|Menaz Ali Khan in Khejuri and a cornet (File picture)
Baharganj (Khejuri), May 25: Menaz Ali Khan has lost his home and hearth, but sitting in a corner of a refugee camp, the 78-year-old laments most about what was closest to his heart — a cornet.
The instrument was looted along with all his other belongings on April 29, when a mob of about 1,000 Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee members raided CPM supporters’ houses at Satengabari and Ranichak in neighbouring Nandigram.
Menaz used to repair umbrellas and locks for a living, and play the cornet in amateur theatre companies.
He was eating puffed rice, sitting in front of his house, when 20 people stormed in. “They started looting our belongings without even caring to look at me,” Menaz said.
He kept his flutes and cornet in an iron trunk. When they went for it, he pleaded them to leave behind the cornet, if nothing else. “As I tried to prevent them from taking the trunk away, a man held the nozzle of his gun against my head,” said the old man, throwing up his hands in helplessness.
Menaz, a CPM supporter, and his wife Nabijaan, 60, took shelter in the Baharganj camp that day.
The couple live alone — their two sons, Maijuddin, 35, and Mansoor, 32, having separated with their wives and the daughters married off.
“We never had any farmland. Menaz earned his living repairing umbrellas and locks. He also played the cornet and the flute well and got calls from theatre and jatra troupes. They fetched him Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000 every year. We repaired our house with the money, bought clothes and paid for our medicines,” said Nabijaan.
“I charged Rs 110 a night to play,” Menaz said with a pride that penury has not been able to rob from him.
The money his music fetched helped him get his daughters married. “I spent around Rs 15,000 on the weddings of Marjina, Serina and Malina.”
The cornet was special to Menaz. “Twenty-four years ago, I went to Calcutta and placed an order for a cornet with a music store, Mondal & Company, near Lalbazar. They got it for me from Meerut. The (ragas) Behag and Bhairavi came out best from this instrument,” said Menaz.
Nandigram police station officer-in-charge Champak Chowdhury said Menaz has visited him several times.
“So many people here have lost all their belongings and are struggling to cope with the loss. But this man… I was amazed... wasn’t bothered about the utensils, clothes and trunks. He only wanted his cornet back. I’ll do my best.”