Salaam, Everybody,

We had bought Sheroo at 50% discount which means for just 1/8 rupee. But Sheroo was a superb quail of his own type. He repeatedly went in to fight, ran back defeated, yet was instantly ready to try again. At the 5th or 6th attempt his opponent got sick of the fight, and ran away, back to his tearful owner. Quail-keeping kids were afraid of us, and ran away whenever they saw us coming. For almost half a month Bhai and me were known as supreme quail-keepers in our Mohallah. Then early one morning Bhai’s howling knocked me up from the bed.1 September 2016

” Oey, Munawari, we are ruined,” cried Bhai, sobbing.
” Impossible !’ cried I, rubbing my eyes, still half awake,” Unless our Sheroo is dead.”
” Yyyyes it is,” said Bhai with an emphatic sob. “See what’s happened”
Saying this, Bhai thrust Sheroo’s cage under my nose.” It is a murder, don’t you see ?”
” Murder most foul ! ” I cried at the top of my voice, bursting into a howl.
( Twenty years later I found my words “Murder most foul” repeated by Shakespeare in Hamlet ).- 
2 September 2016

A silk thread tightly tied around Sheroo’s neck clearly showed the cause of his death. He had been choked to death.

” Whoever has done it, I’ll tear him to pieces,” declared Bhai.

” And I ‘ll set those pieces on fire,” cried I.

Now the question was who did it. Not easy, we concluded after casting around almost half an hour So we decided to refer the case to Bhai Riasat, a cousin who was a bit less stupid than us,.

Bhai Riasat looked at the dead Sheroo, closed his eyes, shook his head, and said, ” I’m sure one of your elder brothers did it.”

Quite possible, we thought, because none of our elder brothers liked our craze for quails. But how could we tear an elder brother to pieces and set the pieces on fire ? Impossible.

Finding ourselves unable to avenge Sheroo’s death, we decided at least to give him a respectable farewell before sunset. ,– 3 September 2016

In a corner of Bhai’s house we dug a neat little square hole in the ground, laid the dead Sheroo in it, and built up a proper grave. We decorated the grave with pebbles and pieces of coloured glass.

Early every morning we would visit Sheroo’s grave, shed innocent tears and share memories of his memorable fights. We even prayed for his departed soul.

This went on till the end of summer vacation, when Bhai went away with his parents, and I got busy with my studies at school.

Sheroo’s death ended our romance with quails just like what an Urdu poet says : تمہارے بعد خدا جانے کیا ھؤا دل کو-کسی سے ربط بڑھانے کا حوصلہ نہ رھا

5 September 2016

After quail-keeping our next hobby was Indo-Pak war .The idea came from our brilliant friend and next door neighbour, Dr Manzoor.

Dr Manzoor named his army of about 6 cousins Indian Army, and gave ours the name Pak Army. Catapults (غلیل) were used as weapons in our war. A catapult is a Y-shaped wooden device with two rubber strings attached to the two fingers of Y. The other two ends of the rubber strings are attached to a 2-inch flat piece of leather.You put the shot (round pebble) on the piece of leather, pull it back, and then leave it. The shot flies forward like a gun shot, and hits the target.

Further details of our war tomorrow, InshaALLAH. I wish one of you could send me a picture of catapult to be used with my next post.–  6 September 2016

Manzoor, the commander of kids’ Indian army, assumed the title ‘General Manzoor Singh’. The commander of the Pak Army was, of course, General (Bhai) Mumtaz Hussain Malik.He appointed me Major General. Thus I became the first and last 10-year old Major General in the history of mankind . The Indian army under General Manzoor Singh had no Major General.
The rules of war drafted by the two commanders were:
1. No hit above knees
2. No metal (iron, copper, brass etc) shots.
3. During the war, the forces will stay where they are.
4. The losers will have to walk 100 steps, carrying the winners on their backs.- 
7 September 2016

The war front was a playground at the back of our house.At noon everyday, when our elders were asleep, we would sneak out of the house, and reach the war front. The Indian army lined up at the eastern end of the playground, we at the western end, with a distance of about 100 meters between the two forces.

At that distance a catapult shot cannot cause a fracture or bleeding.The pain, however, makes the victim howl quite a minute or two. But it is easily cured by a little rubbing, and an encouraging pat on the back from the commander,- 8 September 2016

At the word “GO’ shouted simultaneously by the two commanders, the two forces started shooting away, the soldiers on both sides jumping around to avoid the shots from the opposite side.Even the commanders took active part in the battle, and were sometimes hit.

When one side had spent all its shots, the commander would throw up his arms, which meant surrender. The other side would immediately stop shooting. and start dancing to celebrate their victory. Then the winners would enjoy a ride on the backs of the losers. The Indian side had 2 victories. Then fortune came to our side and stayed there permanently.

As to how that happened, my next post will tell you, InshaALLAH .

9 September 2016

Soon the other boys in our Mohallah came to know about our war, and wanted to join the Pakistan side. (It was 1950. Pakistan was just 3 years old, and love for Pakistan was at its peak). But the war rules drafted by General Manzoor Singh did not allow fresh recruitments. So the other boys could not join us in practical fighting.

They, however, decided to help us in another way. Everyday they would collect pebbles of suitable size, and pile them up in a corner of Bhai Riasat’s house. In this way we got a lot more ammunition (shots ) than the enemy. After fiiling our pockets we would also fill a bag (cousin Habib’s school bag) and take it to the war front. Quite naturally the Indian army was always defeated for shortage of ammunition. Still General Manzoor Singh vowed to carry on the war.– 10 September 2016

One day a passerby, an old farmer of our Mohallah, came within our shooting range and was hit by a shot from our side. He was not seriously hurt, but he took it seriously enough to go and tell our elders about the dangerous game we were playing.

Our elders did not believe in inquiries and judicial commissions. They always took direct action on complaints against us. Uncle Safdar Ali Malik would quickly dispose of such cases by inflicting a few smart slaps across our “dirty faces”. In the present case we were first deprived of our catapults, and then given the rough handling mentioned above,

The complainant also took his case to the elders of the other side, and the Indian army also got a pretty sound beating from their own elders —16 September 2016

After the ban on our war, General Manzoor Singh lost his title General, and sub-title Singh, General Bhai Mumtaz Malik lost his rank of general, and I was no longer Major General Munawar Malik. Thus we were reduced to simple Manzoor, Mumtaz and Munawar. (triple M, so to speak).

We were very sad at this sudden downfall. But soon Manzoor came up with another brilliant idea. It was somehing very similar to our war. We called it dog hunting, because our target in this game were dogs.InshaALLAH.-17 September 2016

We were six dog hunters, including me, Bhai Mumtaz and Dr Manzoor. The other three were two of Dr Manzoor’s cousins and one, Bhai Riasat, of ours. The rest of our friends refused to join us. We bought new catapults and chose to do our hunting at night to escape being caught at it.

Those were pre-electricity days in Daudkhel. The streets remained dark at night. We would come out after dinner and patrol the streets of our Mohallah. Dogs were usually out in the streets during the early hours of the night. The moment we saw one, we would start shooting away. Once or twice we were entertained with choicest abuses by the owner of a howling dog, but we took it lightly as part of the game.-19September 2016

We soon saw that dog hunting was more dangerous than our wars. We could not carry our catapults during the day time for fear of being seen and thrashed by our elders.

I wonder how the dogs came to know that we went around unarmed during the day hours. Anyway, they did somehow learn the sad fact, and chased us around every time they saw one of us walking up or down a street. , We had some really narrow escapes from being bitten by a dog or two.

Dr Manzoor and Bhai Mumtaz held an emergency consultation. Bhai Mumtaz suggested that we stop dog hunting. Dr Manzoor said that would not be enough. We must make friends with the dogs to get them off our heels. To achieve that purpose he offered a beautiful suggestion.-21 September 2016

According to Dr Manzoor’s advice, every morning we would stuff our pockets with pieces of bread before going out. Whenever we saw a furious dog approaching, we would throw a piece of bread in front of him. The dog would stop, sniff the piece to make sure it was food, and swallow it, wagging his tail in satisfaction. Then he would come for more, uttering grateful sounds, and wagging his tail as a signal of friendship. We would give him another piece of bread. But when he came for a third we would shout , ” No ! Go back.” The dog would quietly obey us.

In this way, we gradually made friends with all the dogs in our area, and could move around freely.-23 September 2016

After making friends with the dogs we were again out of business. So our leaders (Bhai Mumtaz and Dr Manzoor) again called an emergency meeting to find us something to do.
Bathing in the canal was chosen as our next occupation. We knew our elders would never allow us to do that, as none of us could swim. But we chose the noon hours when the elders enjoyed their after-lunch sleep for two or three hours. We took care to be back before they got up.
As for swimming, luckily for us, a branch of the canal along its right bank was not deep enough to drown us. So, to that we would make our way, as soon as the elders were sound asleep.- 24 September 2016

We would enjoy bathing in the smaller canal. A few minutes in the icy water would set us shivering. To warm up, we would lie down and roll in the hot sand on the bank. It made us look like ghosts, but another dip in the canal would wash us back into our normal shape. We were very happy, but only for a few days.- 27 September 2016

One day, as we came back from the canal, uncle Safdar Malik caught sight of the wet shorts (نیکر، جانگیہ ) on our shoulders.
” Where have you been ?” he asked sharply.
We were speechless. It was useless to try telling lies. Even a two year old child could guess where we had been.
After a few smarting slaps on our “dirty faces” we were made to swear never to leave home at noon.-28
 September 2016

Once again we were ‘jobless’.

“No more adventures for us,” said Bhai Mumtaz to Dr Manzoor with a sigh.

“Yes,” sighed Dr Manzoor, He told us he too had got a good dressing down from his Dad who had somehow learnt that Manzoor too was guilty of bathing in the canal.

” It seems our spoilsport elders are bent on making life hell for us,” said Bhai.

“True,” said Dr Manzoor. ” I think they want us to play girls’ games like dolls, rope-skipping and all that. But we must find something better than that. “.–29 September 2016

First we discussed the games that kids usually played in those days, like marbles (بنٹے) , gulli danda, a local version of cricket, and catapult hunting of small birds. But we rejected them one by one. We had never liked them.

It was then that we realized we three ( Mumtaz Bhai, Dr Manzoor and me ) were a different model of mankind. So we decided to continue our discussion until we hit upon something that really suited our taste. – 30 September 2016


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