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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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.

Faith 

The elders of the masjid sat down in a circle, and the old man they had chosen as their sarbarah (leader) sat at the head. The Masjid committee looked rather worried. It was jummah, Friday. On Friday they held a meeting, and opened the two charity boxes. The old man was old, but rather handsome, graceful in his white hair, a brown safari suit. Though his years had been rough, they had been unable to wither him completely. He beckoned one of the men of the Masjid to begin. 

The man started. “Our funds have finished. The renovations in the Masjid simply have to stop. We can’t afford it.”

The old man said:”The funds have finished? But how much money do you need? I’m sure we can cover the cost when we open the charity boxes.”

Usually, when they opened the boxes, they got fifty to sixty thousand rupees.

“Sahab, we need at least two lakhs and seventy five thousand rupees!”

“Let’s not stop the renovations yet. Look here everybody, don’t lose faith! Have tawwakul in the Al-Mighty’s ways. All we have to do is try. Leave the rest to Him. It is His job to do things. Let’s open the charity boxes for now. He will surley do something about this.”

All though not everybody was completely sure, they felt comforted at the old man’s speech. The boys were made to open and count the money. Out of one of the boxes, came out a taped and sealed package. They put it aside, and continued counting. There were sixty thousand rupees, as expected.

“What is that package over there?” Asked the old man.

“We don’t know sahab. We want you to open it.”

“Oh, hurry up. Let’s just get this over with.”

“No, no, we want you to open it. Who knows what’s inside.”

So the old man took the package and ripped the tape. It had several layers to it, but eventually, he got to the paper itself. As he ripped it apart, his eyes widened with surprise. Inside were new, fresh thousand-rupee notes. The committee was surprised.

“See, I told you. It is His job. All we need to do is have faith. Tawwakul. And look what he does!”

The boy were made to count the money. 

“How much is it?”    ” Sahab, it is two lakh rupees!”

The boys were then questioned. Had they seen anyone put the package there? No, but one of the boys had seen a person put a taped and sealed envelope. Did the package have any names or addresses or phone numbers? No. Then how did the package get in the box? Nobody knew.

It is strange, the works of God. The imaam thanked the anonymous gentleman who had done such a noble deed in his khutbah.

So I guess miracles do still happen. We just don’t believe anymore. Perhaps I should mention that the old man is, infact, my grandfather, MashAllah.