The Kashmiri drama ‘Muuz’ is written by Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar (Muntazir). The drama is originally written in Kashmiri, thus its title – ‘Muuz’- which means ‘miser’. It revolves around the main protagonist called Nabi Khawaja. Despite being well-off he portrays himself as ‘a born-miser by character’. He tries to save his pocket, even if his own body ends in pain. He has been shown as a highly cautious, witty, and completely narcissist person in the drama. Miserliness is depicted in his every action and deed. He tries to escape wherever he feels that his pocket is at stake. On the other hand, Habi Saeb is a frugal person, due to his poverty, and is compatible with Nabi Khawaja. However, Habi Saeb is an ethical and righteous man. The drama aims to focus on the people in the society like Nabi Khawaja and Habi Saeb. Some are miser in nature while others are thrifty due to their hard-economic conditions. Some are expense-fearing and others are God-fearing. Some ignore the necessities while others are unable to meet their necessities.
Nabi Khawaja sends back money collectors from his home, after some funny illogical but witty answers. His servant, Gul reveals his dream happily where he received Rs. 100 from his master. Nabi Khawaja responded that it shall be deducted from his salary. He becomes very joyful when he hears from his son that he is listening to radio Germany to use German electricity. He then dresses to visit the house of Habi Saeb, a poor bank peon. On his way, he meets a horse seller but freed himself by his creative logical arguments. He meets a group collecting funds for the fencing of a graveyard and got rid of them. He reaches Habi Saeb’s home where after the introduction asks Habi Saeb’s how he manages things well and remarks Habi Saeb as a like-minded friend. He invites Habi Saeb to his home with a greedy request to bring some groceries at his place as those were not available at his locality. On his return home, he receives a letter of warning from the Income Tax Department. He went to complain about the threat letter to the police station but the police expressed their helplessness in this regard. This unexpected answer put him under a great shock and he was hospitalized, where he died.
The plot of the drama starts and ends with the witty and miser methods of Nabi Khawaja. In the beginning, he saves himself from the donations for local masjids. . He escapes from the situation by saying, “Bu Kar tsa:s masheedi” (did you ever see me entering the mosque?) emphasizing that as he never went to the mosque so it’s not his duty to contribute towards the mosque. Moving forward one can find the mindset conflict between Nabi Khawaja and his wife Raja in raising their son Bitu, who is also in the footsteps of his father. However, Raja a soft-spoken, social, and virtuous lady disliked her husband’s approach towards raising children and even stated to her husband, “Khaikh sarney hind Magar daeakh na kinsah kinh” (you expect much from others but does not give anything to anyone). Nabi Khawaja cares about his ‘miser ideology’. When his wife says, “Kapar gaz bachavney khataer chuk palavan adre khal karaan” (to save some patches you undersize the entire garment), h answers back in double-quick time “Mye ma di taeish” (don’t instigate me). It shows Nabi Khawaja’s assertiveness and control over the household and his wife.
Nabi Khawaja’s miserliness was even seen in his dress sense and transport. His market acumen is also highlighted in great detail. His untimed arrival, dramatic talks, and greedy departure portray all shades of Nabi Khawaja’s daring wickedness at a poor man’s house. However, as after every bright day comes a night, the same happened with Nabi Khawaja when he received a letter of warning from the Income Tax Department out of the blue. He ran amuck to the police station for help and proceedings against the Income Tax Department. But all of his hopes went into despair when the police inspector said, “Tsay chuay Income Tax ada karun ti polisas chuna ath seith kihy” (you should pay income tax and the police cannot do anything in this). They were implying that the matter was out of their reach. Within a short while, Nabi Khawaja approached his deathbed, as he immediately fell unconscious and died in the hospital. On the other side, we can see Habi Saeb a poor man’s sensible concern about social evils and imbalances in society. He laments over people’s cold-heartedness and their habit to show off or advertise their so-called kindness. He states that the root cause of his poverty is because “Chusna tso:r karaan ti rishwat mangaan”(I do not steal and ask for a bribe). He cries over the fact that “Javed haz chum tsyonmut boot la:gith sarkari skool gtshan” (Javed wears small shoes and go to government school). This shows Habi Saeb’s concern towards the daily requirements of his family and his financial hardships. Habi Saeb’s wife, Mokhta, is an intelligent woman who in just one instance describes Nabi Khawaja as “yi kotah kha:v chu” and “yi gtssh a:sun kinh thagh” (he is greedy and looks like a thug). She advises her innocent and kind-hearted husband to be aware of these types of cunning people who try to actualize their absurd demands through flattery and artificial grins while ignoring the poverty-stricken circumstances occurring around an ordinary poor man and his family. She is depicted as a lady with a generous approach towards the guests, just like her husband. She is a social lady evident from the fact “Suli sabain payei Mubarakas gtsshtun” (we must go to greet at Mr. Suhail’s home for engagement of his daughter).
The drama revolves around its central character, Nabi Khawaja. His name is a point of interest. The name is a combination of two words Nabi and Khawaja however, both the words are paradoxical. Nabi is a common name, but the suffix ‘Khawaja’ glorifies and makes it extraordinary (Khawaja in English means ‘Lord’). However, the entire personality traits, qualities, values, ideology, and the whole kit and caboodle of Nabi Khawaja is entirely contradictory to his name. He not even once shows an insignia of being an affluent Lord. Miserliness overflows from his character. The way Nabi Khawaja dresses with all sorts of old, patched, and tight clothes gives a perfect picture of a perfect miser. His waistcoat was tight for which he gives this excuse that this tight waistcoat protects me from cold and pneumonia. For his small-cap, he states that it is only a status symbol. The size does not matter. He takes off his shoes and put them in a bag so that his shoes may not get worn out.
He is outstanding in defending his arguments. He is skilled in giving wit-filled answers. He has art to fabricate powerful stories and rationally defend his shortcomings. At times he does not care whether he is defending his words rationally but his concerns are only to safeguard his material interests. Nabi Khawaja can never be played with any sort of tricks and deceits, but he can very easily make other people fall into his web and traps with his word power. His sharp mindfulness scrounges to make him live at ease. The way he passes the horse-seller and the way he keeps bread in his pocket at Habi Saeb’s home specifies that he kept his eyes on the ball and succeeded both times. His long tales can never be avoided. The flow in which he narrates about a condolence ceremony to Habi Saeb shows his power of narration and its use on time. Nabi Khawaja’s audacity is noteworthy. He narrates a story with action and picks up bread and puts it in his pocket despite knowing the awkward facial expression of Habi Saeb and his wife, Mokhta. This shows the cheap, greedy and daring nature of Nabi Khawaja. However, he consoles Habi Saeb on his tearful cry and sympathizes with him. He clearly expresses that despite being prosperous, becomes anxious even when he loses one penny. He further states that losing a rupee makes him lose his appetite. He asks for useful advice from Habi Saeb.
Apart from the two main characters, the drama showcases the stubbornness of volunteers who collect funds in the name of religion. Usually, people find themselves bound when things come in the name of their religion. But, the main character of the drama, Nabi Khawaja, bounded the people who come in the guise of religion, to mark their exit. However, the people referred to as ‘chandi sombran vali’ are full of reasons and causes for the collection of money. Some take in the name of religion, others for poor and needy, while few others for unnecessary social work. Interestingly, they are ready to accept anything from cash to kind, anything, in fact, everything that suits their taste. They waste their time and energy, knock door to door and stop every passer-by on the road without knowing their financial condition. They feel high by being the managers of the locality. However, if they act in a positive way they could have contributed of their own.
The essence of Kashmiri culture and the flavour of cultural originality is depicted in a very sophisticated manner. One could easily get its soft touch if one would go through the lines, even if it’s a quick look. The inclusion of ‘gul dibbae’ (tobacco box), ‘chilim’(chillum), and ‘tmokh’(tobacco) smoke kick the day activity of the common Kashmiri household. Words like ‘chai’(tea) and ‘traem’ (big copper plate) waters everyone’s mouth. ‘Vowguin’ (grass mattress) and ‘masheed’(mosque) indicate the presence of a bygone era. The inclusion of Fateha concept on the death of a loved one and serving of ‘chai’(tea) and ‘halwa-tsoat’(halwa-bread) highlights folk beliefs and social practices.
The central character of the text also depicts superstitious beliefs and folk practices. Nabi Khawaja and his wife Raja, are like-minded in this regard. Nabi Khawaja while walking through a village, as what he says to answer the question of Habi Saeb regarding ‘tang Sadri’ (a tight waistcoat), saw a condolence concluding ceremony but thought to attend as quickly as possible because Saturday night was overhead (it is his folk belief that one should not visit condolence ceremonies on Saturdays). Also, when Nabi Khawaja went to the hospital after receiving the letter from the Income Tax Department, his wife Raja decides to sacrifice a sheep to get him relieved from the trouble. But, Nabi Khawaja advised her not to slay the sheep, giving the logic “Thaowo mujuod, bachay pati kari twam, marway, fatehas bani halwae kari wowam” (you should not waste the sheep, if I live you can sacrifice it later on).
The afore-mentioned statement indicates Nabi Khawaja’s extremist stand on being a full proof miser. The concept of “Balaye ghatshnai duoor” is also a part of the same pie named superstition.
The drama ‘muzi’ is written in an idiomatic and proverbial language. The style of the writing is simple, lucid, and can be comprehended easily. The dialogues are full of wit, humour, and satire. Literature is always filled with idioms and proverbs. Any piece of writing without the use of these antiquities seems prosaic. An idiom refers to the expression that typically presents a figurative, symbolic, and non- literal meaning attached to a phrase. Its figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning. It may contain a piece of advice, an admonition, an expectation, or simply an observation. It adds charm and wit to the writing in which it is employed. On the other hand, a proverb refers to a saying which is associated with a general truth. It usually has a story behind it that presents a significant conclusion, beneficial for posterity. People often learn something valuable as these are being continuously passed on from one generation to another. The use of proverbs makes a piece of literature substantial and applaudable. It adds worth and liberates certain tales that are often unheard of.
Both of these essential literary ornaments have decorated the drama. Nabi Khawaja and Habi Saeb’s language incorporates fascinating idioms and proverbs. Their proverbial and idiomatic language makes the dialogues bright and sparkling. Here are a few examples:
“dachune athuk gtsna khuworas athuk pata” (charity demands secrecy)“nosh lukas kur lukas, nahaq lukas mangey dag” (people worry for others for nothing) “tsshandan viryan manz tang, phirastan mangan laar” (unjustified and illogical desires) “balaai gtsnae duur” (get rid of the problem) “musas ti tsandan kapas” (extracting fish from a dried river)
Humour and satire are the two literary devices that have colossally beautified the writing in terms of language and context. Humour provokes laughter and amuses. It makes the text look comedic and influxes the level of engagement. There are many ways to produce humour- wit, irony, sarcasm, farce, and pun. Humour, whether direct or indirect, can be understood easily. Nabi Khawaja goes on nerves when his wife, Raja calls him a ‘muzi’. He spontaneously encounters by saying “muzi hai chay mol, muzi hai chay bouy” (it is your father and brother who are miser). In defence of the accusations put by her husband, Raja replies “yeli gadyan hartal os, vun kati khaly chani biti guobras jahazaz” (during strike no vehicle was plying on road, would he take your son Bitu on a plane). Nabi Khawaja’s son Bitu amuses with his reply to father on saving electricity as he was listening to the radio “bu chus bozaan radio Germany, taki tatichi Bijli gatsh kharach” (I am listening to radio Germany so that radio will consume german electricity). Nabi Khawaja laments by saying “vhoukil pakaan chus bu ti pareshaan chu gaam” (I walk on foot but it pains the villagers). The people who collect money say “aasi haz chu buth asnavith, prath kinh cheez ratun pyovan” (we have to innocently accept anything given in charity). All these instances made the drama rhetorically amusing.
Satire is a literary device in which vices, abuses, and shortcomings are ridiculed, usually through sarcasm i.e. when words are used to mean opposite of what they actually say. There are two types of satire- Juvenalian and Horatian. The former is less humorous than the latter. Juvenalian satires are bitter, acerbic, pessimistic, and indignant whereas Horatian satires are amusing, witty and indulgent. Following are a few examples of satire used in this drama. “tuhi chou eztiathwali lukh, tawhi kya zarurat chue aachuo manz pan kadaan” (being most respectable persons, you should not expose yourself) and when the horse seller remarks Nabi Khawaja as “tsaki aasi kanh shikas Khawaja” (I think he is a poor lord).
Literature in any of its form does not provide a solution to any social, political, economic, religious, or even psychological problem emerging due to an increase in work pressure, stress, or workload but it does carve out a niche to explore and point out the problems. The drama ‘muzi’ is a blend of literary gems and genres. Humour, satire, idioms, proverbs, phrases, conflict, wits, folk beliefs, culture, superstition, and tragedy look as if the feathers of the same hat. The hat named ‘muzi’. Though the drama has a good quality of humour, it is a satire on social evils and malpractices. The concerns in drama towards the social evils and malpractices are transparent and require subtle attention to grasp. Habi Saeb’s concern about the social mismanagement and irrational approach of social beings is a matter of grave deliberation. Things that are jotted down in theory books and presented as philosophies should be practised in letter and spirit. But, unfortunately, such things are far from people’s attention and consideration. In the present society, people only safeguard their interests at the cost of others. They are ready to vanish others to achieve their ends. Its polemics on miserliness, social isolation, exploitation of needy, superstitious beliefs, and most importantly, on the latest trend of ‘collective begging’. On one hand, the collectors instigate others to give maximum charity while on the other hand are themselves on the backfoot. They think of it as a pride to encroach for charity in front of others. The drama is possessing a sensibility that the practice of asking for money makes a person’s conscience stone-deaf and kills his sense of self-respect. There should be no compulsion. The people should voluntarily contribute for religion and society. The drama depicts that most of the people in society are misers in some or the other way. They are actually more anxious about money than their lives. Interestingly, our society is also populated by those people who pass their time by monitoring others’ movements and activities and are quick in developing false inferences. They mock others’ financial position and look for an opportunity to spill the tea. The exploitation of the poor and needy by knowing their miseries has now become a leisure activity. Thus, the drama ‘MUZI’ presents a far-reaching picture of present-day society through its lines. It explains the gore social realities in a cultured elegance. Its interesting aspects invite our attention.
By: Mohammad Shams Uddoha Khan