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Old Thursday, November 01, 2007
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Exclamation Shahabnama(translation)

Khalsa High School, A Translation from Shahabnama

Grandmother and Karam Bakhsh took me to B.A.S.J.H Khalsa High School for admission. Full name of the School was Baba Ajit Singh Jajar Hari Khalsa High School, which was name after the two sons of a Guru, who according to Sikh tradition were buried alive by Muslim rulers in the walls of the near by Gurdawara (Sikhs' shrine).

Head Master Swaraj Singh while registering my name asked grandmother, "Should I write the age of the kid ten years." Grandmother was annoyed, "Are you blind? Don't you see the age of my grandson is not a day less than fifteen years?" For grandmother, to tell that the child is advance in age was something to boast about, in this way education would be completed earlier and thus he would be eligible for the job earlier. On this matter a heated debate started between Head Master and grandmother. Karam Bakhsh mediated after making some zodiac signs on ground and told the head master to write down the age of the child thirteen years, three months and three days. Head master entered my age on this presumption, and my father's diaries were left unconsulted in which he had wrote down the exact moment, day, month and year of each child.

Depending on this fictitious age, the head master admitted me to a two years senior class and also ordered, "Next year you have to appear in the vernacular final examination, and if you haven't been able to get a scholarship in it, I'll expel you from the school."

On my first day in the school I wore new shirt, cotton pants and red Turkish cap. My classmates started laughing at this alien appearance and made jokes. Some one shouted that the teacher is coming. Every one sat down at his desk. Only I was left standing in shock at this treatment. Master Mangal Singh was our teacher of Urdu and Maths. He scrutinized me from head to toe and then advised me to wear turban instead on Turkish cap. He taught lessons for a while but for the most part remained occupied in thrashing the boys. In the period of Persian language, Pundit Sri Ram repeated this exercise. Teacher of English, Pundit Jagan Nath would contend himself only with twisting the ears of the boys instead of thrashing. Period of History and Geography would pass with relative calm because Master Tara Singh would neither laugh nor smile and would not punish the boys. Real terror of the school was infact Master Mangal Singh. He would teach the lessons of Urdu language in pure Punjabi accent. Like Urdu, he was also thoroughly learnt in Maths. but his real specialization was in the art of chastisement. When I saw those thrashings every day, I became apprehensive for my turn. Every moment of school time became unbearable for me.

One day when I was ready to go to school, grandmother sneezed, it was regarded as a bad omen, and she retained me for a while. After a little while she permitted me to go, but I was late and I thought today is the day for which I was apprehensive about. Instead of going to school I went to the canal.

Around Sarhind canal there were orchards of berries, mangoes and dates. I was busy gathering the berries, when all of a sudden I saw Karam Bakhsh, who had come here to gather grass for the cattle. I tried to hide, but he caught me from throat. I told him the pathetic tale about the school. "So you wouldn't got to school now?" he asked, "Never" I said firmly. "Oh yes" said Karam Bakhsh, "what's there in books, life of leisure is like mine, to weed out the ground. Come on let me teach you this skill." He taught me how to cut grass with a sickle and then ordered me to cut a bundle of grass for the cattle. He also warned me to beware of snakes or scorpions in the knee high grass. I got tired in a while and agreed to go to school next day.

Next day I broke my promise and again did not go to school. But to save myself from the clutches of Karam Bakhsh, I went to "Guga Mari" instead of canal. Guga Mari was an old four walled structure on a deserted mound, at some distance from the village. Muslims thought it to be a tomb of "Guga peer" while Hindus regarded it as a shrine of "Guga sain". Inside Guga Mari some people were playing "Hal" (an ecstatic form of a mystics dance). The most ecstatic among them was Karam Bakhsh. He caught me from neck then slapped me in the face and kept me standing under the hot sun for a while. When he thought that I have received enough punishment then he made me swear again not to run from the school. During his sermon I started flattering him and made him so happy that he took me to the shop of a sweets merchant. Maghi Ram was the only sweets merchant of the village. He and his father were glad to see Karam Bakhsh. He told us that he had bought a lottery ticket and won it, and the prize is sent by a boat which will reach Chamkore today. He asked Karam Bakhsh to get his ox cart and go to the boats deck and bring the prize goods to his shop. Wages were decided to be one rupee in cash and two kilograms of sweets. Karam Bkhsh took half a kilo of sweets as earnest money. We took the cart and reached the deck. Maghi Ram and his father were already there waiting for the boat to arrive. At last the boat arrived and he took his prize goods after paying for the shipment. Prize goods were composed of three cartons, each of which was not less than two maunds. They were optimistic that the goods were at least worth a few lacs. On our way back they started making plans to get settle in Ludhiana after selling the goods. In the mean while we reached their shop. Cartons were opened in the back yard. All of these were filled with second hand books and old registers of school. Both father and son were spell bound and wept bitterly. Karam Bakhsh consoled them by saying that something is better than nothing. He told them that they have got so much trash for a five rupees lottery, which can be used for packing the sweets for a few years. His father kept sitting, head in his knees, but Maghi Ram stood and started shuffling the books to find any hidden pearl in them. When he didn't find any thing of worth in it, he started throwing the books on floor. Karam Bakhsh held his hand and said, "You are such a barbarian, these might be sacred books, probably of Islamic religion. If you insulted our holy books I'll cut you throat." I opened a book, it was Ratan Nath Sarshar's book of classical fiction. He asked me, "Is it a religious book", I said, "Definitely a very sacred one." Karam Bakhsh reverently picked up its four volumes and placed them on a high place. Now he ordered me to search all the books and separate the books dealing with Islamic religion, "I would take the sacred books of my religion with myself, wouldn't leave them to the infidels." With some effort I chose about thirty books, eighteen of these were classical fiction literature and rest were popular detective stories. Karam Bakhsh started to tie them in his sheet, Maghi Ram cried,"What are you doing? These are my goods, I'll lodge a complaint against you in the police station." Karam Bakhsh responded,"These are the books of our true religion, how can I leave them to you?" Maghi Ram said,"I am not responsible for your religion, you'll have to pay the price for these books." A Hindu Muslim conflict broke out between them, at length, after an hours' debate, price was fixed to be six and a half rupees, of which, Karam Bakhsh paid a rupee and a half at the spot and the rest he promised to pay by tomorrow noon. Maghi Ram warned him to pay the remainder in due time else he would also have to pay the interest.

We took the books and went to the guest house, made up of two rooms at some distance from the residential house, near the mosque Karam Baksh cleaned a cupboard and placed the books reverently in it. But I was concerned about the money which we had to pay to Maghi Ram by tomorrow noon. Karam Bakhsh consoled me not to worry about it. He said,"You are so concerned about five rupees only, while I would give my life in the path of religion." Taking advantage of this emotional moment I played a trump card to remedy my other concern. I told him Khalsa High School is a cradle of infidels and before going there it would be better for me to be well versed in the religion of Islam, and for that purpose I would read these books first which we have got from the clutches of Maghi Ram with such difficulty, and after reading all of them, then I would go to school. Karam Bakhsh was impressed by my religious fervour and he agreed to this preposition.

Now I would get up early in the morning, take up my school bag, and leave the house as if I am going to school. Karam Bakhsh would let me in the guest house and lock the door from outside. At noon he would give me lunch, and precisely at four o'clock I would enter the house. Karam Bakhsh did me another favour and told the head master Swaraj Singh that the kid has taken fright from master Mangal Singh and he is having fever, after getting well he would come to school.

For three weeks I followed this routine like a book worm. When I started going to school again, I was a changed person. Instead of stammering due to fear of master Mangal Singh I was now speaking the ornamented language of classical Urdu literature. Master Mangal Singh was so impressed with a few essays which I wrote in the class that he would often leave me in the class as a monitor.

On the festival of "Singh Sabha", which was an annual congregation of the Sikhs in the town of Chamkore and in which a declamation contest was also held, I was chosen from the Khalsa High School to write an essay on Guru Nanak (founder of Sikhism).

I prepared an essay, copying many pages from the literary books which I have got, making some changes in the text. At the end of the essay there was also a eulogy of twenty verses in the praise of Guru Nanak.

I gathered most of the material for this essay from a book "Descendants of Zor Ain" written by Mahshir Anbalvi. In this book the author had tried to prove with strange historical evidence that the "Aryan fraternity" is actually the descendants of an Arab tribe "Zor Ain".

In the "Diwan" of Singh Sabha, a crowd of about three thousand was gathered. Maharaja of Patiala was the chief guest. There were mostly Sikhs. Though about forty Muslims were also present, standing separately. They were the "Aryan fraternity" of Chamkore, who have come here on the instigation of Karam Bakhsh to see the miracle of my essay.

This was my first time on stage, but I did not feel any difficulty, because I only have to utter them, while the sentences were written by classical Urdu writers. There was perfect silence in the crowd, when I started reading the verse in the praise of Guru Nanak, this silence increased. After my debate people started cheering, Maharaja of Patiala, who was sleeping in his chair, woke up suddenly, and gave me a silver rupee of Queen Victoria's stamp as a mark of his approval.

When the "Diwan" ended my Sikh classmates took me to the back yard of the school. For a time they danced around me then snatched the prize money from me and ran away.

This success of mine gave me an impetus to start writing poetry. I would collect the rhymes from other poets and make a poem of my own. First I chose "Ronak Jammuvi" as my pen name, but later changed it to "Jaafer Chamkorei" for a poetical necessity.

For vernacular final examination our center was Government High School, Ropar. Ropar is at a distance of about eleven miles from Chamkore. Riding on a few oxen carts, under the supervision of our teacher of Persian, Pundit Sri Ram, we reached there a day before the examination commenced. We stayed at a local hostel of Sikhs. But the behaviour of Sikh boys was such during the night that next day after submitting my paper to the examiner I returned to Chamkore on foot, and reached there by dusk.

Next day I started at four in the morning to reach there by nine, when the paper would start. Karam Bakhsh accompanied me to the canal,then he returned and I proceeded. It was the season of winter and there was mist everywhere. Nothing was visible beyond few yards. I would hear the voices of jackals and dogs. At some distance I saw a few monkeys performing some acrobatic skills, those skills which I saw at that time, I would never see again except in politics, state affairs, and diplomacy. My resolve was already faltering, now when I saw monkeys and chimpanzees blocking my way, I thought of returning back. I was standing in this quandary when I heard a voice "Hari om" "Hari om" this was the voice of the Hindu Pundit of our village. It was his practice to take a bath in the canal, early in the morning, whether its the season of summer or winter. He threw some pieces of bread to the monkeys and passed easily ahead. When I saw an old, frail Hindu passing fearlessly chanting his sacred verses, I felt ashamed of my timidity and weakness of faith. I gathered my courage and went ahead, praying loudly.

I reached the examination hall in time, did my paper easily and returned home by evening. I followed this routine for the eight remaining days of the examination. When the result was declared I got the scholarship of vernacular final for two years, but the habit of praying to God in times of difficulties, I carried through out my life.

After two years I also passed the matriculation examination in the similar manner. A few months before that grandmother had died. Her age was hundred and eight years at the time of her death. Karam Bakhsh, now desolate, became a monk in the monastery of Guga Mari, in the grief of her death. There was no college near Chamkore, therefore I also returned to Jammu and got admission in Prince of Wales College, Jammu, in F.Sc. (Faculty of Science).

nahin nigah main manzil to justaju hi sahi
nahin wisaal mayassar to arzu hi sahi
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