Whenever a folk meets another, some questions are quite obvious; “what’s your native district” and again “which town?” and then the story telling begins. Well, I’m from Jhang, and for Jhangochis, I come from Kot Shakir. Here, I use to face another question. They ask about the mysterious line from a famous song by Mansoor Malangi;
Tere pichhe Kot Shakirchhadya, aap cha malya’i Jhang ve,
Khan gharaa de band ve..
Having a very little thought about where to begin from, I flash back to the olden corridors of my high school, a structure founded in 1870’s as boys vernacular school, now named as Govt. Boys High School Kot Shakir. The elderly people use to tell about the days from some four decades back, when an entire generation of iconoclast Jaangli poets, singers, lovers and story tellers of our time was living its boyhood in the boarding house of this school. That was a place on a healthy walking distance from the school and the town population, surrounded by green fields and the wilderness providing shelter to howling jackals, venomous snakes and the rebellious love makers.
I am talking about the time when Mahr Riaz Budana, Shafqat Khan Sial, Idris Chela and many other stars of Jaangli poetry were living at one place. And there was a boy with a harmonium, called Malangi, son of a Mirasi from a farther village Garh Maharaja.
And there was a woman Zohra Khanum, the young wife of an elderly folk Muhammad Khan. She had fare complexions, luminous eyes and long black curly hair. Khanum never visited the boarding house yet she was perhaps the most obsessively discussed woman in the residence. Her seducing body language made her a bombshell among the pleasure seekers and her flawless beauty made her a quixotic inspiration for the poets. She was simply an anecdotal sweetheart. Imagine that clear dawn when Khanum was finding some bare ground in the fields, to sit and defecate, with a clay vessel in her hand. Idris Chella, notorious for his extempore poetry, was descending from a nearby mound. He witnessed our Khanum tucking her dress up and sitting in the thick crop to practice the morning routine, with her glabrous bottom exposed for a moment. The poetry genius couldn’t help himself to stop chanting his ‘just revealed’ Dohra by its first line;
Pir Raaje Shah di kandak de vich ajj vekhya him chann lahnda…
Translation: Today I’ve seen the moon setting in the wheat field of Pir Raaje Shah… (this is the name of my grandfather)
Among all those chasers and the praisers of Khanum’s beauty, Mehmood Lohar was the only one to earn a fortune. He was son of a smart blacksmith from a neighboring village Aliana who had changed his profession from blacksmith to goldsmith and the word Lohar (blacksmith) was part of his name, only to clue up his ancestral caste. Mehmood was a tall boy with broad shoulders, strong wrists and a handsome masculine face-cut. A boy dumb in English and Science Subjects but familiar with his father’s goldsmith tools, was about to shine in the school by being our Khanum’s heartthrobe.
The school boys from the other villages are advised to be cautious in hooking around with women of the town. Whether the gossip mongers of boys boarding house were expecting Mehmood to go for some adventure. A promised tryst on the River Jehlum (aka. Kishanganga) bank, in a full-moon autumn night, was the time and place of the bitter end of their story.
They were caught. Khanum escaped the occasion, leaving her dress on the “crime scene” and Lohar was beaten up by the invading people. He was sent back to his own village, carried on a charpoy with his bones broken. Khanum was back to her home and by the dusk of dawn, the scandal was trending every public space of the town. Muhammad Khan claimed the honor of a disadvantaged husband, he managed a traditional punishment for the crime of his previously escaped wife. He beat him cruelly. Khanum was apple of her parent’s eyes. She sent a messenger to her mother narrating her version of the case. Her mother was a supportive soul from the city Jhang.A Couple of days later, her brothers came to the town and they beat up her sister’s husband in revenge. They took their sister back to stay at her mother’s house in Jhang for a very long period.
Mehmood Lohar was not the part of chattering in the town, he had left Kot Shakir. He was healing with his bone injuries and keeping alive the wounds of his heart. One day he came across the poet schoolmate Shafqat Khan, who found Lohar in a pitiful outlook and a painful agony of defeat. Lohar said to his poet friend;
“You’ve witnessed all the accounts of my story, from luxury to the misery. You are a poet and you can feel the way I do… write me some verses…”
The poet took a piece of paper and apparently didn’t take any manipulative liberty in documenting his feelings, he tuned up Lohar’s request into some simple lyrical lines, and there was a complete song;
Tere pichhe Kot Shakir chhadya, aap cha malya’i Jhang ve,
Khan gharaa de band ve..
(I left Kot Shakir in your love, and you settled back in Jhang..
Compose me a stanza, O Khan!)
A copy of the stanzas was made and taken to the boarding house. Somebody presented the piece of paper to the boy with harmonium, in an evening meet up. Malangi sang it to the fellows, and it bewitched the entire house. The next Friday, in the weekly performance assembly Mansoor Malangi was asked to formally play the song to the teachers and the pupils of his school. Those who listened, went back to their villages and told other folks about the fresh masterpiece. On the upcoming crop festival, Malangi’s song was the hottest thing to talk about. A true work of art had come up with its deserved appreciation. Malangi was famous and he didn’t stop on one song. The earliest audio cassette with his very first song on side A, and the second song “Hik phul motiye da” on side B, has been the trendiest gift for the youth of entire district. Nothing could stop his voice from prevailing in the breadth of Punjab and the entire world.
The old Kot Shakir is now a shrinking town, somehow rearranging its population on the western sand mounds cut apart by Khushab Road. The periodical river floods are increasingly frequent and a big piece of the deeper cultivation lands is fallen infertile of salination. Some new schools were founded in the other villages and boys had got faster ways to move to their schools, hence the existence of boarding house was finally challenged. The building is turned to Government Girls High School, and now it is a new hideout for the haunting fantasies of the boys from later generations, though the wilderness is not its most immediate neighbor anymore.
Mehmood Lohar has now nothing to do with the gold business, he’s again a destitute blacksmith earning his livelihood by sharpening the peasants’ reapers in the harvesting seasons. He is now an elderly man with a grown up family and a nostalgic soul with a profound sense of absolute failure in life. Zohra Khanum was lately back to her husband and she brought forth some five beautiful children. She has learned to live happily with her young kids. And today is the day when I am hearing the news that Mansoor Malangi has died of heart disease. The radios and televisions are echoing the melodies those are quite familiar to the ears. He was touchy about the arrangements he sang and choosy about the lyrics he took for his songs. His records have led many instrumentalists, poets, places and beauteous darlings to the memory of eternity.
Ustad Malangi is dead, live long the two rivers.