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.
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.
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.
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?"
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
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.
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.
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,
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
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.
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
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,
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.
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.