Slaves die only, don’t retire

Jabbar was only seven when he was hired from his parents as a domestic help by Shamas-ud-Din Shah or abbreviated SD Shah, during his service days when he was posted at Jabbar’s village as a DFO. On his transfer from Jabbar’s village to his hometown, Srinagar, SD Shah assured Jabbar’s father that his son would never face different treatment than the other members in his family which had a high non-discriminatory reputation in their uptown locality of Khojas. The heartening assurance by him about his family being imbued with fairness & equality was more than required for a poor rustic villager,  Jabbar’s father,  so much so that he unquestionably surrendered into a counter assurance that he would never ever in his lifetime visit SD Shah’s home at Srinagar lest his son was reminded of his  pastoral parentage or lineage. So, the poor man’s tongue signed a lifelong pact with SD Shah that he would never disturb by his intervening or intermittent fatherly visits to that family, his son’s prospect of attaining a better life there. It seemingly signified acquiescence to Jabbar’s induction into Shah-family as a welcome addition.   

In a sense, Jabbar like a sprig was severed from its original plant and grafted on a different tree; nonetheless, he didn’t receive the sap in the same measure in which it was supplied to, or received by, the other natural branches of the tree. Oral assurances of SD Shah weren’t backed by his actions. …………………………………………………..

Jabbar’s service of four decades to Shah-family, no way better than obliged servitude, had consumed his entire life. Although he at 40+ was almost coeval with the children of SD Shah, he was unwed, washing & ironing their clothes, polishing their shoes, mopping floors and staircases of their home, vacuuming their bedrooms & doing market purchases of daily consumable & eatable items of the household. …………..

Days passed. SD Shah had already retired as Forest Conservator when he died. The whole family was dipped in a deep pool of grief on his death. Every member of his family & the other relations mourned & wailed over his death. The female siblings were seen pulling their hair, ripping their clothes, some beating their chest, while the others scratching their faces & tossing their bodies with the floor or the walls, just to vent out their deepest feelings of sorrow and pain over the demise of their loved one. All eyes were filled up with tears. The bereaved Jabbar thought he had lost his own father, so the torrents of rain in deep-felt pain rolled down his face. SD Shah’s corpse was laid to rest in his grave. With that, all funeral rites were completed with its locking up permanently inside the vault. 

Few months later, Jabbar, just 45, also died but of a cardiac arrest. But this time, though seemingly the family had also lost a ‘member’, there were no bereavement-feelings, no eyes moist, no wailing, no weeping, no chest beating, no tearing of clothes, no writhing in grieving pain and no scratching of faces. There was only a sad silence, as usual there just happens to be on such mournful occasions. In that melancholic hush, when men were jointly busy in bathing & shrouding of the dead body of Jabbar, the two domestic helps, Nazir & Bashir, of the immediate neighbourhood, present at the funeral, walked to a rear corner of the lawn of the house apart from the gathering of mourners & condolers. 

They sorrowfully talked to each other: 

“Why nobody in Shamas sahib’s family is wailing the death of Jabbar, when it was all mournful here at the time of his death”, asked Bashir who wasn’t literate. 

Nazir who was a matric & a little sharp replied sorrowfully: 

“Brother! Shamas sahib was head of the family, father, husband, blood relation to…, and owner of huge property that has devolved upon his death on his successors. So, there was everything for them from blood to wealth make them weep, writhe and wail in felt-pain. But Jabbar was nothing, nobody to {T} his family….”

“But, he was a human being like…who gave his entire life to…. ‘, asked Bashir, naively. 

“Yes, but he was a servant first”, replied Nazir.

“True, but, I’ve heard government employees are also servants like us …” re-questioned helluva simple Bashir.

“Hah….Indeed, government employees are public servants whose job is always secured & on retirement also, they receive good monetary benefits. But we’re private servants, given to servitude, our job isn’t secured, we don’t retire, we only die as slaves without any property, with few clothing that are given to corpse washers & grave diggers. So, there is none to wail our death; but our ‘dead’ parents who sell us……’ explained Nazir sorrowfully. 

“Look there, Nazir!”, intercepted Bashir, pointing towards Jabbar’ coffin that was now set for final journey. So, both of them hurriedly moved towards the coffin to join its carriers to the graveyard.

Jabbar’ body that was bathed with ablution (wudu & gusl), enshrouded in white cotton cloth (kafan), now in coffin being carried for funeral prayers (jinnaza) &, then, for final resting immediate next to SD Shah’s grave in their ancestral cemetery. Though in lifetime Jabbar lacked courage to sit next to his master on his left or right on sofa or carpet, like two equals. Nor had their inequality occasioned such a chance for Jabbar in lifetime. In the whole funeral gathering, only two pairs of eyeballs of two domestic servants, Nazir & Bashir, were brimmed with tears for their self-same-brother, for the message in Jabbar’s death wasn’t cryptic but, obviously, identical for them, too. 

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