Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mogul's Kaini



That morning we were left in care of Mogul. We were not to return back home until someone came for us. Standing on Mogul's creaky old balcony, I looked out in the direction of our house. The courtyard was out of sight, hidden by cement and tin of rooftops, top-view of rooms of cousin Sheebu and Binnu. Towards the right the old house stood tall. Too tall. I stuck my neck out to see the top. Did I expect to see anything? It was hopeless. Straight ahead I could see the little cart-shop of Mogul's eldest son. He sold little packets of Sauf which always had a pink or green plastic whistle inside or maybe sometimes a ring. In his cart shop were stacks of peanuts and channa, and fried green peas, peppered, and grams of all color. His wide rimmed glass bottles held candies, always orange, half molten, looking licked, and stuck to wrappers. There were bottles of Bubble gum and mint. There were toy guns and balloons. There were games, a hand-held roulette, a maze with rolling balls, a puzzle set - order the numbers and get to see Taj Mahal at the back. And then there was the fish shaped 'water game' - press the big rubber button on the water-filled hand-held device and hook the little plastic multi-colored rings dancing in water inside to the two poles. People said Mogul's elder one was a little slow of brain, and that he just couldn't bargain. But he worked so close to home. That ought to count for something. And why was water inside the belly of those plastic fish so sweet? Was is really poisonous? How exactly did he die? I again looked back at the house from Mogul's Kaini. It was a nice spot. In morning, sun would light it up perfectly. I would often come to this place and find Mogul sitting on the floor spinning her wheel, churning cotton to thread. Singing something. I would ask for Posha, an excuse, and sit and watch the woman work her Yedir. Posha, Mohul's young daughter started talking about something that ought to regale us kids, make us laugh. She was always for laughs. I would have joined in but that day something else was keeping me engrossed. The wailing, when it started, in middle of one of Posha's Jokes, was unlike any crying sound that I could identify. So it had begun. The house still looked calm. But the wailing now came in waves. Rising and falling. It came from the courtyard. I could identify the sound of my grandmother, grand-aunts and together they sounding like sound of someone unknown previously, but now intimately known . The women of the house had started mourning the death of my grandfather's bachelor brother. That day I spend the entire afternoon in Mogul's Kaini watching and listening to the songs of death for first time. For the longest time, I wrongly believed the old man died of smoking. He died of kidney failure. For the longest time, I believed death meant an empty room. Death meant now absent. I thought it meant a room cleared of useless belonging. I thought it meant finding beautiful shiny old lighters long buried in ground.

Mogul's eldest was the first one to die. It is believed he died in cross-firing. Of other two, one died of drowning, and the other went on to join JKLK and died too. Posha went on to marry a grade three government officer. For her dowry, she took my mother's dressing table with her. Mogul's Kaini now it seems is a point of minor neighborly dispute. Mogul gripped my grandfather by his hand and asked him to confirm whether or not he had explicitly let her build that balcony out and intruding on his land. He answered. She found hope in his answer and he found hopelessness.

She asked him to repeat it out loud and aloud to all, especially to the new owners. And then she proclaimed the matter as settled, forever.





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