My Childhood Friend

Tomorrow my childhood friend, Tariq is getting married. We grew up in the same neighbourhood. He’s a special person in my life. As kids we used to get into fights with each other. With my strength I always used to allow him to beat me up.Well, not really true.

Most of the time we used to play, day and night to the much annoyance of my parents. Thus my neighbours nicknamed me Awaara- a wanderer.

So we used to spend our time playing cricket mostly. It was our Passion. We were the most wanted players from our generation in the neighbourhood. There used to be a tournament of sorts in the Parade Bagh (An empty field near my house now turned into Garbage Heap) during Strikes and Curfews. Tariq and me were always picked up sooner than others. He was a Batsman, the best one in our neighbourhood. And I was a Fast Bowler (my records speak for myself). So the team we used to be together in, it used to win. And when we played against each other, it used to be an interesting contest. He would hit me for sixes and I would get him out in the next over. Or playing Volleyball or fighting with snowballs or Vish-Amrit or King Queen or just running away from the Orchard where we stole Apples from.

We also used to play ‘Truchay’ a Kashmiri version of Hide and Seek. Or we used to make caves on the heap of firewood used by his father for the Oven. In those caves we used to act like Mujahids under training. Brandishing wooden sticks like AK 47 or Light Machine Guns. It used to be the fun part.

Once we were playing cricket at the field, some Indian Troops came from their camp nearby. I was first scared to see them on the field. Knowing what was going on in Kashmir that time. But they starting chewing Tobacco (Nevla) so we kept playing. Suddenly they called all the kids to line up, as I was near so I had to be the first one in the queue. This Burly Man from India, asked my name and I replied “Faysal. So he asked me who my favourite cricketer was, and I replied Shoaib Akhtar. A Pakistani Cricketer who had just come onto the scene famous for his speed. I was told to stay aside. Tariq and others were asked the same questions. To my dismay and surprise, all of them replied with names of Indian Cricketers which was untrue. And I was commanded to do sit ups.

Disgusted, I did sit ups… 20 of them.

Anyway, this is not the point why I am writing about Tariq.

I being from a well-to-do-family was always looked by my neighbours to play with kids of my ‘class’. I used to be constantly taunted by my Parents and neighbours now and then to not play with Tariq.

You see Tariq is the son of a beloved baker, Ghulaam Rasool Bhat. He came to our neighbourhood from a border town of Uri. Baking delicious Tchot, Tchochvor, Beakir’khaan, Qatlam and other mouth-watering varieties. Before even I was born. Oh, he was famous for his Kulchas too.

So every time I used to hear these taunts from my Parents or the neighbours, I didn’t give a damn.I used to wonder how come they get their daily bread from him when they bad mouth him? I had developed my own understanding with all the hypocrisy going on. I believed ‘Friends are classless”. Maybe this understanding came from the overdose of Indian Movies, I don’t know.

Hearing that my Parents kept quiet and slowly understood. But neighbours kept on blowing the ‘Awaara’ tune. I didn’t like to be called it until a movie came by the same name. The kids in our neighbourhood who were from ‘class’ family never joined us. They missed the real childhood.

I used to be in their house watching cricket or taking free Tchochvor. Tariq’s father pampered me a lot, and the love of his mother is heartwarming. Even now when I go home, their eyes lit up like I was their own son.

As I write this, Tariq’s little finger will be smeared with Henna while Kashmiri Folk Tunes are in the background. And he must have that classic smile, not too much and not too little. And his head down because he would be blushing.

So twenty years gone down, Tariq is still my beloved companion and friend. A friendship that taught me that love knows no barriers. I learnt life too together with him.

I missed the wedding though, something we had dreamed about years ago.

Mubarak Tariq, Khuday thavna’i aabaad.

All My Love Brother.

P.S: Wazwaan rud’ui wazum.

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