Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happiness


'Hata kyo'ho chukh karaan! Hey, what are you doing!'

Village Tulamulla. Outside the Temple. June, 2008.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Memories of Gulmarg



MEMORIES OF GULMARG

O! for the wind in the pine-wood trees

0! for the flowery, scented breeze
In far Gulmarg! in far Gulmarg!

0! for the wealth of flowers so blue
O! for the sound of the ring-dove's coo,

O! for that earth's soft covered breast
The turf my love's footsteps have pressed,

And all the thousand scents which rise
To subtly haunt our memories,

Scents which spring from the very grass

As o'er its velvet growth we pass
In far Gulmarg ! in far Gulmarg !

0! for the babbling brook's clear flow
Dancing from Killan's heights below,

0! for the cold and gleaming snow
Which Apharwat doth proudly show,

And lights and shades which joyous play
On her grey-green slopes all through the day.

O! for the moonlight so serene
As 'thwart the marg she casts her sheen,

O ! for the rainbow tinted vale

Which dream-like fades to vision pale
In far Gulmarg! in far Gulmarg!

Their distant peaks great mountains rear
Pure, shadowy guardians of Kashmir.

And now upon a dreary plain
I wounded lie in aching pain
How far Gulmarg! how far Gulmarg!

But when this pain comes to an end
My soul released swift may it wend

To its true home yonder I know

Instead of Heaven, God let me go,
To far Gulmarg! To far Gulmarg!

~ Muriel A.E. Brown
Chenar Leaves: Poems of Kashmir (1921)

Tv tower and house



Tv tower atop Shankaracharya hill, as seen from Dal gate.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Swimming

Chinar Saplings


 Saplings and Sandbags.
 Khir Bhawani. June 2008.

Wan Raaz Trivikramasen




'Wan Raaz Trivikramasen! Answer King Trivikramasen' Baital needles the king into answering his trick questions in a 1960s (?) Kashmiri production of Baital Pachisi for Radio Kashmir. The popular  radio show was probably based on Kashmirian Somadeva's Vetalapanchavirhsati  in which the hero, the King  is called 'Trivikramasena, the son of Vikramasena' ** but still refers to the semi-legendary Vikrama or Vikramaditya of Jain tradition.

More about  Vetalapanchavirhsati  Here

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dal Boats


Visiting Ahdoos


She stands in front of the wall, looks at the door, stopped, a little confused. She call the waiter over.

'There used to be toilet here! Where did it go?'
'Madam the toilet is now down stairs. This is the...'

She looks around. At the ceiling, at the walls. I look away, miss the last word. I believe the word was 'lift'. Her old legs slowly lead her downstairs.

The little woman must have been in her early Sixties. When we took a table, she was sitting at a nearby table with two men who looked like her sons. They were having a full table, a full meal. Dinner.

 'They are Kashmiris too. Must be Punjabis.You know the business class. Stayed here for generations.'

I know.

She did the ordering. This was her place. The place. She must have been here a lot -"We must try this, the place served  best of this.'

Tea arrived at our table in a metal kettle. Milk. Sugar.We prepare cups of tea.

'They will bring a fresh hot kettle when this one runs cold. Great service! They have the best tea. Try it.'

This is embarrassing but true. As I take the first sip, the taste on my tongue makes me feel like I have never had tea before in my life. 'What leaves do they use? This is almost a new taste.'

'After four in the evening, this place used to be alive with people. They would crawl out of various government offices, in groups, alone and head for Ahdoos. The place would be filled with cigarette smoke. On one table a group would loudly be pro-government. At a nearby table a group would be loudly subversive.  Tea kettles would turn cold and be duly replaced with a hot bellied one. Discussions went on.'

My father remembers. This was Ahdoos.

It's late evening. The table to the left is occupied by two men, in early thirties. Kashmiris. Almost done about to leave. Newspapers on the table. The two are still talking, but both in friendly conceding tone.  I don't notice them leaving.

Waiter arrives with Chicken patties.

' Ah! Chicken patties! Try them'

Chicken is soft, unlike leather and strangely has a taste. It has been minced to butter.

'The size has become smaller. They used to be bigger.'

Waiter smiles a little. Almost detached from his environment, the man was an old fashioned waiter, in his forties, a pencil moustache, he could have been a government employee. 'Would you like to order anything else?'

'Yes, a serving of Gushtaba.'

'Anything to go with it. Rice. Roti.'

'Nothing.'

Waiter comes to life. 'Nothing. Okay. If you had told me earlier that you were going to have Gushtaba I would have kept tea and patties for after.'

'It's okay. And you are right. But who knew?'

'Anything else?'

'No. That's it'

'Soon.'

Father looks at me and say, 'We will be having dinner with the rest at the hotel. They won't be pleased to know that we came here without them. Hotel owner has been specially asked to prepare a non-veg dinner tonight. So we can't have anything heavy. But Gushtaba will do'

Will more than do.

We  were soon digging into those soft meatballs called Gushtab. Dense and Delightful. Stupendous. Before leaving we ordered another serving, around twelve balls, for the folks back at the hotel. To return empty handed from Ahdoos would have been unforgivable.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cinema Hall of Kashmir

The mini-van entered city limit, someone inside mentioned Khayyam. Soon they were off rattling mesmerizing names and old tales of visiting this of that theater of Kashmir. They mentioned:

Broadway near the Army cantonment area,
Neelam at the back of the Civil Secretariat,
Shiraaz at Khanyaar,
Palladium and Regal at Lal Chowk, 
Naaz near Iqbal Park,
Shah in Qamarwari,
Firdaus in Hamwal,
Khayyam near the chowk of same name.
Then there was:
Heaven/Hewaan in Anantnag,
Thimaya in Baramula,
and Samad/Summer Talkies in Sopore.

-0-

Kapra in Sopore
Amrish/Regal Talkies at Residency Road:
Regina cinema of Baramulla
Marazi cinema in Kupwara
Heemal at Handwara
Nishat at Anantnag
Zorawar Theater on Srinagar-Baramulla Highway near Pattan,
run by army

These thanks to commenters (see below). Now the total is about 19.
-0-
Image: Remains of Palladium Cinema Hall, Lal Chowk, Srinagar. June, 2008. Burnt down in 1992.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Jackie


As bombs burst outside,
faint-hearted Jakie ran inside.
Her ears couldn't bear the sound.
Diwali is always loud.
It was, even in Kashmir.
She ran for her life.
Crossing vot,
she made an instinctive dash
for the safest place in the house.
Eyes and some legs followed her.
Jackie ran for thokur-kuth.
The God room, the holy kitchen.
Among the framed family portraits of smiling gods
from the Himalayas, Plains and the Heaven,
Jackie stood moaning right next to the unlit
(but still warm for autumn night) daan.
Howling.
A canine inside a Hindu Kitchen.
'Jackie isn't very fond of Diwali. Jakie went mad.'
They were all now laughing.
Jakie was led out of  the Kitchen.
But nothing could make her come out of the house.
(Weak-hearted Jackie)
So she stayed inside all that night.
'Tomorrow, she may go back to roaming the streets.'
Old lady of the house again cleaned the Kitchen.
Poured water and swept the floor
Purified.
A diya still burning in front of gods. She bolted the door shut.

'You weren't born when this happened.'
I heard this story, every Diwali, every year,
while I was growing up not in that house.
'Jackie must have died a year or two after you were born.
She used to play with you.
You wouldn't remember that (do you)!
Killed.
Someone from the neighborhood fed her something.
A needle in her throat.'

And then the post scripts.

'Then when your sister was born, around that time, we took in a dog.'

I remember the litters. The dog was really shy.

-0-

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Akhbaar


July, 2009

'Sarkar  gir gai! Sarkar  gir gai! The government has fallen!'

At Amira Kadal, a young newspaper vendor was screaming at the top of his voice. The paper was selling briskly. Only paces away from him, on the same pavement, a distraught looking old man, another newspaper vendor, was trying to grab the attention of faceless morning crowd. He was beating the palm of his one hand on his head while the other hand was pointed towards his young competitor.

'Ha yemis kya sa gao! Ha yemis ha'sa niyn ra'tith! What is wrong with him? They will get him! The government hasn't fallen. He is lying through his teeth. Look at him. Stop him.'

People kept walking. He competitor kept making the pitch.

Previous day, the Chief Minister of the state, amid an uproar, had angrily walked out of the assembly house and later submitted his resignation. The resignation was rejected by the governor and the government did not fall.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On way, Baltal via Sonamarg

Views on way to Baltal via Sonamarg
July 2009.



Baltal Thajwas Wildlife Sanctuary



A small Fishery




White water rafting in Sindh River

White water

Sindh


-0-
Shared by my father.

Birch tree, Burza


A Birch tree (called Burz'e Kul) at Sonamarg.

A 'murder' atop Birch tree.
(Murder, that's what a group of crows is called) These mountain crows are known as 'De'v Kaw' or 'god crow'. (more of them later)

Birch bark or Burza. In old days, when there was no paper, Birch was used for writing. A lot of ancient Kashmiri manuscripts are preserved on burza. [Restoration of these works]
-0-

Tchir Tchot


Made from rice flour. Get its name because of the Tchir or sizzling sound that it makes on the tava (or Taaw, in Kashmir) while being prepared. I like to have it in the morning with a cup of Kahwa.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kagazi Doon/ Paper Walnut


This variety are called Kagazi because its shell is supposed to be thin as paper and hence easy to break.

Makes a great chutney with green chilly and curd.


According to Kashmiri pandits, the four kernels of Walnut represent the four vedas.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Jajeer

The thing that goes: good good good

A Kashmiri with his Hookah.

If he coughs, he takes another drag. 'It is good. Relieves the cough. Clears the chest. Just like a medicine.' Takes another drag. Good Good Good.

-0-

Jahamuk tamok
Tobacco from Jaham (ie, splendid tobacco).
Jaham tobacco is said to be the finest in the valley
- A Dictionary Of Kashmiri Proverbs and Sayings
(1885)
J. H. Knowles
-0-

Photographs are by my father.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Smudgeler

An old angrez, all the way from England, had come to inspect the Biscoe school. Boys from different classes were gathered in a hall and the guy would ask them  various questions. In variable the question that gets asked is: What do you want to become? So after he asked this question to a bunch of boys, each time nodding his approval appreciating there replies - A Doctor, A Scientist, An Engineers, IAS, KAS, A Minister, A Lawyer, An Actor, A Singer - almost contend, other teachers wearing a proud smile, old geese stopped in front of a young boy who looked like he may have prepared and practiced his answer for days. This was his big day when the world will know.

'What do you want to become when you grow up, Young Man?'
'Sir, I was to become a big Smudgeler when I grow up.'
'Goo...what?Sorry son, I didn't catch your reply'
'Sir, I was to become a big Smudgeler when I grow up.'
 'A Smudgeler!'
'Yes, Sir'
The faces of teachers, looking at the baffled face of Angrez, went through a range of emotions, Surprise, Dumbstruck, Shocked, Angry, Refaced, Embarrassed, 'What-did-he-say' look, wait-till-I-get-my-hand-on- you' Look.
Old Englishman asked around,'Can someone tell me what he wants to become? What the hell is a Smudgeler?" The faces of all teacher changed to 'Could-you-repeat-the-question?' look. Then an idea struck the Angreaz (but the teacher later claimed they all got the idea simultaneously). He walked the boy to the blackboard, handed him a chalk and asked him to right it down. The boy, shocked at their stupidity, confidently screeched away on the blackboar, in bold letter, the word -
S M U G G L E R.
Turning around he again spoke the word aloud in his mind: smuGG LER.

As he began to write each letter, some of them began to suspect but and then the word hit them. When the boy turned around with a 'I-am-right.' look (which the teachers read as 'Now-you-know' look) the full force of the words, each letter, hit them. It was the era of Haji Mastans whose great exploits were regularly  in those films made in Bombay. The boy wanted to be a smuggler. Principal wished the earth to swallow him whole or at least let him bury his face into it. He did not want to face the Englishman. At least he got the spelling right, no one can fault the  school for that. Angrez turned around and asked, ' Mr. Principal, now can you tell me what is this Smudgel that this gent here wants to smuggle into Kashmir?

-0-
A cousin shared this funny story that apparently did take place for real.
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