My Teachers And Jajeer

Greater Kashmir

Something more about a unique thing I talked about last week

It is no hubris. My admiration for my birth burg is not chauvinism but an admission of its importance. Surely, it has had the distinct from many other counties for being capital of   the Sultans of Kashmir for centuries. It has been cradle of hundreds of Persian poets and scholars and abode of scores of savants and sages. Above all home of artisans gifted with deft hands.  It in reality has been crucible of our civilization and epitome of Kashmiri culture- something we all feel proud.
Talking about Jajeer, in last Sunday column I was reminded,   how our artisans had not only improved upon the Hubble-bubble that arrived along with traders from Central Asia or brought by the Mogul kings and soldiers into our part of the world but almost made it indigenous. The ceramic Jajeers with floral patterns engraved as beautiful as paisley design on Pashmina shawls produced by potters in Khanyar and Kralayar had found their way into the drawing rooms of European homes. Many coppersmiths in our locality were known for hammering out best Kandhaka’r-Jajeers with intricate floral designs. For carving a design out of the metal,  dug   the iron chisel in the metal  as dexterously as a hoopoe picks his bill in the grass. The more elaborate design on the Hubble-bubble more costly it would be. In fact, Jajeer, was in our childhood also counted as a status symbol. Some very rich possessed silver Jajeers and for holding tobacco they used silver chillums. I remember, a silversmith in our locality was known for making silver chillums with lids. A lid on chillum slowed burning of tobacco these long hours of smoking.
For smoking from Jajeer being seen as a part of intellectual discussion as someone has said, ‘it had become a fashion statement’.  Teachers, without reservations asked students to rinse the bowl part or ‘base jar’ of Hubble-bubble and fill it with fresh water. I remember a teacher even checking the nalacha, (pipes)- if water had been passed through them or not. Emptying the wooden tobacco casket of tobacco ashes was a routine work.  Sometimes, teachers would put students on an odious job of screwing out smut accumulated inside the Chillum with tongs.
 I remember, a teacher of mine Pandit Shamlal, I used to go for tuition in class nine. He was fond of smoking tobacco.  Reclining against a bolster in a window of his house that opened on Mar canal, he used to enjoy long puffs of smoke from his Jajeer- he preferred to call it hookah. His hookah- that we called as “bata-Jajeer’ was different from one used by Muslims.  Its base jar was of brass. It opened at top that was fitted with a wooden pipe for holding a chillum at the top and had a smaller hole on a side for holding another smaller pipe. There was nothing indigenous in Bata-Jajeer, it was simply replica of what is historically known as Mogul Hookah. Seeing him smoking from his hookah or sipping tea from his Khoos brass cup it often bothered me why     Battas do not eat in copper utensil and take tea in porcelain cups made  like Muslims. 
 When I was in class seven, a Muslim teacher visited our home for taking our tuition.  Immediately on his arrival, he asked for Jajeer for having some puffs of smoke before teaching. Once my uncle objected his behavior. In his defence, the teacher talked about Allama Iqbal’s love for smoking and narrated couple of stories.  One story lurked in mind for many years.  ‘During a three-hour transit at Wazirabad Railway station on his way to Sialkot Dr. Iqbal had deep urge for a smoke. He asked the coolie to bring him a hookah. Coolie answered there is no place to find a hookah at this early hour. Iqbal have good money as incentive- coolie rushed off and after sometime brought back a small dirty hookah. Allama enjoyed puffs of smoke and shared hookah with the coolie. On train Iqbal’s companions told him that hookah was really dirty – at this bard of the East laughed – when you have urge for smoke you do not look at hookah.’ Years later, I read the anecdote in detail in Rozgar-e-Faqir…
My uncle afterwards said nothing to our teacher- he continued to fill the air of room with smell of tobacco while teaching us….