A walk through Shehr e Khaas used to be an experience of the lifetime. Remember the alleys decorated with brotherhood and buzzing streets with curios that could never fill a pocket no matter how large it was! All that laughter extracted from bundles of joy and the filling warmth. To be there and hear those euphonies – the call of the meat seller who came door to door with his sack of lamb brain (kode, kallamaz and pache), a treat palatable to rich and poor alike. Children wandered about on the streets with a spirit of belonging, acknowledging the existential eerie of their town. Once a while they would slip inside a hall, with the bunch of friends and family members of all ages. And the adventures of rendezvous to keep it all sealed. Perceptive were the young and the future was little different than imagination. The enigma of this dreamland was in the balance of liberty and unquestionable obedience and gratitude rendered to the elders all around.
The secret of their happiness and contentment lied in the sense of simplicity they associated with. Their simplicity knit their moments of peace and jubilation and drew them closer to nature. They identified themselves as one. All the boys of that town knew about the tricks their milkman did to make it look fuller. Their acumen in street-science was par excellence. Whether it was about visiting the grocery, the vegetable vendor, dealing with the hawkers, every detail they knew to the finest distinction. Their commonsense and understanding was street-taught, examined practically and not through letters presented to them on a silver platter.
Fascinating was their concept of subtle love and communion, written with the ink of pure emotion and raw concern. They would read letters from their family and friends that would infuse love in their hearts. They relished local street sweets like ruath, ganhar, khandgazir, patti, lalashangram, phumbe-dastaar and thul-mithai that would entice their sweet-tooth perfectly.
It was almost every fortnight that children would flock around their granny (boba). All of them trying to sense a bit of warmth from their boba’s kangri, eager to hear fairy tales, as if she were their daily subscribed station. The tales antagonised mythical villains like Waiwoph and Brambamchok. Their nonna was a repository of unaltered wisdom for the children in every home.
As they journeyed and decades later through present times as our parents, they still are infused with that undeterred sense of individualism and identity. They miss their dreamland. This land got trampled with the spree of taboos of sophistication. Irony it is that evading from our roots and language became a passage to attainment of being treated as ‘literate’. These are probably the last people of the land who continue to take pride in the culture and language they were born into. We lost this wonderland to false modernity and to gimmickry of the changing times, some decades ago. After all we belong to an age where the simple is most difficult to attain. They matured ahead of time, seeing things evolve, being active participants of the evolution. They are the only living generation that lived the transformation from inland-letters to WhatsApp.
That dreamland, those peaceful sights sound strange like fiction today. It now rains blood and hails pellets in that land, notwithstanding that the wonderland continues to be a cultural hub even today. How much it pains to find that heaven being turned into a garrisoned prison mustering countless graves of budding lives. The fairy tales of that long gone wonderland and those chants of appeasement serve as a relic of the bygone. These two times when the reverberating laughter died with lamenting cries of mothers present the barest of ironies. Those gates of the lost jaunty-land now sealed, pushing peace farther at bay. Notwithstanding the metamorphosis, the life experiences of that era stay even more relevant to rediscover our identity that seems to have been lost.
We sing the melodies of that lost land to try and push away the incorrigible gloom, sore hearts and grandiosity. Alluring is the hope for the return of that wonderland of mesmerising peace. Of laughter and glittering smiling eyes.
Who knows, times may have chosen some sorcerer who completes the magical spell and return us our wonderland in the same form that it thrived in decades ago.