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Songsters of our Childhood

Nostalgia  

 Hawkers And Their Songs

ZGM

Songs and songsters were part of our childhood.  It was not only troubadours playing dexterously on a score of small rings on an iron rod and producing musical notes that greeted us with satirical quatrains on sullen mornings and brought laughter in our life. It was not only Abdul Ahad alias Shoda the great songster, with profusely oiled tufts of curly hair, walking like a woodpecker on a tree trunk with measured steps in lanes and by lanes and stopping at regular intervals, for singing a stanza or two in his melodious voice through a tin megaphone. That made us follow him like children in  Robert Browning’s the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Lots of hawkers vending goodies for children also sang melodious songs for attracting children. The candy floss seller with glass tin filled with purple fluffy spun sugar balls by continuously striking the clipper inside his brass hand-bell and producing magical lilting tunes lured all children like butterflies to flowers.  He also had songs like Wah! Wah!  phumbi mithai ha.  

Those days, when there were no stores stuffed with top line imported chocolates, delicious ice cream parlours, and grand pizza huts, it was the small-time hawkers with willow vats on their containing assortment of eatables for children and songs on their lips that attracted our attention. Some sold boiled red beans spruced with yellow, cooked wheat seeds and some roasted maize, peas and soya beans.  During hot summers some hawkers from outlying villages arrived into the city with willow vats of fresh snow from mountain tops covered with thick layers of pine leaves. Every one of them had his song to sing, and children often followed them and sang in chorus with them.

It was years later that I learned their songs were not just in praise of the goodies they carried for children but also exuded with resistance against the hegemonic ruling class. Some of the lines from these songs still live in my memory.   One roasted Mishri-Makay (sweet corn) seller had a honeyed voice and lots of songs to sing. Decades after Some lines   still resounds in my mind:  

Mishri-Makay Ha Mishri Makya Ha, Bebbuj Shaharich Makay Ha, Moulan Droth Tah Paat’ run Sag Ha,  Bebbuj Shaharich Makay Ha, Mishri-Makay Ha Mishri Makya Ha…    

( Enjoy sweet corn, Enjoy sweet corn, Here is sweet corn from a lawless city, In this town  roots are chopped  leaves watered,  Here is sweet corn from lawless City).

I would have no idea if the sweet corn seller were referring to the misgovernment of Bakshi or harsh rule of Abdullah, but there was resistance in the songs of these hawkers.  

The snow-seller with his willow basket filled with crystals of fresh snow from high peaks in the Zabarwan range   and covered with heaps of pine and Chinar leaves also had his songs like:

Ka’mi Bala Woul’makh Ya’khoo, G0uri Gouri Karyu Ya’khoo, Sona Dour Jaray Yakhoo, Daadi’mat Dil Shihlow Too Yakhoo, Ka’mi Bala Woul’makh Ya’khoo,    (Oh,  Snow I got you from high peaks, let me cradle you like child’, let me adorn you like a bride with gold trinkets, oh, do solace the burning hearts)

In May and June, the mulberry sellers from the outskirts of the city and nearby villages arrived in the City with a variety of Tuell mulberry fruit in their willow baskets- usually, there were three varieties, white, black, purple also called Shah-Tuell. Of the three, we generally enjoyed the Shah-Tuell. The handful of  mulberry fruit  was wrapped in   Chinar leaves. And a leaf-full of  Shah-Tuell cost us one Anna. The mulberry fruit seller also had his songs like that of roasted sweet corn seller. From our home to school, or to Makdoom grounds playfield there were many mulberry trees, but we dared not to go up the tree for plucking the black fruit. There were lots of mythical stories attached to the mulberry trees. That enraged jinni living in the huge mulberry trees had pushed down a woodcutter, a washerman’s son, a gardener’s son from the tree, all of them died. There were also stories that fairies inside the trees seduced many handsome boys. Most of us believed these stories as gospel truth, and none of us could understand that they had been invented to protect the precious mulberry trees- main feed for silkworms. Silk Industry was our primary industry till 1947.

Filed under: Editor's Take, Kashmir-Talk, Memeiors