Known turf: Daku morality

I was not disappointed. Zaidi writes of her encounters with Chambal Valley dacoits including Phoolan Devi and half a dozen male gangs. What emerges is the fact that most of them kill rival gangsters and not common people for the simple reason that they encroach on their sources of income.

Zaidi heard of the exploits of the legendary Sultana Daku, watched films based on the lives of dacoits, notably Gabbar Singh.

My own limited knowledge of dacoits goes back to my childhood in village Hadali.
The most dreaded name in the desert region of the river Jhelum was that of Tora Daku.
He was known to have killed dozens of rivals and members of his own gang who had questioned his leadership.

Tora Daku and his gang visited Hadali in broad daylight, rifles slung on their shoulders. As word went round, people shut their front doors and a deadly silence enveloped the village.

Among the many doors he knocked on with butt of his rifle was ours. My grandfather would open the door to let him in. They embraced each other like lost friend.
My grandmother would serve him ‘pinnees’ (gur ladoos) with tea. And offer the same to his men who stayed outside. He addressed her politely as ‘Vaddi Bhain’; she called him ‘puttar’ (son).

After he had finished, my grandfather gave him an envelope full of currency notes. Tora counted them before putting them in the pocket, as it was not robbery but protection money to ensure us that no other gangster would come to our home.
The gang visited a few other Hindu and Sikh houses. Before leaving he said “Allah Hafis”.
No one dared to lodge a report against them to the police. He also helped with money in marriage of poor girls of the parents who could not afford.
Annie Zaidi’s collection has good reportage, peppered with humour and most readable.

Name the poet
I have carried Shankar Sen’s poems in my columns more than once. He wrote to say that he is busy translating Buddhadev Guha’s epic novel ‘Madhukari’ into English. Guha has quoted a few couplets in Urdu without making the poet.
I am unable to do so. I invite readers to do so. I reproduce both original Shankar Sen’s translations.
Taaruf rog ban jaye to usko bhoolna acchha
Taaluk bojh ban jaye tou usko torhna acchha
If familiarity becomes
It is better to forget it.
If a relationship becomes a burden
It is better to break it.
Afsaana Anjaam tak
leyjaana ho mushkil
To usko ek khubsoorat morh de kar chhorna acchha
If an affair is not easy to
carry to its conclusion
It is better to give it a
beautiful turn and let it go.
Gustakhi ham sey hogi sirf ek baar
Jab sab challengey paidal
Aur ham hongey kandhey pey sawaar
I shall be at fault just once
When others shall walk on foot
And I shall be borne on their shoulders.

New convert
A Parsi of ill-repute chose to seek forgiveness for his sinful ways through Baptism. So he decided to recast his will. Instead of a Zoroastrian priest, he summoned his lawyer and his doctor and asked them to stand on either side of his death bed.
“Why do you want us beside you at this time?” they asked. Replied the recently baptised Zoroastrian: “I want to die like Jesus Christ with two thieves on either side of me”.
(Contributed by B T Mody, Bangalore).
Makims revised
Love thy neighbour’s neighbour
To err is human; to blame others for it is good politics
Self before service
Be Indian, buy foreign
An onion a day keeps everybody away
Behind every unsuccessful man, there are many women
(Courtesy: K J S Ahluwalia, Amritsar)

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