By Farheen Qureshi
“If we look into ourselves keenly, there is a Machaam in every one of us. An example of a person who by virtue of its greedy and thankless nature fails himself, his companions and socio-political sphere – He is in you and in me. He is Machaam. He is alive!”
RADIO Kashmir’s famous Kashmiri drama “Sindbad Machama” that came up in the late 1960s has been immensely popular among masses. After “Zoon Dab”, “Sindbad Machama”, a story from a famous series called “Machama” was one of its kinds to entertain the Kashmiri populace back then. This initiative helped broadcast entertainment programs via the medium of radio in pure kashmiri language. The program was later published into a book adding to the shelves of Kashmiri literature.
Pushkar Bhan was born in August 1926 in Srinagar’s Habba Kadal area and died in 2008 but Machaam is still alive. It will live till Kashmiri language lives. The series “Machama” made him win Padma Shree and Sahitya Academy awards. Pushkar Bhan is one of the honoured names in Kashmiri literature. He has contributed in almost every genre; poetry, drama and short stories are few.
‘Machama’ meaning all round best or a mixture of sourness and sweetness is played by its very own scriptwriter Pushkar Bhan who comes out to be the protagonist of the drama.
All the characters in the play are not introduced to listeners in the very beginning but with just a few major ones. Bhan’s two friends Sulla Gota and Rahman Dadda have been equally important in the construction of the plot. We are later introduced to some supernatural elements playing their part in the form of ‘Tua’ – a jinn bacha or Tua’s father, the main jinn played by Shariefudin and Bhansi Raina respectively. We are further introduced to two love-sick jinn hoorie sisters ‘Zingari and Singari’ who keep the play alive. These comic elements have been strong enough to steal the attention of the listeners widely. The interesting thing is how these two female jinn characters are being played by two male voices as Zingari’s voice is actually given by Makhan Lal Saraf and Singari’s voice given by P.L.Handoo shows how radio comes up with talented performers who can perform in a single confined room called ‘studio’ making it feel realistic to the audiences.
The sound effects created in a room, the way a helicopter is hovering, the storm, the waves and a ship in the sea, earthquake in the island is totally spellbinding.
Machama goes to sleep after he is being served a hearty meal by his wife Khatij. The story which starts with Machama’s dream of becoming rich as he falls asleep while reading a book ‘Sindbad-The Sailor’ at bedtime makes him long for a journey with his friends is how Bhan has created the highest form of imagination. The play starts with the journey of three friends towards the island where they are encountered with different characters on the way. Some elements prove to be a stumbling block in reaching their destination while some help them reach the same. Pushkar Bhan has shown how human nature evolves when it comes to materialism. It would be wrong if we compare this feature of human nature to Kashmiri’s only. Greediness is definitely a curse and develops in a human being without asking for caste, creed and community. Bhan has been successful in portraying how humans deteriorate the innocence of the people in other worlds where different creatures have shown their love for them although in an unusual manner. Zingari having fallen in love with Rahmana alias ‘Shogaa’ and Singari in love with Sulla called by her as ‘Bul-Bulla’ is something that humans are unable to realize when obsessed with worldly pleasures. This is where humans misuse their power by virtue of being humans in the land where only love and affection is seen while it’s the King himself who has provided them with all the facilities they require in this journey. Be it a ship, helicopter, ration for one month, servicemen or a signal box, everything is being provided to them. The way the trio is being given a guard of honor while they leave for the island is where we could relate it to the present scenario. The way Machama lectures in the island assigning portfolios to its very own people. His father ‘kaak’ becomes the head of the island while his wife ‘Khatji’ is given the charge of women welfare. It’s where humans try to start their law and order in the place to benefit their own selves and pockets.
Bhan has actually tried his way of showing how hierarchy was in place even in the old times where a layman is corrupted in the process of political machinery as these unusual creatures in the land are being made to act like humans losing their identities behind. Perhaps, it is Bhan’s far sighted vision where he believed in the birth of the elite class that could be seen somewhere in near future exploiting people of their innocence when jinns inform them about the presence of jewels and diamonds in another island creating their strong urge for wealth.
Soon Machama holds the legs of ‘Raakh’ a giant bird into the island of jewels which is introduced to us in the middle part of the drama while Sulla and Rahmana are waiting for him eagerly. The way this obsession for wealth creates a rift between the trios gives us an impression about how greediness could even degrade relationships. Machama leaving the island thinks of grabbing all the wealth by himself while his two friends kill ‘Raakh’ as they think Machama was eaten by the same and reach the island after him who was actually saved by Zingari and Singari from that giant creature.
The story reaches its climax when Machama becomes wealthier than the king and the trio takes to fight as to who would marry King’s daughter although they have their families back home. It’s where the King gets to know about the greedy nature of the three friends and decides to hang all of them. Machama is about to be hung when he opens his eyes and wakes up frightened, desperately shouting to be saved and it’s when he realizes the value of peace and contentment. Bhan has successfully portrayed how obsession takes us to the world where it is full of illusions and makes us forget about the past lovely relationships.
The program has successfully touched all the chords and has created an imprint in the minds of the people all over. The element of satire and sarcasm is totally hypnotic making its audience glued to the radio sets to know the future course of action. The minor characters in the play have given a perfect meaning to what is today called as farce comedy. There are some elements that could have been eliminated which do not help in bringing the action in the plot in any case but adds to the duration of the program which makes it difficult for the listeners as they lose the plot sometimes. Ignoring that part and appreciating the rest of the work is what has made this program worth remembering even after almost 50 years.
The only tribute to Pushkar Bhan is to listen to his prophetic Dramas which reflect today’s socio-political scenario and an individual’s selfishness. Machaam was a character who had many dreams but had limited opportunities to fulfill them. Once he achieves them, he loses everything because of his discontentment and ungrateful nature. If we look into ourselves keenly, there is a Machaam in every one of us. An example of a person who by virtue of its greedy and thankless nature, fails himself, his companions and socio-political sphere – He is in you and in me. He is Machaam. He is alive!
The article is an updated version of a previously published piece by the same author.
- The author is a freelance Journalist
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