My Classmates Duped

Instead of handing over him to police, he was often thrashed and asked to do “nasreek” publicly at any of the two roundabouts in our locality.
My Classmates Duped
File Photo

Those days, white-collar crime was very rare. It sent shockwaves around if a government official was placed under suspension, or removed from services on allegations of bribery, fraud or embezzlement. Even news about people catching a pickpocket in a crowded bus to Hazratbal on Fridays was received with shock, and attributed to decay of moral values – many  lamented, 'Akhar Zamanak gatakar'.  

Instead of handing over him to police, he was often thrashed and asked to do "nasreek" publicly at any of the two roundabouts in our locality.

This was a form of public apology, in which the guilty was made to sit like a kangaroo, holding firmly his earlobes with his thumbs and forefingers and made to bow like in sajda till his nose touched the ground. If there was no dust on nose tip and forehead, he was asked to repeat the performance. After doing 'nasreek', he was publicly made to vow that henceforth he will never again commit the crime.  Sometime, after beating him, his face was blackened with charcoal-paste and he was put on a donkey's back and paraded through main bazars and streets, with boys continuously taunting him – chandha chor, chandha chor. There were stories about some pickpockets and burglars having been corrected because of public castigation. It was during these days, in the assembly of my turbaned and astrakhan cap donning teachers, in the primary department there was a well combed teacher XX, he charmed students with his fluency in Urdu and handwriting – outshining some of the best calligraphers in and around our locality. (Those days many a master of calligraphy lived in and around ward 4 of the city).  Like many other teachers of our school, he too lived in locality around the grand mosque. Compared to many senior teachers, who looked haggard, he mostly used to be well-dressed and in fine fettle.  

One day, the whole school was agog, with the news that the teacher XX had started his own college in a big hired building, somewhere in the uptown, and he was going to appoint lot of staff. The news had also caused excitement in some unlettered small-time handicrafts sellers and artisans who after the closure of the Rawalpindi road had been rendered almost jobless – there were dozens of them who idled their time on shopfronts.  Some of these artisans working on daily wages with some rich traders saw the new college as opportunity for getting a permanent job.  

In two leading newspapers he published an advertisement for recruiting people for various posts in his newly set-up oriental college. Like moths to taper, youth from our locality rushed to his office. Some dropouts from our school, including two of my classmates, who were yet to appear for 8th class board examinations through some tout paid seven hundred  to thousand rupees (then it was good money)  to teacher xx for giving them jobs. The two were appointed as clerks – it made a big news in the locality, after their mothers keeping with tradition distributed tea and bread popularly called "Dasgaree-Chai" in the Mohalla. 

Draped in well stitched suit, sitting on back seat of hired taxi, the teacher set everybody speculating about his fortune. My classmates, regularly attended their office for six months- so did scores of others. But, they were paid no salaries. 

One day, I was shell-shocked to see teacher xx with his face blackened and handcuffed being paraded through his Mohalla. Thereafter I never saw him in our locality. There were stories after his release from jail, for fear of becoming a social pariah in his locality he had taken a job outside Kashmir. 

Greater Kashmir