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Peace Watch » Editor's Take, Kashmir-Talk » Of Small Joys of Childhood.

Of Small Joys of Childhood.


Ode to Surnaivoul

Z.G. Muhammad

Our childhood was full of rhythm and cadence.  On looking back, sometimes for their cheerfulness, I feel envious about my b0yhood, childhood of children of a whole generation born in the fifties. Despite, the voices of the dissent then also asphyxiated and atmosphere of insecurity looming large, it was the beats, bells, and whistles that soared our hearts with joy. In the wee morning hours, it was jingling and tinkling of bells of goats and ewes and whistles of goatherds from the shepherd Mohalla, near my school that woke us up. Or, it was lilting tunes of Santoor and Saz-e-Kashmir, coming out of baithaks of some of the elite houses at a distance that made us toss aside our quilts. In the late evening, it was haunting melodies coming out the flute of jilted lover Gul, that made us peep through a latticed window into the street to see his fingers dancing on the pipe. For many years, till his what I would love to call as ‘Keats’s death’, it was a  routine for this young man to walk on the street outside our home playing melancholic-melodious tunes on his flute – he returned from…………. when we were in bed.

Music, during our childhood, was a part of us, it was part of our all festive occasions- social and religious. It was part of our mystical experiences and ‘penance-processions’ and collective supplications. Of, all the musicians, it was Surnaivoul – the clarinet player that was our Benny Goodman and Pied Piper. He made us, all children of the mohalla to jump and jostle and follow him to every home. On Eids, and other religious festivals, in early morning hours accompanied by a turbaned drummer, sometimes by a bacha a boy dancer dressed in girls dress arrived in our Mohalla. For bacha nagana, being a legacy from the Afghan rule, and patronized notoriously by then the powers in the State in our childhood, many people did not recognize as a part of our folk but saw it as decadent. On Eid, the Surnaivoul and his team of artist arrived immediately after the morning prayers- perhaps they made it to the city from different villages one day earlier. On entering into our compound, it was a drummer, who hit his drum with his drum stick louder than usual, till children gathered around him. Then the Surnaivoul to the accompaniment of drum beats played on his clarinet first a nait– a hymn in praise of the Prophet, followed by some melodious folk songs and songs of Rasul Mir, like Cholhama Roshay Roshay Roshay, Posha Madano. My friends and I to the annoyance of elders followed them into many homes and enjoyed the music. Out of eagerness, I sometimes requested our folk musicians to allow me to play the clarinet- on occasion they did oblige. Every home paid them for their performance both in cash and kind. It would be a rupee or a bowl of rice.

The clarinet players and drummers in our childhood were an essential part of our social milieu and cultural landscape.   Today, many sects see it as a pagan practice, but in our boyhood during floods, famine, drought and other calamities taking “penance-procession’ to the Astana of Hazrat Sultan and making ‘collective supplications’ in open ground or at the Astanas of various saints were a routine. The clarinet players and Dumhal Faqir were always part of these ‘penance procession’. The Dumhal Faqir made supplication to Allah for ending of natural calamities in their style. In our childhood, people strongly believed that for their innocence and absolute faith in Almighty their prayers were granted favourably.

The contingents of  Surnai players used to be part of the Martyrs Day processions and other functions of the state.

Filed under: Editor's Take, Kashmir-Talk

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