Sunday, October 3, 2010

Strange case of Mrs. Aziza

Trusting for some means of escape when the hour had approached, and with a brief command not to create any delicacy that could not be made to get comfortably on my small dish, I tried to improve my acquaintance with the female portion of my crew. My task was not easy, for Mrs. Assiza suffered from shyness and a complete ignorance of all languages save Kashmirian; but I was able, as I tried to make myself understood, to admire her clear, rose-tinted, olive skin, the straight nose and brows, and the fine, brown eyes, set off by the tiny read cap worn under the homespun head-covering folded squarely on the head. The universal frock of puttoo disguised effectively her figure, but the short sleeves turned back with white displayed her well-firmed arms, and the brevity of her “pheran” showed her splendidly-developed calves. Good-looking and strong, like most of her compatriots, the little lady was well up to taking paddle or steering the boat, and during the day worked the long, heavy wooden pestle with astonishing energy as she crushed the grain in her wooden mortar with long, regular movements. The child toddled up to say, “Salaam, Sahib,” nearly falling over its toes in its efforts to bow with reverence and elegance, while clutching tightly a bunch of great purple iris, recently gathered from a Mahomedan graveyard, covering the whole of a small mound near by.

The passage and the photograph is taken from the book ‘Afoot Through the Kashmir Valleys’ (1901) by Marion Doughty. Everything is fine with the Sahib’s description except from one minor detail that can be observed in the accompanying fine photograph of beautiful Mrs. Assiza. The pheran that Assiza is wearing has a fold at the lower end below the knee. The fold is called laad’th and is unique to the pheran of Kashmiri Pandit woman. Even though on first glance the dresses of all Kashmiris may seem same, there were always some distinct differences between the dressings of the two communities. Kashmiri Muslim woman never wear a pheran with laad’th. The actual name of the woman is not given, she is just the wife of one Mr. Aziza, boatman of the writer. In fact that name should be Aziz, Kashmiris tend to add an a at the end of the name when calling out for a person, more so if the name happens to be Aziz.

So what were you writing Memsaab and what's the story of Mrs. Aziza.

1 comment:

  1. I have come to the conclusion that maybe relying on ladh isn't the best way to differentiate between Pandit Pheren and Muslim Pheran of Kashmiri women. Pandits do use it as a differentiating feature but maybe this differentiation only cropped up in previous half-century of so. So this is a photograph of Mrs. Aziza with a Laad Pheran.

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