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Peace Watch » Kashmir-Talk » Mothers Are God’s Blessing. My Mother-Part III

Mothers Are God’s Blessing. My Mother-Part III

My Mother Part III

She had not been to a school. In the desert of illiteracy that had been the fate of the overwhelming majority, both men and women, particularly women, she had not been a lone traveller; she had a swarm of companions. Of course, in her generation, some exceptions were fortunate to have been admitted to a Christen Missionary School; one of them had been my mother-in-law. She would be nostalgic about the days when she, along with some other girls of her locality, embarked on a boat at Nawa Kadal Ghat for the school near Fateh Kadal, the third bridge on Jhelum- ferrying the girls to the school was arranged by the school free of any charge. She perhaps had done her matriculation. She taught in a school for some time but later chose to tutor her six daughters. The number of Muslim girls admitted to the Mission School could be counted on fingertips, mainly from areas around the school. Our locality, mostly of Mohallas of artisans, tradies and other working class, was a little distant from the school. Given social taboos and inhibition, hardly the girls would be encouraged to join the Christen Missionary School.

There was hardly an exception among my childhood friends whose mothers had been to school; besides remaining busy with their domestic work, most of them from childhood sat on Yender, spinning the most delicate threads of Pashmina, and supplemented the family income. Many women from the native ‘tradies’ families worked with men in the vegetable farms and marketplaces.   

Notwithstanding, not being to schools, conventional or religious, many mothers and grandmothers could recite the Holy Quran, but rarely few understood the message. However, a section of women in my grandmother’s generation who had religiously attended Friday sermons of Mirwaiz Molvi  Ahmad Ullah (Ama Saib)  and Mirwaiz Molvi Muhammad Yousf (Yousf Saib) and those in my mother’s generation who offered prayers in Bazar Masjid, Bohiri Kadal had acquired knowledge about the various facets of religion and Islamic history through oral tradition. Some of them remembered some of the Friday sermons from Mirwaizs ad verbum. Unlike my grandmother, who, with her friends, Saja Apa, Haji Apa, Asha Ded and a few others, had rarely missed any of the Molvi Ahmad Ullah and Molvi Yousf Sahib’s sermons, my mother had never joined some women of the Mohalla at Friday sermons at Jamia Masjid, wedded as she was to her Astana, Dan; she was always busy with her domestic chores. My mother and aunt’s only pilgrimage was to Hazratbal on various Urus of Khulafa-e-Rashideen,Meraj Un Nabi and Milad Un Nabi. Whenever Meraj Un Nabi and Milad Un Nabi fell during summers and autumns, it was a three-day excursion in a Dunga to  Dal Lake. We, the children, enjoyed every second of our three-day sojourn on Dal Lake. From the moon splashing in the shimmering waters of the lake at night to kingfishers in the wee hours diving deep in the waters to catch silvery fish, everything happening around the lake was exciting for us. We would be out of this world for three days- no school, no tuition and no errand jobs at home. Despite the family having hired the services of an Ashpaz and his team, my mother and aunt confined themselves to the Khouth (kitchen) of the Dunga, helping them prepare lunches and dinners. Dunga had three main compartments, and the name of every chamber sounded poetic. ‘The boat’s foyer was Num, which led to Bushqaan; two other compartments followed it; the first was named Galaw, and the second was called Mehatab.’[1]Even during this pleasure and spiritual journey, when she could have enjoyed the lovely journey, my mother’s love for Dan did not ebb. On reaching Hazratbal, our boat anchored at Char-i-Chinar Island to hold the Majalis khatmat, naat o manqabat and Dua; my mother took extra care in cooking the food in keeping with the solemn occasion.

My younger sibling Hassan and I often accompanied her to Uruses at Hazratbal and Khanaqah Moula. We mostly accompanied them to these places to buy terracotta toys- the ultimate toys we could imagine during those tender years of our age. Besides supplicating to God Almighty at these Astanans, most women tied votives to the windows of these sacred places. Some tied these knots for the success of their children in examinations, the marriage of their daughters or the success of the business of their children or husbands. But I never saw my mother tying these knots to the windows or windows to fulfil her wishes. I never saw my mother visiting the abode of a Dervish or the house of Ama Pir, the amulet writing Peer Sahib, near our school; it was always our grandmother who would get cups scrabbled with verses from the Holy Quran on mugs and plates during our examination from him and made us drink water from these cups before leaving for sitting at tests. I don’t know if my mother believed that our exam scores would be higher after we drank the ‘sanctified waters.’ Still, she never objected to the practice and saw it as an extraordinary expression of love and concern of our grandmother towards us, my siblings and me.

Nevertheless, her heart bled for mendicants, beggars and destitute. In wee hours, noon, or evening, she never turned away a beggar asking for a bowl of rice, used clothes or some alms but always received them with a smile- and never disappointed them. My uncle, who was also her younger cousin, in the morning, returned home from Khanqah-I-Naqshbandi with a host of people to serve them cups of tea and loaves of bread; these included the naat khawans from distant villages, mendicants and tramps. I don’t remember her ever frowning in serving these morning guests- there was always a personal touch in her helping them.

(To be continued) 

No British governess had tutored my or my friends’ mothers on etiquettes and ethics, as was true about the children of the feudal aristocracy. Nevertheless, most mothers were highly devotional and brilliant; some were extraordinarily bright minds- their experiences had been their schooling.

[1] For details on  three day excursion to Dal Lake, popularly called Dal Wasun see Srinagar: The City of Resistance and Culture Story of Downtown Boy by the author Pp 305-332  

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