WINNING WRITERS WALL OF FAME
Competitive Dash Winner for May 2012:
Waheguru! Praise the Enlightener of all the worlds!
You, who pass by this stoop – make a wide birth. You will find no begging bowl here. This brown Kashmiri lohi I wear keeps the wintery chill out. That is all I have taken from my house. And yet, I am not concerned. I recite Waheguru! Waheguru! The beloved shaheeds, the Forty Immortals are protecting me.
I have the same-coloured cloth on my head. It looks like a light ladies turban. Today young revivalist Sikh women wear it to proclaim equality with men, although it was never the way in my time. Ladies wore embroidered lace shawls called tiuni to cover themselves with modesty. Today, I have draped the Kashmiri lohi from head to toe because I was forced in a rush from my house by my own younger sister, her husband and sons. Yes, I have given them 30 years of free use of my husband’s house and village land, while I have lived with my own children and grandchildren abroad.
If I was of the generation that wore the warrior dress of Ma Bhago, the woman who regained the lost honour of forty men by leading them against the Moghul army after they had refused to fight for Dasam Padshah, the 10th Guru of our Sikh faith; if I was a woman of that stature, I too would dress like my father with weapons and turban and fight against injustice in the only honourable way known to a Singh whose name means lion! But today, it is only the cold I can ward off with the top end of this long shawl wrapped like a turban, the rest draped as a wind shield. Thus I wait on this city stoop. And perhaps you think I am smiling? It is because I would not let the world know a proud woman’s pain, widow of a Freedom Fighter suffers – her house occupied and land stolen by relatives.
Who would have thought a 75 year old like me would here waiting for my worn out son, forced to go knock at the doors of the local police tarna, and the land clerks and lawyers’ offices. In India to seek justice you must knock and knock again with a special something in your hand to be left on the table, which will be later divided in parts and paid as a share up line to each ranking officer to the Minister. It is a fact. They are all one – the same rotten cadre who bleed Punjab and the country dry whether over a license to sell tea on a railway platform, or to steal the rights of the landowner.
Today, my relatives have filed yet another document, a ‘secret will’ claiming my husband’s family have deeded a portion of our land to my sister. Pure fabrication! Six months back it was a forged title deed made out by the patwari, the land clerk of our village. Three months before it was other filed lies and so on. How can it happen to the wife of a freedom struggle fighter who endured five years of British gaols, who was tortured with electrodes in the knee-caps, who taught himself to read Urdu poetry in the Lahore Gail when India was India without a Pakistan; how can it happen to the true son of the soil who refused political office and his surviving proud wife who helped her own blood sister with a house and land when their own holdings in Uttar Pradesh were gutted and ruined by floods? Thirty years of ingratitude! It is too much to accept. Even after my own son took her eldest to the heroin clinic, paid those people to cure him and employed the other with a lame foot and gave cash to the family. Now these chickens have come home to roost in my own village compound, eating the flat roti made of wheat from my own fields with never a yearly teka – rental paid- on the crops. What ingratitude! How stupid am I to have allowed it!
I will wait for my son to halt on our old Enfield motorcycle that blows smoke behind us as we move. I am here for another interminable round with corrupt officials, fighting our case of land dispossession by a nest of rats I now refuse to call family. They have promised the patwari and witnesses a kick-back if they all play along.
Once called Jat Sikhs, we were honest farmers, who filled the ranks of soldiers at war-time and spoke the salty truth of the earth, but now we are shit-bins and heroin addicts who have cut and shaved our warrior locks like sheep. No Singh, no lion among them. If only I were that same Ma Bhago with a righteous sword in my hand, I would start in my own compound, but the country of my ancestors is rotten.
I am a simple Sikh widow. My name — Paramjit Kaur. It means Princess of Supreme Victory. My father named me. His name was Param Singh. A Singh is a lion and a Kaur is a Princess in our religion. Our first names are neither male nor female like the soul, the jiva that inhabits the body. My husband Ajit Singh has long since gone among the Shaheeds, the Forty Immortals who return to help the poor, or those seeking justice. I believe in them both, and despite the ongoing case, I know the Guru will be kind to me. I retain the faith of Dasam Padshah, I honour the sacrifices of my ancestors. I turn the beads with my hands beneath this shall, repeating Waheguru! Waheguru! I am no beggar woman, despite weathered skin and thick nose, I am still the proud wife of a Freedom Fighter. No one can take away the loving memory of his hands that still own my body.
©2012 Singh Albatros
The Competitive Dash, an adjunct to the Daily Writers’ Dash, uses anonymous peer review through an online poll to find the most outstanding poem, flash piece or short story. The winning piece is then displayed in the Winners Wall of Fame.
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