Rooting to a new locale!
In May 1963, my father’s transfer occasioned a shift for the family to a new place named Pir Saluhi, some twenty kilometers from Kangoo. Amid sentimental scenes involving parting from friends accompanied by lachrymose outbursts, we boarded the bus for the new place. From a social milieu so intimately known for seven years, it was a leap into the unknown for me and my siblings.
A house had already been taken on rent through an advance arrangement. Father’s school was the first roadside structure of two long blocks before entering the small habitation with a bazaar of nearly a dozen shops.
The topography of the place divided it into three levels. At the lowest were the school and the hospital. Some fifty metres higher was the rock shelf holding the bazaar. Immediately below the row of shops was a Mosque-like tomb of Lakhdata Pir from whom the place acquired its name. Alongside the Pir’s Tomb were two cemented fresh water bathing and washing pools filled by the overflow from an artesian well from which people got their drinking water supplies in pitchers.
Perched on nearly a hundred meter higher ridge of a hill were some thirty odd houses of the village. Out of these nearly twenty houses stood unoccupied and locked because it was the habitation of Sood community, a trading and traditionally money-lending caste. They had shifted to new places like Shimla, Yamuna Nagar, Solan, Rajpura and Dharamsala in search of business opportunities. Consequently, they had to pay for a caretaker for their locked homes.
Planted into an entirely new social set up and among new classmates, it took me some time to find roots in the new station. However, being young and pliant in terms of years (12 years), new friends were made and new sights and events captured my attention. Bathing in a neck-deep pool of fresh water was a new opportunity which spelt sheer delight which I had not known so far.
Soon I felt at home in the new station. At the Lakhdata Pir’s Tomb people from far and near neighbouring villages would descend in good numbers each day to offer butter , ghee and Roat (sweet, thick, large roti of mixed grains) as a gesture of thanksgiving when a cow or buffalo delivered a calf signaling a fresh flow of milk in the house.
A large earthen lamp, filled with ghee, remained lit uninterrupted day and night. Where the offered ghee or butter went, we, the children, cared little to know. Our only concern was the sweet Roat which was frequently distributed among the passersby. We often roved into the area during the recess to find if we had a chance to savour a new delicacy.
At a distance of three miles was situated the much acclaimed kingly town of Nadaun sitting on the bank of river Beas. It was also famous for its large playground at Amtar near the erstwhile King’s palace. It was also known for savoury fresh water fish and sweet watered artesian wells.
The Beas which swelled to the broadest proportions during monsoons and shrank to a minimum in winter was a fascinating site from almost every point at Pir Saluhi, especially from the school grounds. The river stream, in those good days was used for transporting timber from the higher reaches to the plains. Sometimes, there were cases of stealing of wood, but often it reached its destination.
Out of sheer miscalculation, father rented two more locked houses in the enclosed cluster so that no new tenant should disturb our privacy. So we were an aristocratic unit occupying three houses for only six odd people. The luxury passed off well until thieves used the opportunity and made away with some articles worth a few thousand in one of the houses. Our aristocracy cost us heavily. However, we never gave up, and having taken some precautions, continued to occupy the three houses till June 1965 when there was another shifting to a new place.
(The author is a Retired Principal, Government College, Hoshiarpur (Punjab)