‘Birds of the Snows’: Tarannum Riyaz’s novel charts the fateful journey of a household in Kashmir

About a kilometer away from the mansion there was a small valley with a two-storey wood home known as the “Mill”. It was solely known as that however was not really a mill. It was not an previous construction, and had been constructed just lately by Badey Chachaa and Chhotey Chachaa. It was not very removed from house, nor was it so shut that family issues would intrude in its enterprise. Otherwise, this constructing might have been constructed wherever, because the property round the home was so huge that in case you tried to go round its boundaries driving a horse, you’d nonetheless not have the ability to see all of it.

Business issues had been mentioned on the Mill and Munshiji additionally sorted the accounts there. He additionally taught the youngsters in his leisure time, and within the lengthy winter holidays the youngsters spent college hours within the Mill.

The looking weapons had been additionally stored on the Mill. There was no Animal Act until then, and looking was not unlawful but. Only the 2 previous weapons, with very lengthy barrels and never used anymore, had been stored hanging diagonally on a wall within the Diwan Khana. The hunted animals had been skinned and cleaned on the Mill after which despatched to the house. They hunted birds, water fowl, rabbits, deer and another animals.

Leopards, bears and foxes had been mounted and displayed within the verandas or galleries of the mansion. If it was solely the top and the neck, it was fastened on the wall; and if the pores and skin was not broken a lot, the animal was rigorously mounted and stuck – standing on a wood board. Decorated with painted dry grass and tree branches, it seemed like a stay animal. The males of the household participated in carving its options, as each member of the household had some inventive expertise.

Cotton wool and multaani mitti had been crushed collectively and kneaded. It was utilized in shaping the beast’s nostril, jaws and so forth, and have become stone-hard when it grew to become dry. Then it was painted with a particular paint, to which sure chemical substances had been added with the intention to shield the mounted determine from termites and silver fish. Bhai Jaan was additionally allowed within the group engaged on mounting, portray and adorning it.

Expensive gadgets, introduced from the town or one other state, had been checked on the Mill first. Womenfolk of the kashtkars, sitting in lengthy rows, would peel and shell the walnuts within the open area in entrance of the Mill. They needed to do it rigorously to keep away from breaking or in any other case damaging the delicate kernels. They had been glad getting a little bit cash in return for his or her labour. Their slender fingers turned orange with the walnut peel, and it appeared as if they’d painted them with henna, which turned even darker after working many hours on the job.

The walnut kernels had been dried within the solar for a lot of days, packed in wood packing containers, after which despatched to different cities and states. Rice and corn was additionally traded, moreover the dry fruit.

After Abbu moved to the home within the metropolis, Chachaa was thought of to be the Nambardaar (the village elder), being the eldest individual within the household there. Sundry small complaints, disputes and different issues had been additionally heard and determined on the Mill.

The kids as soon as had the prospect to see an fascinating hunt when Najam Khan killed a man-eating snow leopard. The leopard would enter the village at evening and kill cattle and canines. One evening when Zaitoon’s father, listening to the goats bleating loudly, went out of his home to test on them, the leopard ambushed him and carried him off into the jungle. His screams woke up the entire neighbourhood. The loud barking of the owner’s canines awoke everybody in the home. The security of kashtkars was additionally one of many conventional duties of the owner.

The elders went out with loaded weapons, accompanied by servants with gasoline lamps. The kids felt that the largest canine, Dabbu, had the loudest bark. Dabbu was like a good friend to all the youngsters in the home. He appeared to be saying “hanh-hanh-hanh” thrice, after which “hunh-hunh” twice. When Zaitoon’s screams had been heard, the younger kids additionally began screaming and clinging to their moms; the older ones had been additionally crying and trembling with worry, and clung to their siblings beneath the nice and cozy cotton wool quilts.

Sheba’s coronary heart was beating onerous. While wandering via the orchards, kids would usually see Zaitoon strolling barefoot, laughing and operating on the grass. She didn’t thoughts the thorns which might prick her little, darkish toes. She lived nearer to the jungle, a brief distance additional away from the Mill, the place there have been many pine and cedar timber. Monkeys hung the wrong way up on the branches; a few of them sat grooming one another, and a few seemed for lice within the fur of their younger ones. They didn’t scare the youngsters, nor had been the youngsters afraid of them. Even parrots weren’t petrified of the monkeys. They flew about fortunately and fearlessly within the timber.

The entice wherein the leopard was caught, stood close to the jungle for a few years, entertaining guests and kids alike. The four-by-eight rectangular wood field had iron rods fastened within the centre, dividing it into two elements. Dabbu was led into one portion on the fitting, together with his dinner. The kids weren’t allowed to see something after that; the others additionally returned house.

Early subsequent morning, two gunshots had been heard from afar. Later, the youngsters discovered that the primary bullet had hit the leopard’s paw, making him growl loudly. Abbu then fired one other bullet straight at its brow, and it died. Sheba felt so unhappy seeing the leopard mendacity useless on the entice flooring, her with its half-open, unmoving and stony eyes.

The grasping leopard had entered the field to eat the canine, which closed like a rat entice. Had it not been so grasping, it will not have been caught in it – nor wouldn’t it have died.

The leopard was mounted like another animals, and the relations had been photographed standing beside it.

But Abbu selected to put on a pistol round his neck and never the gun with which he had killed it. In that previous image, Sheba is sitting in entrance of its open jaws holding a bunch of marigolds. Farkhanda is sitting on the leopard smilingly, as if driving it. She, too, has flowers in her hand. Baaji is standing close to Abbu and looking out keenly on the bunch of flowers she is holding. Ammi isn’t in that image, as she believed it a sin to be photographed. Abbu tried to persuade her however she held quick to her agency conviction.

It might need been within the late summer season when marigolds are in bloom. Who is aware of whether or not the entice remains to be there or if years of snows and the rains have brought on it to collapse! Abbu, too, isn’t any extra. Many lengthy years have handed. Pictures, too, like artistic endeavors, grow to be necessary with the passage of time. Sheba usually considered this stuff in later years.

There was not a single image of Ammi in it, however there have been many different fascinating photos within the household album. The first web page had an image of the Hazratbal shrine within the Naseem Bagh space. Its pagoda-like structure seems to be just like the shrine of Hazrat Khawaja Naqshband Sahib.

Like many different shrines constructed within the area, it has a large sq. roof masking the entire constructing. There is a smaller sq. roof on high of it, which is roofed with nonetheless one other smaller one like that. This stunning collection of roofs continues, and the final one has a brief minaret on high of it within the centre. The first roof has excellently carved wood ornamentation connected to it in all of the 4 corners. They appear to be lotus flowers hanging the wrong way up.

Excerpted with permission from Birds of the Snows, Tarannum Riyaz, translated by the writer from the Urdu unique Barf Aashna Parindey, Niyogi Books.

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