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Of A ‘Cardamom’ Pandit- Sycophancy And Bureaucracy

Of A ‘Cardamom’ Pandit-

Sycophancy And Bureaucracy  


  Those days eavesdropping had become my second nature – something instinctive. In wee morning hours, swinging copper Doodha lota like a pendulum and waiting for my turn at the milk sellers shop just outside the small gate to the Martyrs graveyard, I secretly listened to the conversation of elders standing in front of the milk shop. From a shortage of firewood in the government depot and monthly ration at the ‘Shali ghat’ to the last nights Zarb-I-Kaleem program from   Azad Kashmir Radio Trarkhal, they talked about everything happening in their lives Besides, the milk shop, it was routine for me to visit, the shop of Muhammad Kak and Salam Kak, the famous tobacco seller in our Mohalla for buying tobacco for the Hubble-bubble of my uncle. For the community radio fitted on stark-naked flag post of an old Halaqa of the National Conference at the top of the grocery cum tobacco shop, besides morning shoppers it also attracted a crowd of “politics-gossipers”- a class in itself those days known for spicy and juicy talking about politicians and also boasting of their proximity to the ruling class. Sometimes, those days,  I had started believing,   I have roosters’ ears that got alerted on mere whispering of elders at the tobacco shop. It was an anecdotal conversation of these ‘politics-gossipers’, that excited me the most.  They often talked about fads, fancies, and foibles of the then rulers, their sycophants, and hangers-on at their residences.

In early hours, even before saying morning prays hosts of hanger-on’s and sycophants walked to their lodgings at the so-called civil lines. There were stories about a Mujawar of an Astana,  who every day morning with a ‘rooht‘ (Afghan Bread spruced with walnut and almonds) visited the castles of the Prime Minister and other ministers. For eeking their favours, he shared conjured dreams with them, that pleased their ears. There were stories; he had not only got government jobs for children, kith and kins and many others who paid him “Hidee”  

 Some anecdotal conversations heard at a tender age at the tobacco shop still live in the back of my mind and on a mere scratch of my memory, they echo as clearly as just heard. One of the exciting conversations that still lurks in my mind is of a unique sycophant, whom elders called as ‘Aa’li Batta’ – cardamom Pandit. About him it was said, he almost every morning, with a velvet pouch filled with green cardamom in his hand,   visited the residence of the then Prime Minister, at his Private office. From hanger-on officers to ordinary political workers at the residence, he would humbly approach everyone and after saying ‘Namaskar‘ offer them one or two green cardamoms. Despite some calling him “Elaichi Dana Pandit”, by presenting a  piece of cardamom he had cultivated relations with people at the top for furthering his interests and mastered the art of public relations. And officers craving for “coveted postings” approached him for a sufarish– such officers even met cooks of ministers and begged them for a recommendation. There were stories one driver for his proximity with the top man was nicknamed as “Chief Secretary”.  

 Of all the stories heard from ‘politics-gossipers’ about toadies at the tobacco shop, another story that still lives in memory is about an upstart  – a ‘Gouga-khoja’ as they were called. Like many other in his great tribe wearing a finely stitched suit and donning his head with astrakhan cap he appeared on the lawns of the VVIP much before the dewdrops started evaporating from blades of grass. And with a cotton ball in one hand and a small bottle of attar in another hand, he moved on the lawn of the Chief Executive. Despite being finely dressed, he continued to be known by his nickname- ‘scalp-headed’ Khoja.  From hanger-on bureaucrats to police officers to private staff of ministers he meek approached everyone with a cotton ball doused with attar and rubbed it on their clothes. There were stories; these sycophantic trickery had won him big contracts and riches. Later in my life, I saw many other types of sycophants and toadies; they did not shower praise men in power but their wards. Some times they compare their grunts and braying the eloquence of Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. You too may have your stories of toadies to tell.

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