"Wathsa gobra", dad would say, "aes gachou Magum vatuk ana'ni". I would soon grab the bicycle, expecting a zig-zag ride on Magam-Pattan road. "Na", he would say, "let's walk". Sad face.
Magam was not a distance; it was just a thought away. Tucked towards the edge of this Ahmadpura wodur was Kralpura, which was a potters' mohalla. They had worked in advance for this time of the year anticipating batta bod-doh – herath.
Their earthenware remained the same as always: nott – the large pitcher, tchod – the small pitcher, dulij – the round pot, and sanwari – the oval containers, but when the same entered our homes, their meaning changed. Clay bound two faiths, and it was like that since ages.
This kraal and his wife very well knew the sanctity of what they were making. The sentiment was the same throughout. "Yi mauj lagi tche balai", she would normally tell me as I expected 'something complimentary' while her husband packed the fragile earthenware.
Herath had just begun, here and everywhere. The whole village, wherever each was, was a family. The festivity was shared than nuclear. There was a strange feeling of togetherness that could be felt lingering in spring air. Life abounded.
It was a batta bod-doh that ceased to be batta-centric, particularly on salaam – the day following the evening when vatuk was taken to yarbal and filled with water for puja later; all walnuts clattering inside as if attempting to break out of their shells. This continuous rattling of walnuts is what we had been brought up with year after year.
Salaam was Eid; all friends and families dropping by from wherever they could. Some friends and some families could fail, but one person never did – Ghulam Rasool, the class forth employee at this school in Khaag, Beeru, who had become friends with father on his short posting there. Ghulam Rasool would not forget to bring in a load of razma that we would relish throughout the year.
Ghulam Rasool, a semi-educated person, was extremely soft-spoken, so respectful and so well-mannered that even we would feel ashamed of doing a lot of prittle–prattle in his presence.
Same was true for Saedr-maas, a totally illiterate woman from the village nearby, who would shadow mom most of the day. Saedr-maas would change her course or turn aside if a village elder entered home. She knew the meaning of dignity and also knew how to keep hers or accord the same to others.
Respect in Kashmir meant a different mindset. In India, where we have to celebrate shallow heraths now (we assume taps as yarbal), respect means nothing. I am yet to find someone, around whose shoulders I could wrap my arms, give a hug and say, "Wow, you have reminded me of Ghulam Rasool and Saedr-maas".
If the thought is outdated, it is too late for me to change it now. Two countries' territorial war has ruined two communities and shattered the very fabric of their lives. The ensuing conflict has robbed us of our rich legacy and timeless culture. This is the truth. If this is not, I would like to be told what is. If it is, then why shouldn't I remember home on herath?