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OF PHERAN AND OUR CHILHOOD

By Z. G. Muhammad

Z.G. Muhammad

Those were cock-a-hoop days for children in my generation. Everything around seemed in ecstasy. The snowflakes dancing in the sky looked to us no less than whirling dervishes- with Rumi’s cadence. Daily showers of early spring and late autumn had all sweetness for us. The long chain of rain bubbles bursting and re-emerging with rhythm on the tarred roads outside our home brought the rarest warmth to rubicund faces of all children.I admire my childhood days; every small thing made us sing a song of joy. A newly stitched pheran, a recently purchased pair of gumboots or ankle boots (ticha-boot) and even a pair of small wooden clogs, brought us great joy. Those were blessed days of innocence.

My impressions about the joy of a friend of mine on wearing first tweed pheran are as refreshing as a spring breeze. He felt at the top of the world when his father, a needleworker- one who weaved dreams on Pashmina shawls got a tweed pheran stitched for him. This tweed for being different from the indigenous put and manufactured in a mill was called as ‘Mili-Poot’. It was far cheaper than Scottish tweed that only royals, elite and their hanger-on’s who over a hundred and fifty years had fattened on the backbreaking tax system and fleecing ordinary people could afford. Mili-Pout perhaps was manufactured in a local mill in the private sector, but its name has evaporated from my mind. This Poot was coarser than the indigenous puttoo manufactured by continuously pounding old handmade blankets’ Chadars’ with feet in a mortar either of chiselled limestone or made out of a log of Deodar wood, locally called Mandangar-Wan. The wan consisted of four to five chiselled stone mortars or sinks in a row and wooden railing for support. The workers mostly Dards continuously pounded these blankets- made them soft and thick. Singing melodious songs in Shina language, they attracted not only children but even elders to watch them working tirelessly even in sub-zero temperature. This hardy race, during our childhood, contributed a lot to the socio-cultural fabric of our part of the city.Most of my siblings and pals wore chocolate-brown or dark-brown flannel pherans with a coarse white cloth as it’s ‘under’ (pouch) – I do not remember boys wearing any other colour, red and yellow were choicest colours of girls. For their weight, Children were discouraged from wearing puttoo pherans but having a tweed pheran was a dream. During the early days of my childhood, even cloth was rationed and sold from the government depots. This cloth was nicknamed as “controlled cloth. A mere mention of this cloth for the politics tagged to it was upsetting for many elders. And it often made them nostalgic about the days when the Jhelum Valley Road was open, buses and cartloads of best cloth; Kamhab, At’las, zarbaf, Makhmal, Cashmere Gabardine and tweeds from Europe flooded Maharaja Gunj and Zaina Kadal markets. Even after the closure of the road for many years, these markets bustled with activities. In fact, during our childhood, these markets were the financial hub of the state.The Scottish tweed and other tweeds were a status symbol and an expression of affluence. Nevertheless, as we grew up, the flannel pherans started disappearing, and tweeds replaced them, but it was no more Scottish tweeds but those manufactured outside our land. I have no idea, what year tweed pherans were got stitched for every child in our family for the first time but it was the day of rejoicing for us.I remember, when I wore my tweed pheran, I asked my grandmother, how I was looking in the new tunic- then my sibling one by one asked the same question

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