“Kaak is back!” announced Mohsin rather gleefully. The Kids gang, in SyedSaheb’s house were more fascinated by the rhyming words of Mohsin’s announcement and kept on repeating the three word verse “Kaak is back!” Kaak is back!” Kaak is back!” in different notes and pitches as they moved across the courtyard of the grand mansion that was in fact several houses connected together by corridors, verandahs and over-bridges. Kaak was a multipurpose domestic worker, a baby sitter, sweeper, cook, errands boy, washer man, gardener, nurse, security guard and much more in a single package. His name was Abdul Razak Buddoo and hailed from a far off place where SyedSaheb’s father in law was once posted as a revenue officer. Since SyedSaeb was well off and belonged to upper caste his original name had many additional prefixes, suffixes, titles and salutations that prevented many people to know his proper name. Razak’s proper name on the other hand suffered constant erosion. He was initially called Razak and then only Raza. Later when he passed his middle age, the grandsons of SyedSaheb were taught by their parents to address him as Raz Kaak which later eroded down to just ‘Kaak’.
Kaakwas returning back after a lifetime journey, the second in his life. For the first time he had travelled all the way from a remote village to city with the revenue officer to work as a domestic help. In his early teens his joy knew no bounds when he came to know that he would be going to Shahar. He felt delighted to be chosen among his friends to be able to live in a well-off family in Shahar. The family besides being influential and well to do was also a Syed family. He was taught by his parents and elders to be faithful and obedient to the family he was going to join. He was told that he would earn virtues by serving the Syed family. All through his life he remained faithful to brim. As the time passed the revenue officer who brought him to city got transferred, and eventually retired and passed away. Razak also grew from a lad to a man. He eventually got married to a village girl but she was left back in village to take care of Razak’s family, bear his children and rear them too. Razak was now Raz Kaak for all relatives of the late revenue officer. Razak saw several children in the family grow. As a girl in the family got married off, a new household where Razak was supposed to serve was added and as the sons got married, he got an additional lady to run errands for.
This time he took a bigger leap across mountains to Delhi and that too by air. Syed Saheb has suffered a stroke in Delhi and they needed a man to attend him. The natural choice was Kaak. Kaak accompanied Syed Saheb’s daughter to Delhi. He dressed in his best attire, the traditional Kashmiri cap, a pheran and Payjama that slightly matched in colour and a gola boot all of which had passed on to Kaak from members of Syed family. Children in Syed family knew that it was the first time that Kaak was travelling to Delhi and that too by air. They in their own ways taught Kaak various Do’s and Do not’s. Somebody advised to carry cotton plugs, others advised him to chew bubble gum during take off and landing. He was asked to memorize hindi/urdu version of commonly used words. Children were discussing among themselves how Kaak would face various situations in Delhi. They even started imagining his transformation on visiting distant lands. They began to imagine him return as a macho man wearing jeans, ankle high shoe with high heel, black goggle, a bracelet in arm and sporting a beard with French cut. They imagined how on his return he would come out of the arrival lounge of the airport and announce his arrival as “Kaak is back!”.
While children of Syed family were busy in their imaginary world, Kaak was busy at Delhi attending to ailing Syed Sahib. He braved all the odds especially of hot climate. As Syed Saheb started to recover Kaak was growing impatient to return back and attend various farm activities in his village. It was Spring season and he had to sow seeds, transplant seedlings, spray pesticide on his fruit trees, attend a cow that was in advanced pregnancy, send sheep to pasture and take out a hatch of chicken. His daughter was getting married and he had to arrange for the marriage feast. During the last few days of his stay in Delhi he managed to visit a nearby market and with help of Syed Saheb’s daughter purchased dress materials, imitation jewellery and certain household items to carry back home. He did not want to return home empty handed. He managed to get something for everyone of his family back home in village.
Finally Kaak was back! but to children’s dismay he was same old Kaak! Clad in pheran shalwar and chappal, Kaak had unkempt hair and beard, wore no goggles, no wrist bands and no high heel shoe. He was carrying a bag which was a bit heavy. He did not use airport trolley but carried it on his shoulder as he was accustomed to. He wanted to go to his village and share the experience and gifts with his family but his allegiance to Syed family prompted him to go to Syed house first. He was received well. He was mostly asked about the well being of Syed Saheb. Children listened to his narrative. There was no change in his looks, mannerism or behavior. Before proceeding to his village he finished various jobs like chopping of wood for hammam, cleaning drawing room and setting a bed for Syed Saheb who would be arriving in a week or so and attending to the butcher who was called in to sacrifice several sheep as a niyaz for recovery of Syed Saheb.
Finally the next day he was allowed to proceed to his village with instructions to be back before arrival of Syed Saheb from Delhi as his services would be required to attend the large number of guests who would be visiting Syed Saheb. He boarded a bus to his village. He was eager to join his family and present the gifts to his wife and children. He wanted the bus to fly across the fields and land right at his home. He frowned at the conductor who kept on stopping the bus to collect more and more passengers. He imagined the smile that a red duppatta and green bangles would bring to her daughter. He expected a hug from his son when he would present him a shirt and pants. Finally the village bus stop arrived. He cuddled the bag and prepared to get down. Perhaps in eagerness to be with his family he overstepped and tripped down the bus. He tried to get up but his legs failed. He felt intense pain in his right leg. Somehow the fellow villagers carried him to his home and the next day he was carried to District hospital from where he was shifted to City hospital. X-ray revealed displacement of hip joint. After correction doctors advised complete rest for a month. The always mobile Kaak was rendered immobile.
In the hospital and back in his village Kaak expected members of Syed family to visit him. Syed family was informed about Kaak’s plight. Sons and sons in law, daughters and daughters in law, brothers, sisters, chunus, munnus every body heard of Kaak’s accident but no body had time to visit Kaak! Days and weeks passed by and the Syed Saheb was back home. He was fast recovering. Every day he received dozens of visitors; relatives, friends, neighbors and mureeds. Everybody in Syed Saheb’s house was eagerly waiting for Kaak’s recovery so that they get their multipurpose worker back. There in his village Kaak lied lonely in the bed. He looked at the bag that lied in the corner .The bag which he had brought all the way from Delhi. He was yet to see the smile on his daughter’s face or get a hug from his son as the gifts he had brought lied there in the bag.
Author teaches at SKUAST-Kashmir. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (All the characters except “Kaak” in above discourse are imaginary. Resemblance if any may be co-incidental).