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Whose Kashmir? 
By Shamsuddin Shameem 

A story dedicated to Vajpayee and Musharraf

After the death of Qaadir and Jaleel, residents of the house had seen thousands of pickaxes rising in the air to demolish the ‘iron’ wall built in the middle of their common house.

The house in which Jigar Deed, Posha Kuj, Zaitoon and Reshma lived was divided into two parts in one side of which Jagir Deed and Posha Kuj lived happily and Zaitoon and Reshma lived in the other portion.

The middle wall of both portions of the house was common but there were separate doors and courtyards in opposite directions. There were, however, openings at several places in the common wall through which the inmates of both house used to visit each other. That’s why sometimes Jigar Deed used to go and sit in the other portion of the house and sometimes Zaitoon went over to the other part and used to gossip with friends. The routine of children of both portions was also similar. They played, made noises or used to indulge in fisticuffs sometimes in our portion or in the other portion because of which the elders used to scold them. Children forgot all this after some time and life went on as usual. There was good and friendly atmosphere in this joint house. Every day at nights mothers used to call and search their children here and there.

‘Don’t know if Qaadir fell asleep this side or that side’.
‘My Thoba and Boota may be somewhere here’.
‘Oh, I remember now, tonight Jaleel will be staying at Zaitoon Khala’s house’.
‘I too have forgotten. Rasheed told me that tonight he will be sleeping at his friend Sehgal’s house’.

Mothers told all such things to one another and when it was dark at night, men folk after returning from their daily work for earning their livelihood entered both the houses, they used to shout at their wives as to where are the children? Their wives, raising their eye-brows, replied rather indifferently ‘May be sleeping somewhere here or there. As soon as you enter the house, you start shouting. Come on, sit here. Must be tired and hungry. Dinner is ready’.

This was a daily routine matter in these houses. How sweet and homely was the atmosphere and how sweet were their conversations. They were fully conscious and mindful of each other’s joys and sorrows. Love and sincerity pervaded in these houses.

One fine morning when Jigardeed and Posha Kuj were enjoying sound sleep in this atmosphere of love and sincerity, Gul Afroz sneaked in this part of the house from the other side and stealthily crept into a small room and fell asleep shortly thereafter. But in spite of the silent entry, Jigardeed and Posha Kuj were awakened. A slight wave of strange and unknown sensation was felt by them and being somewhat uneasy and worried, said to each other when their eyes were still closed ‘It appears some stranger has entered this house after crossing the other part of the house. What shall we do now? Saying this, Jigardeed kissed Qaadir and Jaleel and Posha Kuj did the same to Thoba and Boota, all of whom were sleeping by the side of their mothers. Both felt relieved. Jigardeed got up yawning and said to Posha Kuj ‘I am going to see as to who has sneaked in the house. I am feeling slight shiver in my body’. Saying this she covered her head with her ‘dupatta’ and wearing her ‘fern’ began searching the stranger in the room. She was feeling slightly afraid also. When she entered the room she heard some one’s snorings. When she reached nearer, she found Gul Afroz sleeping soundly. She made a hasty retreat with a pale face. But as soon as she reached Posha Kuj, her face suddenly turned red and said angrily ‘Yes, the neighbour Gul Afroz has intruded in the house. I think we should…’ Saying this, she stopped and took out the small, rusted box of snuff, put a pinch of snuff in her mouth and after some time spat it out of the window and said to Posha Kuj.

‘What do you think? Should we turn Gul Afroz out of the house slowly while he is sleepy and awaken our men folk? While Jigardeed was saying this a hefty neighbour, Shyam Sundar, entered the house and threw the sleepy Gul Afroz out of the house. Hastily retreating, he put his luggage on the ground. When his pantings stopped, he said to Jigardeed and Posha Kuj ‘Hunh, Gul Afroz knew that this house is a property of loot. I was trying to enter this house for a long time’.

Jigardeed and Posha Kuj could not understand any thing. Meanwhile, Shyam Sundar sat down after stretching his feet and expressing his informality began saying:

‘Sisters, don’t worry. As if I am a stranger. Do I become deaf at night? Your children hanker after milk and rice. Take this luggage. It contains rice and flour. Prepare the breads. Children will now wake up and also other people of the house’.

Saying this, Shyam Sundar stretched his legs even further but Jigardeed roared like a lioness ‘Shyam Sundar, don’t sit like this. Take your bundle and get out from here. We are happy with coarse grains only’.

‘Coarse grains? Sisters, they will get stuck in your teeth. Listen to me. Have rice and salted tea with tasty wheat bread’.

She shouted and said ‘I asked you to get out of my house’. 

When Jigardeed and Posha Kuj together shouted at him, children and men folk of the house woke up and began to look at Shyam Sundar in disbelief who spoke to them very humbly:
‘Oh Jabbar Bhai, Just take this bundle. Today I saved you from a calamity otherwise Gul Afroz would have enslaved you for your whole life.’

Hearing this, all men of this portion of the house began to look towards each other in great surprise and they got some idea of what he was saying. Jabbar Kaka asked her ‘Jigardeedi! What Shyam Sundar is saying? Who intruded here?’ But before she spoke, Shyam Sundar told him ‘Oh Jabbar Kaka. That neighbour Gul Afroz had crept in this house stealthily but very swiftly I threw him out…’

But suddenly Jigardeed told him before Shyam Sundar could finish his conversation, ‘Yes, yes Jabbar, Gul Afroz had intruded in this house and Shyam Sundar had turned him out but he himself has occupied this place’.

All men of the house got very angry on hearing this and said to him ‘Shyam Sundar! Off from here. Is it your father’s house?’

‘No, no. I never said this; but how my presence here harms you in any way? Any way, take this flour and rice. We shall see later on. Unnecessarily you are prepared for fighting’.

‘No, no. Get away from here’ Sulajoo said in a fighting mood.

At this, Shyam Sundar had a hearty laugh and began to say ‘Oh, why are you getting so wild unnecessarily. Go and see, Gul Afroz has occupied other portion of the house and he has shut off all the openings of the common wall. How will you go to the other part of the house now?’

When Shyam Sundar said this, Jigardeed and Posha Kuj started beating their breasts. Jigardeed said ‘O God, what happened this? Some of our children and men are on the other side’.

Hearing this, Shyam Sundar stretched his legs even further. He was very happy. He started singing without uttering any words and cast his eyes on the stock of flour and rice.

Jigardeed ran towards the wall, shouting, and other men and women of the house also ran behind her but the common wall had become an iron wall and Reshma and Zaitoon were also shouting on the other side of the wall.

‘For God’s sake, break the wall. Shakeel and auntie are left on the other side of the wall.

Hearing this, people on the other side began to look towards each other in a strange manner. They also started shouting ‘Oh, why are you beating us? Your are also one of us. Why are you behaving in this manner? Some of our children are left on the other side. Do some justice at least’.
After some time this hullabaloo stopped gradually and then suddenly Gul Afroz shouted from other side of the wall:
‘O Shyam Sunder, are you listening? I am coming. You do not like my presence. I will take this matter to the ‘Punchayet’.
Hearing this, Shyam Sundar also shouted ‘Oh Gul Afroz! How can you dare to go to the ‘Punchayet’. As if you are speaking this from your house. Go and speak like this from your house’.
‘Oh Shyam Sundar, as if you are speaking from your own house’.
‘Oh yes, I am sitting here comfortably on this side. Listen Gul Afroz, it is I who will take this matter to the Punchayet. So you get away from here’.
Meanwhile, both Shyam Sundar and Gul Afroz started taunting and shouting at each other in a devilish manner.
‘Oh, you get away from here. Is it your father’s property?’
‘I told you to vacate this house otherwise I will suppress you’.
‘Go away; that time has gone away. Now I too have a ‘stick’ and every one knows whose voice is muzzled in the Punchayet.
‘Oh, as if your rule prevails there’.
‘You are an usurper, an usurper’.
‘And you are the father of usurper’.
‘You, the grandfather of usurper’.
‘Oh you ass’.
‘You are a donkey and fool, and your father is the donkey’.

The innocent residents and inmates of both sides of the house were trembling with fear and anger at this shouting of Shyam Sundar and Gul Afroz. Reshma and Zaitoon on the other side of the house tightly held Gulrez and Rukhsar and on this side the frightened Posha Kuj held Thoba, Bootaji and Peyari tightly by her bosom. After undergoing this frightened situation for some time, Posha Kuj ran away from there but in the way she was bitten by a poisonous snake and she died all of a sudden, quite unexpectedly. Thoba and Bootaji however were safe. During this struggle, while hiding Qaadir and Jaleel inside her fern, Jigardeed’s ‘dupatta’ fell down on the ground and she felt as if heavens had fallen on her. She silently swallowed this bitterness. Qaadir and Jaleel peeped out from inside her fern and began to say fearlessly: ‘Release us, mom. Shyam Sundar and Gul Afroz have no right to take the matter of our house to the Punchayet. Mom, it is us who should take this matter to the ‘Punchayet’ and fight against both of them there.

Saying this, Qaadir folded his sleeves and started shouting loudly towards the iron wall.
‘O Reshama Baji Gulrez Bhai, Sardar Jamshed, get up all. All of us will jointly take up the matter to the ‘Punchayet’ against Shyam Sundar and Gul Afroz. Are both of them ‘mama’ of our house. Thoba, Peyari and Bootaji have become homeless and Ghulam Rasool, Ashraf, Rasheed and Ramzan are roaming here and there in the forests aimlessly. Get up Gulrez. It is not yet too late.

But there was no response from other side of the wall because Gul Afroz had overpowered Gulrez, Sarwar and Jamshed and stuffed cloths in their mouths. On the other side Jaleel raised his voice against Shyam Sundar at which Shyam Sundar’s eyes became red with rage. A poisonous and cruel smile appeared on his lips and on the other side Gul Afroz very much disliked the boldness of Qaadir. He drew a long line on the ground and put black goggles on his eyes.

Next morning the residents of this part of the house were whispering to each other:
‘Hey, did you hear something: Shyam Sundar killed Jaleel and Gul Afroz has killed Qaadir?’
This news spread far and wide. There was a great uproar and commotion and the inmates of both parts of the house assembled on both sides of the wall. Suddenly, thousands of spikes were raised simultaneously and the iron wall in the middle of the house started crumbling.

Far away, Ashraf, Ramzan, Thoba, Bootaji, Gulrez and Jamshed started singing merrily.

Translated from Urdu by NA Ansari

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