The Dawn: Jan 29, 2016
Punjab Notes: Governor Mulraj and Chaudhry Bahaab’s buffalo — (Part II)
“My boy was about to serve me my meal when I heard your call. I thought no one cares to offer food to the man in deep trouble who asks for favour, gets no response and walks away…” said Bahaab.
“You are right. I haven’t had my meal. I would love to eat if you have something for me,” said Mohla.
“What is the matter?” asked Bahaab.
Mohla narrated the story of how he couldn’t pay the revenue to the government and what forced him to get the foul-mouthed revenue collector killed. “Well, I have never been of any use to you. But I know you have been my father’s friend. You know he is dead. Gift me that red buffalo of yours for that friendship sake. May be it can save me”.
“Listen Mohla, you know to get the buffalo Mulraj offered me all the things; land, horses, cattle, silver and gold. Did I accept his offer?”
“But now the time has shown the real value of the buffalo. In one scale I see red buffalo and in the other Qadar Mohla. If I refuse to oblige you, it means being your father’s friend, I disgrace his memory. It’s just an animal. I shall not hesitate to sacrifice my sons to save you if needed. Is that all you want?”
“Now come along”.
They swam across the river. They chatted and chatted. When the herd was about to move in the wee hours, Chaudhry Bahaab called his sons and said: “leave the red buffalo tied in the shed. Don’t take it along”.
Chaudhry Bahaab, when got up in the morning, had the buffalo washed and its skin moisturized with butter. Then he decked it out with strings of beads and bells. The beautiful animal now looked like a painting. Bahaab drove the buffalo. Mohla moved along on his horse. Mulraj had his shed on the western side of the river Chenab. He had built his court nearby so that his herd was not hidden from sight. He had such a passion for buffalos. When they reached there, they saw hundreds of buffalos and, piles and piles of fodder. Chaudhry Bahaab released his buffalo in the shed and inquired about the whereabouts of Mr Mulraj.
“He has gone to take shower,” he was told. It was Mulraj’s routine to take bath, walk through the herd caressing his animals and hold court.
Bahaab said: “Ra Mohla, I have gifted him the buffalo. We can’t take the animal back. Now it’s his discretion as to whether he acquits you or not. You better hide somewhere near in order to be out of sight. If he accepts my request, you present yourself. In case he doesn’t honour me, take to your heels”.
Ra Mohla hid in the corner.
Mulraj came after having had taken bath in the river. With a towel on his shoulder, he was shirtless. He had drops dripping down his hair. He entered the shed, looked at the animals and said in wonder: “who brought here Chaudhry Bahaab’s buffalo?”
Bahaab got up and said: “‘I brought it sir”.
“Are you Chaudhry Bahaab?”
“Yes sir, I am”.
“There must be some favour you want from me”.
“Come on, nothing but some compulsion forced you to budge. To have this animal I offered you buffalos, I offered you land, I offered you all the things in the world. You declined. Now you come all the way to offer me the buffalo. Well, tell me what you want. I will not disappoint you”.
“Well sir, you know that Mohla, son of Qadar Baksh!” said Chaudhry Bahaab.
“Oh, Mohla, the scoundrel. Mohla, the criminal. More or less three complaints are filed against him every day. Neither he lives in peace nor lets the Chenab community live in peace. He killed my Sikh official.”
“No sir” replied Bahaab.
“Sure he did but don’t worry. Sikh women haven’t stopped delivering babies. They will be able to give birth to many more. Hadn’t Mohla killed that Sikh, I would never have got the buffalo.”
In the meanwhile, Mohla sneaked up on Mulraj and saluted him.
“Are you Mohla?”
“I would have made an example of you but my love for this buffalo got better of me. Had you not killed the Sikh who would have offered me the buffalo?”
“You have great passion for buffalos, sir” said Mohla.
“My passion pales when compared with the love my poor mother had for buffalos. When our herd went out to graze, she would go all the way to the riverside dusting off buffalos with her shawl.”
“Our women too love buffalos but they don’t go out to the bush. You know, the herders wouldn’t let women come back untouched,” quipped Bahaab.
“You insulted me,” Mulraj was furious.
“No sir” Mohla replied. “I was just telling you how poor and helpless I am. I beg your leave sir, good bye”.
When the both were coming back, Mohla said: “Uncle, why the hell did you do this?”
“He got the buffalo for free. I couldn’t miss the chance to let off steam.” — firstname.lastname@example.org
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