Saturday, June 25, 2016




                    In Kashmir, there used to be a street dentist Baldev Singh who belonged to the Sikligar community. He had also informed us that his community used to manufacture weapons for Khalsa fighters during Mughal rule. Later, I came to know that Sikligar Sikhs were poor, landless and illiterate. They were something like Gadia- Lohaars or a gipsy type community that had origins in Rajasthan, wherefrom they moved to MP, UP, Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra and some other states. Most of them converted to Sikhism during the period of tenth  Sikh Guru.

Since last so many years, some families from this community had taken up other vocations while some continued with the activity of weapon making. Baldev Singh and his son ( Pappu ) would do business from the footpath in Srinagar city. Baldev Singh would sit mostly near Naaz cinema. While the father claimed to be a dentist, the son would be seen on a bicycle sharpening knives and scissors.

After the new Amira Kadal bridge was built, the old bridge was not demolished for some years. It was a market of ramshackle shops selling cheap goods. In this market, you could buy a caged parrot, ready-made garments, locks, sandals, cheap toothpaste, combs, toothbrushes, used clothes, perfumes, cheap cosmetics, cloth, dry fruits, shoes, pens, electric goods, cassettes, lighters, torches, imitation jewellery, Saande ka teil( lizard oil) and so many so-called ‘Sex Power’  tonics and herbs. Some pickpockets were also active on this bridge market.

To cross this bridge, one had to push his way through a crowded and narrow passage. Pappu had shifted to a spot on this old bridge and was seen paddling the bicycle kept on a stand. He kept himself busy sharpening a knife or a scissor to create centrifugal sparks from the rotating wheel fitted to the bicycle. This was done to attract attention and customers. He also sold self-made knives that appeared to be sharp razors. Sometimes, I would see Pappu near Palladium cinema. Sometimes near ‘ Little Sons’ petrol pump or sometimes inside KMDA bus stand. I had opened his account at Amirakadal branch of our bank. He would save also. Both father and son would move to plains in December every year and return to Kashmir sometime around early May of the succeeding year. Both father and son had picked up some Kashmiri words. They would bring these words into their conversation with Kashmiri customers.

One close friend of mine would always look for Baldev Singh as and when we went to Tagore Hall or Jawahar Nagar. He would say:-

‘ Valaa taam karov shogul .’  or ‘Come let us go for some entertainment .’
He would force me or other friends to go via Naaz cinema and if Baldev Singh was there, he would ask us to visit him. We would be guided to keep a hand on the cheek and make a frowny face so as to give an impression of a genuine toothache. Once Baldev Singh was allowed to inspect the gums, he would declare:-

‘ Yeh to maamla khatam hai.Koyee baat nahin . Nikaale ga dandh . Concession karega .Nahin aayega rath ( blood). Pataa nahin chalega . Koyee dard nahin hoga. Pakh sa beh  ( Come and sit ).  Dekho Baldev Singh ka 'Daste Shifa'  .’  meaning  ‘These teeth are all gone. Don’t worry. I shall do the extraction. You will get a concession. No bleeding. You will not come to know what I did. No pain at all. Come dear sit. see Baldev Singh's  hand that heals .’

It was a skill to free yourself from Baldev Singh. Our friend would guide us to say:-

‘ I have no money this time. ’
‘ Sardar Ji I will come tomorrow. Will You be at the same spot? Are you sure you are coming tomorrow ?’

Sometimes we would engage Baldev Singh in secondary talks like seeking the price of dentures, fillings and crowns supposedly meant for parents. Simple fun was intended. Gargling with Detol or Savalon and washing face was a must after freeing yourself from the drama at Baldev Singh’s footpath shop.
Baldev Singh was not a fool as our friend understood. He had come to understand that his time was being wasted. He repaid this in his own style.

And One day Baldev Singh actually extracted the tooth of a friend who had no problem at all and who also tried to make fun of him at the suggestion of our common friend. As time passed, this extraction cleared the road for further extraction of some more teeth that caught the painful infection. Trouble that had been invited.

And finally, this friend had to visit Dr Koul dentist from Jawahar Nagar , Srinagar for about three months to get free from Baldev Singh’s Dast e Shifa.

( Avtar Mota )

( Photo source Google ..  With Due Thanks to the uploader )

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