The Kashmiri Crystal Ball!

Boba has lived long and has gained a lot of knowledge on the sidelines

Salt N' Pepper


Granny or to use the Proper Noun for her, the Proper Kashmiri Noun that is, Boba is a storehouse of wisdom and tradition. The other day I was discussing soothsayers and tarot cards and other future predicting devices and accessories with my cousin. When I began explaining about crystal balls (which fortune-tellers look into – or pretend to look into – while foretelling peoples’ fortunes), Boba who had all the while been listening intently to our conversation nodded her head and said, “I know what you are talking about!”
“Really!” I said just by way of respect. You see I wasn’t surprised by her knowledge regarding this matter because Boba has lived long and has gained a lot of knowledge on the sidelines.
“I had it in my cupboard for a pretty long time. And then because of your mother’s carelessness it fell down one day and broke into pieces. Not that it got wasted; it lasted for a couple of years flavouring your grandfather’s morning cup of Kehwa.” Boba reminisced with a faraway smile on her face.
Now this was confusing. One could easily be led into believing that Boba had gone dotty but then I knew better. I put it down to a misunderstanding.
“But Boba what I am talking about is Crystal Balls…”
“Yeah I know…” Boba interrupted me and then in turn I interrupted her.
“But surely you don’t mean to say that bits and pieces of the Crystal Ball went into flavouring Grandpa’s kehwa! I am talking about Crystal Balls.” I repeated.
“The very same…” she said with a patronizing smile. “Only it is called Naabadh Nout in Kashmiri.”
“Naabadh Nout! What is that?” I asked.
“Why! Don’t you know! But then of course it is an outdated thing. Ah! Those good old days…Naabadh Nout used to be a part of every ceremony, every marriage ceremony that is!” Boba explained.
“Now that is interesting,” I said (and meant it!). “But what was this Naabadh Nout exactly?”
“A crystal ball as you said. It was made of sugar compressed into the shape of a Nout (an earthenware pot). Probably they made it by compressing sugar in a Nout.”
“Sugar! But my dear Boba Crystal Balls are made of glass or say crystal which is a type of glass anyway. Besides you don’t understand crystal balls are about foretelling the future and all that.” I tried to clear her confusion.
“Well since this Naabadh Nout was an important part of the ceremonies leading to a marriage pact you could say that it was about the future. In any case in our days marriage was the only future there could be, especially for us female folk.” Boba said with a sigh.
“But,” I tried to reason with her and then gave up the effort thinking it better to humour the old lady. “Well it is certainly very interesting. Do tell me more about it.”
“It was like say the middleman would visit my in-laws to represent our side and take this Naabadh Nout along among other things.” Boba explained.
“And what would they do with it.”
“They would just keep it locked up in a cupboard and then when the middleman would visit my folks on their behalf he would bring it along, along with other gifts whatsoever.”
“And then?”
“Then? Then my people would keep it safely in a cupboard till again some ceremony would require sending it to my in-laws…” Boba said shrugging her shoulders.
“You mean it would just keep going from one side to the other again and again?”
“But then what purpose did it serve?!”
“Ceremony! Tradition! But then you won’t understand!” Boba pursed her lips and said rather wistfully.
“What would happen to it ultimately?”
“It would last for ages, that is, until someone careless like your mother would come along. Before she broke it to pieces my Naabadh Nout had served in three, no four, marriages!” you see Boba has this ‘thing’ about my mother, the usual mother-in-law/daughter-in-law story.
“I guess none of these things is around now?” I asked her.
“There is! Some traditions live on like…like the Kashmir problem! ” Boba said and then dropping her voice to a whisper added, “What do you think the group that recently went over there took along with them?” (‘over there’ being a euphemistic expression for our neighbouring country, ‘the land of the pure’ etc. etc.; ‘the group’ is well ahem…you got to leave some things to the reader’s imagination after all!).
“You don’t mean it!” I said.
“I do! You see they took this Naabadh Nout along with them and then they must have got it back with them and will be taking it along when they visit the other party. Tell you what! It is an old Naabadh Nout that like all Naabadh Nouts has been going there, coming here, going and coming and going and coming…Not that it is of any use…but then it is all about ceremony you see! Tradition and all that!”
I scanned Boba’s face but try as I might I couldn’t make out whether she was serious or just joking!

(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at

Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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