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All Ramasoodras

By M J Aslam

Ramasoodra has gone down in the memory of the people of Srinagar, from generation to generation, as the most detestable character of a person whose name is being scornfully referenced on suited occasions by the Srinagarities, as an example of extreme cruelty and callousness, indifference and inconsideration. They also express the severest rebuke in that negative-reference on any faux pas or gaffe which they, in their social lives, whenever & wherever, suiting their interest or intent, link it un-hesitatingly with that of Ramasoodra’ saga.

The passage of time transformed the Srinagarities into a far better off community than their ancestors of the time of Ramasoodra, and in bettering their socio-financial conditions, a big part played by the modern banks that have now come up all over Srinagar & its adjoining towns & districts within Kashmir-valley, can’t be simply ignored or downplayed. The employees of the modern banks together with their counterparts in government departments shuttle on daily basis to & from between Srinagar & the other towns & districts of Kashmir to attend their jobs, postings there.

 

In late nineties of 20th century, when Kashmir was in a grip of great turmoil, I, then working in J&K Bank, and four other [State] government employees, all hailing from Srinagar, were shuttling, with other commuters, in a non-stop-State-owned bus or commonly known as JK SRTC (State Road Transport Corporation) bus, between Srinagar & Baramullah for attending our respective duties at Baramullah, sixty kilometers/ Kms odd away from Srinagar.

However, my other co-bankers, who too were posted in & around Baramullah town in different branches & offices that time, had hired a separate chatter-service for the purpose which was not used by me. There is an interesting story of my preferring the SRTC bus for travel over my own co-bankers’ chattered coach. Actually, some smoker-colleagues littered the bus with plumes of smoke of cigarettes which caused nuisance. Others didn’t object to the nuisance in the bus but I did. As bad habits hardly leave people, the smokers couldn’t desist from smoking in the traveling bus despite my repeated requests & one day I was bluntly told by the bold smokers: “why don’t you travel by another bus that does not bother you….”  So, the travel by the SRTC bus chosen by me. 

Some six Kms before main Baramullah town, there is Kanihaspura village where every passing vehicle, except the bankers’ chattered-vehicle which was registered with the soldiers stationed there, had to stop unavoidably for a regular security check & frisking of the passengers. At the orders of the soldiers, the passengers would alight from the buses & the security checking and frisking would consume some time of the commuters. Then, one day morning, when I was off my duty & so, not travelling in the SRTC bus, the other four government employees who were travelling in it, got off at Kanihaspura-security-checkpoint for a routine security check by the soldiers. That morning, the checking was taking more time than usual.

And, as it was raining hard, the four government employees were getting terribly soaked and shivering under cold thundering rain on the roadside. In the meantime, the JK bankers’ chatter-service reaching Kanihaspura began slowing down, as was mandated by the army barricades placed there, and the four government employees who continued to be there on the roadside, standing in stark open under thunder and rain, like trees against the sky, felt happy on getting a sight of coming JK Bankers’ chattered coach. 

Their old friendship with some, & good acquaintance with many, of the travelling- J K Bankers created a human expectation in them and so, they expectedly raised their hands towards their friends & acquaintances who were comfortably sitting & travelling in the passing bus for rescuing them out from a visibly difficult situation of downpour out there. They also mouthed words, conspicuously pleading for their emergency lifting from that situation, so that they’ d find themselves out of the rainy-mess.

But, the bankers, callously ignoring their request for help, that was well communicated to them by the four men through their hands & mouths, asked the driver of the bus to press the accelerator, only to avoid them who were standing out & getting soaking wet in the rain in open on the roadside. This socially impolite & inhuman behaviour of, and incendiary neglect by, the bankers, of their fellow commuters-cum-employees, outraged the four men to the degree that they dubbed all the bankers as Ramasoodras.

The day succeeding the above episode of the co-bankers’ neglect, when I was traveling for my duty in morning in the SRTC bus, the four government employees were narrating & repeating to each other the previous day’s unpleasant happening at Kanihaspura security- check-post. The miffed & hurt four employees, as I could observe, assured, by their loud talking, the other passengers in the bus listen to the ‘breaking morning news’ relayed by big speakers of their mouths. I, being their fellow commuter, was mutely listening to their commentary of conversation when one among them at increased tone of his voice said to the others, clearly intending to spread the word:

“Did you notice yesterday, friends, how ruthless these J&K Bankers are? Knowing us well, they still tilted their heads from windows towards aisle of the bus to ignore us & our plea for giving us an emergency lift, and they let us get soaked and shivered in that heavy rain?”.

The other talkers corroborated him: “they, bankers, are all Ramasoodras, merciless & inconsiderate usurers, with no pity in their hearts & no regard (lihaz) in their eyes for anyone……their only consideration is commercial…….”

Being a colleague of the commuting bankers, who were spoken against in that satirical gossiping, I naturally didn’t like generalisation of disgusting behaviour of few colleagues for the entire bank fraternity.  Noticeably I felt hurt more by the other gossipy commuters of the bus than the justified outage of the outraged four.

I, as could be expected of anyone in my situation, objected to the narrative that was being spread about the entire Bank fraternity, of course, owing its origin to the unfortunate incident of previous day. Initially, it looked to me a simple badinage, but was it turning out to be something like a serious harmful malignation of the bankers’ fraternity, as such? Wading through the confusing currents of thought, I politely tried to pacify the anger of the agitated employees & other gossipers by saying:

“Brothers, you seem a little harsh & opinionated about a fraternity that has so hugely contributed to the financial & social prosperity of the people ……. The few against whom you’ve a grievance, even if a genuine one, which I don’t doubt at all, do not represent the whole of that fraternity, and, may be, they hadn’t spotted or noticed you standing out in rain on the roadside from the windscreen or windows of the bus? But still you…… Nobody in the world is cleaner than clean, lily white, we know all. So, we shouldn’t pass judgments on people unless we probe & find the truth….”


“But, we were not like tiny sewing-needles that were scattered on the road, that couldn’t catch the big eyes of bankers”, the other annoyed employee interrupted me in a souring mood.

It seemed a prima facie situation of self-respect having been bruised beneath & the angered fellows, above all, aggrieved by the unfortunate incident, so much so, that they bitterly disagreed with my well-meant words; albeit they had been highly valuing my opinions otherwise on social and the other issues whenever discussed about in between us during our daily travel of a couple of years in the bus. It was evident the way they retorted me with the strong reply:

“We know you’re one among them, how could you be different from them….?”


Ad hominem, it was, out & out! So, gauging that anymore discussion with them would have been plainly open-ended & unfruitful, I became pensive & glued my lips without uttering a word thereafter. And then, I shut my eyes, stroked my forehead repeatedly & sank into a deep thought, and my inner rueful-response to that inapt happening, after a good cogitation, was that”:  sometimes, by our [egregious] wrongs we wrong not only the wronged but ourselves and also those of whom, or that of which, we’re a part.

 Certain words find echo in depths of our thought, even after years, when we reflect on the past & see the reflection of the same bizarre behaviours & attitudes still happening around like recurring accounts held for infinite periods of time in the Bank of Kashmiri- Persona: Are all Kashmiris really Ramasoodras, bad-lihaz (rude), is the gnawing pain of many a human heart of the society?