Elegy on the Death of a Nomad (Khan Bhai)

Elegy on the Death of a Nomad (Khan Bhai)
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By Ahmad Kashmiri

Zareef Ahmad Zareef , in one of the stanzas of his famous Kashmiri satiric poem, “ Taran Garee” quips, “ Niyye Gaued Tschurav Gaueb Gai, Pulsass asse din ponse pei,Huti band karith yate gai baree, Taran Garee Taran Garee” ( Thieves took away the van and disappeared, it was us who bore the brunt by paying money to police, there apprehended, here released, this is cheating, this is cheating). This stanza struck my mind when a few days ago, perhaps in a first of its kind, a human concern caused a unique kind of protest-strike in Hardeshoora village in north Kashmir.
The locals , as a mark of protest, didn’t allow service transport of sumo vans after a mishap happened in which an elderly nomad, hit by some vehicle, died on the road near the village Hardeshoora. The nomad identified as Nazir Mohammad Khari a resident of Rajouri, was encamped on the bank of Nallah Ferozpora.News reports quoting Inhabitants of Hardeshoora village said that it was utter shaming of human society that no sumo vehicle lifted the poor nomad in order to rush him to hospital and he pathetically died on spot. The resident’s anger turned into a grievance-protest and they didn’t allow sumo vehicles to ply on the road to Hardeshoora. In turn, Sumo transporters too stopped the service to the village and the status quo lasted for four days giving trouble to the community.
The plea of Sumo drivers was that, at the time of the accident , nobody agreed to accompany the victim up-to hospital and, as such, he could not be lifted from the spot but this excuse was by and large turned down for that it is not true and even if it would have been true humanity does not entertain such excuses even if it holds some weight and water in it.
“We could have lifted the victim and took him to hospital, had any local agreed to accompany him! Because otherwise, you know, consequences of being questioned and facing problems despite having done rescues etc” said an elderly Sumo driver on the condition of anonymity.
On one hand, the apprehension of the drivers of being questioned by law agencies, if, according to them, they lift an accident hit person and take him to hospital, if they would undertake rescue, insecurity could have fallen upon them! On the other hand, the grievance-protest of the village community that expressed genuine anger against the drivers for being too indifferent towards humanity at large.
Here, hesitation outweighed the humanity and all this went at the cost of a human life. Death and fortune is written in one’s Divine fate but in between humanity gets trampled. Who should be blamed and whose plea should be pondered upon. The attitude the drivers practiced is condemnable as long humanity is concerned but the apprehension they feared demands attention and should be debated. A rescue is a feat and escapism a fear. Humanity exists in human beings and humans exercise it when they are in one situation and escape from it when the same humans are in a different situation that, in the case in discussion, is that as dwellers they exercise humanity, and as drivers they escape from it, Same persons perform contradictory roles in two situations. How paradoxical! ,
Zareef’s poem , particularly the stanza in contention, is not out of scope but is a voice of the voiceless. And, perhaps the law implementing agencies too are desperate before the situation for their rules and the laws make them do the things like that what Zareef has conveyed.
The poor nomad used to visit my domicile. Every summer, he and his family would come to Kashmir and encamp here for some hot months. We would call him Khan Bhai. He had now grown weak out of diabetes as he recently had narrated his tale. He would tell us how hard life was for him and how difficult for him these were the times to feed his family. Khan’s family is shock stricken in their nomad camp. Tears rolled down from her eyes as his elder married daughter who had come from Rajouri remembered her father.

—The author can be reached at: ahmadkashmiri@gmail.com

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