Waiting For A Lion
And I never saw that coming
NOSTALGIA BY ZGM
My grandmother was the best storyteller for me. She told stories ‘naturally and interestingly’. She had not received any formal education. She had not been to a school nor had been taught in a Maktab. I do not know how she had mastered the art of storytelling; her accounts were not brief but fine colorful narratives as good as rainbows with bright, subdued and hidden colors. While narrating a story she revealed her ‘personal life’, part of her accumulated experiences’ and ‘conjuring them around’ the traditions of the land- the stories many a time end up in weaving a myth.
She was an aborigine, so unlike grandmothers of many of my friends whose ancestor had arrived in Kashmir some five to seven hundred years back with caravans from the Central Asia into the valley, she had not inherited a bag of travelogues or quiver of stories from far and wide countries. She knew no stories about the cities and countries that have influenced our art, architecture, language, literature and culture. She often repeated that ours had been a family that some three hundred years back in search of a livelihood had arrived in the city from some Abor village in Kamraz and settled somewhere at the foothills of Kohamaran and took different occupations at different times.
There were no stories about Kashan, Kashgar, Samarqand, Yarkand, Bukhara, Badkhshan, Andarab and Hamdan in her bag but she knew a lot more stories about the spiritual attainments of the saints and sages from these great cities. She knew how to arouse curiosity in children about the saints and sages whose shrines dominated the landscape in my part of city. I still believe she has been my best tutor on the lives of great saints that have played significant role in shaping our society.
I remember one of the stories that she narrated while I was warming my benumbed hands on Kangari tucked underneath her pheran, after having played sheen-jung with my brother and cousin. The story not only ran my imagination wild but also aroused curiosity in me- the curiosity that instead of dying with age sharpened as I grew up.
The story revolved around two Lions, one from Zabarwan hillock and another from dense forests of Mahadev. Narrating the stories about great spiritual past of the locality we lived in, she said that two lions from nearby forest descended on the city in wee hours of the morning much before cracking of the dawn, much before Muzzein would give Azan from mosque atop the mount Kohamaran or much before the bells in the temples at foothill of the mount start ringing a lion from deep forests of Harwan without fail would arrive on every Thursday morning to pay his obeisance at the shrine of Makdoom Sahib on Kathidarwaza side. So on every Saturday morning a lion from the Zabarwan hillock arrived in the city and paid his respects at the Baidan Sahib’s Astan that is how she called the shrine of Hazrat Sheikh Baha-ud-Din Ganj Baksh – some eight hundred meters from our home.
There was no question of disbelieving the veracity of the story that she repeated many times later but what thrilled me most in the story was the way she portrayed arrival of the lions into the city and their paying obeisance at the shrine of these great saints of Kashmir. The lions, she said, would stop running at a distance of a mile or so, then with their heads bowed they stealthily walked to the shrines and kneeled down. Then they would squat on the ground outside the shrine as if in deep mediation and after some time got up- but before they would get up they struck their tails against the ground three times. I never asked my grandmother why did the lion struck their tails three times on the ground but I often dreamt awake of riding on the lion through the main Street of our mohalla to the most revered shrines in our locality and enjoyed excitement of lashing of tails with full force on the ground.
The stories of lions paying obeisance at the shrine did not go with my childhood but lived with me for many more years to the extent becoming my faith. It was tradition in our family to visit the shrine of Sheikh Baha-ud-din Ganj Baksh Kashmiri on every Saturday with a bundle of incense sticks and twelve loaves of bread- I remember those days twelve loaves of Kashmiri bread cost six annas that is two paisa a loaf as against three rupees of today.
I remember having heard lots of stories about this great saint who lived in a hutment of reeds on the banks of river Jhelum during the reign of Sultan Zain-ul- Abdin. He lived on crumbs of food lying in lanes outside the homes, he washed them and ate. There were stories about his brush with the Sultan. There were lots of stories about the piety and miracles of Ganj Bakh, who had lived in anonymity for longer periods of his life and it was for spiritual attainments that he became much sought after from royalty to ordinary people.
Most of my friends visited the shrines with great faith for scoring good marks in the examinations - I was no exception from others but besides examination it often lurked in my mind to see the lion from Zabarwan hillock paying obeisance at the shrine.
It was with this hope that one day, I will see the lion at the shrine; I volunteered at home to carry incense sticks and loaves of bread to the shrine every Saturday. I remember those days when I was in class five or six; I would start my journey towards the shrine much before the first light appeared to make the roads visible- I remember I bought bread from a baker near the shrine then passed through small lanes clustered on both sides by massive concrete houses of Kothdars (whole sale meat sellers)- unmindful of grandeur these pieces of architecture- blends of tradition and modernity- I passed these lanes, then entered yet another mohalla of rope makers. I arrived outside the shrine before many others but never saw the lion coming.
I often consoled myself the lions are either coming too early or have stopped coming after 1947, when spiritualism was overtaken by avarice.
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Lastupdate on : Sat, 12 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 12 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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