Of ‘Thursday Paisa’

Posted: December 2, 2014 by kashmirsufis in Nostalgia

Those days admission of a child — girl or boy – to a Quran ‘Chatahal’ used to be a day of great solemnity and celebration. On the first day, the child in his best dress accompanied by every family member, near-relatives and sometimes joined by children of the Mohalla, was taken to the Quran Chatahal, almost in a parade. A domestic help or a family member with a fuming samovar of Kahwa filling the air with aroma of cinnamon and cardamom and a basket full of best baked Kashmiri Kulcha used to be part of the occasion. Often the first Arabic qaida for the child was wrapped in green velvet, or a brocade. The child in his own right felt no less than a bridegroom or a bride…Many a time some elder member of the family sat with the child in the Chatahal.
There were couple of Quran Chatahals in our locality. Most of them were run by ‘Otanjis” in their personal accommodations. These female Quran tutors were epitomes of austerity, virtue and piety. Draped in pherans almost touching their knees and headscarves covering every strand of their hair-they carried their own aura and for children most of them were no less than proverbial Ded Mouj. For us their humble houses were no less than citadels of learning. The shrill voices of children parroting Arabic alphabets in unison sounded as melodious as highland streams at night.
Children like me who were bad at parroting where mortally afraid of daen-moor ‘pomegranate twig’ that Oatanji used for cane charging those boys who failed to learn the lessons. A lash with this stick was as terrible as whiplash from bullock whip. It caused pain and a bluish imprint on the body-that stood as reminder for many days. Nevertheless, these Otanjis were blessed ladies – they taught God’s word to hundreds of children not for monetary benefits but seeking Allah’s blessings. I remember, it was one paisa later on raised to one Anna that we paid to Oatanji on every Thursday – we called it braswari-paisa. Friday used to be a holiday.
Graduating from the qaida to the next stage of learning the Holy Quran was always an occasion to celebrate. I have very impressions that instead of starting from Alif Laam Meem – the first verse of the holy Quran, Oatanjis started teaching thirtieth portion, Ama-Sipaer, as we called the Para Amma Yatasa’aloon. Starting learning the thirtieth portion in itself was a great occasion for the family to celebrate. On this day some families invited neighbours for relishing a cup of Kahwa and Kulcha – some offered ‘rooight” – a mega-size bread of flour and dry fruit as niaz at Hazratbal. And a samovar of kahwa was also taken to chatahal for children. I remember Oatanji was given rupee one or two as a hadiya. After completing the 30th portion, Oatanji started teaching the first one of the Holy Book, and completion of every portion up to the sixth, La Yuhibbullah, was observed with solemnity, with offering of hadiya to Oatanji. I remember, till sixth portion children went with a copy of single portion to chatahal and not entire the Holy Book. It was mostly after sixth part that learners started learning from the Holy Book – the occasion was called “Kashmir Quran Haun”. It was another major occasion for the family to rejoice.
The Quran Haun and Quran Boznowun- were two other important occasions of our cultural milieu during our childhood.

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