I celebrated “Gaad Baathe” with my Family last Saturday (6-12-09).It is Like an annual ritual which almost all “Battas”(Kashmiri Pandits) follow that includes me too…
I can vividly recall the excitement which used to be associated with “Gaad Batte” in Kashmir.I grew up hearing stories of “Dayatraaz”, the holy Deity who wears “ghungroo”(a musical anklet made of metallic bells) and is responsible for safeguarding our Home. My Grandmother’s favorite story was how her own mother had a rendezvous with the “Diety”, I used to listen with excitement and attention and believed in every story my Grandmother told me about “Ghardevtaa” or “Dayatraaz”
In Kashmir, my Grandmother used to buy the Fish one day in advance. I used to accompany her. Holding my hand and Strolling through the bye-lanes of Rainawari , my Grandmother exchanged pleasantries with every 2nd person and occasionally stopped at few points, when her friends met .The conversation between the ladies and my Grandma used to vary in topic and length, the discussions as varied as our present day T.V Channels. At times it used to last for few minutes and at times it used to be a real “Brain storming session” stretching to Half an hour, when all the ladies discussed on God-knows-what-topic! My Grandmother was considered not less than a “Doctorate in Social protocol” as far as “Batteneas”(Kashmiri Pandit ladies) are considered. My whole “Mohalla” used to consult her for “Kya Khasie”(social protocol for give and take between two families especially between the family of newly-wed Bride and Groom).
The distance from my home to main Market, also known as ” jogi lankar” was not more than half a Kilometer and would usually take 5 minutes for me to reach there.But with my Grandmother, Half an hour was the minimum time required to reach the main market.
Before buying a Fish/fishes, she used to minutely examine the Gills of the fish, As she examined the fishes, she used to teach me basics about Fish, “Always see the redness of Gills before buying a fish, The more Red the gill is, the more fresh is the fish” she told me several times. After Bargaining a lot with the Fisherwomen, She would finally pick up the fish(s) of her choice.
My Grandmother used to spend almost all day in the Kitchen and prepare delicious Fish with Radish. My Grandfather used to take care of “Ritual” part. Our “Kaenie”(top most floor/parapet) used to be the venue for inviting “Dayatraaz”. A portion of the “Kainie” was selected for the ritual. It was cleaned and mopped with a mixture of cow dung and special clay (gurut maecz in kashmiri), Dried yellow grass (not sure whether it was dried rice grass or wheat grass, looked more like dried fodder grass) was spread over the mopped portion of floor. A thali( consisting of rice, cooked fish with Raddish, small raw fish with a vermilion mark used to be placed over the Grass along with a glass of water. A lamp (diya) was also placed in front of Thali, but away from the Husk/fodder.
No one was allowed to venture that place before Dawn. My Grandfather used to lock the entire top-most floor lest anyone among us does “sacrilege”. The keys used to be in his custody till the next morning. While going to bed, I used to imagine “Dayatraaz” hovering in the top floor/parapet. I used to fantasize meeting him…
In the mornings, all our family members used to eagerly wait for my Grandfather to allow us, to accompany him and see whether “Dayatraaz” has eaten or not. With Grandfather leading, and all children following him with bubbling excitement, He would very carefully examine the place where we had placed the Thali for our “Diety”. After examining for couple of minutes, He would turn to us and announce confidently with a puff of pride “see this scattered rice, see the position of fish, it is tilted and has been partially eaten, This is all work of Dayatraaz, he had come and eaten a portion of Rice and fish” .the younger amongst us would clap out of Joy. The older ones too could not hide their happiness. The scattered rice used to be distributes as “Prasaad” later on…
Now after 20 years, here I am, feeling nostalgic after going through my memory lane..Lots of things have changed; My Grandfather left for his heavenly abode 9 years back, My Grandmother too has aged with time. Her “Doctorate in social protocol” is no longer relevant…
She has managed to learn some “Hindi” also..
Her Physical energy is far less, but she is still a very positive person and a motivating person.
“Dayatraaz” is one of my fond memories associated with my childhood and Kashmir.
“Gaed Batta” though is still celebrated, but that fervid is amiss……
I sometimes wonder what “Dayatraaz” must be doing back in Kashmir, in that deserted home.
“Dayatraaz” is also lost somewhere,
in his own memories
He is pushed into a limbo,
His gungroo is quite,
He has waited for over two decades
But no-one has come
to serve him a fish
Nor a glass of water
Nor lit a lamp.
is Watching helplessly
the fall of flakes from
the cracks of the bricks
a blanket of Dust
as the crumbling house
too is breathing heavily
for its last race..
And the Dayatraaz Prays
For the house to fall
So that his endless wait
With a wishful thinking
He will remain alive in a leaf
Of that history book,
That can preserve him there
And in the memories of those
Who loved him
And whom he loved……
(As of today even the protagonist of this write-up, my Grandmother too has left for Heaven)