Folk Tales from Kashmir

Table of Contents

  Twin Scientists
  Daddy’s Distress
  Breaking the Horse
  She is the Apple of My Eye
  Daddy’s Coronation
  The In-Law Tussle
  Broken Pen
  The Dudda
  Daddy’s Nightmare
  Rise and Fall
  Rivalry and Rebuff 
  Mini Marco Polo
  Royal Dudda
  Facing the Challenge
  Yes, No? May be So
  Crest Fallen
  Shock Treatment
  Grandma’s Shivratri
  Conquering Death
  Prickly Thistle
  Book in pdf format

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Chapter 14

Facing the Challenge

Prithve had the good fortune of taking charge of a well equipped science Department of a famous High School in anti Town, at a distance of about 50-60 kms from the capital city. And so was Gobind to take over as headmaster from his European predecessor Bavington. The former was a neo-convert; a devout service deliverer and an expert sermon conductor, one surpassed the other in social adjustments, sympathy and rational attitudes.

Prithve's predecessor, a pushing young man of ideas, had gone for professional training. He, it was, who had ploughed the hard field of the Department and established a comfortable atmosphere of scientific learning in the School for Prithve to develop further.

Likewise Prithve, though novice, a fresher from a degree college, was a sportsman with a brilliant record of aquatics and boating, being the only man living, who had the honor of having swum across the biggest, fresh water lake in Asia, the Wular Lake.

As such, it took him no time to further add to the popularity and fame of the school, extending his activities in different fields. He organized minor and major games for the elite of the town and boys, inside the school premises, Veterinary Hospital grounds and school play ground as also, two-boat regattas in river Jehlum, at a distance.

He invited prominent academicians, doctors and eminent leaders of the town to address the boys and participate in the Annual Functions of the science union. Equanimity and compassion were Gobind's traits. Unfortunately, fate had played foul with him. He had lost his wife early leaving a good number of children to his care.

His youngest son seemed to have been pampered over too much. So, he had become a spoilt child. As Govind took over, he got him admitted in a class in the middle department. In classrooms, the boy would occupy a whole bench and would not allow any other boy to sit on it and two other benches on either side of his bench.

Prithve would not brook this nonsense. He treated him at par with others. No doubt it took Prithve a long time to break the, so far, unbroken horse of the boy, though none else dared touch him. Good intentioned Prithve could fQresee the mis-understanding it would cause. But, he simply couldn’t resist the dictates of his 'teacher’s conscience,' inside, more so, as he was fully aware of the noble nature of his boss, because of his close association with him in hostel.

"Sir, when are we going to hold the Annual Function of our science union? May we suggest that this is the right time to hold it. Sir, you well remember that there was a 'heavy snow fall, just on the very day we held our annual function last winter. None of the dignitaries could attend. . Only our overall Principal and his European family could honor the function,” said a delegation of science boys to Prithve.

"Yes, I remember the cold and wet weather which hampered our proceedings. I quite agree with you. The current month is more suitable. I will consult the headmaster and let you know the decision taken,” replied he.

The date was fixed. The staff unanimously accepted Gobind's suggestion to invite all neo-converts/staff of city schools to lunch, after the function.

The Drawing Master, a fresher convert, Mustafa was a socially cordial gentleman with a restless, flimsical temperament that is associated with the youth of his age.

The fixed date drew near. The school was astir with brisk activity. Appropriate arrangements were made to celebrate the function. The premises gleamed with the glamour of elegant decorations. The lunchroom was floored with cotton carpets. Long, snow-white sheets were spread for lunch with woolen blankets underneath them. Some of the staff member’s along with Mustaffa and a few students helped in making these arrangements. 

The well attended function, held in the school hall, was over by 12.30 p.m. and the audience dispersed. During the interval between the lunch and the conclusion of the function, Mustafa, in the presence of the staff, jocularly held out a veiled threat to Prithve about his overt and covert involvement in respecting the sentiments of some of his Hindu colleagues. This, he remarked, promoted sectarianism and was against the ideals, the school stood for. The cult of internationalism, he thought, was thus thrown to the winds.

"I will certainly expose your nefarious ways, he warned."

" All right you can do whatever you like, I don't care. I know my job very well", retorted Prithve.

The guests sat along the white sheets, Lunch was served. The meat preparations were very much relished by the hungry guests. And, as the well-known Kashmiri saying goes, "The tasteful tongues automatically tossed against the palates producing a chorus of Tabla music in appreciation of the delicious dishes".

But alas! All too suddenly, as the guests were engaged in praising the unusually tasty delicacies in whispers and casting appreciative glances at Prithve. Mustaffa rolled up a large portion of the white sheets, like an excited Madman, exposing the woolen blankets beneath.

A loud outburst of injured feelings in a choked, hoarse voice spurted out of his wide, yawning mouth gnashing his sharp teeth.

Pointing to the exposed portions of the woolen blankets, he roared like a wounded lion", here is fundamental Hinduism in action. Are we here to promote sectarianism or good ideals of internationalism? I venture to ask Prithve".

Eyebrows were raised. Happy faces turned morose, pulpy faces fell. Ruddy cheeks turned pale. Feeble bodies trembled. Smooth/sparkling foreheads developed deep wrinkles.

Emotion of disgust and anger were writ large on the otherwise happy composed and calm looks of the neo-converts. They gazed fiercely at Prithve and shot out arrows of hatred at him. The helpless staff, including Gobind, hung their heads in shame.

The ruddy cheeks of the principal grew ruddier. His eyebrows rose higher. They were forced to leave room for the fiery eyeballs to bulge out of their sockets. He cast a threatening glance on Prithve. He blushed and roared, blushed and roared. His wits were out of control, his otherwise, calm and composed demeanor was on Prithve". Was this the purpose of your invitation to us? You have humiliated us. You have cut the very roots of the ideals, our schools work on and, stand for. How sad and shameful on your part! "He insinuated Prithve in angry tone.

The reason for pouring out his invectives on Prithve alone and not on Govind also was obvious. "Excuse me, sir excuse me, " said Prithve.

The Principal sat mum as his grief and anguish had overwhelmed him with gloom.

Prithve continued, "Sir, all our meat preparations as well as the parountas…….. multi-layered loaves of bread have been cooked through the medium of pure, Kashmiri ghee. The plates are of stainless steel. Had we not spread woolen blankets as insulators underneath the white sheets, not only would the heat have radiated out but also conducted away. The contents inside would have lost heat quickly. The ghee would have solidified and the dishes denuded of their flavor. This has been the logic and the scientific reason behind the use of blankets. Whether we are right or not, is for your good self to evaluate and judge.

Gobind, who was gloomily brooding so far, rose up, as if from slumber and, in his usual forceful voice, said. "Hon'b1e Principal, respected guests and colleagues, having worked with Prithve for a year now. I have closely watched his cordial dealings with all his popularity among boys and parents alike. I have no hesitation in certifying, that he is a man of integrity and enthusiasm. Above all he is duty bound and faithful. He works with sincerity of purpose. The well-meaning, elaborate arrangements made must need be appreciated rather than condemned. The unfortunate misunderstanding I hope must have been cleared up and tempers cooled down".

The Principal recouped, stood up and said, "Dear headmaster, well meaning Prithve and colleagues, I feel relieved and happy to say that we really were impressed by the success of the function. To add to our happiness, we were enlivened by the tasty dishes, which have left an indelible imprint on our plates. Your warmth of spontaneous love has impressed us much more than we expected. It really was a welcome treat!

May I quote a world famous art critic  on being asked by newsmen if he, had noticed any defect in that marvel of  marvels,' The Taj' , he remarked, "The only defect of the Taj is that it has no defect"

Foot Note: In this true to life story, the behavior of the Principal to lunch was deliberately introduced to give it a touch of fiction.



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