Sunday, August 8, 2021


( Jogilanker bridge, Rainawari photograph)
( Maar canal Rainawari, Srinagar )
( Jogilanker bridge, Rainawari   Photo,,Avtar Mota )


In Jogilanker, Rainawari, we had a shopkeeper doing brisk business in provisions. Every person called him Naba Bakhor. I believe his real name was Ghulam Nabi. Behind his back, Pandits called him a Pakistani agent. Muslims owing allegiance to National Conference called him a mischief man from Jamaat ( Jamaat e Islami ). 


He was all praise for Maharaja's rule. According to him, all ills in  the Kashmiri society had come after the Awami Raj ( public rule ). This was his indirect way of hitting at the National Conference sympathisers apart from appeasing his Kashmiri Pandit customers. Exactly opposite to his shop was the bakery shop of Nila Kanth Bhan, a saintly Kashmiri Pandit. If there was no customer to deal with, Naba Bakhor would cry :-


" Dear Nila Kanth, Did you visit the Ghaat ( PDS ration depot on the canal bank)? Have fresh ration supplies arrived? How is the rice ?"


" No, I didn't but Master Durga Nath Handoo was telling me that the worst quality of rice is being supplied this month at the Ghaat. It is all Zug ( dusty or shabby in colour ). It has been a long time since we saw sparkling white rice at the Ghaat. "


In his reply, Naba Bakhor would say loudly :-


 " Should I send 10 kg of potatoes? I have bought a quintal of potatoes yesterday. We must follow our great leader ( referring to Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah) who has already advised us to eat potatoes when rice is not around."


This was a sarcastic remark meant for Ismaal Bakhor, another shopkeeper nearby. Ismaal Bakhor ( Mohammad Ismail ) was a diehard National Conference supporter.

There were two insane persons possibly disowned by their families, who used to sit near Naba Bakhor's shop. One was known as Gaffara and the other was Ghulam Mohammad nicknamed Takka Adij. While Gaffara was weak and slept even during the day time., Takka Adij was always on the move and turned violent when somebody called him by his nickname. Ismaal butcher, who had his shop near Naba Bakhor's shop, would sometimes pass on a mutton piece to Takkka Adij that he roasted in his Kangri and relished. This act earned him the nickname of Takka Adij. Quite often, Neel Kanth Bhan ( Kashmiri baker ) would pass on a hot Tandoor bread or Kulcha to Ghulam Mohammad or Takka Adij. Naba Bakhor would give him cigarettes and Morton toffees. Ghulam Mohammad or Takka Addij would relish toffees while smoking cigarettes. He smoked three or four cigarettes at a time, one after the other. For these temptations, Ghulam Mohammad or Takka Adij was seen around Naba Bakhor's Shop.

While Naba Bakhor enjoyed gossiping with other shopkeepers and customers, he had kept no space for anybody to sit inside his shop.You had to keep standing outside Naba Bakhor's shop for gossiping. He would sit in the shop during morning hours whereafter his sons would take over. They did not indulge in gossiping.

 Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Maharaja Hari Singh, R C Kak, M A Jinnah, Gandhi Ji, Molvi Yusuf Shah, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, U.N.O. resolutions, General Zia ul Haq and Molvi Mohammad Farooq were frequently brought into discussion by him.  I would often hear Naba Bakhor saying one line to close his argument :-

 “Ye gayi markazitch chaal ‘.. or…. This is a trick played by the central government .”

The other party had always to roll back his logic and reasoning in any discussion with him once he declared" markaz ki chaal ' as his verdict. For his business, he was always sharp and focussed. Despite his rigid beliefs, I always admired him for his outspokenness.

One day, a middle-aged Pandit who had come to buy something fainted outside his shop. Seeking help from Nila Kanth Bhan,  Naba Bakhor physically lifted the sick Pandit and made him lie on the outer space ( penjj) of the adjacent shop that would usually remain closed. Asking Nila Kanth Bhan to take care of the Pandit, he ran barefooted and brought Dr Prem Nath Kaul 'Wafa ' from his shop. Dr Wafa put some sugar in the mouth of the Pandit and revived him. I saw the person walking back to his home.

And one day Naba Bakhor told me this:-


" Yesterday, I saw you standing near Habiba butcher's ( Habib Pujj) shop. Don't ever visit Habiba's shop. Always buy mutton from Qadir Pujj( Ghulam Qadir ) across the bridge. Why don't you buy from Ismalla ( Mohammad Ismail butcher)? He is your neighbour. You should go to the Shera butcher at Kralyaar if it is not available with Qadira or Ismalla . Never go to Habiba's shop. Don't you know that he had slaughtered a donkey sometime back? I have told this to him on his face."

I had my doubts about the  authenticity of what Naba Bakhor  had said about the   butcher. Upon checking, I found Habiba butcher  a sympathiser of National Conference.  However, the donkey story was also repeated   by another shopkeeper,  Chuni Lal Watlu .

Chuni Lal Watlu had his chemist shop exactly opposite to  the Jogilanker  police station in  Rainawari. When gossip mongers sitting in his shop ensured  complete downfall of his business , he became  a middleman for settling any issue that any resident had with the  police .However, he  was always sought after for dressing of wounds,  injections and intravenous glucose drips by people. He had developed expertise in these areas.Sometimes he would come to our house for intravenous injections  or any other medical emergency. I would also go to his shop for injections and dressing . My mother knew his brother Sham Lal , a thorough gentleman who had a chemist shop at Gankhan, ZainKadal, quite close to my mother's parental home. Sham Lal was like a family member of   Tikoo family (my mother's parental family ) .Chuni Lal Watlu knew that connection very well. He would often tell me this:
" If Sham  Lal , my brother is  your Mama ( maternal uncle), so am I. For any help, you should come straight to me without inhibition. "

Entrusting his shop to the gossip mongers, he  was always mobile .

One day I touched the issue of Habiba butcher with Chuni Lal Watlu  . He immediately told me that he   had intervened in the matter and helped Habiba butcher at the police station  when some person had lodged a complaint on the donkey issue . Beyond this ,I could not ascertain anything about the donkey story. One could also not rely  totally on Chuni Lal Watlu's version as he was given to making issues out of non issues to involve police  .  Involvement of police benefitted him financially as he had to earn something for himself and his family after the  gossip mongers at his shop had  rendered him idle.

As and when I went to his shop, I found the gossip mongers discussing Jawahar Lal Nehru or Indira Gandhi or  D.P.Dhar or  Bakshi Ghulam  Mohammad or Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the defeat of Pakistan in Bangladesh war.  Chuni Lal was a Congress sympathiser.

Chuni Lal had a human side as well. Many of his clients were from interior localities of  Dal lake  . Most of these clients would come to his shop for  glucose drips .
Glucose drip was very popular in Kashmir.It was a self medication to treat what Kashmiris felt "general weakness "  or sometimes  self presumed dehydration . Every chemist shop had arrangement for infusion  of intravenous glucose  particularly during summers.I have heard many Kashmiris talking something like this:

" I feel I have no energy. I feel tired even if I walk ten steps."
" Go to a chemist and get a bottle of glucose injected . You will be immediately full of energy."
Sometimes ,he would be taken in a  small roofless boat (   Demba Naav ) for Vitamin or pain killer or antibiotic injections prescribed by other doctors . He was quite popular with residents of Dal lake  . Once I saw a Muslim woman at  his shop. She had   come for glucose drip . She had  finished the drip and was saying this to Chuni Lal:
" I have no money with me at the moment . I will give it to you next time. I had also  to buy some items from Nand Khosa's shop at Kraalyaar ."
And she  moved out of his shop. Chuni Lal immediately brought out  a hundred rupee note from his purse and said to the woman:

"  O sister, take this money. Buy what you want. Don't think about returning it. I will not ask. Whenever you have surplus ,  return it otherwise forget. This shop will always welcome you even if you don't return this money. Of Your face resembles with Nazir Ahmed  .Are you his  sister? Take this biscuit packet for your children. "

I conclude this post with some couplets from a Gazal of modern Urdu poet Zubair Rizvi...

"Hai dhoop kabhi saaya
shola hai kabhi shabnam,

Lagta hai mujhe tum sa
dil ka to har ikk mausam.

Beete  huve lamhon ki

ḳhushboo hai meray  ghar mein,

Book-rack pe rakkhe hain

yaadon ke kayi  album ......" 


( sometime,it feels like sunshine
Sometime like shade ,
sometime i feel it like a fireball,
And sometime it feels like cool dew.
Every season within my heart,
Looks and feels like you only.

The fragrance of time spent ,
lingers in my  house,
And my book shelf is decorated by
Many albums of memories alone .. )

( Avtar Mota)

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