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the-south-asian.com 7 August 2000
Page 2 Chakwal – Fondly Remembered By O.P. Dutta
Chakwal – Fondly Remembered
By O.P. Dutta
As one crossed the rocky open space on the left (known to the locals as ‘Paraat’), one would come across the girls’ school. Beside the solid brick building, was another permanent fixture - chacha "Gundu". He was the ‘Lobia [black-eyed bean] Vendor’ (obviously there were no tuck shops or canteens in those days). Gundu was given the title of a universal ‘chacha’ much before Pandit Nehru, the first Prime Minister of an Independent India. For one ‘paisa’ or a ‘dhela’ (sixty fourth and one hundred and twenty eighth part of a rupee respectively) chacha would give a ‘patta’ full (tree leaf) of boiled ‘Lobia’, made succulent for the young, spiced with salt, pepper, chillies and lemon juice added to it (lemon would always be of a green colour with a distinct aroma). While handing over the wholesome snack, chacha never forgot to add a sweet smile.
After five decades of distributing a free smile, chacha left this earth. He left behind a sum of ten thousand rupees and a request that his life’s savings be used for building another couple of rooms in the girls' school. It was said that chacha once had a daughter whom he wanted to educate but just could not, as she died very young after contacting small pox.
On Saturday mornings everybody, and especially the young ones, waited anxiously to hear a certain voice. Suddenly, when the distant voice was heard, loud and clear ‘chhanchhanwar de Chhole’ (chhanchhanwar is for Saturday in the local lingo), the children would just shoot out. The much-awaited voice was that of a half–blinded person named ‘Raw’. ‘Chhole’ or a special dish of ‘Kabuli Chanas’ as we know today, was prepared and sold by ‘Raw’ only on Saturdays. For the remaining six days of the week he would be at the railway platform with his iron bucket and a brass ‘Lota’ offering sweet and potable water to the thirsty. And God help anyone who dared to offer him a penny in return. ‘The clouds don’t charge us anything when they release the water that they carry’ was his argument.
If you ever visited Raw’s house, the aroma of the spices for ‘chhanchhan war de Chhole’ would greet you. Right next to his house lived Qayyum Din the celebrated cobbler or ‘Jooti maker’. His specialty was the bridal foot wear with ‘Tilla’ - golden embroidery on leather. If asked to make a pair for a prospective bride his question would be ‘ How many roses’? If you replied "a dozen", you could be sure that the ‘jooti’ he made would be equal in weight to a dozen roses from ‘Choha Saidan Shah’ a veritable rose garden nurtured by a hilly stream of water brought about by a miracle perpetrated by a Sufi faqir named ‘Saidan Shah’.
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