Of Gujjars and Grandfather tales.

Last night found us talking about Gujjars*. My grandfather was telling us about how, when they first came into India from Afghanistan, they split into three main groups. One of them settled in the north, in Khyber Pakhtun Khwa and Gilgit Baltistan. The other one along the Grand Trunk Road (GT rd). And for a long time, they actually did herd cattle and sell milk. In South Asia, lots of people don’t buy pasteurised milk. The trend has increased in recent years, but still a lot of people drink fresh milk provided by gawalay. These milkmen were invariably (as my grandfather says) Gujjars. However, for three days every year, they didn’t give their milk to anyone but instead they all gave the milk to the grand Urs of Data Darbar. For three days, any man could come and take as much milk as he wanted without any charge. This Darbar is actually a shrine of Hazrat Ali Hajveri who was a saint and a deeply spiritual man. The Darbar is called Data Darbar because Data means “The giver” (a crude translation, forgive me) and it is believed that anything will be granted if the person in need asks God through Data Sahib. Shirk, yes, but nevertheless it is a notion held by many.

This practice of giving all the milk to the Urs actually has a very interesting origin. There is a story about it, and when asked about its authenticity, my grandfather said it was completely true.

The story goes that one day, Ali Hajveri sat by the bank of the Ravi. A woman passed by him carrying a pot full of milk. He asked the woman if she would give him some milk.

“I cannot. I will only milk my cows for the jogi that lives yonder.” She replied.

He asked her to give him some milk for that day only. She refused. He asked the reason.

“Whenever I give this milk to anyone other than the jogi my cows start giving blood instead of milk.” The saint then understood that the jogi had cast some sort of spell.

“Give this to me, and I assure you, your cows will never give you blood again.” He told her. Reluctantly, the woman gave him the milk. The next day, when she milked the cows, there was such an abundance that all the containers in her house were not sufficient to hold the milk. Word quickly spread throughout the village, and all the other milkmen soon stopped supplying milk to the jogi and gave it, instead, to Ali Hajveri.

When the jogi realised this, he confronted the saint and threatened him. The saint said there was nothing he could do to harm him. At this, the jogi flew up in the air. The saint took of his kharawan (a very simple shoe — a wooden block with a single canvas strap across it) and threw it after him, and the shoe started beating the jogi in mid-air! The jogi realised this was no magic, that it was actually a Divine power. And so the jogi was defeated!

I don’t know if the milk thing still happens, but it was quite interesting to know this!


*Gujjars are a cast in the Indian subcontinent. The usual stereotype says that Gujjars sell milk and herd cattle, but it doesn’t apply anymore. Lots of other casts have taken up this profession. Similarly, one can find Gujjars in all fields now. Chaudhary Rehmat Ali, an eminent Muslim leader in the Creation of Pakistan, was a Gujjar. He suggested the name for Pakistan in his famous publication, “Now or Never”. Two strangers will become instant friends upon learning that they are both gujjars. It is said that Gujjars are quite fierce (it doesn’t apply anymore though). After the War of Independence (1857) in India, the British had commanded their officers to shoot gujjars on sight. They were considered “rebels”.

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Incessant Dreaming

It had been a few days. Hunger and lethargy floated somewhere amongst these transitions of conscious into unconscious, reality into dream, clarity into haze. A constant thump thump of the raindrops on the tin roof could be heard. A fragile hand tried to move in the darkness of the shabby hut. Was this real? Was it a dream? Everything seemed a dream these days. How long though? How long had this incessant dreaming been continuing? Who knew. And who cared. Because it was true! An insignificant being dying in a dismal hut of hunger and starvation. It didn’t alter the course of the universe. It didn’t hinder the path of the sun. And it didn’t stop this monsoon rain.

The much needed rain. The rain prayed for, the rain begged for.

Yet what good did it do to a dying being? A dying being incessantly dreaming. For the world refused to acknowledge the being as human. But even so, the being had no control over its being. The rain drops seemed to be getting bigger and bigger now. The humidity was suffocating. Soon they were as big as that listless hand. The humidity might turn solid any moment now. The rain drops were bigger than the cars by now: every single drop fell as if a bomb attempting to destroy everything on the face of the earth. And then amongst all the chaos: a thunderous knocking. The door was weak, perhaps weaker than the inhabitant, but it put up a good fight. The inhabitant swore and tried to convince his brain to convince his body to move. The pounding on the door increased, the rain drops got bigger, the humidity got more humid. The being was gasping for air, all the while thinking why was it so difficult to breathe when there was a deprivation of food and not air? The door must’ve opened. The being heard a loud bang where the door hit the wall. Or maybe the door fell down. It was so difficult to tell what was going on. Was this even real? If only reality and dream would distinguish between themselves! Even vision was a burden. And then it was no more. Black.

The being gasped for air until it gasped no more.


Writing prompt:

Incessant dreaming (day 8)

Scalloped Edges

It was strange how, at that precise moment, she was remembering the first time she saw that tablecloth. At the local bazaar, window shopping. How she had begged him to get it.

“There’s no money.” He had said. She persisted.

“It’s perfect!”

He had looked at her queerly, then. He saw nothing special about it. A regular, cream-coloured square cloth, for a regular, square table. “Look at the pattern!” She had said. “The scalloped edges!” She was adamant.

He shook his head in that special way of his. What a devilishly handsome smile he had. Of course he gave in. And God knows what other things he had to give up to give in. His weekly ration of tobacco, for one.

“You’re not smoking these days.” She noticed a few days later.

“Oh, nothing. I breathe the city air once in a while. Same damage, doesn’t cost a penny.” He winked. She persisted, but he didn’t say anything more. She guessed the reason, but she knew he would deny it.

That day, the were sitting at the table, with the same tablecloth. He seemed thoughtful. He seemed to look not at the table, but through the table and beyond it. She cleared her throat to get his attention. He turned his head and looked at her. Those blue eyes, she had thought. She seemed to tremble under his gaze. The whole Earth seemed to tremble. That’s when he said, “Earthquake!”

The whole world had been trembling. Before they could run, the world collapsed around them. At least that’s what she had thought, after the walls came crashing down. As she lay there, under the rubble. All she could see of him was his beautiful blood stained face, partially covered by the scalloped edges of a regular, cream-coloured, square tablecloth.


Writing prompt: Scalloped Edges.

(Day seven)

Musical Undertones

Basically I have been attempting the November prompts, I just haven’t been posting. I don’t know why but anyways, here’s today’s. Even if I’m not writing a novel or anything. It’s just that I enjoy them. Anyways.


They tried to take her with them. They tried to drag her away from what would be her destruction. They all tried. She saw them, and heard them, but did not understand. They were vacating the mountains and moving to the plains.

The mountains would be bombed.

They wanted to save her — a fragile soul, delicate skin, big dreamy eyes, face like a nectarine. However, she wouldn’t have any of this. The threat of the air strikes did not worry her weary mind. She had worried too much for her young years. Father, mother — all gone. She had been alone for a long time now. The mountains were her security. She could not leave them. The souls of her family traversed these paths with her. She knew they were there.

They tried to console themselves. Her delirious mind would bring about her destruction, they said. She laughed at them as they turned around to leave. Destruction? No.

Her bare feet led her to the river that ran between the two mountains that constituted her village. She decided to go up to the bridge. In the middle of the bridge, with the river roaring furiously, she stood and stared. Eyes fixed on this massive water body, mind racing with thoughts better left alone. She remembered everything. Her father taking her hand, telling her not to be afraid as they crossed the bridge. Her mother, scolding her and sending her outside the house in the cold as a punishment. The men that came. The way she hid, paralysed with fear, behind the bush. The way the house was set on fire. But what stood out the most — the screams. She wished she could forget. But they never did stop. Bloodied screams in a blazing fire.

She saw the river. How beautiful! Her internal conflicts resonated with the rage of the river. Her heart was at peace at last. It seemed to her as if the river had turned stationary, and she (with the bridge) was accelerating backwards. She felt an odd sense of calm and serene descend upon her as the river dissolved her identity. She was losing herself, she was aware of that. But she wasn’t afraid. The river — a massive body of rage and fury, but with musical undertones. Blue and grey on the surface but concealing all colours in its cold depths. Apparently indifferent, but actually holding the secrets to all of human history. How could she be afraid? What had sounded like the wrath of the river was a melodious voice singing to her.

Yes, she was losing herself. But to her Beloved.

Her beloved embraced her with cold, open arms.


Writing prompt: Musical Undertones (day 5)

Plot Twist

The people were stupid. Very stupid. They witnessed the entire story with their gaze filtered by stupidity. Their sight polarised by stubbornness.

They knew what would have been good for them. They knew what had to be done. Yet they ignored it. They saw the story unfold with childish wonder, detaching themselves in the process.

Blindfolded by their selves.

They were ignorant. Ignorant, obstinate oafs.

So much so that, they didn’t even realise how twisted the plot was until Death came.

And shouted,

“Plot twist!”

And died.

Life update.

It’s a battle keeping up with these word prompts. A battle with time. And my mind.

I have so much to study. And I want to read more, too. And I have to think about what I’m going to do with my life. Also, I’ve set unrealistic goals for the weekend (again) which shall go unfulfilled (again) and that shall leave me annoyed. It’s not my fault I only get one day off.

The mind has been whispering. Doubts, fears.

The mind is uneasy. Everyday is another battle. To keep that balance between thinking and not think.

I want to exercise. Mind, soul and body. I want to get up earlier and be productive. But that is not possible.

I want a change of routine. I want this endless road to bend. I want something that would excite me, something that would inspire. My words have been kind to me. Never do they leave the mind. I have been neglecting them, I know. They have been starting to get quite difficult of late. They, too, want a change of expression. Rebellious, ungrateful. They never even realise how much I do for them. However, I in turn must not be ungrateful. They are a blessing, they could be taken away any time. I must cherish them.

I can’t wait for the fog. Glorious, vague vapours encompassing everything and anything, without discrimination.

It is another battle to see the same people every day, to disagree on the same things, to put up with the same ignorance and backwardness and still be nice. Apart from family, and that too only the most direct relations, how much sooner one tires of human company than of anything else. Cats, independent, detached creatures, infinitely cleverer than us (Though only metaphorically).

It is also a battle to be good. Evil tempts you. No matter how much one tries to purify one’s heart, it will always remain contaminated. No matter how much you try, you have been too infected. It is a battle to be kind. Especially those who don’t deserve it. But God knows you’re a monster inside, and if you start classifying and judging people, He could call you out on it.

It’s a battle to be.

How sweet would it be to not be?


Writing prompt: https://zoyakubra.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/october-writing-challenge/

P.S. Do you think my blog has become a little too dull and dark lately? Do you even enjoy? I’d love to know!

A Wish.

In a land of absolute normalcy, and nothing out of the ordinary, there was a girl. A girl who was completely normal, ordinary. There she was, in class that day, the 20th of October. The professor droned on and on, but her fragile mind was on other unnecessary and unimportant things. The girl was nostalgic. With her heart split across three continents, this wasn’t an infrequent condition. There were smells she longed to inhale and voices she wanted to hear. There was a certain temperature of the air she wished was there.

She thought of waffles and shortbread. She thought of flavoured yogurt and freshly made finger fish. With beans. And sweet corn. And flavoured water.

She thought of a house that would be warm and comforting against biting cold winds. She thought of the maternal presence in that house. She thought of the last time she had hugged her. The way her short plump figure had completely encompassed her entire being in a split second. Perhaps she had not realised what she was to the girl. If she had, she would’ve held on longer. She thought of all those times she had woken up from unpleasant dreams to find a familiar, comforting snore gently rock her back to sleep. She thought of all the times she had been fussed on upon, the many summer holidays spent in ignorant bliss. The way her grandmother had tried to make the most of the every meeting, to somehow cover the distance of an entire continent.

She thought of a tiny bundle of joy, blessed with the most beautiful smile, barely a year old. She thought of her niece, the way she giggled when she was thrown in the air. The way her smile melted the hardest heart, the way she spread love and joy indiscriminately with just her presence.

There came to her mind an old, fragile-looking man too, with endless grace and dignity. A man who was a living miracle (literally). A man who was the most splendid example of resilience, hardwork, determination, and above all, will power. A man loved and respected by so many, but she considered herself so lucky to be loved by him. A man she looked up to, her grandfather. Countless times that old wrinkled face had smiled upon her, as if her insignificant being was actually the source of his pride. A brown face, sometimes appearing in her memory sitting in an intense Punjabi sun, other times laying on a pillow, sleeping in front of the fire, cozy against the frost outside that so many Punjabis yearned for but never experienced. Most of the times, though, he was either dressed in a three-piece suit, or a crisp shalwar kameez, actively pacing about, never a dull moment. The best storyteller.

There were other memories on this continent, some personal, others not as much. Her wandering mind, however, moved to another continent, one she had never been to, but which contained a piece of her heart. A family, more beloved to her than belgian chocolate, if chocolate was a scale. A family she hoped to see again, soon. But the prospects looked dim.

Finally, the third continent. The continent she currently found her physical being on. A land containing almost all her memories, some sweet, some sour. A land where she was thankful to still have some of the people she loved and cherished. Her paternal grandfather, a man with unwavering faith in Allah. The most patient man she had seen in her life. Born to be great. And that was what he had achieved. Though not as expressive as herself, he had loved them in his own way and shown it. She knew him by the words: bravery, wisdom, chivalry, gentlemanliness, discipline, tolerance and trust. A man of endless dignity and grace, a man she looked up to. A man was respected greatly and deeply by everyone. A man who taught how to respect, simply by showing it. A man who led by example.

She was still nostalgic. She wanted to have everyone and everything within her grasp. She wished it was so. But at the same time she knew she could not be ungrateful for all that God had already blessed her with. So, she said a quiet, heartfelt prayer and thanked Him for all the blessings she already had.

The bell rung. She was forced back to Earth.


This prompt came along at the right time.