Me and Muharram

My uncle with welled up eyes often accompanied the Muharram processions



Like all children, I too was born with a ‘canvass clean and pure’. Notwithstanding dust raised at Shaltang and beyond before my birth continuously clouding the truth during my childhood and it  stifled, with hangman’s rope tightened around every truth seekers neck,   I grew up to boyhood with pureness of heart- yes with a clean canvass. 
Every festival and the day of solemnity had its own sobriety for my siblings and me. It never crossed our mind that individual faiths had something to do with these festive and solemn days.  The Ba’tta-Bau’d Duh (Kashmiri Pandit festivals) at the foothills of Koha-Maran, had their own attraction for us.  Chanting hymns from ancient Vedas elderly Ba’ttas passed through our Mohalla in the wee morning hours followed by young boys and girls in their best costumes, with   marigold flowers in their hands or elderly women with gadawa, brass vase filled with water in their hands.  We often enjoyed walking to Badamwari-place of festivity with the younger Pandit lot. 
There were no Ba’ttas in our neighborhood but on the right side of our house, there was very humble three-story house. It belonged to Muhammad Malik. The house made of small bricks with ‘garden roof’ compared to other houses in the Mohalla was far less in height. The height of rooms of Muhammad Malik’s house, which was barely six feet, suggested that it was oldest house in the Mohalla perhaps dating back to the times of Chaks. Muhammad Malik’s family was the only family that followed Imam Jaʿfar ibn Muhammad al-Sādiq in our Mohalla and all others followed   Imām Abū Ḥanīfah. In a nearby Mohalla a few followed Imam Shafi’. However, as children and not even during boyhood we understood the nitty-gritty of the different schools of thought- and there was no talk about them on the shop fronts or Masjid Hamams. Irking then sarkar it was politics - Kashmir cause - and not sectarian differences that dominated the discussions. 
Muhammad Malik’s house, with his three sons mostly engaged in altercations sounded rumpus would suddenly slip into ‘sadness of a vale’- the sighting of Muharram moon brought “solemn tenor and deep organ tone” to the family.
Days before the commencement of Muharram, our locality woke up to different kinds of activities. The blacksmith in our locality- there were few of them, some known for making best locks and some known for molding hot iron into beautiful agriculture appliances and small and big cauldrons  abandoned their regular activities and made small knives fitted with chains and wooden handle for Muharram mourners. They did a brisk business. In our Mohalla there were five families of knife-grinders, three had shops in our Mohalla, another was at distance 700 or odd meters from our Mohalla near Bazar Masjid and one had his shop in Maisuma.  Shiite youth visited our Mohalla for grinding their small mourning knives. I have vivid impressions about the long queues of youth outside these knife grinders. Some of my classmates approached me for using influence out of turn knife grinding.
Many a time, I dreamt of buying a bunch of these knives and joining some of my schoolmates from Zadibal, Alimgari Bazar and Kamangarpora,  and bleed with them. I did not buy one, but there has been hardly an occasion when I have not moved along with the Muharram Processions.
In our childhood two Muharram Processions were taken through our locality, one started somewhere in Habba Kadal and passed through narrow alleys along the Nallah Mar- stopped over at Kamangarpora for rest and then terminated at Zadibal. Another started at Zadibal, passing through my birthplace, Nowhatta and Malakah it ended up at Hassanabad. My peers and I accompanied both the procession to their destination but never dared to enter into the Imambara at Hasanabad along with mourners - there was some psychological barrier…Later, I realized the authorities instilled this psychological barrier.
More than often, my uncle with welled up eyes often accompanied the Muharram processions. He had named all his children as Hassan and Hussein after the grand children of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To observe the greatest of great martyrdoms, he would often carry cooked food   to Srinagar Mental Hospital or “Kanda-Sharbat” to the nearby shrine.
More than often some urchins pelted a stone or two at the procession near Mallakah and children of our Mohalla chased  away  these urchins little knowing that it used to be handiwork of authorities- till one day a group of boys caught a mischief monger and beat him to pulp- he was a known what was then called 19/15……   

Lastupdate on : Sat, 1 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 1 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 2 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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