ur small L-shaped compound at Mohalla Hati shah in Sopore was shared by 12 families. It was situated on the bank of river Jhelum which flows like a stream of glass and fresh air currents from the river would bathe our homes. The compound had a common gate, which was closed by 9 or 10 pm, as everyone was supposed to be back home. The compound was unique. It had a tap in one corner which would occasionally fetch water and a large grinding stone vessel (“The Kunz” in Kashmiri) on the other. The compound used to be full of activities round the year. The hustle bustle would start early in the morning, when an old man would come at 8 am and recite Kashmiri folk songs. He would then sip a few cups of Kashmiri tea brewed in Samavour and leave. People from different walks of life would come to our compound daily to meet our elders. We had three tailor masters in the compound who would pass the day busily re-stitching mostly old clothes. Their relationship with their customers was beyond tailoring.
The customers would come and chat with them and discuss various social issues and seek at times guidance. The skill of our tailor masters was such that measurements would be taken with a “no touch” technique. All the customer had to do was to stand in front of the tailor master and his measurement was done. The final stitched clothes would be perfect, only a few inches long perhaps, but never too short.
The elders would often chat in the compound, discussing affairs of the day, laughing and cracking jokes, till Salah prayers, which used to be a default activity missed by no-one. Those days, one hardly ever saw any evidence of depression. but now psychosomatic symptoms (Physical disorder caused by or notably influenced by emotional factors) lead us to so many clinics. Sedatives were hardly used, and now they are commonplace. Desires were possibly modest. Life was simple, and people were not envious of their neighbors. Similar life styles could be seen in most of the areas across valley of Kashmir.
In those days, winters used to be very cold in Kashmir and the snow falls were very heavy. Nowadays, due to deforestation, the winter snow is decreasing in the valley, and a time may come when it may become a distant memory. The preparation for the winter would start in September. A tall woodcutter
would often come to cut firewood, as wood was the principle source of heat for cooking and keeping warm. In those days, there was no cooking gas facility. Most of families would get a share of this firewood, and as children we would take small blocks of firewood up to the attics of our respective homes
The tall woodcutter, even though old, was full of energy and fun. He would sometimes entertain us with wonderful Kashmiri songs, full of wisdom. Every winter Kashmiri pundit friends would get delicious wet walnuts, on the day of their festival Shivratri (called Hariath in Kashmiri language). The communal
harmony had a unique fragrance.
Almost all the families in the area had cows, ours included. All families had their own milk. In the early morning, our cows would join the great herd of cows coming from other homes to spend the day grazing in the nearby green pasture called “Noorgaah “ till 5 pm, when they slowly made their way back to their own homes. How these cows would return to their respective homes at 5 pm without any guidance used to be a great query in my mind. The compound would also host chickens and hens. Well in the middle of “crook, crook…. we would play small games; at times the children would be seen busy in the “march past” led by one of my cousins Aijaz in that great compound. What a golden era! Believe me, while writing these lines I am overcome by a fresh breeze of nostalgia for these wonderful days.
Nowadays, no one likes keeping cows and other pet animals at home. We feel proud of importing goods and boast about progress. Dare I say it, but in no way does it seem like progress to me. Let us all remind ourselves that economic freedom is the prerequisite of real progress. When the outdated and unfit for-purpose Jawahar Tunnel4 at Banihal Kashmir is closed in the winter, our lives in the valley are choked off from supplies, and we remain at the mercy of business men who set sky high prices for essential commodities in the valley. We need to change. Local production must increase. Kitchen gardens must become the order of the day. Having a kitchen garden is essential to safeguard our health and save us from the adulterated products sold in the market. Science and technology must be used to increase production. The government must boost such activities, and should encourage small scale industries. Let us try to become exporters rather than importers– so becoming at least more self-sufficient.
We had a cricket team in our area. I would invariably be a spectator as I was poor at any kind of sports I remember the team going to Noor Gah, a local green pasture, at 5 pm to play cricket soon after having evening tea at home. Players would go in a group to the area. At times they would stop at a
particular shop in order to purchase freshly prepared fried fish for a rupee or two. Despite its questionable hygiene, it used to be very tasty! The team would choose a place in the fully occupied ground for themselves, usually a corner where nobody could interfere with them. True sportsmanship was the hallmark of our team and invariably the team would avoid playing against other teams of the area. Whatever the game, it was played with utmost discipline and joy. Despite its uneven surface, with many humps and bumps, all on the pitch was serene; the simple pleasure of the game was unparalleled. Players would play till dusk and would come back again in a group. On the way back the players would discuss various shots and players’ individual performances, crack jokes and laugh. Unimaginable ecstasy indeed! To take care of costs, I remember the indigenous preparation of a LEG GUARD. An old cotton cloth was wrapped around an old torn Leg guard which was further fortified (with old clothes) till the brother on whom it was being tested gave the green light for its safety ……. When I think of the football games in my Valley, my heart swells with happy memories. For me, it was a great joy to watch football matches in the serene college grounds of Sopore (Subhan Stadium). With a wonderful twist of his body, Mr. Abdullah from Srinagar would dribble the ball skillfully down the center of the field and blow on his whistle. At this signal, the players would charge down the football field as if it was the war of 1812, and play their hearts out until his final whistle signaled the end of the game.
Both teams would play awesomely well in these games, and of course one team would come out victorious at their end, unlike in war, where no nation ever really wins. I think of some of the players of that time and the image of Mr. Farooq Ahmad (Farooqi) of the Road Transport Corporation’s team comes into my mind. He would kick the ball so forcefully and with such accuracy all the way from the center of the field, that it would either only require a
short kick to reach the goal; sometimes it would land directly in the goal. The quick reflexes of Mr. Ghulam Hassan Anim and Abdul Majeed Kakroo (Police Department football team) would make them the team’s treasure. Some players had unique nicknames which wonderfully summarized their talent. The famous trio of Mr. Ghulam Haasan Kar, Dr Atta Mohammad & Mr. Bashir Ahmad Kanna were known as Trishul (trident) because of their fast reflexes and excellently timed coordination. They would not just play the game, but instead let us spectators reflect that they could compose fine tunes with it. Making short passes, they would keep maneuvering the ball to the defensive side. We knew that unless Mr Ghulam Rasool (Lassa waza )of the Food and Supplies Department team or Mr Siraju-din from Baramulla football team were playing on the opposing side, a goal would invariably be made. We were privileged to see Mr. Noor Mohd Bisati, Mr. D. Dar of Wular Sports, Mr. Ghulam Qadir Kachroo, Mr. Habibullah Ganie, Mr. Wali Mohd. Anim, and Mr. Abdul Gani (Baramulla) running like gazelles in their games. After getting a short pass somewhere near the goalpost, the late Mr. Ghulam Hassan Dar would leap like salmon and with a single headshot flying past him, the goal keeper would stand watching the football gliding deep inside his goal.
Similarly, after getting a pass near the corner of the field, the late Mr. Abdul Ghani Miskeen (poet and player) would arch his body miraculously and appear almost to float in air at an angle for a while before kicking the ball impeccably deep into the goal. The game used to be played with the utmost discipline
and professionalism. No sooner did the sharp eyes of the late Mr. Abdul Subhan Janwari, the football legend, catch sight of any misconduct during the game than his forceful blast on the whistle would almost cause the steps of the defaulter to freeze on the spot.
The linesmen, Mr. Mahraj Kishan (Kakaji) on the one side, and Mr. Abdul Rashid Khan on the other, could often be seen to be running faster than the players themselves. At times they would be seen hopping like kangaroos, raising the flag immediately after a default, stopping the defaulter in his tracks. Their nonverbal communication would be something to behold. and often amazed us. If Mr. Abdul Khaliq Dar was performing his duties at the goal post, he would suddenly roll like a barrel and clasp the ball as if it was about to go down the drain off the field. These men had a huge passion for this game and there were lot of others, people like Mr. Abdul Subhan Janwari, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Khan, Mr Mohd. Amin Ganie – forgive me readers if I have left out any names – who would be behind the skill and beauty of these wonderful games, day in and day out.
To my physician’s eyes, games such as these are not only important for exercising muscles of the players in order that they remain fit, but they do help in distracting young people away from so many bad things in the world we live in today. I think especially of drug abuse, an ever growing menace all over the world. We must save our youth from drug abuse and encourage games all over the world. Alas things have changed since my early youth in the valley. I ask myself what has become of all this talent in the Valley. Where did it go? It seems that now my Valley is bleeding and drowning in its own tears. Who
is it who has fixed it with an evil eye, and why, I sadly ask myself.
“Luck is a dividend of sweat.
The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”
– Ray Kroc
Author is a MD. DM (Gastroenterology) FACP, FACG Consultant Gastroenterologist & Associate Professor at Yenepoya University, Mangalore. He can be reached at email@example.com