I have spent almost half of my life in Jammu right from the very birth, the reason being the durbar move. My late father who served in various capacities in the state government had to move in winter to Jammu. The recollection of the most of the events of those early days has gone blank with my fading memory but there are certain incidents of love and bonhomie which I vividly recall. I am sharing these with my friends in Jammu!
Family friends and their kin
In the preceding articles I have been mostly writing about the places and events. I have also mentioned briefly about some typical local entrepreneurs working as hawkers and food sellers. However, there is an important class of people who have been special to our family from the earliest times and bonds with whom are continuing through their kin. Our relationship with the people of Jammu goes back to the days even before partition. My father had been staying in Jammu right from early forties. We had very strong friendship with our landlords with whom we would spend six months of winter. Being too young during early years of our stay in Jammu, I do not recall in detail the people who were close to our family at that time. However, there is one exception and that is the family of Master Hakim Din some members of which I met even after partition during my travel to Pakistan and U.K. But I have vivid recollection of some of my fathers close friends whose families were regularly interacting with us during our winter sojourn in Jammu in later years. My father had been serving in health and education departments in turn and because of that most of the acquaintances belonged to these two sectors. From my school days I remember one Dr. Nanda. He used to be the Chief BCG Officer. Those days this organisation was involved in vaccinating people against tuberculosis. They had a fleet of vehicles and their officers would be visiting all the distant places in the state. During our stay in Jammu, Dr. Nanda who was a very gentle and loveable person would send me with his officers to different places during school holidays. I remember once going to Reasi and Katra. These places were not so developed then. I remember Katra as a small village and the Mata Viashnovdevi Yatra was not so well known. Katra was full of tea gardens. The officer who had taken me there took me around the tea gardens. The whole area was green and there was a forest around. We also saw a number of partridges in the forest near the tea gardens. The other places I visited with the BCG team were Purmandal, and Basholi.
There were a number of very close friends of my father. One was late Bashishar Nath. He belonged to Medical Department. He and his family were very close to us. My father and Bashishar Nath would go every evening for a long walk without fail. They quite often used to go up to Satwari and sometimes towards Canal area. It must have been a daily walk of 7 to 8 kilometres. One day while busy in talks, they walked right up to Akhnoor! Bashishar Nath though short statured was quite stout and active. He was very polite, and rather quiet but always smiling. His son Ashwini and his family continue to be very close to our family. In fact, whenever we are in Jammu, they regularly visit us and we have taken part in many social functions of the family. The other close friend of my father was Master Ram Lal. He was quiet tough and had a short temper. He used to give me tuition. I still remember the sharp lashes from his thin can. He would not spare the rod and was a tough task master! His son Maheshwar and his wife Girja are very close friends of the family. The relationship with these families goes back decades and it has grown stronger over the years. The third close family friend was Master Dawarka Nath. He used to come to our house often. His daughter Subash married Professor Balraj Puri. Another very close family friend was Miss Tara Puri. She was a teacher, then became Inspector Schools and was also the principal of the Government College. She was totally devoted to her profession and never married. The two other close friends with whom we had regular family relations were Dr. Goel and Dr. Modi. Former was a well known eye specialist and had a clinic which is now attended by his son who too is an ophthalmologist. The later was the Health Officer of the erstwhile Jammu Municipality. One of the persons who has had probably the longest relationship with us is Ishwar Lal of Baderwah. He too was working in the medical department and fortunately he is still around. He would come to our home almost every day without fail. In fact, he has also been visiting us in Srinagar. His daughter and son-in-law Dr. Amar Singh presently working in Jammu University, too have been visiting us regularly. They are like members of our family.
There were many other people who were regularly associated with the family for various reasons. There was one Dina Nath barber. He used to come to our house for giving a hair cut to all of us. There was Babu Ram who used to come to teach Hindi to whomsoever wanted to learn in the family but I never learnt it! He even tried to teach me Gurmukhi but did not succeed. There were two paramedics and medical technicians who were frequent visitors to our house. One was Kashi Nath, a compounder who used to give shots of insulin to my diabetic father. The other was Dev Raj who used to take blood samples for tests off and on. Kashi Nath was a Kashmiri Pandit who was permanently settled in Jammu. He was a very efficient paramedic and was almost like a doctor. Dev Raj used to be thin and tall. He had the habit of always wearing a typical Dogra yellow turban but tied in the reverse direction. He met me a couple of years back and I found him unchanged except that he was getting breathless on climbing stairs. There are also some other close family acquaintances connected with provision of various services. These were the shopkeepers on Rajinder Bazaar. Krishan used to sell general provisions. The store is now handled by his son. We continue to buy most of provisions even now from him during our winter sojourn in Jammu. I love the Rajmash he sells. Probably it comes from Kishtwar? Kewal used to deal in cosmetics and as usual it is his son who mostly looks after the store. Then there was Durga Das, the cloth merchant. His shop too is now handled by his son. Another close friend of the family is Sanjay Mahajan popularly known as Pichhy. He owns a shoe shop on Raghunath Bazaar. My mother goes every winter to these shops for memory’s sake! She is also a regular visitor to another cloth merchant in Purani Mandi whose name I have forgotten. She always carries from Kashmir some dry fruit like walnuts, almonds, spice cakes, and shawls etc for them. In fact all of them come to visit us when we are in Jammu. The relationship of our family with people of Jammu has withstood all upheavals and turmoil. Last winter many people were sceptical whether we will be able to go to Jammu to spend winter? The agitations in Jammu and Srinagar had created many apprehensions. But we found our bonds stronger than earlier. There was absolutely no difference at all in our relationship. After all these bonds have been built over generations! It is wonderful not only to reminisce about the wonderful places of Jammu but its loving people too!