Guest Control Days

After the end of the feudal rule, when this class of Khojas still lived in the past and cherished nostalgia, a new class of neo-rich was breeding like worms in gutters under the canopy of new political dispensation- interestingly called the Awami Raj.
Guest Control Days
File Photo

Those were austere days. People largely believed in simple living and were not given to luxuries. The number of Janga-Khoja, the class of business people who had made big fortunes during the First and Second World Wars had substantially gone down. Their exports after the closure of the Srinagar-Rawalpindi Road had suddenly dipped. Like the hanger-on's of the Maharaja's Durbar their huge mansions now wearing down told stories about the riches they had made some years back.  Even in our childhood some of these Khojas loved to live with pride with the sobriquet, they had earned for making good money during the wars. I remember having heard stories on shop fronts, how wages of the daily wagers engaged in the woollen rug industry had increased many times after the export price of the rugs had shot up. There were lots of stories about these unlettered workers entering into the trade and making good money.

After the end of the feudal rule, when this class of Khojas still lived in the past and cherished nostalgia, a new class of neo-rich was breeding like worms in gutters under the canopy of new political dispensation- interestingly called the Awami Raj.  Making best of the filial connection with the new class of the rulers- the Awami leaders of the yesterday' this class of neo-rich like pests was fattening on every resource of the state. Interestingly, for making a buck from anything possible they wanted to monopolise the trade of human excreta by denying the workers of vegetable growers from their age-old job of collecting the excreta from the city and converting it into manure. Anwar Ashai, a friend, remembers that first contract that a relation of Awami Raj Minister got was collecting excreta and dunghill from Badam-i-Bagh Cantonment and for this, he earned the nickname of "excreta Khoja." During our boyhood that 1959 to 1962, I vividly remember, a new class of neo-rich was born, this class of people was known as "Googa-Khoja." This class of people had stood in the witness box against one time their leader in the Kashmir Conspiracy Case and the Hazratbal Murder Case. In recognition of the job done, these people got 'route permits for buses', 'forests on lease', huge contracts and plum postings in the government. Most of these neo-rich known for waywardness and extravagance wrecked the fabric of our society. Moreover, through their ill-gotten money, they bred lots of evils in the society, one of the social evils the city dwellers blindly picked up was extravagance on marriages- it was during these days that seven-cuisine traditional wazawan multiplied to three to four time's cuisines. To arrest the trend of lavish feasts on marriages, in the second half of the sixties, some prominent traders and activists in our part of the city formed a civil society group. The then government, under the pressure of this group, ordered guest control, restricting the number of guests and wazawan cuisines to traditional seven. This guest control bred a new culture of sending Batta-Tramis (rice plate meant for four people laced with all the wazwan dishes) in the evening to nearby police stations for police officers on duty, to the linemen at the power station and ward officer of the municipality. Sending Batta-Tramis to these agencies protected from harassment on under the pretext of violating the guest control. For fear of harassment by the police and other agencies under the pretext of violating the guest control some people out of faith sent a cauldron of rice and some dishes to the nearby taqīya for Shodas – cannabis smokers.   

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