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The poignant tale of Fazal Hussain

india Updated: Nov 17, 2008 01:42 IST
Ashutosh Sapru

As we were nearing Chingus, on the barren patch of land by the road side we saw the group of Gujjar- bakarwals, about fifteen of them. Latter Hussain told me they were all family.

When I met Fazal Hussain he had just walked all the way from Pulwama in Srinagar to Chingus. It had taken the 60 year old five days. While the others tried to settle down he told me how he divided his time between Jammu and Kashmir---- summer in the valley and winters in Jammu ---- for the sake of livelihood. He was antique version of the corporate jet setter. He did not have a jet but he did have a mobile phone.

Those two years my life was also nomadic. We left the valley, went to Delhi then headed for Jammu. My college in Srinagar had a branch their. I was anxious to complete my degree.

My parents and I put up at a hotel for a whole year. Suddenly we were not in our house anymore. No studio. No rolling lawns. Three of us lived in one room ---- one room to paint in, to study in, to entertain guests. We would eat off the same bed we slept in later. It was most difficult for mother father and I would leave in the morning, while she spend the whole day by herself.

Hussain did all kinds of odd jobs from apple picking to road building to farming. He was paid anything between rs 100 and Rs 120. In Kashmir he enjoyed his rice, in Jammu he enjoyed his makki ki roati and he had nothing to complain about. One of the ladies was making tea ---- nun chai ---- the pinkish tea. No brewing only boiling ---- tea leafs got milk, salt and butter.

Mother used to make that tea.

But that year mother had no kitchen for a while. Latter, a store room on the roof of the hotel was turned into a kitchen. She never complaint, it made life easier.

Hussain's life did not seem easy, but he did not seem to think it was difficult either. For instance, he new what voting was had a voter's card and was sure that he wanted to vote this time. He also new that he would have to vote for the person the sarpanch choose. He excepted. One Ravil Singh (76) a Dogra was their to greet him. They were old friends. I asked Singh if he had got food for his tiered friend. He had not, custom did not allow it. But they were friends and it was excepted.

The Gujjars carry their home with them. That makes them at home and homeless at the same time. I can not go back to the valley but I carry Kashmir within me. I do have excepted.