Kawa Yanawol …....

Boba, my friend''s mother, was a master storyteller

Srinagar, Publish Date: Jan 13 2018 11:17PM | Updated Date: Jan 13 2018 11:17PM
Kawa Yanawol …....Representational Pic

Those were the days when our humble garden-roof houses were happiness embodied. Our mud-plastered rooms daubed with white clay with greenish tinge after the dusk were filled with giggles and guffaws. It was not only the occasional visitors, the professional storytellers, songsters, and troubadours from nearby villages that animated the somber evenings but the elders more particularly grandmothers perpetually enlivened the evenings with their stories. Our granny was not only a grand storyteller who often made us laugh with her hilarious stories like that of a beggar women married to a prince, who lived with habit of begging  inside the palace- and never sat on the royal table.  Nonetheless, she also had a quiver full of funniest jokes about birds and butterflies, dogs and donkeys and thugs, and thieves that made us burst into guffaws. 

My love for stories often took me to a modest house of unbaked bricks in the neighborhood- my friend’s house. Boba, as I called the mother of my friend was also a master storyteller. She sat long hours sitting on her   spinning wheel to make a living.  Watching her spinning finest of fine pashmina threads was fascinating and listening to her stories was mesmeric.  Through her stories, full of wit and exuberant vitality as a poet says she made us ‘to see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower.’  I always had lots of questions for her not only about the stories she told us but everything connected with spinning wheel. One day seeing flocks of birds flying high in the sky and moving in one direction out of curiosity, I asked her why it was named as “Kawa Yanawol’ and on seeing these flocks of birds why children at full throat cried  ‘Kawa Yanawol Mirdad’un Boel Khudayan Goel”.  The phrase Kawa Yanawol might have been coined by some poet for crows flying in congregation at dusk but like my grandmother, she had a story to tell about the rhythmic slogan Kawa Yanawol Mirdad’un Boel Khudayan Goel”.  

Having heard lots of stories in grand oral tradition from grannies and grandpas about the gory past for children in our generation every hue of the sky had a different meaning.   ‘Every color had a tale to tell and every shade suggested a meaning. It was not the aesthetics of the colors that filled our hearts with joys. Nonetheless, it was the fear that had become part of our collective psyche that got manifest in different hues of the sky.  The redness at the dusk was seen as a harbinger of another bloody day. The foggy sky filled with darkest clouds was looked upon as the forerunner of another misgovernment – a rule of oppression, intimidation, terror, and subjugation. 

For older generation the gloomy morning was reminiscent of the days when it was seen as a presage of someone subjected to begaar having died of exhaustion or out of starvation while crossing over the torturous peaks on way to Gilgit. For them hovering of wild crows over the skyline would never make them think about the death of wild bore but would instill their hearts with  fear   about someone having died out of starvation.’  Many of us had also heard stories about an alien ruler having brought the wild crows from Punjab to feast upon the bodies of the peasantry that died during Begaar. 

Seeing lots of birds at dusk moving in V formation at dusk did fill our hearts with joy but the hordes of crows on their way to nests filling the atmosphere with hoarse cawing instantly made us cry at our highest pitch Kawa Yanawol Mirdad’un Boel Khudayan Goel (Crow's marriage party- May Allah destroy progeny of Mirdad). It was much later that I learned that Mirdad Khan was an Afghan Subedar who had ‘imposed unjust taxes’- and hate for him had become part of our folklore.