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Uran Khatalo

Delhi,Jaipur,Kolkata,Agra City,Taj Mahal,Arjumand Banu,Noor Jehan, Akbar,Anarkali,Bed sheet,Salim,Lahore,Prince Daniyal,Uran Khatalo

We were returning to our hometown availing about one month earned leave. It was very difficult to get reservation in the trains. Tickets would have to be booked about a month before. During the festival time there used to be terrific rush! More over there was no direct train from Jaipur to Howrah. We had to change at Delhi. Anyhow the onward reservation we would manage through some of our friend posted at Delhi.
This time, we could get tickets from Delhi to Howrah by Toofan Express; all the tickets for journey by Kalka Mail were booked much earlier. Therefore four tickets by the same preferred train could not be managed. We had to be satisfied with the available train only.

We left Jaipur by night train and reached Old Delhi Station in the early morning in the next day. The connecting train was from New Delhi and so we had to hurry to go by taxi to catch the train from there. Somehow, we could get in to the compartment and started searching our allotted berths. Our seats were not in one place; Bhanu and Swadesh got near to the toilet, Asit, and myself got in the central part of the compartment. I got one upper berth and Asit in the lower berth. It was around seven o’ clock in the morning. Toofan Express left New Dehi at right time. With happy mood and excitement we all four occupied the lower berth of Asit and were planning for break fast and lunch. We came to know that the catering service was not available in the train. Orders for break fast, lunch and dinner were to be placed to the attendant much before hand.

The train was running quite fast. Through the windows, green cultivated plants of wheat and maize and at times of sugar canes were passing aside in the backdrop of ranges of hillocks. The lands were plain and smooth and at the same time properly irrigated and fertile also. Quite often small huts were seen with long bamboo poles in one corner tied with electrical cables to run the generator for pumping water from beneath the agricultural lands for cultivation. Whenever the train was slowing down its speed, the sound of motors of the wells in the out side would make a dreamy feeling. We reached Agra City Railway Station after about four hours where no passengers were seen to get down or got in. I was returning through this route for the first time. There was no opportunity for me to visit Tajmahal and the surroundings. Asit told me to keep the eyesight out side the window to have a glimpse of the world’s wonder! The train left the station but was running very slowly.

Thank God, the railway lines were under repair and thus it was a chance to observe the Tajmahal from within the slowly moving train with a short halt at Agra Fort. River Jamuna was clearly visible with green bushes and jungles on either side of its banks. All around a serene solitude prevailed; the impact of the scenic beauty of the Tajmahal was implanted in my mind forever! The white marble of the structure was shinning in the sun and its splendid beauty made all the passengers speechless. We all were whispering, as if not to disturb the eternal sleep of Mumtaj in the bed of love underneath!

Meanwhile the attendant came with break fast; we had a sleepless night yesterday and had to dine quite early in the night at Jaipur. We all were feeling hungry and therefore became engaged in eating. The Tajmahal ultimately became out of sight and the train slowly and the train slowly acquired speed.

I told to Asit, “ It is really surprising that the Tajmahal was built in memory of Mumtaj by Sajahan while their son Aurangjeb seized and kept him in the jail for Delhi’s throne!
In one hand how the intense love for the wife by the father and in the other hand the cruelty by the son for the throne!”
Asit continued the discussion and said, “ Ironically, if we go back further, you will find that the love is not always accepted, for example Anarkali’s story, if you consider. It was Jahangir the son of the Great Akbar was in love with Anarkali who was not accepted by Akbar. That is not the end, Anarkali was buried alive it seems!”
I replied “ There is controversy over the event. One group says she was buried alive while the other group opines that she was rescued from the graveyard but was banished from the country!”
----“ Further controversies…” continued Asit “ Is it then that Jahangir’s love was not long lasting! Otherwise, how come he could marry Noorjahan and forgot Anarkali? Or was it then Noorjahan and Anarkali were one and the same person?”

We admitted that our knowledge in history was poor. By that time the train reached Tundla Junction from where the lunch packets were supplied by the Private caterers. We were looking out for the attendant who was seen guiding a person with a number food plates and water bottles from the Railway canteen. A lot of beggars were asking for foods in the platform and we thought of taking lunch only after the train started. In between there were some altercations among the passengers on the supplied food staff. There were shortages in the number of plates and no body wanted to leave their shares. Bhanu, somehow was involved in the altercation and his mood was spoiled. He did not want any more discussion even though the matter was amicably settled. He was like that, a sentimental honest person! Silently he went to his seat after finishing his lunch. Swadesh also followed him for a short nap.

The train was running fast and I was not in a mood to go the upper bunk; Asit was feeling drowsy and so he told, “ Asim, why don’t you bring out your that nawabi bed sheet and the air pillow to spread in your bunk?”
----“ Why, are you feeling sleepy?”
---- “ Not exactly! At least in the daytime, we can enjoy the beauty of the bed sheet! After all you spent a lot of money in this!”
Yes, Asit was true. I spent quite a good amount of money to procure this bed sheet from a reputed big shop at Jaipur. They sold the bed sheet with a brand name of ‘Uran khatalo’!

I could not resist the temptation when I heard that weavers at Sanganer village made only ten bed sheets of “ Uran Khatalo’ brand! Out of those ten bed sheets nine were already sold to the foreign tourists. It appeared that those bed sheets were partially made up of asbestos fibers interwoven with long lasting cotton threads! Asbestos was brought from serpentine occurrence near Jharol in Udaipur district In Rajasthan. Incidentally, I myself had done extensive geological investigations around those areas and visited some private mines of asbestos there.

Asit’s request tempted me and I took out the bed sheet and the air pillow from the suitcase. I spread that neatly with half fold over the upper bunk. My upper bunk was along the window side, in the opposite side of that of Asit’s. One or two passengers were crossing that corridor at times; I could see the astounding eyes of Asit, he was murmuring “ Wonderful, simply wonderful and splendid! Asim, congratulations to you! What a colorful and soft velvet material; feeling like to embrace and sleep over it!”

Other passengers also were observing the bed sheet; they too were amazed and were praising the art of weaving in the bed sheet. I was very much delighted. I was imagining the bed sheet as real uran khatalo. During those days one Hindi film by the same name was very popular and familiar. I was very proud to be the owner of such a costly article. I was looking through the window. Outside was quite sunny. Wheat and sugar cane plantations in the wide-open Gangetic plain were showing waves and ripples of pleasant wind. At times, small villages or suburb towns were seen like moving shadows in the sun! Looking at my ‘uran khatalo’ from the lower berth of Asit I wanted to bring back the same old story of Mughal. The train was moving fast with rhythm of sound of the wheels; all most all the passengers were asleep.

I continued “ Asit, that time you were telling, whether Noorjahan and Anarkali are one and the same person? Is it not?”
---- “ Yes, I told that. Actually, if you see it carefully then you will see that in our country history is not properly recorded. Take the example of Anarkali; it is a long story but where is the record?”
To this I said “ You are right! Really, there is no concrete evidence by which you can say the love story of Salim & Anarkali was a reality or a fact! However, a lot of people have tried to search out the truth in the story”.
Asit frowned “ Might be, lot of people tried to know the fact behind the story, but then that record is also not kept”.
To this I disagreed with him. I said “ I don’t know much about the Mughal history, but I came across with some cross-reference of the author Abraham Earaly who wrote a book entitled “ The last spring”. He mentioned that the legendary Anarkali was none other than the mother of Prince Daniyal who was the wife of Akbar.”
Asit became attentive and said “ Very interesting! Then, how come Jahangir the son of Akbar is involved in it! Is the story so distorted?”
---- “ Not exactly. You will be surprised to know that the author suspected an Oedipal conflict between Akbar and Salim! Two tombs of both mother and the son were laid and still kept in Lahore! It is not known however whether they were buried alive!”
Asit could not remain calm; he sat erect and said, “ My God! What are you telling? A scandalous event was given the shape of an eternal love story! Based only on this cross reference, however, the reality can not be fathomed”.
I continued to this “ More records are there. Edward Terry and William Finch, two British Researchers visited the fair monument for prince Daniyal and his mother at Lahore. They were also of the opinion that the mother was Akbar’s wife with whom, they presume, Prince Salim had a liaison”.
---- “ It is better that we believe this as stupid, sadistic and nonsensical story.”
---- “ Yes, I also agree with you. We should not give any attention to this revealing”.
---- “ True, that is why I was telling you that history is not properly recorded in our country; as a result others get gap and creates cock and bull story”.

The train was in fast motion, almost all the passengers were in deep sleep, and even from somewhere the sound of snoring was disturbing the other. Time was around three p.m. out side the sky was covered with patches of flying clouds. A number of flying kites were seen making round in the sky; the soils down below, appeared wet, at places pool of water in small holes indicated short presence of rains in the area.
Asit broke the silence and said, “ It must have rained a little while ego. See a group of cattle in the down slope of that small hill! They are running and playing”.

I hurriedly tried to locate them and by that time we left them behind. Asit asked warily
“ Asim, then what you think or know about mumtaz mahal?”
With a pause I replied, “ You see, after all these are stories of kingly persons. Their way of life, culture, mood, habits and hobbies are altogether different from that of ours. But it is true that they also form a class- their approach towards life might be similar in general. Thus the quest of love and its momentum and dictum could be continued generation after generation. In simple, a hereditary trend is not unlikely!”
---- “ Oh, you mean to say the same old influence from Anarkali- Salim duo continued?”
I continued “ Not exactly! But do you know before becoming Mumtaz Mahal the lady was known as Arjumand Banu. Story says when Shajahan was at fifteen, he saw her in a bangle shop of Meena bazaar – a market place for the kingly persons only. Shajahan wanted to marry her and expressed his feelings to father Jahangir. The emperor could not say ‘no’ perhaps remembering his own affair and its last result. However, after five years they were married to each other”.
Asit was happy and said “ Oh, what a relief! At lasts a happy ending in the sultanate family!”
I continued, “ You will be surprised to know that during that time Nurjahan who was the queen of Jahangir was actually the first wife of one Turkish soldier known as ‘Sher Afgan’. She was known as Meherrenusha during that time. But leave aside that point, what I was going to tell you that Arjumand Banu was actually the daughter of her brother i.e. Mumtaz was the niece of Noorjahan!”

Meanwhile the train covered a long distance and reached Kanpur Central Railway Station. We did not even know when the evening crawled with its dark wings studded with moon and stars! Kanpur was a big Railway Junction, all around bright lights and heavy crowd brought an environment of living life engaged in searching of their respective destinations. We were feeling thirsty for tea. In the mean time Bhanu and Swadesh came and went for general equerries. They too were anxious for the tea and the hawkers came inside the compartment with cattle full of tea as well as coffee. Somehow I thought of taking coffee in place of tea and accordingly asked the vendor. Bhanu and Swadesh also joined the fray. All the passengers inside the compartment woke up and became active for and the night food. The waiter arrived and asked for any order for the dinner. It was known that the dinner would be served in Allah bad station at around 10’o clock. We, all immediately agreed. That was the time when normally one would feel hungry. So that time suited us and we all four sat together in Asit’s lower berth and started talking each other.

Bhanu told, “ Your bed sheet is more attractive than you. Rather you look like a thief of bed sheet!” Every one started laughing. It was my turn to reply and I said “ Your assessment is always wrong; the real thief is hiding in the toilet just above the washing basin! Go and see him and try to catch hold of him!”

This way we were pulling each other’s leg and the other passengers were enjoying and were smiling of course without ant comment. The train was running fast piercing the silence and the darkness of the night. Outside was visible only when some station would momentarily arrive and would pass away. Sometimes in small station the signalman would be visible with green lantern in his hand to allow the train to move away. It was around ten in the night when the train entered a crowded illuminated platform of Allah bad station. Vendors shouting, quick running of the passengers and the cooli’s peeping through the windows of the compartments were all the time conveying that we were in a big railway station. Our dinner plates were to be boarded here only. We got down in the station with the empty bottles to fetch drinking water from the supplying taps. However I was sticking to the window near to my berth. Yes, I was keeping an eye on my bed sheet! I saw the waiter coming with the attendant of our compartment with trays of food staffs.

We all got in and took the dinner plates and we waited to start taking the meal till the train left the station! We were deeply engrossed in eating and enjoying the sound of crossing the bridge! Below was the meeting point of Ganges & Jamuna. Small boats with dim light of the hanging lanterns were visible; the train crossed those boats and the bridge leaving behind the cultural center of Uttar Pradesh! The food was quite sumptuous and with full stomach we were feeling sleepy. I did no longer wanted to hang on and so I took the shelter in my upper bunk and slept over my bed sheet. What a comfort! The whole days tedious journey momentarily went off; I felt some one gripping me with soft and polite touch! Shortly I went into the deep sleep!

The next day in the morning when I got up, I found the other passengers already woke up. I did never had such a marathon sleep earlier! In the watch it was already nine o’ clock! Still I felt to lie down, and unknown dreamy and drowsy feeling was wrapping me! Somehow I opened my eyes and thought a cup of tea would shake me well and would clear my drowsiness. I searched for Asit and saw him smiling and he told “ Hey, Asim, how long will you sleep, come down my friend. Your ‘Uran Khatalo’ does not want to leave you, it appears! My friend, give a look for others also. Come down, a station is approaching. We will have tea.”
I got down from the bunk but placed the bed sheet neatly again. In the morning light the striping of green colors were glittering! Soft, faithful and soothing appearance gave an impression as if it was ready to take to the fairyland! I glanced at Asit; he too was staring avoiding other’s eye! In his look, the same very amazement was playing. Overcoming the hypnotic situation, he shouted for tea for both of us. I went to the window side and sat half erect spreading my legs over the seat. I managed the pillow of Asit and placed it below my waist!
“ Hay, are you going to sleep again here? The left out journey from here to Howrah is not much, you know.

---- “ Is it? Which station is this?” A passerby in the compartment answered, “ It is Josidih”.
Asit jumped out from his seat and said “ Oh, my good God! How funny it is! I completely forgot my aunty stays here! She wanted to come to meet me! She might be searching me! Asim, I will get down to check”.
He hurriedly got down from the train. I comfortably lied down again with half closed eyelids. My eyes were towards my bed sheet and I was feeling dreamy! In that drowsy, dreamy feeling I observed one lady was quickly gathering my bed sheet! I was not believing inside, in the initial stage I thought it was my mind’s error! Perhaps I was all the time scared of loosing, extremely careful, and mentally inseparable from the bed sheet! At the same time I was aware of my present psychic stage and so I did not respond immediately. I found the lady completed her gathering and was about to take turn for getting down; I no longer could allow her to leave the place; I got up from my seat and chased and caught hold of her and asked “ What are you doing? You are taking away my bed sheet! How dare you? Should I hand over you to Police?”

Perhaps that was too much! After all she was an old lady! I should not have been that harsh! She was extremely embarrassed and told with apologetic tone “ Oh, is it so! It is your bed sheet! I am sorry, I did mistake; mine must be in the other bunk! Let me collect and get down.” Other passengers were dam busy and over looked the entire matter; I also did not to continue. I left her and she got down from the train and went away. I returned to the same place and half lied again. I started thinking whether Asit could locate his aunty? Why he was so late? The train would leave any time, what was he doing? Might be that he was already in the other side of the compartment and talking with Bhanu and Swadesh. Deep inside my mind I was having an unknown excitement. After a long period I was returning home! I was eager to meet them all! I knew, how every body would be curious and excited to see my ‘uran khatalo’! I was sure; every body would like to embrace it!

I was feeling proud and happy! Oh my God! It was really shameful; was it really happening or just an error of mind! I saw, in my dreamy and drowsy feeling, a lady was trying to collect my bed sheet! Oh, yes it was the same lady, same way of collecting, same type of movement and same type of posture! I realized it could be a dream only! In fact I was amused inside to read my psychic state of mind! How funny the dream was! The repetition of the same old act! In the dream, I saw the lady hurriedly getting down and the train whistled. It left the platform of Joshidih Railway station. Thus I remained undisturbed and unperturbed!
After a while when the train left the outer signal, I searched for Asit. Where was he? Had he got in? Then I found them all coming with smiling face.

Bhanu with his same way of teasing asked me “ Hello, thief of Baghdad, you have stolen the ‘uran khatalo’ and kept back in the suitcase! You cannot wait any longer! Is it?”

I could not say anything. The upper bunk was empty! The train was running fast leaving behind soon. the long meadows and at times greens of rice plantations! All around there was a joyous mood for autumn festival! The train was whistling as if announcing its arrival
Published: 2008-05-15
Author: The author, Mr. Asimendu Bandopadhyay, uses his free time in writing. He has developed a writing sty

About the author or the publisher
About the author :
The author, Mr. Asimendu Bandopadhyay, uses his free time in writing. He has developed a writing style revealing the bondage of nature and the life. He wants to share & communicate those events of his own with the readers for their valuable feelings and interactions. The author was working as a Director in Geological Survey of India in the last phase of his service career. In his younger days worked in various field of geology with background of foreign training in United Kingdom under United Nations Development Programme Scheme in Marine Exploration. He gathered vast experience both in land and Ocean. Active participation as Chief Scientist in as many as 15 different geological cruises in the Bay of Bengal is in his credit. He took part in search of Fe-Mn nodules cruising 45 days at a stretch in sea in the Indian Ocean in Skandy Surveyor, a Norwegian Research Vessel. Published scientific papers in national and international journals. Besides scientific milieu, came across many human-inhuman experiences. Vast field of Rajasthan, the place of desert and his initial placement in the job ended in the deep sea through majestic happenings covering human feelings and scientific search.

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