My Roots Chopped
The moment I moved out of my wonderland
NOSTALGIA BY ZGM
I was barely six when my birth burg started looking an ‘alien place’ to me. Everything around seemed to me drowning in melancholy. And numbness caught me.
I had moved out of the wonderland – the kindergarten class. It was no less than moving out of fairyland- where everything including the clay models of different races and tribes in their traditional costumes, their brides and bridegrooms standing in rows on a long table seemed animated and the cardboard houses in a corner of the biggest class in the school looked as good as real. The kindergarten class was no less than a pageant but, I don’t think, the things around had started looking unfamiliar to me for having reluctantly moved from this fairyland to clumsy, dull and drab classroom of “Awal”- as the class first then used to be called.
I do remember when I was in “awal”, instead of swallows taking graceful flights on the desolate roads, it were now emotionally surcharged crowds that thronged them. I loved watching these crowds from latticed windows as I loved watching and chasing swallows on these roads. Many in these slogan shouting crowds would often have black bands tied around their forehead- I don’t remember the slogans that these people raised but after they would pass through the road- I would often parrot these slogans hardly realizing their meanings. It was much later that I learnt that it was period when many political currents and cross currents had swept across our land.
It was not for these political currents that I would have then hardly understood- that continue to puzzle me even today that my birth place had started looking alien to me- but it was for the fast changing landscape, architecture of shrines and façade of the houses that it was slowly turning foreign to me.
I was born in a three story house. It was made of small bricks. It was seven by four Takh house- having latticed windows. It had birch bark roof covered with thick layer of mud that blossomed in spring. It was an average house- the houses of rich used to be much bigger. Most of these small brick houses put together looked like a composite whole.
I don’t know if the brick wrongly called as ‘Maharaja Bricks’ had been introduced by masons from Central Asia- some of whom were part of entourage of Mir Syed Ali Hamadani or they were brought into Kashmir by the Moguls. The ruins and monuments of the Mogul period spreading across the valley and on the route of their travel do suggest that these bricks were introduced by them. But many monuments of the period of the Sultans and homogeneity of the architecture along the route adopted by Mir Syed Ali Hamadani and many other missionaries from Central Asia to this land suggest that these bricks were introduced in Kashmir in the fourteenth century only.
I don’t know if archeologists have worked on the subject or not but in my childhood there was architectural rhythm and symphony on both the sides of road in our locality. The small brick, latticed window house with balconies gave an aura of medieval Central Asia to our part of the city. It in fact seemed a blending of medieval Arabia and Central Asia. There were hardly any houses in our locality that were in clash with the traditional architecture.
In some neighboring mohallas couple of years before my birth new houses had come up. These new houses were modeled on some major buildings constructed by the British officers in the city. These houses were constructed in green stone and big bricks- most of them had Bukharchas ( small balconies) that ran from ground floor to the top, the ground floor was constructed on seven to eight feet high plinth that could be reached through chiseled limestone flight. Most of these houses were constructed after the end of the second world by people who had made riches by exporting goods to Germany and other European countries- some of these families for having made riches during the war were nicknamed as “German Khoja” or “Jangi Khoja”. Some of these houses with towering steeples looked like big European mansions- and I remember many strangers visiting our locality mistook them for shrines. On occasions, I have seen some innocent people more particularly from the rural areas stopping outside these houses and with folded hands praying.
These houses and mansion that seemed in conflict with the dominant architectural beauty of our part of city had not bothered me but it was my house- the house I was born in started becoming alien to me, first when the birch bark roof that used to rash with all kinds of flowers during springs, summers and autumns was demolished. It was replaced by eighteen mili meter thick corrugated galvanized (CG) sheets supplied by the government on subsidized rates. It was the beginning of the subsidy culture- that many contemporary historians denounce as mass political corruption that was rampant during fifties and sixties in the state. The subsidy on CG sheets set a race for replacing the birch bark mud roofs with metallic roofs.
Ours was a salaried class family; it perhaps started becoming richer in mid-fifties. The first causality of the new found riches was our traditional house- the house I loved. The family wanted to demolish the old house and construct a new house at its place but it was not granted permission so decided to repair the house. First the beautifully made lattice windows with floral and geometrical designs were replaced with dull looking glass windows.
The second to become causality of the new riches was the façade of our house- the façade that was narrator incarnate telling stories about the glory of our part of the city that had been the capital city of most of the Sultans. The beauty of small bricks was destroyed by cement plastering them- I remember those days a cement bag cost Rs. Six, the wages of the best mason were Rs. Six, per day, second grade was paid Rs. four and the labor was paid Rs. Two.
The white clay daubed rooms were oil and distemper painted – and everything that belonged to me at my birth had become alien. One by one façade of most of the houses in our locality was changed – and roots that tethered me to the glorious past were chopped leaving me and generations to follow rootless and rudderless.
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Lastupdate on : Sat, 26 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 26 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 27 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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