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 4

The Son-in-Law

Qadira lived in the house of the great Sheikh as did his father. The latter was first employed in the household as a groom. His wife died in the village to which the family belonged and the stable-man brought the little boy to live in the house of the nobleman. Here he assisted his father in the stable and sometimes was entrusted with errands by the ladies of the household. His chief claim to his board and lodge with the illustrious family was his companionship with the young Sheikh, the nobleman's son. The latter was practically of the same age and grew so fond of the urchin that he would never brook separation from him except when the former was engaged in assisting his father in cleaning the stables or grooming the ponies.

Though Qadira had to remove horse-dung from the stable or to attend to other unpleasant duties he kept himself unusually clean. His father persuaded him to wash his clothes frequently. In winter when it was cold he went to the bath and made free use of the warm water in the boiler after other members of the household went to bed. Those who did not know him could hardly suspect that he was a stable-boy. Those who saw him frequently always quoted the Kashmiri adage that one should wash one's hands clean before touching him.

Well, Qadira was a groom and errand-boy in the house of the Sheikh and a companion of the nobleman's son. It was never intended, that Qadira should receive any bookish education. But being exposed to it in the company of the young Sheikh he could not help remembering the same lessons and picking up literacy. His blue blooded companion was a boy of varied interests as befitted the scion of the great house; he could, therefore, pay only scant attention to his studies. Qadira's mind, on the other hand, seemed to be so constituted that letters, sentences and whole lessons found a fertile soil there. If the money spent over the young master of the house did not yield result commensurate with its magnitude, it at least made up through the education of the rustic urchin.

Qadira grew into a shrewd lad. He could strike a good bargain and gained advantage by his boldness and dash where faint-hearted men older in age failed. Before very long he was promoted to assist the bailiff and keep accounts. This was a signal advance in his position which delighted his father but filled other domestics with pangs of jealousy. He discharged his duties admirably and his master was pleased with him mighty well. He never made any secret of his appreciation of Qadira's ability.

One day Qadira's father saw his master in a jovial mood and was assiduous in keeping his exalted spirits aloft. When he perceived that the moment was opportune, he said, "Sire, may I make a humble request?"

"Do so, for I am much indebted to you and your son for your faithful service. What do you want?"

"Father," said the servant, "I have grown grey eating your salt. It is my great good fortune. My son has bloomed into a young man eating your bread. While it is my ambition to lay down my life in your service, I request you to seek a job in the administration for your slave, my son. I do not quite relish his being here."

He told his master how other servants in his household felt jealous of father and son, and cursed them behind their backs. "I can stand anything except a curse against my only son." His words moved the heart of the SheiLh, who himself had only one son. In his own heart he had an additional motive and that was to gain respectability in the eyes of society. Before long the Sheikh, a big feudal lord got Ghulam Qadir, the son of his trusted servant appointed as a clerk in the office of the district collector who was only too pleased to embrace a chance to oblige a big landlord like the influential Sheikh.

Ghulam Qadir was an intelligent clerk and came to have a reputation for efficient work. He disposed of the work allotted to him in no time every day and was also able to assist other clerks in the disposal of their cases. Consequently he got to know the work in all sections of the office which gave him a sort of a key-position. Other clerks sought his advice when baffled with difficulties. Intricate cases could not be attended to without his consultation and apparently insurmountable difficulties were smoothed out by him in no time. The district collector was pleased with him and appointed him as his own Munshi or confidential clerk.

Munshi Ghulam Qadir, or Munshi Ji as he came to be called now, had learnt another precious lesson by instinct kind that was that "more things are wrought by establishing proper public relations than this world dreams of." Accordingly he went to the residence of the collector now and then with a case of choice luscious apples, fine walnuts or a khirwar of mushkbudji rice. The collector would not accept such a present from his humble clerk, but he had no hesitation when he heard that it came from the great Sheikh. There was, therefore, little doubt that the Munshi would race along the roads to prosperity along which others were panting on leaden feet or merely limping. In a year or so the Munshi found himself transferred to the executive line as a girdawar with a score of patwaris under him.

Ghulam Qadir now found it necessary to come to the notice of the hakim-e-ala or the provincial governor and he sought the good offices of his erstwhile master, the Sheikh. Not long after, the governor went on a tour of the part of the country where the Sheikh had his estate. It was in his own interest for the latter to entertain the governor. At a dinner held in honour of the governor the Sheikh commended his protege to the kind attention of his august guest. Munshi Ji was in need of just this introduction. He won his place nearer and nearer to the heart of the governor by the efficient discharge of his duties. The governor also received occasional presents from the Sheikh and he was intelligent enough to understand that the latter would feel obliged if he pushed up Ghulam Qadir. In a couple of years, therefore, he got him appointed as a naib-tehsildar.

The old groom in the house of the Sheikh was beside himself with joy and urged his son to take steps to settle himself in married life. Ghulam Qadir, however, was not satisfied yet and considered such a development premature. He had a higher ambition and marriage, he felt, would hinder rather than help its realization. He picked up the ins and outs of his new job till he felt confident that he could hold his own against even the veterans amongst his subordinates. He prepared to win the good graces of the mashir-i-mal, the supreme head of the revenue administration of the State. This time he did not trouble the Sheikh himself but played his cards so well that the governor offered his good offices to introduce him to the mashir-i-mal as a relative of the great Sheikh. This done, the mashir-i-mal found the young man very useful. If eminent people came from outside the State as guests of the administrator, Ghulam Qadir saw to it that they were comfortably lodged and looked after; if there was a wedding or a festival in his house, Ghulam Qadir lost no time in making arrangements for the purchase of commodities of the finest quality. Besides, the Sheikh was eminent enough to include the administrator in the circle of his friends and suitable gifts were gratefully accepted by him from the former. It was, of course, Ghulam Qadir through whom such gifts were received and the latter's name had therefore grown familiar to the mashir-i-mal.

The Sheikh once called on the mashir-i-mal and Ghulam Qadir too figured in the conversation. "I have not been able to do anything for your kinsman," said the minister The Sheikh spoke courteously meaning that it was never too late to begin. A couple of days later when Ghulam Qadir saw the mashir-i-mal in the course of his official duty the former put him the question: "How are you related to the Sheikh?" After a slight demur he replied "I am his son-in-law, sir."

"Oh really!" observed the minister. "I am very sorry. I have not been able to do anything for you. Please convey my apologies to your father-in-law. I shall try my utmost to find a way to help you."

In a week or so Ghulam Qadir became a tehsildar. The minister sent a message to the Sheikh expressing the hope that he would feel somewhat satisfied at the promotion of his relation, adding that he had learnt of their intimacy only a few days earlier.

When Ghulam Qadir met the Sheikh next he asked him how he had described his relationship with himself. Ghulam Qadir was silent. The Sheikh reiterated his question but the other was still hesitant. "You had better kill me sir," replied Ghulam Qadir. But the Sheikh was eager and promised to forgive him. It was then that Ghulam Qadir revealed the truth.

"Son . . . in . . . law!" His face turned red in anger. But that was not for long, for he added, "You have reached your present position through hard work and intelligence while my own son has come to no good. I really could not get a better son-in-law. You are my son-in-law indeed," and he determined to entrust his daughter to him.

Thus did the groom's son marry the daughter of his master It was a proud day for the groom and prouder still for the Sheikh.



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