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Life in the Clock Tower Valley: In Shakoor Rather's debut novel, an insider's view of the everyday life in Kashmir

Life in the Clock Tower Valley: In Shakoor Rather's debut novel, an insider's view of the everyday life in Kashmir
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Life in the Clock Tower Valley: In Shakoor Rather's debut novel, an insider's view of the everyday life in Kashmir

Editor’s notice: Srinagar, summer time of 2008: the chinar bushes are shedding leaves, outdated matadors are nonetheless polluting the streets and checkpoints with males in military fatigue dot the metropolis.

Samar, a school pupil, is head over heels in love with Rabiya, his batchmate. Sheikh Mubarak, Samar’s neighbour, is a famed metallic craftsman caught in a loveless marriage. Sana, Mubarak and Naziya’s five-year-old daughter, is greatest pals with Pintoji, the neighbourhood simpleton. Shakoor Moderately’s debut novel, Life in the Clock Tower Valley travels between Kashmir’s pristine previous, its grievous current and perennially unsure future, giving us an insider’s view of everyday life, feelings and hardships in the conflict-riddled valley.

Moderately is a Delhi-based Kashmiri journalist and has written extensively on Kashmir’s politics, society, tradition and heritage in his profession spanning almost a decade. Having grown up in the valley throughout its most turbulent occasions, he writes by the lens of an insider and thus presents completely different dimensions of the battle in the area.

The next is an excerpt learn by Moderately (together with a textual content model of the identical) — of the chapter titled ‘The Misplaced Cow’ from his guide, that has been republished right here with due permission from the publishers Talking Tiger.

THE LOST COW

It was august. Moist inexperienced moss had already settled on the moist ivy brick partitions of Sheikh Mubarak’s home, engulfing it like a monster about to tear its prey into items. Every week had handed since the indefinite curfew had been imposed following the ruling coalition authorities’s collapse over protests in opposition to transferring acres of forest land to a Shrine Board. Governor’s rule had been invoked. Life was paralysed in each approach.

Restrictions had been imposed on peoples’ motion. Companies, faculties and outlets remained shut. It was time for folks to spend days indoors. This undesirable pause from each day routine, nonetheless, was a blessing in disguise for some. They used the time to finish pending family work: paint shabby partitions and repair plumbing and electrical switches. Others, principally younger folks, would sulk inside their homes as a result of they may not meet their girlfriends or boyfriends. Samar spent the time speaking on the telephone with Rabiya. They might anticipate the intermittent breaks in the curfew to sneak a fast assembly with one another. Usually, below curfew, Web providers could be curtailed or fully snapped by the authorities, forcing folks to indulge in lengthy discussions nose to nose. These could be principally political debates, which might invariably find yourself in fights over petty points and distinction of opinions. Folks would take longer afternoon naps, waking as much as the identical faces round them, and watching one’s associate and children for hours might turn out to be unbearably irritating for many.

Uncertainty was ticking on Mubarak’s silver-plated wristwatch positioned on his proper hand. A flock of crows was circling the sky over the darkish pines. An Alsatian canine was chasing the moon someplace, operating throughout the far-off rice fields. Its bark pierced by the quiet of the evening. In the nice breeze carrying the whispers of autumn, Mubarak’s cow was pregnant. The time of supply was round the nook. It might be any second now. Mubarak feared that in case of some complication, he could not be capable to persuade the vet to go to amidst the curfew. The vet was additionally an previous pal of the household and lived in the adjoining Khan Mohalla. Though Mubarak had knowledgeable him about the state of affairs simply an hour in the past, he dialled the vet’s quantity as soon as once more. It wouldn’t harm to remind him, Mubarak thought. To his despair, the telephone providers had been snapped with out discover.

Nestled in the heat of her mom’s lap, Sana, Mubarak’s five-year-old daughter, threw a volley of questions at her nervous father.
‘When is the baby anticipated to reach?’ she requested curiously. She had heard him telling the neighbours earlier in the night that the cow was prepared to offer start.

‘By the time you get up in the morning, jigar,’ was Mubarak’s optimistic reply.

‘I gained’t sleep, Abba. I need to be the first one to see the calf,’ Sana stated, brushing her darkish, lengthy curls away from her brow. She half anticipated her father to reprimand her. He was at all times ensuring she slept on time. However when Mubarak didn’t reply, Sana took his silence as permission to remain up late and fortunately snuggled nearer to her mom in the glow of the lantern as shadows of bushes outdoors flickered throughout their ethereal drawing-room.

Mubarak checked out his daughter. She had inherited his straight nostril and her mom’s full pink lips. Sana was excitedly telling her mom about how she would play with the new child calf below the morning solar; maybe bathe it below the hand-pump in the yard, in the shade of the walnut tree. Mubarak wished all members of the family would share Sana’s enthusiasm. His spouse, in specific, had not talked about the cow’s impending supply even as soon as. It was as if she was intentionally avoiding the topic. Maybe she didn’t need to jinx it by speaking about it; Naziya might be very superstitious when she wished one thing badly, thought Mubarak.

Mubarak might hear the pattering of walnut kernels on the tin roof of Sheikh Manzil. The sound of the falling walnuts at evening would usually wake Mubarak up in the concern {that a} thief was making an attempt to sneak into the adjoining metallic workshop. The pattering would proceed for almost a month till the walnuts had been ripe sufficient to be harvested. Then the tree branches would elevate and recuperate from the stress of bearing the weight of the fruit. Throughout the walnut season, the fruits and twigs from the tree, together with the heavy bent branches, would harm the roof of Mubarak’s home. Mubarak usually thought of felling the tree. Nevertheless, he had developed a sure respect for its stature and age. He valued the advantages it had lent to the Sheikh household over the years; and thus, by no means acted upon the thought.

Sana went off to sleep that interminable evening dreaming about the coming of a pal. Simply earlier than she fell asleep, Sana was considering if she ought to substitute Pintoji, her present playmate, with the calf. Mubarak held her slender body in his arms and carried her to the bed room upstairs. He laid her down and watched her sanguine face relaxation comfortably on the fluffy pillow.

After which Mubarak went downstairs to search for his spouse. Now that Sana was asleep, they may talk about what wanted to be achieved to make sure that their cow gave start easily. However this was not the solely purpose Mubarak wished to speak about the cow to his spouse. He didn’t wish to admit it, however he was scared, and he wanted to discuss his fears; hear some phrases of consolation and hope, in response.

However his fears had been to not be assuaged. Naziya was quick asleep. Mubarak questioned if she was pretending. In any case, she had been sitting up only a few minutes in the past however now she appeared to have drifted to a different land. Her pheran had ridden excessive up her legs, exposing her skinny, wobbly knees. Mubarak felt a wave of need for his spouse. He wished to carry her, kiss her, bury his head in her bosom and neglect his troubles. He stroked her hair however she didn’t stir. Mubarak directly felt drained and exhausted. He slumped down subsequent to her on the ground, and waited by the doubtful evening for the curfew to be relaxed.

It could be relaxed at 8 o’clock in the morning for an hour. This was when folks might add to their shares of rice, wheat flour, child meals, oil, medicines and different necessities. If nothing untoward occurred throughout that hour, the authorities generally prolonged the leisure—Mubarak consoled himself with the thought. He was intently listening to his classic Philips Bahadur transistor, which was wrapped in a black leather-based cowl and eternally positioned on the windowsill of the eating room. To Mubarak, it appeared the radio and Naziya had been alike: they labored completely nicely all through the day, however usually tuned out throughout the most necessary components.

Mubarak paced the room as the morning solar greeted him from throughout the window. A streak of orange fell on the wall, lighting up the mud particles on its approach, like a film being projected on a display. He stopped to have a look at his shadow on the wall. He appeared a lot thinner than he really was.

Then he turned his consideration again to the cow. The time of the cow’s supply was drawing close to. Mubarak had seen the tell-tale indicators exhibited by the cow. To compound the inconvenience brought on by the curfew, there had been a scarcity of milk in the valley for over a month. Days had passed by with black salt tea for the household. Black tea in white cups, half-sips gulped down half-heartedly.

Shakoor Moderately’s Life in the Clock Tower is printed by Talking Tiger | March 2021 | Paperback | 176 pages | Rs 350 (9789389958843)

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