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My Love For School Peons


Ode to A Peon

Z. G. Muhammad

Our school was one of the top schools in the city. In the late fifties on the first day when I entered the school gate for being admitted in class three, I got a unique sense of belonging to it.  The three- ‘steeple-minarets’ E-shaped building housing the high school looked to me like yet another Khanaqah and the teachers their heads adorned with turbans of all colors- white, green, yellow and pink like pirs at hospices.  Despite the awesome grandeur of the school building soothing my eyes the fright of meeting new teachers and new classmates had robbed all smiles from my rubicund face. Someone has rightly said, ‘power of a smile can heal a frozen heart’. On being greeted with a smile and a pat by peon Mohammad Subhan at the wicket gate, smile and warmth returned to my face. Elated at getting admission in one of best schools, with a history of having produced most illustrious leaders in every field since 1905 and having lived true to its motto from ‘darkness to light’ accompanied by my uncle I walked with confidence into the room of Ghulam Ahmed Zargar, headmaster of the primary department of the school. My uncle knew Zargar Sahib, the two exchanged greetings and entered into long conversations. Some of their discussion in chaste Kashmiri got etched on my memory and lives their even today.  ‘Thank God, the gates of the school were not latched only its grant in aid was stopped by the new masters after 1947- thousand of children from have-not families would have been deprived of education but for common people supporting it.’

The school besides engaging some of the educated Muslim Conference workers as teachers had also employed semi-literate poor volunteers as peons in the school after the Muslim Conference leadership had been sent into exile to Pakistan.

 I have no idea if Muhammad Subhan, had a history of being a volunteer of the Muslim Conference or not but for manning the small gate he was all-important for all boys. The school had three gates after the giant gong was hit for paarail- the morning assembly, all main gates were closed and entry to school was allowed through small door manned by him under prying eyes of drillmaster Narendra Nath (Nara-Band as he was nicknamed)- invariably the drillmaster would hit the latecomers with his stick. Many latecomers avoided entering into the school during the assembly when drillmaster would be around.  Subhan was kind-hearted and he did not want students to miss their classes after the morning assembly was over he stealthily unlatched the door allowed the students to run towards their classrooms.

Then, carrying a lunch box to school was not in fashion, we had our meals at home before leaving school. Equally, there was no tuckshop inside our school but there were two petty vendors- one old woman Rehat Ded and another middle-aged perhaps Ama -kak who sold roasted soya beans, peas, chickpeas, sweetcorn, and candies. The boys could go out of the gate for buying things from these vendors only after having a pass- the pass used to be 3 x 4 inches small black colored metal plate, resembling a takhtee with lettering in Urdu mentioning class and section. It was the prerogative of the peon at the door to check the pass before allowing boys to go out of the school for buying something to eat from the vendors. Mostly, class monitors permitted the boys to take pass only one time in the day. I used to get ‘two annas as daily pocket money, then it used to good money for visiting the vendor twice for buying roasted stuff and candies. On pleading hunger pangs, Subhan even allowed the boys to go out of school without a ‘metal-pass’.

In a dozen of peons in the school, Subhan was important for boys yet there was another peon Aziz Malik who for his commitment towards students and school deserves a separate ode.

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