Folk Tales from Kashmir

Table of Contents

  Index
  About the Author
  Foreword
  Preface
  The Precious Present
  The Devil Outwitted
  Just a Nickname
  The Son-in-Law
  Eh! Oh!
  The Inauspicious Bride
  Himal and Nagrai
  The Haunted Mosque
  The Intruder
  The Burglar's Gift
  The Two Thugs
  The Patwari and the ...
  The Upstart
  Two Brothers
  The Merciful Burglar
  The Clever Lawyer ...
  Shabrang
  Counting Ripples
  The Fugitive Fawn
  Akanandun
  The Mortal Utensils
  The Hydra-Headed
  The Physician's Son
  The Professional Wedding ...
  The Village Teacher
  The Opium Smokers
  The Drone
  Telltale Narration
  Mahadev
  Snippets
  Glossary
  Download Book

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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Chapter 25

The Village Teacher

The village about which this story is related maintained a school where education in the traditional manner was imparted to village boys. The old white-bearded teacher who taught at the school for thirty years had passed away, much to the regret of the villagers. He had perhaps never taught more than three or four pupils at a time, but his culture and good breeding won him a warm niche in every heart. He was succeeded by another gentleman from a neighbouring village.

The new teacher was a young man. He was gifted with all those qualities which make us look wistfully on our departed youth: energy, health, ambition, hope and vanity. Since his pedagogic duties did not tax his energy to any extent, he interested himself in other activities and was fond of the company of young men. In the midst of his friends nothing would distinguish him from the brotherhood of the laity. He even disclosed a strain of gallantry in his nature. Some elderly people recalled the fatherly attitude of his predecessor and sighed that even those who were expected to set the standard in public behaviour failed to maintain proper decorum.

The life lived by a woman in the city is different from that of her sister in the village. In a city the standard is set by the official class who for this purpose may be said to include the business and professional class too. Till recently their womenfolk, both Hindu and Muslim, lived in purdah and would not leave the four walls of the house except with a veil hanging down to their toes. There is no question at all of their talking to a stranger, however good-natured he may be. The village woman, on the

other hand, is free from many of the taboos in the city. She moves about freely and goody goody modesty is alien to her unsophisticated nature. Her conduct is a true reflection of her nature and not qualified by the fear of Mrs. Grundy. She is mostly a working woman assisting her husband in the fields or tending cattle on the outskirts of the village. She will meet anybody unflinchingly, be he a robber or even the devil, and not faint with fear like some of her sophisticated sisters living in towns behind latticed curtains. In spite of that, however, her conduct is unblemished.

The schoolmaster referred to above had certain preconceived and illusory notions about village women. He thought he could play the gallant and thus tickle his vanity. Women move about freely in villages and his own movements were so timed as to cross a number of them on the road when they proceeded to their farms. Sometimes he contrived to enter into conversation with one either on the roadside or at the village spring where they went daily to fetch water. There was nothing indecent in his behaviour but it sprang from a motive which did not appear to be "brotherly" as was the case with the village folk.

There was, in particular, a housewife, both pretty and prosperous whose acquaintance and friendship he wanted to cultivate. On several occasions he tried to enter into conversation with her. She never resented such an attempt on his part but, so far as she was concerned, the matter ended there for her. It never paved the way for a friendship or even what may be called an acquaintance because the next time he had to begin once again from the lowest rung.

Finding no indication of progress in this way he changed his line of action. The young boy of the housewife attended the school where the teacher taught. The teacher frequently said to the boy "Remember me to your mother". The boy carried the message as charged. The

mother realized that the teacher needed a purge for his humour and she chalked out her line of action. She told her boy to inform the teacher that she wanted to have a word with him at her house. It was conveyed to him that her husband was expected to be away for the whole day.

The heart of the teacher fluttered like a bird when he got the message. He felt highly excited and in his best attire went too early for the appointment. The housewife gave him a reception that seemed to lack nothing in warmth. She seemed to have placed full confidence in his friendship and gallantry. He could not conceal the lasciviousness in his looks and she reciprocated by pretending to gaze at him fondly. She busied herself in making tea for him and offered him a cupful.

While the cup brimful with tea was steaming in the hands of the teacher, a most unwelcome visitor arrived in the person of the owner of the house, viz., the husband. The teacher did not seem to be taken by surprise because the presence of the housewife had dilated his spirit and elated his vanity. The husband called his wife in a gruff voice from the yard. The housewife began to tremble and turned pale.

"I am undone," she whispered, "if he discovers you here he will kill me and not spare you either."

"Have no fear," said the teacher in a voice that faltered, "he cannot be so harsh."

"I know better how ruthless he is. Would to God I were dead rather than be surprised in this compromising situation." She began to beat her breast. "O quick, save my life" she whispered in a commotion which was now instilled into the teacher's heart.

"Is there no other exit?"

"No, none. He sees you here and I am killed. He is such a rough bear. Nothing can save me unless .... she began to wail in a hushed voice.

"Unless what?"

"Unless you disguise yourself to escape his suspicion." "Most willingly. I'll do anything for your sake," said the teacher out of a sense of gallantry and a trace of relief that a way out was indicated.

In a jiffy the housewife gave him a working woman's cloak and scarf which he donned as quickly, casting off his own turban and cloak which she put away. To allay all traces of suspicion in her husband she placed before him a basketful! of maize and two portable millstones. They almost acted a pantomime. She impressed upon him that he must look bashfully downwards, rotate the upper millstone and turn out the yellow flour. Needless to say that the other obeyed. Having accomplished all this she came downstairs to meet her husband so that he did not get a chance to suspect that the teacher was in the person of the working woman turning out flour.

The housewife greeted her husband with a face beaming with smiles. "What is that grinding sound upstairs?" growled the husband. "It is that deaf woman turning out maize flour", she replied aloud.

The husband and wife stayed pretty long in the kitchen garden and in the barn. The sound of grinding continued to come from upstairs though it was slow and punctuated with intervals of silence. The teacher developed many blisters on his hands. He thought of slipping away but knew nothing about where his turban, scarf and tunic had been deposited without which he was sure to attract the attention of the pariah dog no less than of man.

"The fellow must be tired now and feeling bitter" said her husband to the housewife, "you had better dismiss him now. The lesson must have gone home to him." The housewife gave the captive his clothes and the teacher slipped away without exchanging another word.

It was remarked by many people the next day that the teacher had lost much of his liveliness. His spirit had been clouded by a sort of an eclipse. But nobody knew why. for neither the housewife nor her husband revealed the secret of the "deaf woman" grinding maize. One day the housewife sent a message to the schoolmaster desiring him to repeat the visit. The boy conveyed the message but now the teacher felt no excitement. All that he said was, "Ask her if she has consumed the flour ground previously."

 
 

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