pyaavanai  Haaptunn  Khyaav .
Budd  Mauj  Budd  Mauj  Kenh Nai  Guvv
Tse  tulum  Trum Tai  Baa  Tulai Nai
Vataan  vataav  Naavid  Khai
Bakshi  Sahib  Naavi  Munz  Saer  Karaan
Musaafir  Aayoss  Bataah  Mendiss
Chonch  Dhubb  Loynuss  khor Tendis .

Somtimes our neighbour Ritch Maal would come to our house and gossip with my mother . Once I heard her singing smilingly

Tul Paluvv Tul Paluvv
Voth Tseluvv Voth Tseluvv
Baani Haali Buth Chhaluvv.

My sisters studied in Vishwa Bharti college Rainawari. I vividly remember them saying that a person by name Sarva Nand had a shop in the college and many girls would tell him

Sarvananduss  Kokur  Chanduss
Vanduss  Karaan  kuk Du Koon.

These lines always created a desire in me to see Sarvanand Physically . Alas I could not

On shivratri day I would wait curiously to see my mother with  a pitcher full of walnuts (soaked in water ) on her head knocking our main door and singing

Thuk Thuk
Kuss Chhuvaa.
Raam Brorr
Kyaah Heuth
Anna Heuth
Dhann Heuth
Roozi Heuth
Rozgaar Heuth .
Ghar Heuth
Gupan Heuth
Nosh Heuth
Koor heuth
Munz  Kuss Chhuv
Shiv Naath Te Paarvati

So long so much .
visit me also at

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