Asif Khan |Tracing My Footsteps

Excerpt from the book...

At that time, the servants used to work generation after generation. The older ones retired and became part of the family, and they were respected like other elders. Arif, who was three years my elder, and I used to lie down on each side of one such old lady, probably in her late seventies, and ask her to tell us a story. We anxiously waited for one to come out of her, and she, in a weak but sweet and soft voice, told the same old story every day, about a king and a prince who had a hard time while traveling in a jungle. Finally, the prince came across a princess, and they got married and lived happily ever after. We used to listen to the story again and again with the same interest as the first time; however, we would correct her whenever we felt she was deviating from the original version. Although her whole family lived in town, including children and grandchildren, she chose to stay with us after her retirement, although she would visit and stay with her family for a few days occasionally.

One of the servants exclusively served the head of the family; that servant knew his nature and would understand with a gesture what he needed. Those servants were considered closer to the family, and they were helped financially. One such servant, Shafi, who took care of my grandfather, had two sons and four daughters. After my grandfather died, my grandmother gave each of his children a house. His daughters spent most of the time with my grandmother, who would take care of their needs, and she arranged their marriages. One of those girls was married to a boy, Dorab, who was very fond of wrestling. My grandmother got him an exclusive space where he did his exercises along with other young men from the area. Later, Dorab became the best wrestler in the district and was known as a representative of our family. He was a strongly built man who was responsible for the safety and security of our house. He acted as a warden and would ask any young member of the family going out as to the purpose of his trip and his destination and even checked if he was properly dressed, the coat buttoned. Generally, everyone came home early at night. Youngsters were supposed to be inside the house before sunset.

Male servants took care of outdoor duties and looked after exclusively male members of the family. All other servants were female, including cooks for all three families living there. The female servants were expert in their work; one of them had one leg shorter than the other, but she was very quick and expert in cooking. Male servants included Bundu, Ali Mohammad, Hameed, and Shera. Shera was mentally slow and was given the responsibility of taking care of the buffalo in the house and extracting milk. He also used to take me and Arif to town-hall, where we would play in the open area. Ali Mohammad was very fond of different celebrations in the house and was always coming up with new suggestions, such as making some dishes, which were prepared the whole night while people remained awake in the house. These dishes were prepared in bulk and were distributed to the people of the area in the morning.