Through the alleys of the giant library, walled with rags and book volumes, I was walking. Fragrance of old paper was inspiring me to continue my journey. On my both sides, there were books. Books with hardbound cover, which occupied major shelves, and books with paper back. My eyes were swirling from left to right to copy everything they could catch when a book of quotations caught my sight. I commenced to read some from the book. I found a quote of Osho but when I was about to finish a voice disconcerted me. I finished the quote and was trying hard to put back the book from where I took it but the voice reverberated at higher intensity. Firstly, I didn’t understand what the hustle was about but then I conjectured that it was my name that was being proclaimed. “Taseen, Taseen …” I awoke from the dream covered in sweat. I saw the door of room ajar and a silhouette of grandma standing still in front of me. For a second, I was scared. But I quickly rubbed my eyes and kept aside my quilt. Grandma ordered, “Fresh-in-up quickly, we have to take paddy for sun-drying.” and left the room.
Through the windowpane, I saw the rays of sun penetrating the branches of poplar and willow and I guessed that it was too late. We had to transport the paddy to the Govt. Middle School in our village which has a compound without trees. But the difficulty was that it was half a kilometer distance from our house and we had to transport it through redi (cart) and that too in two turns because redi can lift only eight bohir ( sacks whose volume is 60-70 kg each) at one time.
I brushed quickly and ate my breakfast consisted of lawas and nun chai. Seeing grandma’s ‘be quick’ look I told my sister to stop filling my next cup. I had to bunk my school for the sun drying which I enjoyed like a picnic. I loaded the cart with seven bags and left the remaining six on low floor porch. I transported the first load quickly. Abdur Rashid, popularly known as moulvi soab accompanied me. He was a short man, approximately 5 feet 3 inches. His long nose and full bearded face could deceive your eyes and hid his shortness if you see his face only. He was from Damhal Hanzpur and used to visit our home in the summers every year for work. He was brought there by grandfather who trusted him more than he trusted my uncle. I lifted the bohir and moulvi soab handled the bottle neck like upper side of it (two corners tied together with straw rope) and I pushed it onto his shoulders. We repeated our action for rest of the bohri. We then untied the bags on the tripal and patji which was spread by grandma and aunty until then.
My mother had remarried after my father’s demise. Villagers considered it as a vilification of the martyrdom but our paternal aunts oriented us in such a way that crushed every illusion and deception which would have otherwise emanated from our innocent minds. My elder brother and I used to go to IMI Anantnag and my sister and younger brother to Rosy-Tots Institute Anantnag. The cause of sending us in separate schools was prevention from bad eye which grandma said is corroborated by the Prophetic hadith. Mother used to visit us intermittently. I felt both excited and sad at the same time, excited because of receiving motherly affection and sad because I couldn’t access it on demand. Plus, I was never kid to receive motherly affection to my heart’s content neither I became older to receive it decently because nature has given me two brothers; one elder than me and the other one younger. Our teachers question us a little about the rendezvous but these become the material for their discussion. We sense the theme of their discussion and rather complaint to grandfather back home. He maneuvered the situation by showing the ‘beneath the mother’s feet is paradise’ and ‘everyone has a right to talk,’ attitude. We felt guilty and try hard not to complaint thenceforth. Later I realized, ‘social efficiency has nothing to do with curriculum.’ Grandma, uncomplainingly, did all the chores she was assigned by my aunty. She kept us away from the peasantry work, unlike other villagers who made their children work in fields constantly, so that we can concentrate fully on studies. Day by day she was becoming weaker and pale but she never gave up. She kept us telling, “Every kind of knowledge begins with Allah, so you must read his book and pray five times a day, it is then you will succeed.” This gave us incentive to pray regularly and unfold our reserved complaints before Allah the Exalted.
Moulvi soab and I returned to our granary and filled two more bags as dictated by grandma when she saw the pleasant weather. We felt tired and there were eight bags now. It took us half an hour to reach school compound. We were wet with perspiration. Till now teachers had also arrived. One of them was Ashraf sir who had taught us at IMI when I was in 8th standard. We had met after three years. He couldn’t believe his eyes that it was me doing work because in IMI days I was a man of my own will, a bit proud and funky styled boy. After the exchange of greetings his first question was what are you doing? It was in a sense how could you be? I answered indifferently that sir at that time I was a kid and now I have crossed matriculation. The stubble on my face substantiated my statement. But it was the demise of my grandfather, two years before, which had paved way for responsibilities onto my shoulders. He told me that though I was an average student at IMI but he sensed in me a brilliant futurist. He introduced me, on my father’s name, to other teachers and then uttered their names anti-clockwise. They were sitting in semi-circle on their plastic chairs which were brought there by students when we were unloading first redi. Ashraf sir began from right hand side, “she is Haseena, Msc botany”. I was startled by seeing an Msc botany teacher knitting sweater while her class was enumerated in government ledger. I greeted her and in response she nodded by taking her eyes off the sweater. “He is Muhammad Iqbal MA English”, Ashraf sir repeated. He was a tall well suited clean shaved young man. We shook our hands. “He is Mr Mukhtar, Bsc non-medical…” before Ashraf sir could finish he interjected, “I teach mathematics”, emphasizing the last six letters; maybe because he thought mathematics as the only ultimate truth which can be proved. He was a good looking man but bald headed, perhaps his equations took much time in solving the scratchy problems. “He is Bashir Ahmad” Ashraf sir continued. An old man near to retire but due to wrinkles and thin face looks seventy years of age. BA, Bed. He taught English and other social sciences. He had a worn out half jacket on and polished shoes, I scaned. There was another man towards whom Ashraf sir said, “He is Mr. Bilal, he is our Urdu teacher”. He was MA in Urdu from the University of Kashmir.
There came another madam and sat on the empty chair opposite to the first one. Everyone greeted her, asked about her health, her family, etc. After that Ashraf sir said, “She is Mubeena and is teaching Urdu”. Ashraf sir didn’t say a word about her qualifications neither did she. She was middle aged and I came to know later that she was only 12th pass. She had some renegade1 relatives who had employed her on vacant migrant2 post. Then Ashraf sir pulled chair for me and announced my name again; Taseen Abu-Bakar. Everyone nodded and I became self conscious. I sat down with Ashraf sir and we almost completed the circle. Some teachers were in the class and these commenced to interrogate me. They questioned about everything without paying attention that everyone needs some privacy. Mr. Basher asked my ambition of life as if I was a kid. But when I replied, “I want to become a writer”, everyone stared at me in astonishment with their mouth open. Hasina madam stopped knitting, Mr. Iqbal who was puffing a cigarette was almost hanged and smoke flung simultaneously from his mouth open. I bent my neck half towards Ashraf sir just to decrease my humiliation but he stroked my back in appreciation. I then realized that I have cut loose another question bag for me. About what area you want to write? Azadi? Why do you want to write? What is in writing? How will you earn then? Fiction? Non-fiction? These questions came all at once like the grains falling from bag onto canvas. I replied, “I will unveil the truth”. Everyone became interestingly quite including me. Instantly a bell rang and next period started. Ashraf sir got up and left. He told me to stay until he is done.
I felt relieved because I don’t know why but they turned the discussion towards their own affairs. Perhaps they didn’t take me serious after Ashraf sir left. The attribute of sensitivity and curiosity of my ambition propelled me to stay and observe their recesses of mind. My inner self told me ‘Taseen see what these learned people are hypnotized with? What pleases them and what makes them sad?’ Moreover I wanted to figure out that how the builders of nation are going to make everyone better off without making anyone worse off?
Bashir sir began towards Mukhtar sir, “Mukhtar Soab what is your elder child doing now? Has he got admission in JKCET?” “No, he will take second chance now. He is preparing for that. These teachers didn’t teach anything at tuition centers. They have taken it as a formality to complete the syllabus” replied Mukhtar sir. A student, whom I watched approaching from the corner of my eye, wearing white, blemish with mud shirt and a black pent; one trouser above his ankles and other down, intruded, “mmm.. Mukhtar sir class.” “Don’t you see we are talking? Monitor the class I am coming” was the reply. Mukhtar sir readjusted his eyes towards left where Bashir sir was sitting and said in mocking tune, “they completed their PhD and now I have to award their thesis.” Bashir sir laughed in appreciation and simultaneously caught up the thread of their talk, “yes, you are right but then you shouldn’t have admitted him in Govt. Higher Secondary. IMI would have better for him, isn’t it boy?” He raised his hand towards me to reinforce his statement or maybe he wanted me to take part in their talk. I was terrified first but then I managed to nod with a smile. These self-contradictory sentences of theirs were reeling in my mind. Being a teacher but blaming teachers for not making his son intelligent enough to crack CET. Another being a government teacher advises his contemporary to educate his son in private school. After everyone’s nod and Mukhtar sir’s quit, Bilal sir said to Hasina madam, “Hasina Ji we made an apple orchard at home but we are not sure how much distance we should keep between trees.” Not because she was a botanist but they also had one at home. She replied as if she was a bollywood singer, “ummm….. These things are only known to men. I didn’t visit the orchard often. I will consult my husband and tomorrow I will tell you.” He nodded and replied in Kashmiri accent, “okay”, emphasizing on ‘K’ to show off his MA English degree.
Hasina madam, distracted everyone from the topic so that no one could slip towards her qualifications for answering the Bilal sir’s question, spoke out, “Mubeena Ji, who has tailored your suite? Its fitting is marvelous. How much you paid to the tailor?” she felt good and said, “no, is it really so? He is our neighbor and we sew all our clothes there and he takes only Rs 60 a suite.” “umm… that is good, I will give you one next week” replied the Msc madam. Eventually a friend of mine came with a bag around his right shoulder. I didn’t know that he was Hasina madam’s son, Mirza. Till then two more madams reached there after finishing their classes. Mirza and me hugged and by seeing me in her son’s acquaintance, Hasina madam, capitalized her questions with more smile on her face. You didn’t tell me till now, how is your family? How you doing? Etc. Instantly a girl with wear out white frock and black trousers came and said, “madam your class”. Hasina madam replied, “Take the sweater and wool I am coming. Open your books till then and rub the board; you don’t give a minute to relax.” She took his son aside and they talked. Indifferently I eared some phrases, ‘O my dear,’ ‘my beloved,’ etc. when they returned from their private talk, all the madams requested Hasina Ji to tell her son to show them the video of his paternal aunt’s marriage which most probably was copied in his laptop. He agreed. All the madams started keenly watching the recording as if they had to give exam of it later. Mirza escorted his mother to her class and left without the bag. After some time Ashraf sir came and took me away. He then asked me, “How was the company?” I replied, “Sir, laboratory, it gave me the idea how blurted our future image is.” He said nothing but smiled. I understood later that he did it deliberately in order to galvanize me.
At evening when we came to collect the grain teachers were leaving. I came across them and they were saying that central level employees were getting 6th pay commission and they should also protest for it. Everyone not only nodded but showed much energy in answering, “of course.” Womanly attribute couldn’t swallow all they observe by firsthand experience, grandma, after saying goodbye to Ashraf sir, said, “Why those privileged want more money? Why are they so incoherent every time? When will they be fed up?” I answered with the words of Osho which I had read in dream, “the original source of all tension is becoming. One is always trying to be something; no one is at ease with himself as he is. The being is not accepted, being is denied and something else is taken as an ideal to become. So the basic tension is always between that which you are and that which you long to become.” Despite my neglecting some parts of the question, grandma appreciated by saying, “Taseen has become mature.” I kept filling the bags exuberantly and thought, ‘dream had a purpose in the least.’
• Renegades are surrendered militants who collaborated with Indian forces. They are known as Ikhwan which means brothers. This is the dreadful deception in the history of Kashmir i.e. Ikhwan betrayed their nation in the name of ‘brotherhood’. Normally Kashmiris name them as traitors.
• Migrants are the pundits who left Kashmir in late eighties and early nineties and left their kashmiri Muslim brothers alone to survive. Some of these pundits were forced by militants also but the whole blame game revolves round the governor Jagmohan.
Khalid Fayaz Mir is a student of Economics. He has graduated from the AMU last year.