Friday, December 11, 2015





To this photo , I am adding  my short story TREISH TAMOUK or  CHAAI- PAANI


                                                                     ( CHAI-PAANI)


Today  Bhat Sahib was in his office and had to sign some bills. Every employee in the division knew the importance of his signatures. For them, executive engineer’s signature  meant  movement of funds. And when funds move, they also leave a trail of some happiness for every connected employee. If greater and in good measurement, this happiness is also known as commission else it is simply “Chai Paani” or what is known as 'Treish Tamouk' in Kashmiri. Accordingly, unusual smiles were visible on every face. The contractors, the stenographer, the storekeeper,  Ghulam Hassan ( senior assistant ), junior engineers, Moti Lal ( office accountant) and peon Nazir Ahmed. The canteen contractor had his reasons to be happy. Tea was ordered like water. Five cups, seven cups, nine cups and fifteen cups. Tray loads of biscuits, cigarettes, butter toasts and cold drinks moved to the rooms from the office canteen.


To proceed further with this story, I need to tell something more about three persons; peon Nazir Ahmed,  Farooq Ahmed  ( junior assistant ) and driver Pal Singh. 


 Office peon Nazir Ahmed was almost illiterate but  very sharp and submissive. He always kept the official seal of the executive engineer in his coat pocket. For this, he would wear a multi-pocket coarse cotton coat even during summers. Once a document or some paper was signed by the executive engineer, everyone looked for Nazir Ahmed who would carefully bring the ink pad and the seal out of his coat pocket, look up towards the person and smilingly say this :-


 “ Don’t you want to give me something for the tea and cigarettes ”


Perhaps Bhat Sahib too knew what peon Nazir was doing with his official seal. But then he had some purpose in ignoring and overlooking it. And then he also knew that even if Nazir affixed his official stamp on any paper, it had no value. The value addition accrued only if he had put his signatures.


Nazir Ahmed would always rush to attend bell calls of Bhat Sahib. Apart from carrying files in and out, Nazir Ahmed was supposed to filter people inside Bhat Sahib’s room.


As and when some A-Class contractor like Ali Mohammad Khanday, Noor ud Din Tantray, Mohammad Sultan Bhat, Bansi Lal Peshin or Sardar Kikar Singh would come to the office, Nazir Ahmed would show due respect to them. He would stand up and offer his Salaam and good wishes. For this simple act, a hundred rupee note would be thrust in his coat pocket. Sometimes the contractors would ask him:-


“ How is Sahib’s mood? “


To this Nazir would generally say this:-


“ Please go in. Do you need to ask such things ?“ 


 Now and then, Nazir Ahmed would also visit Bhat Sahib’s residence and help his wife in dusting furniture, buying vegetables and groceries from the market. Quite often, Nazir Ahmed would also be sent to supervise the construction of the family’s new house at Bagh e Mehtab colony. This arrangement brought some domestic comfort to Bhat Sahib and made him free from some of his routine family worries.

Nazir Ahmed had also managed to get his stepbrother appointed as a daily wager in the division. This stepbrother served as domestic help in the house of the assistant engineer of the subdivision while drawing his wages  from the government exchequer.



 The other person worth mentioning is junior assistant Farooq Ahmed. Farooq was appointed on compassionate grounds after his father died in a road accident. He was studying in the  S. P. College when the tragedy struck the family. Initially, he found himself a misfit in the office. He disliked peon Nazir Ahmed and the storekeeper. He knew what Nazir Ahmed did with the official seal of the executive engineer. He also knew about an instance when the storekeeper had sold half a truckload of the cement meant for the government store to some outsiders in connivance with the concerned junior engineer. He also disliked the way some employees always demanded 'Kharach ' or ' Teish Tamouk ' from  the contractors as and when they visited the office. But then he respected  Moti Lal ( office accountant ) whom he never saw asking for money from the contractors. Moti Lal would bring his tea in a thermos flask. To Farooq Ahmed, Moti Lal had told that the canteen tea was only 'Treish Tamouk' or ' Chai Paani ' as the payments were made by contractors. He also taught Farooq the art of drafting official letters. Quite often,  he would advise Farooq to complete his graduation as a private candidate and then try for some better job in some bank, Insurance company, A. G.’s office or Post Office.  Moti Lal was skilled in handling audit parties from A.G.’s office. His written communication skills  especially letter drafting, earned him a respectable place in the office. He had a ready reply for any audit paragraph or objection. Had Moti Lal not provided fatherly support to Farooq in the office, he would have left the job. But then Farooq also knew that he had no other alternative and leaving this job would mean starvation for his family.


 Driver Pal Singh is the third person whom I want to introduce to you. He is the official driver of Bhat Sahib. Unless his boss  had to proceed on some tour or go to the’ Direction Office’ , Pal Singh would be busy with  the family work of Bhat Sahib. Sometimes dropping children to their  schools, sometimes bringing them back from their schools and sometimes carrying Mrs Bhat to the  market for shopping, sometimes taking Mrs Bhat to her parental home  and quite often bringing and dropping guests in the Bhat household. That made him quite popular with most of the relations and acquaintances  of Bhat Sahib.


As and when there was no work in Bhat Sahib’s house, Pal Singh would sit in the office and complete the logbook of the vehicle or go to the workshop for repairs of the official vehicle. On this logbook completion work  of Pal Singh,  Ghulam Hassan ( senior assistant ) and the storekeeper would say this  :-


“ Pal Singh, You have also to die one day. Remember that also. “


 Ghulam Hassan  ( senior assistant ) had once seen Pal Singh selling a gallon full of petrol to the office canteen contractor. It was also believed by some employees in the office that canteen contractor was regularly buying petrol from Pal Singh for his second-hand scooter.


 Ghulam Hassan  (senior assistant ) and the storekeeper would generally gossip with Pal Singh and say this:-


“ Pal Singh,  you are a perfect government driver. You can siphon away petrol from even moving vehicles. Why do you always keep that three feet long rubber pipe and the plastic mug in your vehicle? Wherefrom have you managed your fake date of birth certificate? You don’t  look like a young boy of 26 years. If you go to some doctor, he will easily prove that your biological age is above 40 years. Everybody from this office shall have retired and died but you will be still serving and siphoning petrol from newer and newer models of government vehicles .”


 Pal Singh was a cool driver who always cared for the safety of the people he was carrying in the vehicle. He was also friendly and smiling that made him an affable and much liked individual. Despite what  Ghulam Hassan  (senior assistant ) and the store keeper were  saying about Pal Singh, he had kept the official vehicle in perfect condition .


  Inside the office, it appeared as if everyone worked for commission.  Commission for allotment of the work, commission for identification of the work on ground ( Nishaan- dehi ), commission for the preparation of the bills, commission for supervising the work, commission payable to the junior engineer, commission payable to the assistant engineer and commission payable to the executive engineer. No one in the office knew how superintending engineer, chief engineer and the concerned minister got their commissions. Employees would gossip that the executive engineer himself paid the commission to the superintending engineer who in turn paid it to the chief engineer though none had seen it. Some said that the contractors directly paid the commission to the superintending engineer. Some employees were also curious to know how and what amount the chief engineer paid to the  concerned minister. The contractors also paid some commission at the treasury for encashment of their bills. 


Inside the office, one would hear a different language and codes. Words like measurement book, tender, pooling, site inspection, WDC bill, audit party, drawing disbursing, direction office, original work, earthwork, culvert, breast wall, retaining wall, voucher, SRO, rate schedule and treasury came up repeatedly during any official discussion. The employees often discussed that the boss made some coded entries in his diary while allotting work to  the contractors. The stenographer had seen the boss writing CP and NCP in his diary. He had also seen the pages of the diary where Bhat Sahib would enter the date, name of the contractor, amount of work and then write CP or NCP. The storekeeper and the senior assistant had heard about CP and NCP entries in the diary of Bhat Sahib but did not know what these words meant. They thought that  the office accountant Moti Lal knew what CP or NCP meant but had been cleverly avoiding any discussion on the subject. And  Ghulam Hassan  ( senior assistant ) would often say  this to the storekeeper:-


“ This Moti Lal needs darkness to accept ' Chaai Pani '. He is a shrewd man but I respect him for his gentle and helpful nature.”


And one day the storekeeper said that he had cracked the coded words of Bhat Sahib. According to him, contractors were connected with various political parties and the department had to follow the system of obliging politicians.  ‘CP is the  Communist Party’, said the Storekeeper.


“ Where are communists in Kashmir? If they are they have no role to play in this tender business and engineering divisions. I think CP is for Congress Party and NCP is for National Conference Party. What do you say storekeeper Sahib ? ” , said Ghulam Hassan( senior assistant ) .


At this point, the storekeeper dug out two cigarettes from his pocket and offered one to Ghulam Hassan( senior assistant ) before putting one under his lips.  ‘ That is most likely what it is. You are a genius Hassan Sahib ’,  said the storekeeper.


Farooq too would hear these discussions but never engaged himself in this gossip.   Moti Lal ( office accountant ) too avoided any discussion on this issue.


 It was a practice in the office that every Friday the staff would go out for prayers from 1 p.m. to 1.30 p.m. to a nearby mosque. Bhat Sahib, Ghulam Hassan ( senior assistant ), the  storekeeper,  Nazir Ahmed ( peon )  and stenographer would leave the office on Fridays. Else on all other days, no one usually went out or observed any lunch timings or mid-day break from routine office work. Moti Lal ( office accountant ) stayed in the office. Though Farooq despised the company of  Ghulam Hassan ( senior assistant ) ,  the storekeeper and Nazir Ahmed ( peon )  yet he had to join them on all Fridays as Moti Lal would ensure that Farooq also went for Friday prayers. Moti Lal would often say  this to Farooq :-


“ You must join Friday prayers. God is always with you and shall help you to shoulder your family responsibilities. ” 


And one Friday the storekeeper suggested to  Ghulam Hassan ( senior assistant ) for a change of the mosque. Nazir Ahmed ( peon ) had told them about some non-Kashmiri Imam at another mosque who read impressive Khutba on social evils after the prayers. 


Accordingly, that Friday, all of them went to the new mosque without any intimation to Farooq. Having failed to locate the storekeeper or the stenographer or the senior assistant or even Nazir Ahmed in the mosque where they would normally go for their  Friday prayers, Farooq returned to the office early that day without attending his prayers. Knowing that Moti Lal would not like his returning without prayers, Farooq  tiptoed to Moti Lal's room and looked for him from the window. To his  surprise,  he saw  Ali Mohammad Khanday  ( contractor ) sitting before Moti Lal.


Ali Mohd Khanday would sometimes come in his car and quite often he would be seen coming in matadors or using  public transport. That was usual with contractors in Kashmir. Since payments were made to the contractors at irregular intervals, their spending and living style also turned irregular. The storekeeper,  Ghulam Hassan (senior assistant ), stenographer and Nazir believed that Ali Mohammad Khanday was a rich man  to whom they  had given ‘Lakhpati’ as his nickname. Certainly, he had built a new house at Chhanapora bye-pass but that was still incomplete as his bills were pending in the division. The second-hand ambassador car purchased by him had been sold to ease his liquidity crisis on account of non-settlement of his work completion bills. He had also borrowed some money from a bank at clean overdraft interest rate and the recovery notices from the bank had started coming to his residence. He was in deep financial crisis. 


“ I have discussed with Bhat Sahib about my pending bills. Please put up and draw at least two WDC bills tomorrow. You know I need money badly. Please take some personal interest and get my bills cleared tomorrow. I forgot to bring the walnuts this time. Next week I am going to Shopian and shall bring a special variety for the Shivratri Pooja. Till then keep this . This is a small packet of new currency notes. You may need it for Shivratri. ” , said Ali Mohammad Khanday to Moti Lal.


Moti Lal looked at the new ten-rupee notes packet. He remembered how his wife,  Sarla Ji had been demanding new currency notes for ensuing Shivratri. He too wanted to give new ten-rupee notes as Kharach  ( pocket money ) to his children on  the  auspicious Shivratri day.


“ How happy Sarla Ji will be if I give this packet to her ?”


He immediately placed the ten-rupee notes packet in his pocket and assured Ali Mohammad Khanday that he shall do the needful on suggested lines.


Farooq Ahmed had been listening to this conversation from the window silently. He felt puzzled. Strange ideas came to his mind.


“ Is he the same Moti Lal who talks of integrity and honesty? ”

“This office is a gang of thieves .”

“ At least I shall not be like them ”

“What do these people think about themselves? They think I do not know what is NC or NCP. ”

  And then he suddenly cried :-


“ I am clear. Wait, you thieves. Wait  you Mr Bhat. Wait  you, Mr Moti Lal. Here I come .” 


He rushed to  the executive engineer’s room and opened the table drawer which was unlocked.  In a fit of anger, he took  out Bhat Sahib’s diary and pen and  prefixed alphabet N to ‘CP’ written on some pages. Now everything in Bhat Sahib’s diary was ‘NCP’. Listening to Farooq’s cry, both Ali Mohammad Khanday and Moti Lal came out of the room and saw him rushing towards the road.


 For about a week thereafter, no one knew the whereabouts of Farooq Ahmed. He never reported to the office for his duties. When Farooq did not turn up, Moti Lal sent  Nazir Ahmed ( peon )  to his residence where Farooq’s mother informed him that the boy had fallen a victim to some black magic (Tassaruff) done by some relatives. She suspected her traditional rival Mokhta (her late husband’s sister) as having brought this misery to her family. When Nazir  Ahmed met Farooq , he found him dumb, disoriented and lost.


“He does not talk. Someone has stolen his speech. That day when he returned from his office he cried loudly and spoke in English. We were all terrified . He has not been eating since then. He keeps going up and down these stairs and rarely sleeps. Do you know any good Peer Sahib? Help me out, brother. This widow is in grave trouble. ” , Farooq’s mother said to  Nazir Ahmed (peon ).


And then Ali Mohammad Khanday also was not seen for about a week. When he visited the office he met Moti Lal and informed him that he had to go to Jammu to meet the minister as the name of his daughter did not figure in the list of teachers cleared by the government. He sought to know about his bills and Moti Lal advised him to meet Bhat Sahib directly.


“ Jenab, my bills are pending. I need money badly. I have to make various payments. I am in grave financial trouble. ”,  said Ali Mohammad Khanday to the executive engineer.


“ When did I say that bills shall not be cleared ?”  replied the executive engineer.


“What is the delay then? I have paid the full commission demanded by you.” ,said Ali Mohammad  Khanday.


“ Hold on! do you think I tell lies? Look! these papers speak. See against your bills I have written NCP. ”, said the executive engineer.


“ But that day you wrote CP. When I pay the entire commission in advance, how it can be noted as NCP or ‘No Commission Paid’. It was CP or ‘Commission Paid’ previously. How on earth shall I pay rupees sixty-five thousand again? Bhat Sahib, I do not have a hundred rupee note in my pocket.” , said Ali Mohammad Khanday.


“ Why have you come here in case you can't settle your commission ? ” , said Bhat Sahib.


After this discussion, Ali Mohammad Khanday kept silent but his face turned red. He went to the toilet of  Bhat Sahib’s room. When he came out he was without his shoes. Possibly he had kept the shoes inside the toilet. He picked up the water glass from Bhat Sahib’s table and threw it on the floor. Opening the door of Bhat Sahib’s room violently he rushed downstairs. There he removed his trousers and threw them on the ground and laughed loudly. Again he went up the office stairs and came rushing down. He tore open his shirt after he drank water from the public tap on the road.


When driver Pal Singh approached him and tried to persuade him to come upstairs, he violently pushed him aside crying:-


 “ Sher e Kashmir ka kya irshaad,  Hindu, Muslim Sikh ittehaad. Aadhi roti khayega , Gandhi Ji ko layega.Inquilab Zindabaad. Afsar shahi nahin chalegi. CP Murdabad. NCP Murdabad. Treasury bill hai hai. Teacher list hai hai. Jis Kashmir ko khoon se seencha  voh Kashmir hamaara hai .  Iss zulam sitam ki takkar mein -Insaaf hamaara naara hai .Pandit ,Muslim Sardaar. Khabardaar khabardaar .  Kangri dhe Vichkaar- Danda maar  danda maar . Namsate . Salaam . Sat Sri Akaal. Julay. Jai Hind ”


He kept looking towards the sky and repeating these lines loudly .


From the balcony of the office building, Moti Lal ( office accountant ),  the Stenographer,  the Storekeeper and  Ghulam Hassan (senior  assistant ) looked at each other in surprise and Nazir Ahmed silently kept the  executive engineer’s seal in his coat pocket.



( Avtar Mota..Srinagar ..1987 )



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  1. never ever in my worst nightmares i imagine Biography dhoondtey huwey i wil find some good piece of work.. I love it.. Read it two times.. Reading fictious stories bt inspiring ones is my fav hobby..

  2. never ever in my worst nightmares i imagine Biography dhoondtey huwey i wil find some good piece of work.. I love it.. Read it two times.. Reading fictious stories bt inspiring ones is my fav hobby..


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