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Men From Tulail in Downtown Srinagar


Jummah – Man From Tulail
Some poet has said it candidly; as one turns pages of life backward, some ‘gleam like gold, some are   depressing as ‘pitch-dark nights.’ That holds true, for our whole generation born after end of the feudal autocracy. The pages that gleam like gold are few and far between and those lost in ‘pitch-dark nights’ far exceed them. Of the pitch-dark pages, the division of our state into the two stared into our faces in our childhood as touchingly as they do today. 
In our childhood the stories about the other part of the state that had become as prohibited for us as enemy territories sounded   to all children  as mythical as those of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.  Many an elders in our locality, who traded with the world outside through the Gurais route, whiling their time under the awnings of Chinars on lush green lawns of the Jamia Masjid  strewn with  purple and white daisy flowers  often turned nostalgic. Often, they remembered traveling through the high mountain passes to distant lands. Sharing, stories of their adventures- leopards and brown bears, some elder traders who during their youth remained for six months outside their homes often talked about their children from their second marriages in as far of places as Kashgar. Maqbool Sahib,  a colleague,  whose father hawked Kashmir goods in  Central Asian  had three more bothers from his father’s second wife in one of the state in the Central Asia.  There is a marked cultural similarity between our land and the lands that our ancestors visited in the past through the mountainous passes in the North. The most manifest similarity is in our old-style bakery and that of Kashgar.  More likely majority of our traditional bakery items that are in use in Kashmir at present have been imported from Kashgar.
Most of us, in fact, the overwhelming majority, could not connect to these stories, for us, these were as good as stories picked up from the Arabian nights. In my childhood, the only  introduction for my friends, siblings  and I  to Gurais  was a bright red-cheeked, well built, middle-height, young man draped in thick homespun woolen tunic, trousers, and woven straw- shoes (pulhoor).  The name of this odd-job-man of   was (Jumi) Jummah**- I had great admiration for his thick woolen cap, rolled up on sides to the top, known by names; Pakol, Chitrali, Afghan and Gilgiti. Because this cap was worn most of people from Tulail or Telail for us, it was Darda Tooup.  Somehow, this cap in our childhood was seen symbol of valor.
 Jummah was one among the many hundreds men from Tulail, who in the late summer or early autumn arrived in our part of the city, for making a living. During, the marriage season for their hard work and commitment they were first choice of   Ashpaz, the head-chef for crushing mutton to the finest paste for cooking Rista (meatballs in a fiery red gravy) and  Gushtaba (  meatball in white yogurt gravy). Jummah had mastered art of pounding mutton and sheep fat with wooden mallet to the finest paste to be molded into Gushtaba.  At the peak of marriage season, he was favorite apprentice of Vasta Naba, our family chef. Some of these hard working people from Tulail were permanently hired for winter months by food joints for preparing Harissa – a sizzling mutton breakfast. Jummah had no choice for this job that involved almost night long stirring of huge cauldron of mutton with a wooden pestle or ladle on an oven. These men from beside their mother tongue spoke Kashmiri fluently; nonetheless, they preferred to talk to each other in their mother tongue- my friends and I had also picked up some words from their native language.
For his honesty and commitment during the offseason, he was much sought after for errand jobs. In wee morning hours for relishing a cup or two of hot Kehwa and a hot bread his best haunt used to be  Astana of Naqshband Sahib, five-minute walk from our home. My friends and I might have gone to call him for attending one or other jobs at our homes. One, of the jobs he was known for, was carrying   “Nabid-Nout,” on a copper plate from the bridegroom’s house to bride’s house or vice versa…in the olden day ‘Nabid-Nout’ was important to many a formalities connected with marriages.  
*Those days offering noon-time prayers in the Jamia Masjid, was obligatory for boys of Islamia High School. Those who absented were cane-charged at the morning assemblies. Like many other names in Kashmir, it also had degenerated into ‘Jumi.’
** Jummah (Friday) for its importance in Islam was common name in mountain people of different ethnicity.   

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