The Living of Yesteryears


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Gloomy crimson balls of cotton scattered all over the sky tell a tale of sorrow and valour.

Nabbe Motte fixing his jajeer, sings –

“Wallah mien wadaan gaash soutuy….”

Is disturbed by his friend who comes rushing towards him. Nabbe  imagines him as an injured pigeon who was trying to fly. This brings a smirk on his face.

Haya Nabba , Hayya Nabba (Hey Nabbe) have you seen the sky today? It is as red and crimson as blood again. It gives me chills; I feel something bad has happened.

“Oh please Gulla, it’s nothing new, stop paying attention to the sky that gives out wrong signals every now and then. It is so much used to being lit up blood red that the skies now take comfort in auburn shades”

“Come help me light this Jageer, this snow and cold has made it impossible to enkindle”

While Gulla approaches to help Nabb in his endeavour,  his face sinks in his chest and is so drymuch in deep thought that he is almost lost in some other world.

After the tiring effort they succeed . While Nabbe was fixing his pointed hat over his head, Gull looks around him and finds that far away in this wide graveyard a new grave was being dug up. Someone said, that he was just a seventeen year old .  Nabbe exclaimed,”One more heretic , I guess?”

“It seems so!” exclaimed Gulle.

 A river of mourners irrespective of gender came rushing carrying the coffin, so charged up, trampled Gulle Kak and Nabbe Motte on their way. Leaving both of them behind, dishevelled.

“Are they so much sunken in grief that they even didn’t  see us and crushed us, like we were ants! “ exclaimed Gulle .

Nabbe after coming back to senses “Kal-Poosh haa  roowm.

Oh no, here it is.

It’s very painful to bury small coffins. You know …” blurted Nabbe.

After burying it, his family wailing, crying passes again  by Nabbe and Gulle. Making  Gulle sad who rushes towards his home, seven  blocks  ahead of Nabbe for a slumber.

Nabbe leans back towards a tomb stone with his name on it, his home for now. While smoking his Jajeer observes the evening sky, turning into night, with twinkling stars and wonders how these illuminated dots still look beautiful while he places his right hand on his chest and is startled, that he feels no heartbeat, then in a moment of self-realization he is reminded he is just bones atoned with a ragged pheran and Kashmiri pointed hat. He thought his heart would have stopped beating again if it would have seen him this way. From a macho, handsome, tall man to bones, to skeleton. This is what earth does to bodies beautiful. Upon this thought he takes another puff from his jajeer and all the smoke he inhales comes out of his ear holes, eye sockets and rib cage. He seemed like death itself with its cloak and smoke and carcass body.

Certain dreams we all envision , some with eyes open and other with eyes closed. Gull, left with only eye sockets in place of his eyes, dreams a fantasy of blue sky, chirping birds. Spring in all its shapes.

Next day Gulle jumps out of his cosy home and looks around and then turns and finds his friend in the same position he had left him last evening.

“Nabbe ,Did you not sleep last night?”

“Haha! Sleep? Have you forgotten we are dead? Sleep is for the living; it soothes them and makes them unaware of the reality for a while at least. We are cursed, we are dead yet we are alive and there is nothing in this whole world which can soothe our bygone souls, I can still feel its essence in me at times.

“Come, leave this talk for now, andlet’s check out the new dead.”

Gulle scratching his skull, reluctant to go, still gives in and walks away with Nabbe to meet the new dead.

When they reach there, they find the earth of that grave still wet and fresh as the skin of a new born baby . Nabb bends down towards the grave and adjusts his skull on the grave as if trying to hear something.

“What do you hear?”

After a moment of silence, with mixed feelings Nabbe answers, “He is sleeping”. That the newcomer is comfortable in his eternal bed yet he feels frustrated to see a young boy lying under the earth rather above it.

Nabbe gets up and screams at the peak of his voice and shudders. “We all live in a reverie, a state of conceded joy Gulla, all living and dead. But we are shaken back to our own sorrowful tale of woe.”

“What has happened to our dale?” Gulle sighs. “When we were alive our valley was so peaceful and vibrant. I still remember the clean waters of Dal, the beauty of Mughal Gardens, the peace under the shade of Chinar ,even our Autumn was more alive than dead, it used to bring beauty instead of pain and decay.  We were called the Valley of Saints, aren’t they protecting us anymore? What happened in these decades?”

“I don’t know, I guess Death loved Kashmir so much, it made a home out of it!” Nabbe cries.

“Oh come on, tche haa chuk shodde. Come let’s dance Nabbe!”

Gull gets up and starts dancing and whirling like an ecstatic. Nabbe starts to laugh seeing him dancing and detaching sometimes his leg, arm and readjusting them. He looked so funny in his pheran atoned skeleton body that they both starting laughing.

“Nabbe we the people of this land have strange hearts, we can laugh and cry at a same time. That’s how we live. Isn’t it?”

Nabbe , nodding at his friend gets up and starts walking towards his home, followed by Gull ,with smile on both their faces.

They had been in this state since thirty years.  Both of them had drowned in Jhelum while pulling out the mud from the river. They believe the time they lived in, was the best; peace and brotherhood prevailed. They were poor yet content. They were happy. What happened to our blue skies, they wonder. Now our skies just ooze blood, flowing in our rivers.

 They were the first ones to be buried in that graveyard and from that time they had seen scores of young and vigorous men being buried, witnessed wailing mothers on the graves of their minors. Daffodils were close to both of their hearts. These flowers of May now scare them as they give away a stench of dead and decay.  They deem themselves to be dead –alive pilgrims and  consider it a curse to be witnessing such deaths and are only thinking on the question who is killing their people and why are they being killed. What lurks under the shades of tall pine trees! What is devouring the buds of their valley! But deeply they understand, something foul and pretentious crawls in their land. May be a giant nasty spider, which stings deep and leaves the dead bodies scattered around.

Written By:

Badrunissa Bhat