Author: Saadut
•12:34 PM

As I was seated on the bank of the lake, a light breeze blew into my face and touched me as if wanting to say something. I could still feel your warmth around me, although you had left me. I could still smell your fragrance that had become so much an integral part of my breath now. The waves seemed to be enjoying being tossed around. Their merry making seemed to be an endless affair. And I sat there quite unaware of the world around me. I sat there in expectation of somebody’s arrival, in anticipation of a rendezvous that had been promised and promised till eternity.
And I believed in it. I may not have been the essence of the rendezvous to be, merely a detail, but I had pinned all my hopes on it. I had almost forgotten my being, as the silence of the gloomy trees on the banks was whispering something about me. The world around me was going about its usual business, but it hardly mattered to me as I was lost in thoughts of you. The anticipation of your coming was proving too much for me.
As I sat there, the young saplings had turned into trees gaining strength and size, providence and nature having nurtured them with hope. The same hope did not let me give up. Whenever I was about to loose heart, a recollection of events of the time that was would grip me, getting back those oaths and promises and my cherished memories would infuse a new faith in me, strengthening my pledge more.
As I sat down through time, dense and heavy fog lay on the lake, then a drizzle as fine as water dust fell steadily from morning to morning, and turned the clayey roads and footpaths into a thick mass of mud. Although it may have made my body wet, it surely did not dampen my spirits. And then a fierce storm blew, the tree tops rocked and heaved like waves in gale, and at night the iron roofing houses rattled as if some one in heavy boots was running over them. Window frames shook, doors banged and there was a wild howling of chimneys. Far away shikaras were being fastened close to houseboats, so as not to allow the wind sweep them. The whisper of the trees had turned into a roar. Were these not the same trees that I had watched growing from humble saplings? They sure had achieved something now in their efforts to touch the skies. And there were clouds all over the sky.
And then dark, dense clouds crept to the top of hills. The lake wore a deserted look. The landscape changed all white. It must have snowed ‘cause I could see people huddled up in their pherans and scurrying to their places. The snow reflected gloom all over. There was a strange peace in this gloomy shine. The lake stood still. The snow had covered the trees which had been forced by the fall to shed their leaves. An act of mutual reconciliation I thought. For all this I could not feel the cold, the light within my soul must have kept it all away from me. I sat still through all this watching it quietly. And I waited there.
Then the weather changed. There came calm, cloudless days that were sunnier and mellower than they had been. The trees restored to their quietude, were meekly putting on their leaves and grace. The bloom of flowers was like a carpet of multiple colors. Their fragrance must have been enthralling but the only fragrance that I could sense was your fragrance that had become so much a part of me. The lovely days, the calm, the solitude and pure air, the swallows twittering on the wires as they flocked fly further and the caressing breeze that drifted gently from the lake would have infused joy and peace in any soul. But I was not to be moved as I sat still in anticipation of you. All through this I had not account of time as I sat all alone in my spot, waiting. And then the long autumn sunset came through the narrow crimson slit glowing on the edge of the horizon, between the light bluish loud and the valley faded out. Now the earth, trees and the sky could no longer be seen. A haze a fog had taken over all things. I remember when I was a kid this fog played all kind of tricks to us in Kashmir. Children used to love to bump into things, and grownups cursed the fog for allowing them limited visibility options.
And then the fog and haze cleared out. Overhead big stars shimmered with their eyelashes in the blackness of then night. And the blue beam of Hazratbal dome shot upwards in a thin column that seemed to splash into a liquid, blurred circle of light as it stuck the firmament. Far away the Muezzins call could be heard calling the faithful. As the autumn moved on I could sense people preparing for the coming winter. Optimism is a part of human nature. We may not be sure if tomorrow will be there, but we sure will be prepared for tomorrow. And the same optimism held me to my spot. As the passing days weaken the autumn sun further I could see the trees shedding their leaves which had turned golden with the onset of autumn. The distant paddy fields presented a deserted look with stacks of golden hay kept in pockets of these fields. How rejoicing it must be, I thought to reap your crop after toiling hard for months. But rejoicing was not yet for me as I sat down there waiting or you.
As I waited I could see in the horizon far away the sun was finally setting down. I passed my hand through my hair and I could feel it had turned coarse, probably of age. I did not know how much time had elapsed since I lay waiting but as I could see in the reflection of the water down below, the wrinkles on my face told it all.
Although there was no desire within me to move from my place, I could feel my legs giving way. Even as the sunset was approaching me, the flame within me refused to die out. I remember how you used to spread out your elbows, popping out your chin on your cupped hands. I could see your eyes gleaming into mine, your innocent looking face smiling at me. I remember your vows and promises. There had always been a cozy charm about your unhurried speech, every word of which lay cherished within me. As my hand moves to touch you, the vision melts away into thin air and I realize you are so far away. I refuse to give up although I can feel that moments are slipping away. The Greeks knew the unstoppable nature of time and I think that is why they had kept sand in the sand clocks.
I am waiting for you, I am still waiting. As I look into the horizon, a warm crimson red light has lithe sky. I can feel the sun giving away.

Thursday October 2, 1997
Author: Saadut
•8:59 PM

A Sunday calling out of home is not easy especially when your family awaits for this day to be together, when social obligations are lined up and when all things ' Sunday ko karunga' are in front of you. But this Sunday was not to be that any Sunday.

My school beckoned me, my old friends had to be joined with, and old memories were to be re lived. And hell I drove like to JKSS. The road seemed too long today, distances unending. Wading the impossible chaotic traffic of Tipper Capital Ganderbal, reached JKSS a bit late.

Welcomed by new Sainiks in cheerful NCC uniform at the gates. The dusty and disheveled road to the school was soon forgotten by their enthusiasm. Play grounds adequately used as parking spaces, the meet was going on in the old dining hall. As I entered peering faces, eyes searching for name tags for faces greeted me. ‘Oh yes you’ , and ‘Ahh so it is him’ would be the thoughts. Principal was delivering a lecture. New Sainiks were seated on the floor and the guests on chairs. Soon there were name calling nominations for those who would be given a chance to speak. Principal decided that each for every batch keeping in view the paucity of time. There were murmurs, we would want to share our memories and hear from our mentors, our teachers. I stood up and went up to the Principal Sir “pardon me for prudence, but could we have more than 3 minutes for the few who speak and some time for our teachers too. Wouldn’t it take the reason of the Alumni meet away if the speaker wishes and then takes a bye fast? Would seem like a short metro ride. And we were nothing sans our teachers. Would love to hear from them…….” Principal Sir’s glare communicated something, but nevertheless he could not say no to this suggestion.
Nominated names were noted and speakers invited to speak. Muneer spoke about his first day (he remembered the dates !!), the ride in a truck that Iqbal Munshi had given him from Safapora on the first day. Wahid spoke about the contribution of this school in our lives, Iqbal about his memories and the joys that we shared. (I may not be recollecting all my friends who spoke)

Meanwhile as our friends continued to plough the past the reliving of memories continued, and I was being driven into the past. For some moments I was transported to childhood, I could hear the cries of my friends in the dining hall, wearing the whites and greens, Dar Sir’s games period gleeful shouts, I could hear the name of all those friends who lived, smiled, cried all in unison in this place. Oh I missed you all. We were a family here. We were brothers, sisters, parents to each other. We shared our thoughts & dreams.
Hardit came to speak and narrated this "One of our friends Mirza from Ladakh had never seen a Sardar before coming to JKSS. The first day we joined JKSS, I being very friendly (we know) would greet every body. And then I met Mirza, as I was extending my hand to greet him, the bewildered Mirza had an open mouthed muted expression on seeing a Sardar first time in his life and within no time Mirza made a run for his life" No doubt I say joyous Sardars are an endangered species now having been taken over by the push and shove of the corporate race (just like everybody else in the rat race)!

Lunch break was announced, but Gayas-u-din Sir was yet to speak. We all requested the lunch to be postponed by a few minutes so that he could speak. He was brief but his words touched a chord with us all. He believed in our dedication and wished us all to touch zeniths. He missed the institution that he had left and the state in which he had left it (we all did).

Lunch break and we all proceeded to the dining hall. The trays had been pre filled and laid out on the tables. Oh how much I missed standing in the queue (and the music of these thalis that we used to make). During Lunch time 120 relived old habits of the dining hall : doubling.. And me, Syed Zulkarnain and friends could not control our laughter.
Brief lunch and back in the old dining hall where we had all gathered. Some more reliving the memories and some more friends called to the podium.

Meanwhile many friends had already spoken on the dais and Nasir Munshi was called for. A lot of requesting and he sang a few lines. Dr. Gani took to the stage and his simplistic words bought appreciation and peals of laughter. Gani bhai some things don’t change and one is your ‘tallafuz’. I was called to stage and first time in my post childhood years I got jittery on the speaker’s podium. In an effort to balance my words between the well read grown up audience and the still linguistic grasping young Sainik’s seated on the floor, I preferred to choose the middle path of Urdu speak. I spoke of the foundations that the school gave us, the pride that it instills in us. How we were forever indebted to our teachers, remembering Shiekh Sir (and his pencil), Farooq Sir, Mir Sir, Parray Sir, Raja Madam, KK Sir, Dar Sir, the friends of our batches, the bowling of ‘kapil dev’ (3 balls line & length and next three bouncers or wide’s), of Dr Sajad who wanted to come but was overtaken by professional obligations. Remembered friends not present and who would have been very eager to come today.

Teachers spoke. Zainulabidin Sir and Mir Sir. And next again Principal Sir spoke and spoke. A very knowledgeable person, but why are we being subject to an exam on “alimi adab aur shayri ka phan”. Applause please!! And the class went on till 4:30 (no I did not say eternity, what did you hear?)
He (also) deliberated on the progress achieved during his tenure, the hardships faced by the institution and the affect of current turmoil on the institution. He intimated that the fencing around the institution would be done soon (probably next year) . I was wondering who do you need to fence? The school from the village herd or the village orchards from the school nigh raiders !!!
Some body bought tea, served to some, served by some and some left high and dry. I to joined the serving party and served my own friends but but .. well was left with no tea for myself.
A vote of thanks for the invitees and the attendees was passed and accepted. An adhoc alumni committee was nominated and formed. A constitution and charter would follow and Dr Gani took up the responsibility. Day nears to an end and we move to the admin block. We walked the same path the same rocky road that we used to run-on during our childhood, the marathons between the admin block and the dining hall. These rocks and stones in the payment would have been witness to our marches, to our efforts in reaching the dining hall first, and the countless falls we may have encountered in our runs and our efforts in standing our feet. The nostalgia overtook us completely moving from class to class. A series of photo ops near the admin block and the Sun was already setting in the horizon. The assemble ground stood still as if pausing momentarily in our presence. Time stood still, the circular road that was never completed lay as deserted as it had been earlier. The morning assemble events, the news reader, JK Gandhi Sir’s morning speech, all events that set the daily routine into motion were remembered. Frankly I think Gandhi Sir was a visionary far ahead of his times. The aura, the discipline and the thought that was attached to this man was not replicated in those days. The brick and mortar buildings stand still in time as if in standing ovation to the ‘architect of JKSS’. A few visionaries like him and we could change a lot of things around us even in these times. I remembered his white poodle ‘beauty’, who used to run across his quarters, followed him on walks and gave him perfect companionship. The garden in his quarters would be impeccably maintained as reflected the ethics and life style of this gentleman.

Moving our way thru the road winding from the admin block to the parking area, Nasir identified the trees as the ones planted by students during Col Sehgals tenure. At the parking area none of us wanted to let go, (why was the day ending so fast?). Some more reliving the memories, sharing of anecdotes and reluctant bye bye’s. Cold creeping over our bodies hardly made any difference, the day having been warmed by reunion of old friends.
As I drove out of the school I could notice most of the orchards having been decimated, some converted to kitchen gardens while others lay barren. These were the ones we used to prey during nigh raids, the booty then shared in the dormitory. I wondered if any of the new Sainik’s would have such tales of adventure and freaking out. Hitting the road the high of the day refused to leave my mind. This day I have lived and relived an age, an epitome of life, of careless childhood, of unfailing convictions and beliefs that strangers can be family.

Given a chance I would live that life again and again.
“har mulaaqat ka anjaam judaii kyun hai
Ab to har waqt yehi baat sataye hai mujhe”

28th November 2010, Srinagar