Looking through the Pinjra window of our mud-garden-roof house into the street outside was one of my best pastimes. That was true about many children in my generation. The colourful processions of the Maharaja with soldiers mounted on tall horse backs, on the way to temple on the slope of hillock near our home and people instructed to stand with their heads bowed on the sides of road and raise slogans 'Maharaja Bahadur Key Jai', that grandmother often talked about were no more there.. Curtains had been drawn on the royal processions, a couple of years before my birth the soldiers and soldiers on horseback dismounted, these replaced by men in olive green.
Nonetheless, for peeping through the small frames of the window for me was like looking into Kaleidoscope – men and women morning hours in different costumes and colours on the way to mausoleums of saints were like it was designers treat the eyeballs. Those, were the times when rarely a car plied on the roads, and the city bus service nicknamed as 'ponda bus' for its one anna fare was yet to introduce, and owning a single horse chariot was a luxury. The street outside our home, immediately after waterman sprayed it with water came to full life- the officer goers cycled or paced through it. Some, of the office goers, who had worked on the menial staff of the Maharaja as dusting boys or as shoe keepers in the Darbar, and had now put on the jobs as peons – those working with senior officers were called as Jamadars. For, their khaki uniforms, up button coats with brass buttons, with gold corded shoulder pads, khaki trousers, Khaki turban with multiple golden thread string decorative edging on the right side added a royal aura. A tall man in full uniform, with neck as straight as a walking on the road often aroused curiosity in me. I often thought of him as part of the Maharajas tribe, till one day my father told me that he was a Jora-bardar or kafshan-ban a shoekeeper in the Maharaja Darbar and now he was a peon in an office. There were many other feudal relics, who despite working at a small position in various offices for having once served the lords of the land carried monarchial airs.
I reminisced these vestiges of the Dogra rule on remembering Subhan Kai – the gatekeeper on entering into my school; he reminded me of Abdul Aziz Malik- Aziz Malik, another "ubiquitous character"- as friend Dr Altaf remembered him. Malik lean, dwarf, adorning khaki uniform and white turban peon of the school lived just a furlong or more from our house near the humped stone bridge on the Mar Canal. When I was in the primary department in 3rd C, and my brother was in the middle department, perhaps in 6 A, like a shadow, he followed legendary headmaster Ghulam Mohammed Khadim, inside the school. On my graduating to the middle department, I often spotted him sitting on a tool outside the room of Mufti Ghulam-u-Din, of the principal of the school. Mufti Sahib, unlike Khadim, never carried a stick in his hand, and never cane charged late-comers. And when I joined Islamia College, Aziz Malik also had gone one ladder up, now he was Jamadar of Prof. S.N. Thusu, principal of the college. His attire also had changed, in his Khaki uniform, up button coat with brass buttons, drab-high-brown turban with a royal touch; he also looked like a relic from the Dogra Durbar. Class work or no class work, those days no teacher left the campus before 4 PM. The principal and three of his senior most colleagues Professor S.L. Raina, Prof. S. N. Dhar and Prof. R.K. Zutshi acclaimed for their academic credentials left the school on foot. I vividly remember at distance of a meter or so Aziz Malik silently walked behind them. I don't know- I never tried to find out, if Aziz Malik terminated his journey at his residence at Naid Kadal or followed these teachers to their houses in and around the second bridge.