Kashmiriyat at a Boot Shop

Srinagar. November 2011. There was a scent of snow in the air and father had sensed it while still being in the bed. "It is late November now, pahadan aasi sheen pewaan – it must be snowing on the...

Srinagar. November 2011. There was a scent of snow in the air and father had sensed it while still being in the bed. "It is late November now, pahadan aasi sheen pewaan – it must be snowing on the mountains," he thought, "and nebrae aasi sheen chat chalaan – outside snowy breeze must be blowing". Reluctantly, he comes out of the bed and checks outside, where Parvez saeb is, as usual, sifting through Greater Kashmir. "Kya khabar che Parvez saeb – what is the news Parvez sahab", he asks him. Conversations begin but all along something else is bothering him this morning. "I must buy a new pair of shoes at the earliest," he thinks. "Nate gachi shuh – otherwise my feet might contract chilblains", he presumes.
Waiting for a matador at G.B. Pant Hospital, all along the incessant ogling by this man of his own age seems to be disturbing him. He finds the man looking at him unceasingly, almost without batting an eye lid.
However, both are dislodged from their places when a matador arrives and the conductor shouts Lal Chowk, Lal Chowk, Lal Chowk so loud as if to confirm that everybody waiting at the bus stop is deaf.
"Why is he stalking me", father asks himself. "Let me give slip to this man", he thinks again. "I will get off the matador one stop before the last one", he plans and executes it without giving him a whiff of it. 
He swiftly crosses the road and enters in what was once the KMD bus adda, crosses the adda precincts and emerges at Maulana Azad Road. Perturbed by the sequence of events, he finds a resting place for himself. He gets up again, starts walking, takes a left turn and soon emerges at the Ghanta Ghar.
Lost in an old story he doesn't really realize when he steps into the intended boot shop. "Salaam–salaam", the two exchange the greetings and before father speaks anything, the shopkeeper asks: "Waniv tav Panditji kya hukuma chu – honorable Panditji what can I do for you?" "Garam pahan boota goch – need a warm shoe", he says. The shopkeeper affirms: "Tohi haz dimo bhe behtareen boot – I will give you a special shoe".
The last one he tries is the one that was on his mind; it has a fur lining from within, which makes it an ideal winter footwear. A price is fixed. "Fit chu – it is a perfect fit", he thinks and smiles.
His smile dissolves as rapidly as a cube of butter on a hot pan. The stalker is standing there, his broad smile blocking the entrance to the shop which, unfortunately for father, is the exit itself.
The shopkeeper warmly asks the man to come in. He seems to have been waiting for just that signal. He takes long shuffling steps towards father, and spreads out both his hands for a hand hug. Bewildered, father is left with no choice but to offer his right hand, and as soon as the man wraps both his hands around father's, he asks: "Salaam haz, he me wot haspatale petha schrat schrat karaan, me dizou mafi, me wanitov tohi chuwa Shambhunathji – from hospital onwards I have been desperate to know if you are Shambhunathji?"
Father confirms he is. No sooner had he confirmed than the man comes another bit closer and holds father in a tight hug and asks: "Me zaniva – do you know me?" Without waiting for an answer the man tightens the hug a little more; making both look like Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous conjoined twins of 1836. Father nods in negative. "Ahaan hez kati asev tohi yaad, tana gav wakta, magar tohi haz asiv me ustaad Tarhami – yes you must not be remembering since it has been long, but you were my teacher at Tarhama", the man, who has turned as grey as father, informs.
In a matter of minutes father and the man–turned–student flip through history as if still in one of their old classrooms. The shopkeeper adds some interesting fillers here and there, father gets up to collect his purchase and the pay the bill. He hands over the money to the shopkeeper. Shopkeeper holds the currency in his hand; takes a few notes out from it and returns back to father. "Consider me also one of your students", he speaks emotionally and adds: "Daikhar hez karizav – please keep me in your prayers". "Me ti hez – me too", adds the man and leaves the shop with father.
Just a step outside the shop, he extends his hand towards father one more time, and hugs him once again. Both are smiles and part ways – father towards Ghanta Ghar and the man towards Amira Kadal Bridge.
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