By Imran Ul Haq
Thinking back to past always amuses; recapturing a series of joyful moments; unforgettable events, laughter made with friends, and time spent with relatives. One feels cherished if he recalls the memories of pre-adulthood; an age of magnanimous friendship, unaccomplished promises, partially-grown commitment and unconditional smiles.
With the beginning of winters, we used to plan towards grandpaternal house located at very start of Torkhow. Due to parents’ job, it was not possible to go there during the year except vacations. Our extensive excitement used to be mainly of meeting with caring friends, having vernacular food, enjoying winters with snowfall, and listening tales and folklores during prolonged nights.
It used to be the very first week for formal education; we spent to cope with the entire burden of homeworks assigned for whole of the winter. Then after we focused on informal education of our mean, and co-curricular activities. We cared not to use same ballpoint for consecutive pages and gave separate dates for each page up to March; dealt with, as daily job.
Boon companions came early, as before the sunrise and briefed the schedule for whole of the day. Which mostly comprised of snow fighting, bird hunting with catapult, cockfighting, and skiing down the hilly areas. We made ready ourselves for the appalling winter: covering the entire body with woolen sweater, leather coat and gloves, long water proofed shoes and unshakable tightly closed cap. The entire journey during winter was of no sense devoid of dry fruits in our pockets, which we nibble most of the time. Elders always warned us to be suffer severely with cold cough by excessive taking of snow.
Usually by “Zuhur”, we were home back and took taste of vernacular dishes, mostly Sanabach (salty Halwa cooked in Desi Ghee). After late-noon we often gave time to family; doing home chores. Before the sunset, youngers were assigned, to ensure the proper working of lanterns: checking kerosene level and wick length, and cleansing the glass (wetting with mouth blow for better result). Lanterns were the main source of light during nights: placed in safer and cooler place usually away from fire chimney, mainly to protect the thin and delicate glass. Broken glass mainly caused the uneven waving of flame. It was no less than a fine art to extinguish the flame without letting the wick down into kerosene. Mini lanterns were replaced by Gas lanterns (bigger and brighter) mainly in three occasions; night stay visit of a special guest, wedding ceremony and threshing of wheat crop in moonless night. Another silly job, usually tasked to youngers, was to coop the poultry before the sunset; assuring their count well, before they were caged in.
Elderly villagers gathered in a sitting room at mosque early before prayer time. They encircled the blazing fire and gossiped about national political scenario; some defending democracy and some praising military regimes. Most of them were deeply inspired of Bhutto, a man of charismatic personality.
In evening, we all gathered along the fire chimney, listening to elders gossiping of the daylong activities. Grandpa was habitual of hourly News, so he tuned radio frequency to his desired band channel: making all quiet at once, for better concentration. After supper, women mostly remained busy in knitting sweaters and gloves, cooking desserts for extended and far stretched nights. Meanwhile we listened folklores from grandma, until we felt asleep. During night we scared of foxes, as their screaming was a portent of bad omen; mainly death of an elderly villager. However, magpie’s call in early morning was a sign of good omen.
We mended our plastic shoes, with red-hot iron rods and darned heel-torn socks by ourselves. Leather shoes were never preferred, as they got wet and heavy during day-trips. Hand woven socks were nagging to wear, as they got loose after a yard walk.
Dairy products, rice cooked in desi ghee, walnut-seed sandwiched breads, milk pasted breads, caper soup, cheese, salty buttered tea and several other vernacular food items were fairly enough to fight with chilling winter in these snow-covered areas. People were cooperative and loving with rich tradition of harmony and peace.
A sojourn of two months was no more than a bat of an eye, to enjoy the adorable stay among villagers. We wished to stay there for whole year but soon were hopped to come back for permanent residence, once our education is completed. With the passage of time, we became so engaged and occupied that now we cannot manage even a week, to go there and recapitulate the past memories.
By Imran Ul Haq