Monday, August 29, 2016



( Man-Mohini , Shyama , Janak and their mother Lado Rani )


                           ( Photo Ladli Prasad Zutshi )

     ( Photo ..Lado Rani Zutshi   daughter of Jeevan Lal Tikku  ..  1882-1968  )
                               ( Photo Man Mohini Zutshi )
                               ( Photo Janak Kumari Zutshi )
  ( Photo Chandra Kumari   with her husband Sri krishna Handoo )
                                        ( Chandra Kumari )
                                 ( Shyama Zutshi )


( Man-Mohini , Shyama , Janak and their mother Lado Rani  )

They were four sisters. Man Mohini, Shyama, Janak Rani and  Chandra Kumari.This  Zutshi family  of Lahore   was closely related to Pandit Nehru . Man Mohini, Shyama and Janak Rani were adventurous  and highly  talented girls  .The Zutshi  sisters knew horse riding , dancing , bicycling and also took lesson in music .
Hailing from an affluent Kashmiri Pandit family of Lahore , these  girls   were  modern , educated  and enterprising . Ladli Prasad Zutshi ( 1875-1954 ) ,  their father was a reputed barrister of Lahore . This Zutshi family was from Allahabad.Ladli Prasad Zutshi was also enrolled at Allahabad bar .In 1917, he along with his family moved permanently to settle in  Lahore . He was a nephew of Moti Lal Nehru.

Chandra Kumari was a little shy type of girl .Chandra Kumari (born 1903)  was married at a very young age to Sri Krishna Handoo who belonged to a respectable Kashmiri Pandit. family. She died in 1968.

Shyama  did her BA and joined  Hindi cinema . She was the first   Kashmiri Pandit  girl to join films . She  left the cinema and plunged herself into the  freedom struggle of the country .Shyama (1910 -1953) was  married in an affluent Punjabi Khatri  family and was later  known as Shyama Chopra . Her husband Suraj Prakash Chopra was a navy officer.A daughter was also born to them in 1947 whom they fondly named Bittoni.Bittoni also died in 2009.

And Man Mohini ( born 1909 ) is reported to be the most rebellious child in the Zutshi family.She was born In Anand Bhawan  , Allahabad. She happened to be the favourite niece of Moti Lal Nehru .She was married in Sehgal family from Punjab and later came to be known as Man Mohini Zutshi Sehgal .Man Mohini was also a post graduate in history .
Man Mohini married Amrit Lal Sehgal ,a chartered accountant who took emplyment with the  central government . She wrote her autobiography also  and died in 1994.

Janak Kumari  Zutshi was a post graduate in English and taught at  the Govt College for Women,  Lahore ( Joined in 1930 and later resigned to join freedom struggle  ) . Janak Kumari fell in love with Dr Jalil Asghar and  married  him . She came to be known as Janak Kumari Asghar. Along with her husband , she moved to Pakistan in 1952 and the family settled at  Lahore. Ali Asghar was ICS officer.She did not convert to  Islam and involved herself with social work and educating women.Indira Ji sent a personal invitation to her to join Rajeev Gandhi's marriage and she happily came to India for the family reunion .She died in 1997 in  Lahore  .

In an interview a few months before her death, a bed ridden Janaki recalled: “My grandmother and Moti Lal Nehru were siblings. Indira was my cousin. I lost touch with her after my marriage. Her behaviour was different then the rest of the family. She genuinely welcomed me and was extremely happy to see me when I went to attend her son’s wedding.”

The  sisters usually visited posh  Mall Road,  Lahore  for shopping along with their mother  Lado Rani Zutshi ( Tikku )  .Lado Rani was the daughter of Jeevan Lal Tikku of Allahabad. There used to be a hotel  known as “ ARAB HOTEL “ in Lahore before 1947 .  It was just opposite Islamia College  .This hotel was frequented by elite of the city  including prominent artists,writers, poets and intellectuals. Zutshi sisters  would be seen in this hotel along with their  Mother .

And then one day everything changed suddenly . A  lecture By Mahatma Gandhi in Lahore ( that these sisters heard  with their mother ) changed their lives  .Influenced by Moti Lal Nehru and their their parents, Shyama and Man Mohini  were   already organizing agitations and picketing against the  British rule  during their college days . Shyama  finally left films . Along with their mother, these  three  sisters  plunged totally  into freedom movement .  Chandra Kumari remained a housewife whille all other sisters plunged into the freedom struggle of the country .

Following Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930, Man Mohini organized protests, demonstrations,  courted arrest, and was sentenced to prison on three separate occasions.

As a matter of fact, Lado Rani had joined Congress Party in 1919 and was actively involved in freedom struggle .Her close associates were Kartar Kour and Parvati both eminent freedom fighters from Punjab. Parvati was Daughter of Lala Lajpat Rai.

On 15th December 1929,  A grand  flag hoisting function was organised at Lahore by freedom fighters .  Sardar Mangal Singh took about 2000 Congress volunteers under his command and joined this event that was attended by almost all stalwarts of freedom movement that included Maulana Azad , M A Ansari , Saif ud din Kitchloo ,Sarojini Naidu , Moti Lal Nehru , Jawahar Lal Nehru ,Madan Mohan Malviya ,Jamna Lal Bajaj , Srinivasa Iyengar , Vallabh Bhai Patel and many more   . Sardar Mangal Singh  had carved out a 'Women Brigade ' from  among his  volunteers  . This brigade had many women including all the three Zutshi sisters and their mother Lado Rani.

I quote Sardar  Mangal Singh  GOC Congress  Volunteers , Lahore session  :

“ I had two main lady volunteers  as commanders . Lajya wati and Lado Rani Zutshi. Lado Rani had brought her three daring daughters also.  They were educated and fashionable . The call of  Mahatma made the family to forget all comforts . A session was held on the banks of Ravi till 12 o’clock. It was a grand success . Pandit Nehru unfurled the national flag.  Forgetting comforts , every leader had his entire family in the movement . Dr N S Hardikar was there . Pandit Ji danced in happiness with the volunteers of freedom struggle. I remember the Pathan dance that was performed by the volunteers  ”

I quote From Bharti Thakur's book " Women In Gandhi's Mass Movement " ( Refer page 93 )..

" On July 9, 1930 , Shyama Zutshi and Man Mohini along  with 25  other volunteers from Ambala and Shimla  picketed at  the gate of the  assembly   in Shimla along with other volunteers of the  Congress committee . They went  in groups of two or three  with  black flags  hidden under the folds of their   Sarees and stood outside the gate of the assembly hall. As soon as Viceroy  Lord Irwin came out , they took out their black flags and shouted " IRWIN GO BACK ". Forthwith they formed a small procession and marched to the Mall singing National songs .Back In Lahore , Man Mohini  , who was also the president of  the students union called for  a complete Hartaal on  8th  October , 1930 as a protest against death sentences imposed on Bhagat Singh ,Sukhdev and Rajjguru and decided to picket Govt College for Men , Forman Christian College and the Law  College . Shyama also joined and  these sisters along with other women volunteers  stood at the gates of these colleges challenging the students to enter . Soon the police arrived and arrested them. When Janak Kumari heard all this , she resigned from the post of  English lecturer at  Govt College for Women, Lahore  and offered herself to court arrest. "

Zutshis had close and cordial  relations with noted artist A R Chugtai and his  family.They were also close to artist Amrita Shergil's family..

( Avtar Mota )

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                    ( POLSON BUTTER IN KASHMIR )

In Kashmir, we knew only Polson butter . Amul gained popularity in the early sixties of the last century. And then sometime around 1970 or 1971, Polson vanished from Kashmir.
I Remember the word " Polson" vividly.

" Kyaa sa laagaan chhivuss" Polson"

"Are you busy in flattering him ?"

It was common to use the word ‘Polsoning ’ instead of flattering. When Polson Butter vanished, usage of the word " Polson " also vanished from the Kashmiri language. Many elders have confirmed that one Mr.Wattal from Gund Ahalmar (near Nai Sarak in Srinagâr city ) was the oldest stockist of Polson butter in Kashmir. After 1947, it was sold by many traders in Kashmir. This butter would come in small tin boxes. It was yellow and salty. It tasted like homemade curd and unusually delicious. 

 It was also available in military canteens. Accordingly, many Kashmiris, who were employees of MES ( posted at Badami Bagh Cantt., Srinagar ) would buy this butter at cheaper rates from C.S.D. canteens.

Polson was started by Pestonji Edulji, a Parsi from Mumbai sometime in 1915 or 1916. In north India, Lahore city happened to be major distribution centre of Polson. Mr Wattal who traded under the name and style of "Kashmir Butter Company ", imported Polson butter from Lahore and supplied it to some European families, hotels including Nedou's hotel and Maharaja's Palace. He had his shop at Pahalgam and Srinagâr city around 1940.
Kashmiris, in general, did not consume butter till the early fifties of the last century. But once they started applying butter to local bakery items like Tsoett, Kulcha, Telvoru, Lavasa and Girdha, they never abandoned it. Butter is a household item in every Kashmiri family now.

In restaurants of Kashmir, butter toast remains a much sought after item with a cup of tea. A cup of tea is incomplete if not accompanied by hot and crispy butter toast.

And from my personal experience of living in Punjab, I can say with confidence that Punjabis are leaders in butter consumption. They consume it with chicken, Chapatis, Paraatha, Lassi, fish, Daal, vegetables, Kulcha and many other food items.

Once a Unani Hakim from Rainawari told me that during exigencies, he would buy Polson butter for preparing medicine for his patients suffering from haemorrhoids/ piles. This Hakim would say:-

" Local butter is cool in Taseer ( effect ). Tin butter is hot in Taseer. It has salt also. But I didn't get local butter often from the market. See I can't go to Shopian to buy those white butter balls every time. So I was constrained to buy Polson butter tins for preparing my medicine during exigencies."

(Avtar Mota)

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Thursday, August 25, 2016




My friendship with him is barely one year old. Prior to that , I had never seen him either at Jammu or in Kashmir valley .I knew him well through his write ups , Books , Poems and superb Translations. He taught English at various colleges in kashmir. Many friends told me “Beware ! He is terrible with his Pen” . Those who knew him would often say that he was friendly , Leisurely and above all helpful to Young and Promising writers . Some people tried to introduce him as writer SIDDHARTHA GIGOO’s father . In any case both happen to be brilliant writers . 

In the very first meeting that I had with him, he turned out to be a Jovial, Candid and Helpful person. And then a very well read and well informed writer who dislikes people with double speak.

“ I detest Double Talkers “

The last trait also makes him profoundly different from others , affable and respected .

I kept meeting him thereafter Mostly at his residence and quite often in the company of Ramesh Hangloo  of Radio Sharda . He usually talked about his Books , Translations , Future proposals and so many things from the world of Literature and fine Arts.

                              (  Arvind  Gigoo And   Poet Farooq Nazki    .. Photo Autar Mota  )

As writer, Arvind Gigoo has a unique style and flavor that akeeps you engrossed . He is a wonderful Narrator of events . His narrations are laced with a unique perspective . Sometimes one feels as if Sadat Hassan Manto is reborn and writing in English .


As poet ,he comes up with his own style and content .Philosophical yet simple . Apparent Humour but a subterranean and profound criticism of life .

" I AM DOING NOTHING " is a Poem by Arvind Gigoo that I need to present to substantiate what I have said about his poetic Talent ..

I dialed the number ,
“ Hello !“
It was my four year old grand daughter .
“ Hello Amia , What Are You doing ?”
“ Dadu , I am doing Nothing .”
Doing Nothing is the acme of wisdom.
Silence prevailed upon the words.
I kept the phone.
People do because doing means living .
They are dynamic and hardworking ,
And are busy in doing for their families , 
the society and the world.
“ I am not greedy or ambitious .
But people whom I know and don’t know 
Have sped ahead of me .
I do not want to sit behind .
I crave for recognition and superior position “
“ Do You watch the full moon
and the stars and the clouds and the sunset?”
“ The skyscraper blocks the view .
Have you seen the drawing room of Malhotras ?
They have two more flats . 
And their new Car !
It is very expensive .”
Dear Reader , I will disagree .
Eating is a ridiculous activity .
The unmistakable rapport and the perfect 
Friendship of the hand and the mouth keep us alive 
And are the basis of life .
And we do for remaining alive .
We race against others 
And climb ladders to accumulate wealth.
We doom ourselves into doing , Into exhibitionism,
Into show .We speed for we are in haste .
“ Damn others , I want my Buck . 
I will do for twenty years and then live “
“ So You will live in twenty years ! ?”
( Amia had said : I am doing nothing .)
Sitting still is doing nothing or doing nothing 
Is the cessation of all actions –Of the speed and the climb.
Doing is evil , curse , trouble , unhappiness .
It is un-living or not living .
He said :” Perform duty without thinking of the fruit .”
Performing duty is attending to the ordinary 
and the commonplace.
Doing breeds endless desires .
“ Why shouldn’t I desire the fruit of my doing ? I want to prove myself .”
Doing is “ Enjoying .“
When doing is in the process of doing ,souls and being get defiled .
Doers stop doing .
As for me while doing 
I don’t – know- what I talked much and spoke nothing .
Do nothing and talk nothing .
Not doing and silence are inaction –I mean in – action.
What man needs is nothing.
No- Thing .
Evil will disappear .
The inside will flower .
Your mind is a curse .
If you say ‘NO” to whatever “IS”
You will stop doing and start living .
It takes a flash to stop doing .
Doing is undoing the you in you.
Do And suffer .
Don’t do and live.
When I stopped writing , the telephone bell rang.
“Hello !”
It was my sixty year old friend.
“ What are You doing ?’
“ I am doing nothing .”
“ You fool , stop this nonsense . Dress up, Come out and live. “
I am the contradiction.
I am the clever Rascal .
I am the evil doer .
I dangle between not doing and doing.
I live in silence and speech..
( Arvind Gigoo.. Source ..SHEERAZA ( English segment ) Published by J&K Academy of Art Culture And languages ..April- June 2009 issue )

In his Books and essays written in English , Arvind Gigoo uses small sentences with simple English words. Understood easily and effortlessly , this style creates a vast readership apart from making an everlasting impression on the mind of the reader . In this style ,he comes closer to Sadat Hassan Manto. Like Manto , he spares none while dealing with men and issues in his Books .No prejudices and no Biases . He remains confined to Objectivity . With this approach , Some people may get hit and some may get positively revealed , he bothers not. His conviction remains “ Na Kaahoo se dosti Naa Kaahoo Se Beir “.
Read him to know that he is a master in conveying the apparent and the veiled. I quote some anecdotes written by him as they appear in the Book “ A LONG DEREAM FOR A HOME “ Chapter “ Days of Parting “.

(a) “Shaha , the old Muslim woman in our neighborhood , tells me on the road “ What nonsense is this ! we are fed up .” A Muslim gentleman joins us . Shaha now shouts ‘ We are prepared to die one by one for Independence .”’ Searches and searches. Deaths. Killings . It is horrible . A Muslim neighbour tells me in confidence “ I am afraid of my own son. Strangers are his friends .I have never seen them “

(b )We pack our things . Father is weeping . I ask Hafiz to arrange a truck for us . He says :’ Go home . A mini Bus will come to you in twenty minutes but don’t talk to me on the road henceforth “. We put other things In the Minibus very quickly. One Almirah full of old books belonging to my Grandfather remains untouched .I will come some day and carry them. These are rare books which my Grandfather had bought in Italy , Turkey and other countries . Through the window the daughter in law of Mohi Ud din tells me :’ Forgive us . Go wherever you want to go . May god protect you.’ She is weeping .”

His description about life in downtown Srinagar goes as under :

“The street urchins pelt stones on the houses of Pandits when a cricket match is played between India and Pakistan. Nobody takes such things seriously. Educated and illiterate persons rub shoulders. All steal electricity . Pandits celebrate marriages in the houses of those Muslims who have big houses .Carpets and Furnishings are lent to Pandits for use all the day. Shias Sunnis and Pandits live in harmony. Many Muslim families have leanings towards Pakistan.On Two Eids , Most of the Pandits go to Eidgaah . My Muslim friends come to me on Shivratri days and have lunch with me. Pandits and muslims play cricket in Eid Gaah. Others fly kites over there . In the evenings , some Pandits smoke charas in the Janam Bhumi Temple or in the compound of Ram Mandir. A handful of Pandits gamble in Ram Mandir. A few Pandits and Muslims drink in stealth. The quarrel of boat women lasts for days together . For onlookers , it is an entertainment of the highest type .Some young Pandits and Muslims steal hens and cocks belonging to few Muslim families , kill them , cook them and eat them. The owners of the hens shout curses on “ Cock Thieves “ . The lanes , Kochas and roads in our locality are filthy and covered with garbage .. Jagan Nath Saqi , the well known Radio Artist sits in the shop of Shamboo Nath ( Shomb Kak ) and talks about his past. Pandits who now live in New Colonies wonder how we Pandits live in the down town”


His Translator’s note to the Book " Light And Shade" Poems by sunita Raina Pandit is inimitable and matchless . This book contains kashmiri poems translated to English By Arvind Gigoo. I quote the text of this Note:

" While translating the kashmiri lyrics of Sunita Raina Pandit into English, I resorted to compression, reconstruction and re-composition . I allowed the architecture and linguistic nuances of the original to suffer. I subverted without worrying about exactness, Fidelity and accuracy of equivalence .I ruined the syntax, metre and richness the original kashmiri .The lackluster voice is an artificial exercise in which the ineffable impact of the Ghazals is lost but their soul swings and rings. This translation does not communicate the music, Rhythm ,Passion and transparent grace of the original.."
( Arvind Gigoo...... Translator..)

A sample of his English Translations are as under:

(Portrait of a Child)

A portrait hung 
the wall. 
The chubby child 
and opened his Cupid mouth. 
I said "Are you my virgin past?"

The rainbow smile vanished, 
and the thoughtful child said: 
"Are you my defiled future?"

The answer reached me.
Grown-ups don't remember purity 
children don’t know defilement.
( This is a poem by Noted kashmiri Poet Arjan Dev Majboor Translated to English by Prof. Arvind Gigoo and Published in his Book WAVES )
(Spring-wind passed by our door)

Spring-wind passed by our door
with restive fingers
beat its breast.
I asked a flower, “What happened?”
In a corner
it puckered its lips.
Soon a dry petal appeared
the spring bushes
beat their breasts.
( From “ Anecdotes “ Mini Poems of Poet Dina Nath Naadim translated to English by Prof. Arvind Gigoo )
(The oil in the lamp dwindled)

The oil in the lamp dwindled;
the wick was a flicker
the light too dwindled.
A moth danced into the dying flame;
the half-burnt hope
fell into a niche.
When the flame died
darkness gave a hysterical laugh.
Why trust laughter!
Weeping knows no end.
Who lost
who won?
( From “ Anecdotes “ Mini Poems of Poet Dina Nath Naadim translated to English by Prof. Arvind Gigoo )

He has also done beautiful English translation of Hindi Poems written by Maharaj Krishen Santoshi , Agnishekhar and Kshema kaul apart from Kashmiri Poems of Bimla Raina . .
If you need to read some serious humour and Cameos then read his Book” The Ugly Kashmiri (Cameos in exile)”. Here he spares none in his crisp , brief and Poignant cameos ( 180 in totality ) .He touches the very edifice of Social life in kashmir where he lived . He provokes you to think “ Was that life based on Hypocrisy and falsehood ? “

  In this book , he Talks about Pandits , Muslims , Militants, Killers , Plunderers , Intellectuals , Leaders , Language and customs . The reader is perplexed with his incisive and scissor like style that rips open every thing for display. It takes some time to understand and comprehend what he actually intends to convey.

I quote some cameos :


"I am where I am not,
Therefore, I am not where I am"
"We must preserve our culture."
"By reviving dead rituals."
“We salute this man for he is a martyr,
We kill this man for he is a traitor,
We nail this man for he is an informer.”
“ From Pakistan to plebiscite to India to Pakistan to independence to anything and anywhere in one breath.”
"Listen! How can I talk about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits? I am a secularist."


"Mohd. Yaseen , Take this money that I owe you.I am leaving this place tomorrow"
"You nasty Pandit, you betrayed our cause.But accept this one thousand rupees from me for you will need them in wilderness."

" We resolve to preserve the kashmiri language wihout reading it, without writing it and without speaking it"
" The motion is carried"
( From left to Right Dr Ayaz Rasool Nazki  former Direcotor ICCR Kashmir ,  Well Known Kashmiri Actor Shadi lal Koul, Autar Mota and Prof Arvind Gigoo at "THE  DIALOGUE " Venue in 2016 )

He is a kashmiri at heart and a Pandit as well. Liberal ,forgiving and Patient . No Never an Agnostic or an Atheist as was conveyed to me by some friends .I could infer that he does not believe much in ritualistic and dogmatic religious activity. Can’t say beyond that .

As and when I meet him , some specific Couplets of Majaz Lakhnavi come to my mind . I quote them ..

" Dair o Kaaba Ka me nahin Kaayal
Dair o Kaaba ko Aastaan na Banaa.. 
Mujh Mein Tu Rooh e Sarmadi mat Phoonk
Raunaq e Bazm e Arifaan na Banaa 
Iss Zameen Ko Zameen Rehnay Dhe
Iss zameen ko Tu Aasmaan na Banaa"

Next time more . So long so much on Arvind Gigoo ..

( Autar Mota )

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016




Hony Capt. Bana Singh PVC ..

The scroll of honour at Indian Army’s Siachen base camp readsthis:-

 “Quartered in snow, silent to remain. When the bugle calls, they shall rise and march again.”

Honorary  Capt.Bana Singh Param Veer Chakra awardee  from 8 JAKLI  is a ' Siachin Hero' and native of village Kadyal falling in Tehsil  R S Pura, Jammu(J&K). I have met him three or four times. As DCO/Chief Manager,  Marketing  of my bank, I have personally organised three functions that were presided over by him .He once told me this :-

" At Siachin , so intense is the effect of the climate that you forget everything; friends , family, relatives, your native village and all connected memories. You only remember your  duty and keep  fighting a  terrible climate . Unbelievably terrible. The outside world is totally  closed.Snow is your  friend,companion,enemy  and killer . White is the only colour that  confronts you everywhere and  at every moment. As and when a letter is brought by a helicopter from the base camp, you are reminded that you also belong to the world below the glacier."

A  year after the Kargil war,  Hony. Capt. Bana Singh  retired after 32 years of exemplary service to the nation. He lives  in his native village in R S Pura , Jammu. He is happy to see his son Rajinder Singh following his illustrious footsteps. Rajinder Singh has also joined the army to serve the nation  .

(Avtar Mota)
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                                                      (BICYCLE AND KASHMIR)

History informs us that around 1817, Germans built the first archetype of the bicycle that they named Draisine. The German Draisine had three or four wheels. In 1860, Draisine was subjected to some major technical improvisations by the French who named the new two-wheelers as ‘Bicycle’. It had cranks and a pedal and a popular commercially successful design.

Sometime around 1890, Tyndale Biscoe brought the first bicycle to Kashmir. He would use it as his local conveyance. As and when, Tyndale Biscoe would move to downtown Fateh Kadal on his bicycle, Pandits and Muslims would line up on the road to see what the metallic animal Tyandle Biscoe was riding. It was named as “Biscoe Sahib Ka Djjin ”. So a bicycle was a Djjin for Kashmiris initially. They also named it as Zalgur later. 

There is a popular story in Kashmir that once a Kashmiri lady came with some animal feed and put it in front of Tyndale Biscoe’s bicycle. She presumed it to be some unknown beast of burden.
I add relevant excerpts from the book ‘Tyndale Biscoe 
of Kashmir ‘:

“ We usually went to school by boat until I brought the first bicycle to Kashmir, which caused even more astonishment than did the first motor car many years later. My first bicycle ride was at night. As I passed, a coolie was carrying some load, I heard a shriek and on looking back, I saw the coolie shouting in terror ‘Mooduss ha! Moodus ha !’ or ‘I am dead! I am dead !’ Poor fellow, he had heard much of the Djjins and had at last seen one with his own eyes. What a grand tale he must have had to tell when he reached his home ?”

After the second world war, cycles started coming to Kashmir in large numbers. It was considered as a mode of conveyance of the elite. College professors, magistrates, advocates, Europeans stationed in the valley were the new users. Later, it became an essential item of dowry given to girls at the time of their marriage in well off families. The brands that came to Kashmir included Hercules, Humber, Raleigh and Robinhood. All these bicycles were imported from England.

 I am informed about one Afsar Khan who is reported to have come to Kashmir during Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed’s rule. Afsar Khan was an ace cyclist who demonstrated his skill at Rainawari ( Zindshah mosque ground ), Eidgaah ground ( downtown ), Hazuri Bagh ground and Polo ground ( near Residency Road ) cycling non-stop for 7 days. He also held his shows at many other places in Kashmir valley. My father has told me that he would eat his food and even shave his beard while paddling his bicycle. Although I have not seen any show of Afsar Khan, yet so many stories about his cycling talent have been conveyed to me by some elders.

And then at a point of time, films also promoted a bicycle. So many films had song sequences with lead pair on bicycles. I vividly remember Nazaraana, a film wherein Raj Kapoor and Vaijayanthimala sang a complete song: "Meray peechhe ek deewana, ek albela mastaana , koyee dekho re mujh ko sataaye re" riding bicycles .O P Nayyar’s composition ‘ Pukaarataa chalaa huun mein ‘ for Meray Sanam was again filmed on Asha Parekh and her friends riding bicycles. The song shooting took place on Srinagar- Baramulla road with Shammi Kapoor driving a jeep. Other bicycle songs that come to my mind at the moment are ‘ Maana janaab ne pukaara nahin ( Devanand and Nutan in 'Paying Guest' ) and ‘ Mein chali mein chali ' picturised on Saira Bano in Padosan. 

Noted writer Bhisham Sahni ( brother of actor Balraj Sahni) in his memoirs 'Today's Pasts ' writes about his experience of bicycle rides in Kashmir. I quote:-

“ In summers, we used to go to Srinagar. Kashmir was created for sightseeing, after all. What destination was better for celebrating a honeymoon than Kashmir? One morning, I got two bicycles. One of them was mine and the other was a girl’s bicycle that I borrowed from a neighbour. Sheela and I rode these bicycles. We went to Dal Lake. We could have parked our bicycles on the shore, enjoyed the lake on a houseboat and stopped at Ahdoo’s restaurant on way back for our lunch. But I changed my mind. Why not go to Ganderbal? Sheela was really happy. Her hair was gently blowing in the breeze and there was a smile on her lips. But the roads were bumpy and the heat was intense. Sheela was finding it difficult to continue her cycling. Her face had turned red and she felt exhausted. She had just taken her examinations a few days ago and then she was exhausted from the wedding. She was sweating and tired. ‘Ganderbal is one of Kashmir’s oldest places. Kheer Bhawani is next right to it. Lake Manasbal is not that far. You will like it. Just a little more. ’ I said to her. She kept cycling though she was extremely tired. Soon she began to cry. We were outside the temple and I got her something to eat. We relaxed under a tree but Sheela did not say a word. She just kept shaking her head. My heart stopped. It was afternoon when a bus arrived for Srinagar. I put the bicycles on the roof of the bus bought tickets and got into the bus. Sheela looked at me and smiled for the first time. And when the bus started, she put her head on my shoulders and soon fell asleep.”

I vividly remember having seen Prof. B K Bhan of Amar Singh College Srinagar using a bicycle to go to his college from his Jawahir Nagar residence. He was generally seen in a two-piece suit with a tie paddling his bicycle and also chewing a Paan. A metallic clip was always attached to his trouser bottoms to protect it from the bicycle chain. His bicycle had a bell, chain cover and a torch operated by a small dynamo. In my school, Sri Krishen Seeru ( a popular teacher ) would always paddle from Habba Kadal to D.A. V. School, Rainawari on his well-maintained bicycle.

 For a ten-year-old boy like me, learning bicycle meant moving through various stages known as Zangataar ( putting your feet on both the paddles without sitting on the bicycle seat ), half paddle and full paddle. And then finally one day I sat on the seat and effortlessly brought the bicycle down the slope of Jogilanker bridge in Rainawari.

The bicycle was a source of freedom for many teachers, many government employees and many students. Leave at your own time, move at your speed and then spend nothing as transport charges. It needs no fuel, no documents and very little maintenance. Most importantly, the rider remained connected with his surroundings while paddling along the paths. In Kashmir, doctors, advocates, college professors and traders used the bicycle as a mode of conveyance.

Many families in Kashmir owned some popular imported brands of bicycles like Raleigh, Robinhood, Phillips and Humber. These brands were imported by some bicycle traders from Srinagar city.
In the early seventies of the last century, the popularity of this cheap and useful conveyance suffered a set back after the arrival of Lambretta and Vespa scooters in the Kashmir valley. These were followed by yet another popular brand of motor bicycle known as Yezdi. Surely, from bicycles, the younger generation moved to these two-wheelers.

But then these petrol-driven two-wheelers were expensive and a select section of the population only opted for them. As the population kept increasing, bicycles also found an ever-increasing new market and Indian brands like Atlas, Hero, Avon and Hercules started becoming popular in Kashmir.The municipality also started registering bicycle owners and collecting annual Token Tax on possession of a bicycle. This fee was later withdrawn.

                                 ( Bicycle tax receipt of Municipality )
                             ( Bicycle Token issued by Municipality in Srinagar )
Bicycles were kept tidy by elderly users. They would fit these bicycles with a small dynamo, torch, chain covers, bell and a carrier on the backside. Some users also carried a bucket in the front of their bicycles. Lady bicycles were also available and used by many college going girls and teachers in Kashmir.

During summers, you would come across so many tourists from Europe and the US riding bicycles and moving in a group of three or four towards Ganderbal, Mughal gardens, downtown interiors and other areas in Srinagâr city's suburbs. These bicycles were rented out by many bicycle shops. In Srinagar city, one could see such shops in Nageen locality close to Hazaratbal shrine. 

In Srinagar city, We had so many bicycle shops, so many shops dealing in spare parts and engaged in repairs and closing punctures in bicycle tubes. I vividly remember ‘Durrani Cycles’ Exchange Road, Srinagâr or ‘Mir Bicycles’ at Nawapora near Khayyam cinema. And then we had some bicycle traders who had their business locations at Hari Singh High Street, Regal Chowk, Lal Chowk, Karan Nagar and so many other places in Srinagâr city. I am informed that Pandit Tikka Lal ( a Kashmiri Pandit) had established many bicycle shops in Srinagar city sometime around 1918 AD. He had a flourishing bicycle business at Gagribal near Dal Lake run under the name and style of ‘Ganesh Cycle Works’.

It has also been established by economists world over that a bicycle can increase a poor family's income by more than 30% as entire expenditure on transport is saved and the maintenance is almost negligible. Accordingly, a bicycle can be an important poverty-eradication tool in any country. The 19th-century feminists named it as a "freedom machine" for women. They felt that a bicycle gave her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she took her seat and paddled away.

And a bicycle never lost its popularity and utility in Kashmir.

( Avtar Mota )