Synopsis: The story depicts a very poor boy (4–5 years of age), Hamid, who lives with his Dadi (grandmother) Amina. Hamid, the protagonist of the story, has lost his parents. His aged grandmother Amina fulfills their daily needs by doing some needle work for others. His Dadi (grandmother) has told him that very soon his father and mother will return home with lots of money, sweets and gifts for him from the house of Allah. He is full of hope and happily awaiting that day.
The story begins on Eid (festival) morning, poor Hamid doesn’t have new clothes or shoes like other children. He has only three paise (very little money) as Idi for the festival, to spend in a fair. His friends spend their pocket money on rides, candies and buying beautiful colourful clay toys (Bhishti, lawyer, policeman and a milkmaid). Hamid dismisses this as a waste of money for momentary pleasure. While his friends are enjoying themselves, he overcomes his temptation and goes to a hardware shop to buy a chimta (pair of tongs). He remembers how his Dadi burns her hand while cooking rotis (Indian flat bread).
The story ends on a touching note when Hamid gifts the chimta to his Dadi. At first she is shocked and annoyed by his stupidity that instead of eating anything or buying any toy at the fair, he has purchased a chimta. But then Hamid reminds her of how she burns her fingers daily, while making rotis. She bursts into tears at this and blesses him for his kindness.
Idgah – Complete Story
Id has come a full thirty days after Ramzan. What a beautiful morning it is! The green fields, the blue sky, the dazzling sunshine, all seem to be celebrating the advent of Id.
The entire village is full of hustle and bustle. Preparations to go to the Idgah are in full swing. Someone’s kurta lacks a button. He runs to his neighbour’s house to borrow a needle and thread. Someone else’s leather shoes have grown too hard to wear. He runs to the oil press for some oil to grease and soften the leather. The bullocks are being hastily given their fodder because it will be afternoon by the time folks return from the Idgah. It is a good three miles from the village, to say nothing of the time that will be taken in meeting and chatting with scores of people.
The boys are the most excited. Some of them had fasted once, during the month of Ramzan, but only till noon. Others hadn’t even done that. But it did not matter. Fasts were for the aged. For youngsters, Id was the important thing and today the long-awaited day had finally arrived. Why wasn’t everyone hurrying to go to the Idgah The boys didn’t care if there was milk and sugar in the house to cook seviyan, the Id speciality. They were only concerned with eating it!
They jingled the coins in their pockets, took them out to count them and replaced them joyfully. Mehmood had twelve pice. Mohsin had fifteen ! with this treasure they were going to buy countless things – toys, sweets bugles, balls and what not. The happiest boy of all was Hamid. He was a poor ill-clad, skinny child of four or five whose father had died last year of cholera, and whose mother had wasted away and died of God knows what disease. Now Hamid slept in the lap of his old grandmother Amena and was as happy as he had always been. He believed his father would return with sackfuls of money. His mother, who had gone to Allah’s abode, would come back with the loveliest gifts for Hamid. Then he will have much more than Mohsin, Noorey and Sammi !
Hamid runs into the house and tells his grandmother not to worry. He will be among the first to return from the Idgah. Amena’s heart is aching. How can she let her little one go alone? What if he gets lost? How will a mite like him trudge three miles barefoot? she cannot go with him. A poor woman like her has yet to collect the ingredients for making seviyan. And borrowing takes much more time than buying. The villagers finally leave for the Idgah, the children running ahead.
Hamid is with them. Closer to the town, they walk past the houses and the gardens of the rich, the law court, the college, the club, the police station, all viewed by the children with the greatest curiosity. As they approach the Idgah, they catch up with other groups of people heading the same way, people in tongas, people in cars, people on foot, all brightly deressed and agog with anticipation.
Suddenly they spot the Idgah. It is shaded by tamarind trees and its cemented floor is covered with sheets. There are rows upon rows of worshippers stretching well beyond the courtyard of the mosque. Along with other newcomers, the people from Hamid’s village take their place in the back rows, after washing their hands and feet. Wealth and status do not matter here. In the eyes of Allah, all men are equal. What a beautiful sight it is – the simultaneous bowing of thousands of heads in prayer. So many worshippers standing erect together, then bowing down together and sitting on their knees. What an awe – inspiring and heart – warming sight it is!
The namaz is over, people meet and embrace each other. Then they head for the toy shops and the sweet shops. The villagers are as excited as little children. One pice for a ride on the swing, taking you up into the air, then hurling you down to earth. And one pice for twenty-five rides on the roundabout. Mehmood, Mohsin, Noorey and Sammi climb on to the wooden horses and camels and go round and round joyfully. Hamid stands apart. He has only three pice. He cannot afford to spend one-third to his precious money on a mere roundabout.
His friends dismount and run across to the row of toy shops. Mehmood buys a soldier in a khaki uniform and red turban, with a rifle on his shoulder, ready for action. Mohsin buys a smiling water-carrier, ready to sprinkle water on dusty roads. Noorey acquires a lawyer. How impressive he seems attired in a black gown, with a gold watchchain and a fat law book in his hand. Sammi buys a sturdy washerwoman.
All these toys cost two pice each, too expensive for Hamid to buy. They are only of clay, he tells his friends “One fall and they’ll break”. Yet he looks at the toys with envious eyes and wants to play with them. But boys are not very generous, especially when their toys are new, Hamid’s desire remains unfulfilled. From the toy shops, the boys move to the shops selling mithai. Here one of the boys buys reweries, the other buys gulab–jamuns and a third buys sohan halwa. Hamid buys nothing. He has only three pice to spend. But he cannot help eyeing the sweets in the hands of his friends. “Here Hamid” says Mohsin, have some of my reweries.” He stretches out his hand Mohsin pops the reweries into his own mouth and smirks. The others laugh. Hamid is crestfallen.
After the mithai shops are some hardware stores and some shops selling jewellery. The boys are not attracted to these. They move on. But Hamid stops before a pile of chimtas, iron tongs. His grandmother doesn’t have a pair of tongs. Each time she makes chapatis, she burns her fingers. How happy she will be if he buys a pair of tongs for her! There will be one useful thing in the house. Toys are worthless in comparison. You tire of them or they get broken.
Hamid looks at his friends who are all drinking sherbet at a nearby stall. How greedy they are! They have eaten so many sweets and not even given me one. And then they say, ‘Play with us, do this for us, do that for us’. Now I’ll see how anyone asks me to do anything ! Let them eat their sweets. They’ll break out in boils, and pimples. I won’t. When Amma sees the chimta I have bought for her, she will shower me with a thousand blessings. She will run and show the chimta to our neighbours. The whole village will talk about it. Everyone will say, “What a good boy Hamid is” ! If these boys want to laugh at me for buying a chimta, let them. when Abbajan and Ammi come with lots of toys and sweets then I’ll be the one who will laugh.
Hamid asks the shopkeeper, “How much is this chimta”? “Six Pice”, is the reply. Hamid’s heart sinks but he says boldly, “Three pice, Take it or leave it” To his surprise, the shopkeeper gives the chimta to him. Hamid struts up to his friends with the chimta on his shoulder.
“What will you do with this, you fool ?” laughs Mohsin, Hamid flings his tongs on the ground and challenges Mohsin to throw down his clay water carrier in the same way. Mohsin cannot. The toy will break. “Do you think this chimta is some kind of toy?” sneers Mehmood. “Why not ?” says Hamid, put it on your shoulder, it becomes a gun. Hold it in your hand, it becomes the tongs singing fakirs use instead of cymbals.
One hit from my chimta and all yours toys will break. But none of them can harm my lion- hearted warrior !” Sammi is impressed. He offers to exchage the tambourine he bought for eight pice with Hamid’s tongs. But Hamid refuses. His tongs have fascinated all the boys. But what can they do ? They have no money left, and anyway, it is time to return home. Hamid is a clever fellow ! Now his friends know why he didn’t spend his money earlier.
“Your chimta can’t fill water like my water carrier can!” says Mohsin desperately trying to regain his superiority. “One shout from my tongs and your water- carrier will come running to his door,” asserts Hamid. Mohsin has no answer. Mehmood comes to his rescue, “What if we get caught for doing something wrong ? We’ll definitely need Noorey’s lawyer then.” For a moment Hamid is nonplussed. Then he says, “But who will arrest us ?” Mehmood’s soldier will,” says Noorey confidently. “That poor creature ?” Hamid’s tone is scornful, “Come on then let’s see who is stronger- My chimta or Mehmood’s soldier !” Mehmood is defeated but he tries again, “Your chimta will burn his face in the fire everyday,” he jeers at Hamid.
“So what” says Hamid promptly, “Only the courageous can jump into a fire. Your toys will hide in the house.” Mehmood tries again, “Our lawyer will sit in style on a chair. Your tongs will only lie on the kitchen floor” “My tongs won’t lie on the floor, They’II knock your lawyer down and stuff his law down his throat !” Hamid’s rejoinder is rather wild but somehow it clears the field for him. Now no one has anything to say. Hamid’s chimta is the undisputed champion. They boys are anxious to handle the champion. In exchange they offer their toys to Hamid for his examination. What beautiful toys they are ! “I was only pulling your leg”, says Hamid. “How can a pair of tongs compare with such life – like toys ?”
But the boys are not convinced. No one, not even Hamid, can now challenge the superiority of the tongs. On the way home, Mehmood feels hungry, His father buys him bananas. He shares them only with Hamid. It is eleven O’Clock. Those who had gone to the Idgah have just returned. The village is agog with excitement. Mohsin’s younger sister runs to him and grabs the water carrier from his hand. As she jumps for joy, the toy slips from her grasp, falls and breaks into pieces Brother and sister come to blows. Both howl. Both are smacked by their angry mother.
Noorey fixes a seat for his lawyer, seats him on it and fans him with a bamboo leaf. Is it a gust of wind or a blow from the fan that throws the lawyer to the ground ? That is the end of him. Mehmood’s soldier survives but manages to break a leg while guarding the village. Mehmood breaks his other leg so that the poor man can at least sit and do his duty in comfort. Hamid’s grandmother Amena runs to him as soon as she hears his voice and takes him lovingly in her lap. She is startled to see the tongs. Hamid tells her he bought the tongs for three pice.
What a peculiar child ! He remained hungry and thirsty the whole morning and all he could find to buy was a pair of tongs ! She upbraids him for his foolishness. Hamid’s feelings are hurt. In an injured voice he says, ‘Every day you burn your fingers while making chapatis. That is why I bought the chimta for you.”
Amena’s annoyance melts into love. A love so deep that it cannot be expressed in words. To think that a little child could be so selfless, so generous ! How must he have felt when he saw his friends enjoying themselves ! In the midst or all that festivity, he still thought of his old grandmother.
Amena breaks down and weeps. It is strange ! Hamid the little boy had become Hamid the adult. Now Amena the old women has become Amena the child. Tears fall unceasingly from her eyes as she blesses Hamid a thousand times ! Little Hamid ! How can he understand the storm of emotions in Amena’s heart.