Tuesday, June 9, 2020





                                                      " THE  TERMINAL  DUES "

Maharaj Krishen had purchased two plots of land at  Nai Basti colony in Anantnag from the money that he received as his share from the sale proceeds of the orchard that his father had sold in 1987 after the 1986 disturbances in Anantnag district wherein some temples and houses belonging to Kashmiri Pandit community were damaged by unruly mobs. And then in 1988, Tosha Ji had also received about two lakh as her share from the deceased claim of  the bank account that her father had in a bank. He had also some personal savings. Pooling all the money, he had built his new  house on one plot while the other was proposed to be sold at a premium after some time. The house was completed in December 1989. However , by  this time, militancy, processions, pro-Azadi slogans, killings, curfews, bomb blasts and selective killings of pro India Kashmiris and Pandits had already started in the Kashmir valley. Hurriedly, he had to move to his new house on Janauary 10, 1990. Every day he and his family started feeling terrorised due to the random killing of innocent in the Kashmir valley and the endless processions of hysterical crowds and their full throated anti-India, pro-Azadi and pro-Pakistan slogans. He and his family could not sleep for the whole night of  January 19 ,1990, when loudspeaker from the mosques blared pro-Azadi slogans asking people to come out on roads. That night, one slogan raised by  a group   “ We want Pakistan without Pandit men but with Pandit women ” sent shivers down their spines. Tosha Ji, little Vivek and Maharaj Krishen trembled and shrank in fright that night. They expected to be attacked by the crowds at any moment. And on January 20, 1990, Abdul Gani, their milk supplier had told Maharaj Krishen to leave for Jammu immediately as he had seen his name in the hit list pasted on the mosque’s wall. Leaving everything behind, Maharaj Krishen left Kashmir on January 21, 1990. He took up a rented room at Talab Tillo locality in Jammu city  . In Jammu ,like every Kashmiri displaced employee , he also  received his salary and had no work to perform although some employees  were attached with  the office of the Relief Commissioner, Jammu .

Maharaj Krishen had  good knowledge of filling up various forms, connected formalities and government rules. He was a graduate and worked as senior assistant in the Public Works Department, Anantnag before moving to Jammu. Though Maharaj Krishen was not drawing any  relief or ration from government,  he spent two to three hours every day at the Talab Tillo relief counter. Here he would volunteer help to old and helpless victims and sufferers . He would gossip with Manohar Nath  and Omkar Nath  who looked after this counter officially. With them, he would discuss every news item relating to Kashmir gathered from a common source,  'The Daily Excelsior ' newspaper. This newspaper kept him connected socially too as he came to know about deaths of his relations or acquaintances and dates of their 10th day rituals. Maharaj Krishen read this newspaper line to line and word to word every morning after getting free from the routine of purchasing bread, vegetables, curd and milk. Sometimes he would go to his in-laws or his sister’s house. That was his world. That was his routine  engagement .

He never wanted to buy a plot or construct a house in Jammu. He never wanted to sell his Anantnag property. In that house, he had invested everything that he had earned and  saved . However,  he had to change his mind when Bashir Draal visited him in Jammu. Bashir Draal had said this :-

“ Maharaj Krishen, your house is in a state of ruin and has been plundered totally. Not a door or window is left. All the furniture, washbasins, toilet commodes and electric fittings have been looted. With such damage, it shall be very difficult for you to find a buyer. Presently, people in the valley are also moving out and buying some property in Jammu or Delhi for the education of their children. And then very shortly a command directive is being issued by all major militant  outfits that any person who deals with Pandits or buys their property shall have to face dire consequences. You are wise enough to understand what they mean by dire consequences. So very soon, you will have no buyer for that property. That is why I am saying that 4.50 Lakh is a good amount for the property you own. Not a distress sale as you feel. I agree that if there was no militancy and things were normal and the house was not damaged, this property could give you 15 to 16 Lakh. But that is not so at present. 4.50 lakh is my final offer, the rest you decide. But keep in mind the  command directive being made operational very shortly apart from the present condition of your house. If you still chose not to sell, you may not get a penny later. If you agree to my submissions, then keep this amount of three thousand rupees as advance. I shall pay the remaining in three months. That seals our deal. Agreed .”

For Maharaj Krishen, Bashir Draal was a devil and a messiah both. Devil as he felt that Bashir Draal was simply a cunning broker who was using every ploy to hoodwink him and messiah because other than him, Maharaj Krishen had no hope of ever finding a buyer for his Ananatnag property. And at that time, very reluctantly he had agreed to sell two plots of 10 Marlas each in Anantnag town with a new house for 4.50 lakhs to Bashir Draal on the basis of a  Power of Attorney.

The money that Maharaj Krishen had received as sale proceeds of his two plots and house at Anantnag, Kashmir was   spent on the education and  marriage of his son Vivek. Vivek had done his engineering degree from Pune after being selected through the ‘Kashmiri Migrant’ quota and he had taken up a job in Bangaluru .  And in 2007, after Vivek’s marriage,  Maharaj Krishen and his wife moved to Bangaluru to live with  their son and daughter in law .

Having returned from Bangaluru in April 2010, Maharaj Krishen once again  took up a two-room set on rent at Talab Tillo locality in Jammu city. He loved Talab Tillo area even if it was crowded and full of mosquitoes. Here, he could easily visit his sister who had her own house in Bharat Nagar locality. That apart, his brother in law had also constructed a new house in nearby Anand Nagar, Bohri colony. Many People from Anantnag had built their houses in Anand Nagar area.  Tosha Ji, his wife  also liked this area. They had happily lived here for about 17 years after their displacement  from Anantnag, Kashmir .

Tosha Ji liked milk, curd, kohlrabi (Monjji ), Haak Saag, Kashmiri brinjals, Nadru (lotus roots ),Kangris,Charcoal and Attahur and many more typical Kashmiri items sold everywhere in Talab Tillo market. She also liked Kashmiri bakery shops of the area selling her favourite Girdhaa bread. Prasad Koul’s Kashmiri spices shop, Kangan Spices sale outlet  and Jain Masala shop  were also located in this area. She would often buy black beans (Vaarimuth), kidney beans ( Rajmaah ), Kashmiri red chilly powder, aniseed powder (Baidyaana ), dry ginger powder (Shonth ), rice flour, dry water chestnuts powder ( Gaaeri -oatt ) and dried vegetables from these shops. She would herself go to Vijay Rice Mills to buy Ratna variety of rice. Dr Safaya of Anantnag had his clinic in this area.   Gulzar Ahmed too had his "Prince Kashmiri Halal Meat "  shop in Talab Tillo, Jammu. Tosha Ji had a distaste for Jhatka  (mutton sold by Punjabi non-Muslim butchers ). Incidentally, Gulzar was also from village Chavalghaam, Kulgam. Chavalghaam was Tosha Ji’s parental home. She would often visit Gulzar’s shop and tell him this :-

“ You are a brother from my parental home. Your mother’s brother ,Ramzaan Ganai lived adjacent to our house. He was like a brother to my mother. Understand how you are related to us ."

Maharaj Krishen did not like any person discussing the reasons for their return from Bangaluru. Some relatives knew it well that they could not live happily with Vivek and Pooja their son and daughter in law. Though Vivek had married Pooja Bhajekar, a Maharashtrian girl, both, Maharaj Krishen and Tosha Ji had nothing against the marriage or their daughter in law. Pooja had happily put on the Dejhur and Taranga for the marriage function. Some relatives would say that at Bangaluru, they felt cut off from their roots. Some said that they had no social life over there. However , he had primarily returned to get his pension case settled .

At Bengaluru, Maharaj Krishen also missed his daily newspaper and the gossip crowd of the  Relief Counter, Talab Tillo . At Bengaluru, Tosha Ji had to get up early at 5 a.m. every day and prepare breakfast for her son and daughter in law and thereafter look after Charu, her little granddaughter. She had also to prepare dinner for the family. She was assisted by Suneetha, a domestic help who would come every day for the house cleaning and dish washing. With this maid, Tosha Ji would converse through body language only. Suneetha spoke typical rural Kannad but Sarla Ji could not pick up a word of Kannad although they stayed at Bangaluru for about three years. This was in contrast to Jammu where Tosha Ji had gained a working knowledge of Dogri language so much so that she could easily converse with Chanchala their domestic help.

Maharaj Krishen had his reasons. He was not happy with his son Vivek, who, he felt treated his mother like a maidservant and never encouraged his wife to work in the kitchen. Satirically, he would tell Tosha Ji :

“ When is the queen coming from her office today ”

To this Tosha Ji would say :

“ Why can’t you sit peacefully? Why do you create trouble for us? We have one child, tell me where shall we go should we leave him.” And then Tosha Ji never imposed any authority or demonstrated her mother in law status in the house.

After his return from Bangaluru in 2010, Maharaj Krishen wanted to construct a small house in Tarlokpur Camp, Gole Gujral, which locality was proximal to Talab Tillo. He knew that a 5 Marla plot was still affordable in this area and he intended to purchase the same from his terminal dues now. Although he had retired in December  2009,  his pension case could not be settled as his service book was incomplete. A large number of GPF schedules were also missing. This meant that he had to visit Kashmir and update the same from the offices of his last postings. For him, this was a cause of worry. How shall he go to Kashmir? Where shall he stay? How shall he visit Shopian where he was last posted?

But then he also heard some  good news. Shiben Ji, his friend from Anantnag had met Maharaj Krishen’s childhood friend Ghulam Nabi Dar in Jammu. Dar Sahib was presently posted as Deputy Secretary in the civil secretariat and had desired to know Maharaj Krishen’s welfare. Dar Sahib was also known to Tosha Ji and her brother. Dar Sahib had played a crucial role in the marriage of Maharaj Krishen given his closeness to both the families. When Tosha Ji and Maharaj Krishen went to see Dar Sahib at his Gandhi Nagar  government accommodation, they had told him about the incomplete  Service Book and the missing GPF schedules. To this, Dar Sahib had said this :-

“ Why did not you tell me this until now? Just give me details and wait for ten days. I am going to Anantnag tomorrow and shall return after the Eid festival. Don’t  worry .”

To the  surprise of Tosha Ji and Maharaj Krishen, Dar Sahib returned after 10 days with a duly completed Service Book and entries of missing GPF schedules. Once Dar Sahib had given the good news to them, the behaviour of both husband and wife had changed. Both were excited. Tosha Ji decided to visit  Saint Gopi Nath Ji's Asharam with yellow rice ( Tahar ) as a Prasada to be served to the devotees over there. Maharaj Krishen suddenly re-started his smoking. Now, Maharaj Krishen wanted to buy 5 Marla plot in Tarlokpur, Camp Gole Gujral area and construct just two rooms to live happily. It appeared as if things were moving in the right direction for Maharaj Krishen and Tosha Ji . He assured Tosha Ji that she could now buy two gold bangles and the  golden chain ( Ath ) for her Dejhur. Maharaj Krishen knew how Tosha Ji would simply keep sighing at the sight of golden chains (Ath) of almost all the women in her relation. These sighs would always make Maharaj Krishen feel guilty. Supporting her husband in discharging his responsibilities, she had happily given most of her parental jewellery for the marriage of Maharaj Krishen’s younger sister. To his wife, Maharaj Krishen would often say this :-

“ Don’t worry. I shall buy you two gold bangles and the  golden chain ( Ath) for the Dejhur. Let my terminal dues case get settled. What have I to do with all that money after constructing two rooms?"

Tosha Ji had always desired to buy a chain for Charu,  her granddaughter. Quite often, Tosha Ji would sigh and say :-

“ Our  Vivek ,  poor chap has a daughter now. How long can he afford to pay rupees fifteen thousand per month as rent for his accommodation? How long shall this boy live in rented accommodation? God help the boy to own some space in Bangaluru.” And while bowing her head before  saint Gopinath Ji’s statue, she would also seek his  divine help on this issue.

After some clearance work at A.G.’s office, Jammu, Maharaj Krishen managed to get his terminal dues settled and pension fixed. Out of the total amount of 17.00 lakh received as terminal dues, he invested the sum of Rs14.00 lakh in fixed deposit for 1 year and the remaining 3.00 lakhs were deposited in his savings bank account. Now he was all set to buy the proposed 5 Marla plot His  pension had been fixed at Rs19580/= This was enough for them.

Today he had invited his sister and brother in law for a dinner on account of his birthday. They were happy at this get-together. Tosha Ji was quite caring for her sister in law and she had nothing to compete with her. Relations between them were quite cordial.

While sipping Kehwa tea, Maharaj Krishen noticed a beep on his mobile phone. He asked Tosha Ji to give him his spectacles to know as to who had sent him a birthday wish. Holding the mobile set in his right hand close to his face, he started reading the message that suddenly made him pensive. The message read:

“Papa happy birthday. Flat settled in Electronic City. Price 26.50 lakh. Loan raised 10.00 lakh. Pooled 1.50 lakh from own sources. Needing remaining balance amount to move in. Payment to be made within 10 days only. " 

 Very tactfully, Maharaj Krishen  changed his serious look and smiled saying:

“ It is Dar Sahib’s birthday message for me. ”

Tosha Ji heaved a sigh of relief at this clarification. She now started to serve the dinner. Once the guests had left, Maharaj Krishen searched for his cigarettes and smoked three in quick succession. He then opened the suitcase wherein he had kept his bank passbook and fixed deposit receipts. Before going to sleep he told Tosha Ji that they needed to go to the bank the next day as she had also to sign some papers relating to bank deposits.

Next day Tosha Ji and Maharaj Krishen went to Jain Bazar branch of   Punjab National Bank and got the fixed deposits cancelled prematurely.  A sum  of Rs15 lakhs was remitted  to the savings bank account of Vivek by RTGS mode. By now, Tosha Ji had come to know the full facts about the SMS that Vivek had sent to his father. When they came out of the bank, Tosha Ji forced her husband to purchase a heavy south Indian silk Sari for their daughter in law from the nearby  Sapna Sari Store. She also bought a New dress for Charu her granddaughter. They had no proper suitcase for travel and she asked her husband to buy a VIP travel suitcase from  Jain Attaché House, a well known shop of Jammu. For Vivek, she bought a silken Kurta and Pyjama. Now she turned to Maharaj Krishen and begged him to buy a suit length from Raymond’s showroom saying:-

“ You have to enter a new house. Shall you not buy a new suit for yourself? Who shall buy for you ?”

That made Maharaj Krishen pensive. He could not understand how Tosha Ji cared about everyone in the family but never asked anything in return for herself. He requested her to buy just the golden chain ( Ath ) only for her Dejhur from Khajuria Jewellers, a shop frequented by his sister. To this she said:

 “We have to spend at Bengaluru also. Keep some money with you. I shall buy later. It is getting late. Now that we have come to this area, let us go via Sabzi Mandi. There you get everything cheap and fresh. ”

 With all the purchase bags in their hands, they moved towards Kachi Chhawni Chowk to board the Talab Tillo matador. As they moved past the rows of Jewellery shops in Jain Bazar, Maharaj Krishen saw groups of happy women entering and leaving. He dug out a cigarette from his trouser pocket and started smoking. He kept  thinking about  the golden chain ( Ath ) for his wife, the proposed purchase of a five Marla plot at Tarlokpur, Gole Gujral and the likelihood of transfer of his pension account to Banglaluru branch of the  Jammu and Kashmir Bank.


 (Avtar Mota…..Jammu ..2012 )                               

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