‘Big Man the Laltain sahib, Small man the Mombatti’ (Big Man the Lantern, Small man the Tallow-stick) is the verdict endorsed by Arundhati Roy in her masterpiece The God of Small Things…. and she continues to state ‘Huge Man the Strobe Lights and Small man the Subway Station’ and even ‘Smallest man the Varicose Veins’. Arundhati Roy puts her readers to almost an overdose of old Bihari proverbs to elaborate the point that there are big dreams and then there are little ones. The twins from ‘The God of Small Things’ Rahel (Ambassador S.Insect) and Estha (Elvis the Pelvis Nun) relive their tiny dreams to shape up into a novel that lays down the very foundation of love, it’s deserving recipients and the methods and aggregate by which it ought to be delivered.
There are big dreams, the grand ones, the milestones set by people to identify goals, that put direction and pace to life. Then there are these little and tiny moments that ought to be seized and enjoyed that essentially nourish the soul and define the aesthetics in living a life. Being essentially a Small man in my capacity, dear reader, I must admit that more frequently than not, I live in the tiny moments and more often than not, have these little dreams about the ones I have lived. There is this bit of Rahel and Estha within me that after all these years tempts me to travel back to some fascinating tiny bits lived in those dreamingly beautiful days from faraway lands. It’s a soft pull on the strings of my heart that tends to take me back to my ‘Ayemenem’, the soil I took birth at and my elders migrated to after the partition. Being essentially a Small man in my capacity, dear reader, I don’t have to return to any grand facade, but to a small village in the suburbs of Faisalabad.
Those were the good old school days, when the summer vacation used to get defined by the rail road trip to and a month-long stay at Punjab (in an attempt to traditionally retain the tiny but durable link by all the settlers with the lands of their origin). I recall that in those times the month of Ramadan used to be in summers and I remember spending quite a few eids with my family at our village and though I could easily relate the charm associated with these celebrations, I couldn’t vividly recall the last time I was there on such occasion. During the past month, it almost felt like the cycle was attempting to complete itself with Ramadan getting pulled back to summers again. I had this decision to make regarding the venue to spend the Eid-ul-Fitr and eventually I did surrender to that call from the land of my origins…
The place I planned to visit is just another village from the rural central Punjab. It’s a village of a little less than a thousand households, with the brick lined walkways between the houses crowded by the traditional village livestock ranging from goats to buffalos and mules, a place where my identity is nothing but with the reference of my grandfather and father and every other person I greet, his salutation gets defined solely with the comparison with my father’s age (Chachaji or Tayaji). There were these little things I deliberately got involved into while revisiting the place that made all the difference… [hr]
Heading out to the fields and very dearly walking barefoot on the soil; soil, dear reader, that does not reveal itself to the insensitive rubber soles. Eagerly scanning the amrood and jaaman trees with my cousins, as we used to do in our childhood days and then treasuring the day’s catch with that original happiness humans derive out of eating something plucked with their own hands.
Easily preferred over the tap water as well as the bottled one, that fresh and chilly (in summers and warm in winters) touch of the ‘wet’ extracted from the very depths through a hand pump, both for the morning shower and as a heavenly drink to quench the ages-old thirst.
Being in direct audience with the things frozen in time in that Neem Wala Kamra preserved from the times of my Grandmother and that Straw Roofed Hut where my Grandfather used to twine the dried tobacco leaves for his signature huqqah, the one we kids, prepared the fire for when demanded and on occasions used to sneak off a little puff with an outburst of cough mixed with tears in eyes.
Sitting together on combined dastarkhwaan with a drooling appetite for home grown vegetables cooked on firewood, premium quality basmati rice extracted from indigenous paddies, chapatis weaved from the grain milled at that signature whistling village mill that in the words of Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi…
شام کے دھند لکے میں کوکتی جاتی ہے اور آدم کو جنّت سے نکلوانے والی شے پیستی جاتی ہے
And in the end visiting the graveyard to pray for the departed elders, but wait, it was not merely to pray for the departed souls, it was more than that. This native graveyard is different as with all it’s inherent salinity of the soil, it does give this feeling of vastness, arms wide open in an embracing attire with this gentle smile worn on the face, a gesture of warm welcome to the soul returning tired from the torments of life. Being essentially a Small man in my capacity, dear reader, I have this little dream that wherever I shall embrace the dusk of life, and if I happened to be around, this one native piece of land would absorb me smoothly into an earthen pile…
earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust