Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fable of Kashmiri Beauty (yet) as told by G.T. Vigne

In spite of a somewhat unfavorable opinion expressed by George Forster and a completely malignant opinion expressed by Victor Jacquemont, most travelers who came to Kashmir after them, continued to talk buoyantly about the beauty of Kashmiri women.

Godfrey Thomas Vigne, one of the early English travelers, visited Kashmir in 1835 and made the following comment on the subject of Kashmiri beauty:
“I do not think that the beauty of the Kashmirian women has been overrated. They are, of course, wholly deficient in the graces and fascinations derivable from cultivation and accomplishment; but for mere uneducated eyes, I know of none that surpass those of Kashmir.”
Traveling widely in the region, G.T. Vigne also went to distant and at that time potentially hazardous places like Ghuzni, Kabul, Afghanistan, Ladak and Iskardo. Not only was he a prolific traveler but also a fine travel writer. In his Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardo (1844) he gives a comic description of a chance encounter with three “savage-looking beauties”. On way to Kashmir, somewhere near Banihal, Vigne saw three “savage-looking beauties” and in a moment of artistic inspiration thought that a sketch of these “savage-looking beauties” would look great on paper. He asked his servants to persuade these women to remain quite for a while so that he could sketch them, but to no use. While the servants were still negotiating for silence, the three women ‘took fright, ran off, and climbed some trees with the activity of monkeys from which no money, or assurance of protection, would induce them to come down.’

Recounting another incident, he writes how, while he was putting up at a village retreat, an old snooping village woman kept peeping into his room while he, in a moment of cherished privacy, was going to do his chamber pot. After much warning, guards, with some force, dislodged the old curious woman.

White man and his curious pot must have terribly fascinated the poor lady.

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