In the Shrine of Laurence


Masterjee, the most noble and gentle person of our hamlet used to teach students of whole village. He used to give more sermons than lectures. He had kept provision for poor and orphan students and never took a penny from them. He used to distribute books to the needy ones and focused more on advices. He was very generous both in teaching and personal life. Keeping his status and nobleness in mind, my mother often advised me to visit his home and learn from him. Many of my friends used to go there in order to learn what was beyond their comprehension and mental Laurence. They often said words of Masterjee and reverberate his golden sayings. Some said Masterjee’s soft voice used to pierce the stony hearts even. While receiving his advices, most of the pupils used to weep and  revert their path of non sense and astray. Some said he was a saint, some hermit, while others were just going to pass their time there and take hot sips of kehwa. It was served who so ever visits his home.

I used to encounter him in our local Mosque quite during night prayers (Isha). Sometimes we used to come together as our shack and their big house was in close proximity. The only thing that separated our houses was the small brook filled with turbuant water. During these after prayer walks, Masterjee often advices me to be always in a mood of understanding and learning new things.  He forbids me of lavish style of living and show off things. The most important thing was to stop playing near their gate as I was always made liable of breaking their window panes!. At the farewell he used to rub my scalp in order to seek blessings from God as I was orphan. Kisses my forehead to show fatherly affection .So Masterjee was doing economics while dealing with me taking blessing from God through me and in return giving me fatherly affection. In short, he was very kind and affectionate to me.

Masterjee used to wake every early in the morning . While watering his garden and disbursing grains to the birds he used to sing with himself. Perhaps there were some melancholic words. The melancholic words mixed with the sounds of the birds used to awake me from deep slumber. After finishing his morning chores, Masterjee used to pedestal directly towards the room of her youngest daughter, Sheen. Her room was in opposite direction to my small room. I was often watching sheen in her innocent ways hood winking her father and trying to sleep more. However, Masterjee used to win all the tricks of her child and at last she followed her father.

One day after coming off from my school , my mother after so many taunts and requests broke down and told me to give due interest on books and leave this cricket, bat and ball. This conflict of my play was not with my beloved neighbour but also with my own relatives .They often used worst possible words for me as there was nobody to repeat except my deaf mother. Miseries and melancholies  had made her both dumb and deaf. Finally, mother pleaded me to join the evening classes of Masterjee. She had told this to the wife of Masterjee prior .

Keeping the loomy face of my mother in heart, I took my stuff and started my journey towards Masterjee’s house. I had visited this house many times but secretly and furtively for searching of ball. Sheen used to scream like any thing, whenever I used to go for search my ball  as if I was a crook. The reason was that I had broken many glasses of their house and she had taken my many tennis balls. So, there was always hide and seek between her and me. It was snowing but there was no snow on the road. I knocked the door, to my surprise, Sheen opened the door. Sheen was as beautiful as snow when untrodden by human feet. Her head was covered with red scarf with few inches of hair visible above forehead. She was wearing jeans jacket. She had pencil shaped fingers where nails were deep cut down. Her eyes were blue like pacific and vision innocent.

Looking into my face and then all around her house as if enquiring which glass I had broken. She said, in a typical kashmiri voice, “yeti maarnai” (they will kill you here). I  said it not for the ball today but for something perhaps different. I am coming to attend evening classes. She became surprised and astonished and called her mother .On seeing my face, her mother directed me towards the room of Masterjee.

I entered the shrine, where saints used to quench the thirst of their Laurence. Masterjee was humble while delivering his sermon. His words were soft like the petals of the rose. In his room, there was silence of books and only voice was the voice of Laurence and Erudition. Masterjee spoke to me about my weakness and difficulties and promised every support. However he took oath from me not to leave his door. Her daughter Sheen was bit different. She was clever but not selfish, passionate but not arrogant. She was beautiful not only in her physique but also in her virtue.

Keeping my interest in studies in consideration, Masterjee became gradually inclined towards me. He began to teach me with her daughter, Sheen. I turned like their family member. Their shade of affection furtively shielded me from the rural arrogance and  hypocracy. Learning in competition with Sheen refined and polished me. Even she once described me in chilly winter walking along the road, “you are a refined person but too philosophical.”

As time passed the bond between Masterjee, his family, Sheen and me grew stronger and stiff. My younger sister, Shahreebegan to accompany me towards the home of Masterjee .She was blessed to play her hobbies and dream concept of Bride and Bridegroom in the room of Laurence and erudition .Her only play field was Masterjee’s teaching room.

Masterjee was feeling a stiff rivalry not from others but from his own relatives and brothers. They failed to conquer the epitome character of Masterjee by their lust and devilish desires .They began to float gossips against him, however he grew more older in virtue. It is said, “Gold remains gold even if it is thrown in rubbish and garbage doesn’t leave to spread foul even if sealed with iron.” Masterjee proved this by his character .

One fateful night Masterjee called me towards his room. He looked into my eyes as if going to convey something serious . He said, “I am going to leave this hamlet tomorrow forever. I am leaving the streets, where I have played my innocence in childhood , the gardens, where I randomized my youth, the Mosques and shrines where I enriched my soul. I am the traveler of the last night, leaving the raw innocence of today to seek blessing in the mighty noise of tomorrow”. I have given too much to this hamlet. My time which I could spend with my family. My energy which I could have utilized for another price. In return I have received taunts and deceit from the people to whom I always teach to be truthful. I am leaving this society as I have found this dead and corrupt. Whenever I tried to wake its youth from the deep slumber of ignorance and sharpened their vision with the torch of sky. They turned mature and opened their eyes and returned me the prison where I couldn’t see accept me, myself and my belongingness.

My son, I am leaving you tomorrow, with my Sheen as I don’t want her to melt in this steam of filth and lust . I dropped my head down and said to myself,” why Masterjee regrets ?why he is de- motivated because he doesn’t receive due thanks from this land of ignorance .Why he compares monetary benefits and opportunity benefits like the old grosser in the market. My Masterjee perhaps belongs to the set which Khalil Gibran calls, “yesterday I have seen teachers in market place selling their heads to fill their stomach.”Perhaps he is going to the place where he gets possible price .His daughter’s excellent care and education. Masterjee is going towards  selfish configuration from selfless epitome. Family affection and monetary capitalism has lured him now .While looking towards the loamy face of Sheen who had perhaps stolen not only my cricket balls but my loneliness too .She is now returning me back my emptiness forever.

Shahree was listening like a little kitten. Masterjee rubbed her scalp and run away to seek the arrangements for tomorrow. The room was filled with me, Sheen , Shahree and wide silence and phantoms of future of without sheen. Looking into deep eyes of Sheen, I smiled to give her last gift. She replied in her funny tone , “Vonmie na yaeti maarnie.” I told you at first , they will kill you here. Tears rolled down her cheeks but there was still smile and giggle in her face. I asked Shahree to pack all her l toys of clay in a cloth bag and conveyed her to seal the dream play of Bride and Bride-groom in her heart.

Sheen while collecting her toys and her dreams said that her father was everything for her, the best harbinger of her dawn of prosperity. Her happiness lies in the direction of father.Her eyes were stunned in the dream of modern city and our existence turned like a primeval atom no volume in future but infinite density of memories.

She was perhaps hoping for liberalization from all the constraints and possessions. She was legitimizing that  her dream lies in the noise of city not in the silence of village. The village that is in wreckage of past , broken and tormented like me. With tearful eyes I left the palace and promised the Masterjee and Sheen to come tomorrow morning for  last glimpse.

Masterjee left the village in the twilight of dawn with all his  belongings and books. . He was moving forward, me and Shahree followed carriages like the coffin of our father:-  till he reached the highway , till Sheen left looking backward and her eyes were delighted with the noise of city, till Shahree hold my hand to remind me of my liabilities.

The author is studying MBA in Central University of Kashmir.

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