Remembering Huda Bakhsh, the ‘chah khor’

Huda Bakhsh, more commonly known as Tughu among my family members, has remained the apple of every household’s eyes in our neighborhood for as long as I can remember. Sadly, that’s not because who he is but rather so because of what he’s been doing for so many years: Helping clean garbage of houses, doing different chores of each house in the neighborhood and doing everyday purchasing of grocery from nearby shops.

In return, he would have very minimal demands; five rupees that would get him a packet of naswar, or snuff. “Gudan mani nas e zar a bede,” he would request after completing the assigned chores, asking that he be paid the money that would get him some snuff.

He could compromise on not being paid five rupees, which would get him a packet of snuff only. But there’s something that he could hardly compromise on: He definitely wanted to be served a kettle full of black tea, or siah chah, as it is called locally, once he’s done with his work. His chah khori, or tea-drinking habit, is talked of in every household of the neighborhood.

Tughu, as I call him out of sheer respect and reverence for his services for so many families over years, and I have had many things in common: He’s as obstinate as I am, but that’s not the reason that prompted me to write a blog post on him (If Tughu once made up his mind that he would not do something on a given day, for sure he would not do it). But I am referring to him here just because of his tea-drinking habit as his would compliment mine and could hardly outmatch mine.

A habit of mine that would earn me the name of gwanden Tughu, or Tughu the junior, tea-drinking played a significant role in my developing a habit of being an avid reader, which subsequently ended up as my passion for becoming a writer.

During long, frosty winter nights, with blanket slightly tucked over my head, my eyes would remain fixed on pages of children’s books that I would buy from the one and only bookstore in the only big market of the town. Black tea would ensure I would not succumb to sleep.

In the morning, during the first period at school, my eyes would be sore, glaringly as red as the slit throat of an innocent sheep mercilessly ‘sacrificed’ on the occasion of bigger Eid, the day when Muslims around the world kill hundreds of thousands of animal to accomplish the rite of some man that had lived in distant past.

However, for the past one year or so, I have completely quit my habit of drinking black tea. I am living in a city whose residents are celebrated for their habit of drinking coffee. So, I guess it would have been difficult to survive here had I stuck to my old habit. Now, I enjoy a cup of coffee as much I did a kettle-full black tea.

The idea of writing this blog post originated from a Facebook status update of mine in which I had mentioned that I had made some good black tea for myself after a long time. This, obviously, prompted comments from family members and close friends who are familiar with my erstwhile tea-drinking habit. As a matter of fact, it came a surprise to them that I have quit being a chah khor.

I wish I had a picture of Mr. Tughu to supplement this post. Unlike me, I am sure he will never be able to quit his tea-drinking habit despite the soaring prices of sugar in Pakistan.