Folk Tales from Kashmir

Table of Contents

  About the Author
  The Precious Present
  The Devil Outwitted
  Just a Nickname
  The Son-in-Law
  Eh! Oh!
  The Inauspicious Bride
  Himal and Nagrai
  The Haunted Mosque
  The Intruder
  The Burglar's Gift
  The Two Thugs
  The Patwari and the ...
  The Upstart
  Two Brothers
  The Merciful Burglar
  The Clever Lawyer ...
  Counting Ripples
  The Fugitive Fawn
  The Mortal Utensils
  The Hydra-Headed
  The Physician's Son
  The Professional Wedding ...
  The Village Teacher
  The Opium Smokers
  The Drone
  Telltale Narration
  Download Book

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Chapter 12

The Patwari and the Inexperienced Villager

The rural areas in the east have now come to attract an attention unprecedented in our history and numerous officials work for the welfare of the villager. Not many years ago, the patwari was the sole representative of the administration in the countryside. Being conscious of his importance, he exacted homage from high and low alike, and they willingly offered it; in fact they did not feel satisfied till the patwari had accepted their presents. Experience had taught them that it may be possible to change what is written in one's destiny but nobody could rectify the record of a patwari.

There was incontrovertible evidence to support this contention. There was the tehsildar who openly declared himself in favour of a party in a land suit. The patwari had so far adopted a neutral attitude. But when he found the balance tilted against one party without the tehsildar so much as asking his opinion, he made up his mind to help the other party. No doubt he was able to make some money as a result of his policy, but he was able to produce recorded evidence in favour of his party that even the tehsildar himself felt amazed at his own inability to help his own protege.

Then there was the case of a collector of land revenue to whom the ruler had made a grant of land for his meritorious services to the State. Since the patwari was not in any way obliged to him he submitted a report on the land available in his jurisdiction to the ruler. On the basis of the report the land that the collector got was almost wholly barren and unproductive and did not compensate him even for the land tax. It was on the basis of such facts that the saying went round of the admonishment held out by a revenue minister to one of his relatives in a land suit that even he, the revenue minister himself, could not help him if the patwari willed otherwise.

Such being the power and prestige of a patwari, it was foolish of any villager not to propitiate him and, indeed, idiotic to ignore his presence. There is an ancient saying (mudan hanza maji nai prasan truken handi gara ketha khasan), "unless the mothers of blockheads bear children how can the households of the clever thrive," and there was accordingly a vain young man in a village who entirely lacked experience in worldly affairs. He was strong and devoted his time to his farm and his cattle which rewarded him well. Somebody had told him that he must be self-respecting and his notion of self-respect was to mind his own business, earn an honest rupee and let the patwari or other officials stew in their own juices.

The young man was slightly vain and certainly impolitic, and he had created jealousy in the minds of many fellow-villagers. They approached the patwari to pull the young man's ears. But the patwari was shrewd and advised them to be patient. He had a grouse of his own. Apart from the fact that the young man never offered any present to him his whole bearing was almost insulting. He never wished the patwari and to use his own words, "he walked with his gaze fixed on the sky." This, according to the patwari, was calculated to undermine his prestige.

The patwari had cautioned his friends to wait till the time was ripe and he started his offensive when it was so. He did not, however, take them into his confidence, for that did not suit his strategy.

Once when the young man crossed his way, the patwari greeted him in a tone of warmth and affection. "You do not know me well, but your father was a dear friend of mine," he told him. "I cherish the memory of that friendship," he continued, "and as a friend of your late father I have something to say in confidence."

What he told him in confidence was that an unclaimed piece of land lay in the village which was open for anyone to bring under cultivation as a first step towards establishing his claim over it and out of deference for the friendship of his father the patwariwas making the offer to him. "I can assure you," he said, "that I have not the least interest in it and as somebody will ultimately take it up, why not you do it?"

The young man saw the bright prospect of getting a piece of land for nothing and was tempted. Taken in by the profession of friendship made by the patwari he set about establishing his claim over it. He brought it under the plough, watered it and put a flimsy fence around it. He also sowed seeds.

All this time the patwariwas quiet. The young man's attitude towards him had by now undergone a change. He respected the patwariand even threw to him an invitation to dinner as the only means of strengthening the bonds of friendship and affection between the two families. Everything seemed to be so nicely arranged till the seeds sprouted and tiny seedlings gave a nice appearance to the piece of land. Then one morning when the young man went to the field perhaps to do some weeding out he found another man doing it there for him.

"What are you doing there?" he demanded. There was no answer.

"Oh, I say, what the hell are you doing there?" he repeated.

"Why, do you not see, I am pulling out the weeds from the field."

"But I never asked you to do so."

"Who the devil are you to ask me to? I can do what I like to my own land without asking for your orders."

"But I ploughed it, sowed the seeds and put up a fence around it."

"You are raving, that is what you are. The land belonged to a collateral of mine and I have inherited it.... "

By this time a few people collected there and the two saw the claimants coming to fists. Peace was restored with some difficulty and it was decided that both parties should approach the patwari. They did so but the latter had left for some other village in his jurisdiction. When he returned late at night the young man was already waiting for him. The patwari heard his narrative and said:

"Did you not plough the land?"


"Did you not sow the seeds and raise the fence?"

"That I did."

"Did anybody object to your doing so?"

"None indeed."

"Your claim is thus established and no one can dispute it."

The young man left his place satisfied. The next morning the other claimant also left the presence of the patwarifully satisfied. During the day, however, the two claimants fought with fists and shoes and cudgels and were with great difficulty prevented from using scythes and shovels. There was great apprehension of breach of the peace and ultimately the parties had to approach the court.

The court took a long time in recording evidence, examining documents and sifting revenue papers. All this while these parties had to woo the patwari for his support. Not only was his palm greased and overgreased but he was frequently a guest of honour at the house of the one or the other claimant. The vain young man's behaviour had undergone a change. The villagers could not help giggling when they saw the person who fixed his gaze on the stars once contemptuously ignoring the patwari, follow him like a lamb. And the patwari had a peculiar wink in his eye indicating as much as: "Do you see how humbled is the haughty wight? Others beware betimes." It was a long drawn out suit and the patwari was transferred during the time it was pending. What happened to them he never bothered about.



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