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Thursday, July 29, 2010


Needles in the eyesImage by ~FreeBirD®~ via Flickr

She was our immediate neighbour and a close friend of my mother. We had adjoining courtyards which were enclosed by small brick walls. Vishandei would often call 'beji'- my mother, by leaning over this courtyard wall.

After finishing her household work she would often call my 'beji'. It was usually Vishandei who would call my mother as 'Daman di beji' listen for a moment. But that moment seemed to last till eternity. It would not end till someone came over.

In that 'one moment' Vishandei 'masi' would discuss all sorts of things from weather and lack of rain, to the peddlers-the banjaras- selling earthen 'ghugoos'-whistles ,gulels'or catapults and small bamboo flutes or 'bansaris'.They also used to hawk tiny earthen 'sarangis',on which they would play music tunes to attract the children.

A strong group of children would follow these peddlers of earthen toys. The playing of sarangis and earthen whistles - ghugoos -  would create an irresistible desire in the minds of children. They would pester their mothers for these earthen toys. They used to barter these earthen toys for wheat flour,or jaggery. etc.

Sometimes the topic of discussion between my mother and Vishandei 'masi' would be that Ramji Lal's cow is not giving milk because it had seen some evil shadow.

Another interesting event happened in our neighbourhood . Our neighbour 'Yusuf's cow 'neeli' delivered a calf which had two heads and two necks joined over the shoulders. The whole town came over to see this 'wonder' and it was a hot topic in the town. 

Vishandei would often say 'ghor Kaliyug' has come indeed. Who knows what else shall we have to see? The twin headed calf died after a couple of days.The news spread like a wildfire in Vehari which  used to be a 'notified area committee' in district Multan. Vehari had only a NAC school upto   primary level,which later on got upgraded to upper primary class level. 

This  news reached biology teacher of a college from Multan ,which was the district town. He came over to have a look at this twin headed calf. He was very perplexed at this freak of nature. After obtaining  permission from the Principal of the college he struck a deal with Yusuf and took away the calf for research.

Vishandei had no offspring of her own. She showered all her affections over me.She would insist on getting me some toys by bartering a little bit of wheat 'atta' or some other item. Sometimes my 'Beji' would mildly admonish her not to spoil me with these gifts, but she would just not listen and tell my 'Beji', Daman is as dear to me as to you.

Don't you consider me as your sister. Am I not his  Masi? she used to retort. As a child I used to be very fond of 'dal'. In the evening meals 'dal' was a must for me. I would refuse to take my supper if the 'dal' had not been prepared by my mother. Vishandei would quietly pass on a 'katori' of 'dal' for me.

Sometimes Vishandei masi would quietly give me a 'paisa' saying go get something for yourself but don't let your 'Beji' know of it.  

Paisa was a very big amount  those days. Even an 'adhela' - half paisa -could fetch you a lemonade and with a 'pye'or a quarter paisa, one could get a plate full of jalebis.  

With the partition of the country into Hindustan and Pakistan everything went topsy turvy. It was a big divide of not only the land but also an old culture of fraternity and brotherhood....of peaceful existence. 

We all got separated and I have not seen masi Vishandei - a lady with a heart of sterling gold...after the partition....

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