Of Almond Blossoms
Can we ever forget the fragrance we called Badaam Phulai
NOSTALGIA BY ZGM
It is blossoms again. Almond trees are in full bloom. Apricot trees are blooming, peach, plum, pear trees are sprouting. Then also, in my childhood almond trees used to bloom much before all other fruit bearing trees but almond blossoms filled our hearts with mirth that no other blooming tree did. It filled our hearts with rapture as it had filled poets’ hearts of poets like Edwin Arnold:
Blossom of the almond trees,
April's gift to April's bees,
Birthday ornament of Spring,
Flora's fairest daughterling;
Coming when no flowerets dare
Almond blossom, sent to teach us
That the spring days soon will reach us,
I have very vivid impressions about the joy seeing first almond blossoms brought to me heart. The month of March was not all joyous for us; it had its share of melancholy also. It made us happy because it heralded ending of sluggish winter holidays but for fear of examinations it drooped our face like a weeping willow. Those days all annual examinations from kindergarten to post graduation were held in the month of March and mostly the announcement results coincided with the blooming of almond trees. It would be repeating what I have written earlier in this column. No sooner examinations started out of great faith I and my friends visited most of the shrines in our locality and the visits would be more frequent after finishing of the examinations. The shrine of Sheikh Hamza Makdoom Sahib in the bosom of Koh-a-Maran was most sought-after place of pilgrimage for majority of students in my birth burg. It was on not only Mondays and Thursdays, when devotes visited the shrine but after examinations I and my peers almost visited the shrine in wee hours almost daily.
I still remember while moving up on the smoothly chiseled limestone stairways that led to the Shrine on the left side in the precincts of the temple on the foothills there was very few almond trees amidst massive boulders. These massive boulders looked ready to roll down. On looking at these massive boulders as big as two story houses ready to roll down, I would not only be awestricken but my imagination would turn wild- I would start thinking if these gigantic boulders really spin what would happen to my two of my classmates Abdul Rehman and Abdul Majid who lived at the foothills of this hillock.
One of the almond trees in the precincts of temple that bloomed much before all other trees. I remember such trees that bloomed before time where called as “anata-kul”- this tree bore pink flowers and not white. I don’t know what the history has been behind, there were some myths associated with anata-kuls, one of the myths was that the tree that bloomed first was not was not a good sign, it did not augur well for a good harvest..
For us the anata-kul on the foothills of the shrine was auspicious it announced beginning of a month long festival of almond blossom in the foothills of Koh-a-Maran. It heralded a full month of joy and happiness. It meant full month of tip-cat, hop-scotch, hide and seek, cricket under the canopy of almond trees and man and many teenybopper romances.
I have no idea about the history of this festival. It was Emperor Akbar who had erected a massive wall around this hillock and converted the whole area into a garrison for the Mogul soldiers. Many historians counted this township as the first garrison of occupation. Some descendants of Mogul soldiers in your childhood still lived on the peripheries of this garden. The town was named as Nagar-Nagari. The fort on the top was constructed by an Afghan governor. The almond gardens around this hillock were perhaps laid out by Afghan rulers as one of the gardens today continues to be known as Waris Khan’s garden and many a small mohallas behind the massive ramparts are named after one or other Afghan soldier. The Badamwari festival as it was known perhaps dates back to the Afghan period and there are evidences that it survived the Sikh and Dogra rule and during my childhood that is late fifties, sixties and early seventies this festival was at its zenith.
This almond garden was barely at a distance of one kilometer from my house. For full month, it used to be in bloom and there was hardly a day when I along with my friends would not visit this beautiful garden cascading with fragrance. On Fridays, which was the Sabbath day for overwhelming majority in my part of city thousand of men, women and children would throng the almond gardens. It was grand spectacle with motley dressed men, women and children squatting on the ground under almond trees in full bloom. Sitting around fuming samovar many would be sipping tea. The most favorite pastime was eating water nuts roasted in dry grass- Kreshim. Many sazandars, folk musicians, ladishahs troubadours and bandhs minstrel from nearby and distant villages arrived one or two days before the beginning of the festival in our part of the city. Most of them passed their nights in nearby mosques, hospices and shrines. On Friday the almond garden would be filled with music. Troupes of folk musician squatting under on ground would play on traditional musical instruments and child artist dressed in draped in ‘jumper’ would dance and sing folk songs. For child artist performing dance this art form in local parlance was known as ‘bacha-nagama’. The singer would most sing most popular folk songs. I was never attracted by bacha-nagama, but I admired the troubadours for their satire and punch. I loved watching them playing with small iron rings in the metal rod and producing wonderful musical sound in symphony with folk song brimming with satire against the ruling elite. I and my friends enjoyed the satire and pun in their recitations that was targeted against then man at the top and his family.
One of the most important but lesser known character in the garden used to be Madakh- man with a hubble-bubble, a wooden box containing tobacco and kanagri or manann (an earthen clay pot). He would be sitting in a corner in the garden and lovers of smoke would have a puffs of smoke from his Hubble-bubble. They would pay an anna or so for a full lung smoke. He would also been seen moving from group to group and offering puffs of smoke…………..
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Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Mar 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Mar 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 20 Mar 2011 00:00:00 IST
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