Sunday, November 21, 2010

Playing an ancient game with Haar'e

She walked away from the dark crowded room that was drowning in screams of game induced frenzy. Shivratri was days away and people of the house had already been playing the game for weeks now. In the room on the third floor, young boys were standing in the outer circle as the old men in center rolled shells and prayed for luck. The legend, the old man of the house, much to the amusement of the young and learning, was rolling a big hand of Cowries. It was a win all-lose all situation. The old man filled both his hands with Cowries, without giving the shells a shake, even though his big hand could still easy manage it, with an easy flick action he threw the shells down on the floor. As the shells rolled, tossed and turned on the smooth mud floor, old man bent his head down, he was  going to lose, his experience told him that much, rest what he did was all instinct, his eyes locked onto a shell, still rolling- but it was going to be a Slit, he needed a Mount for Quin, old man's will dropped down on the shell, sitting on his two feet like a giant bird, he put his mouth near the shell that had almost stopped in a Slit and screamed his lungs out. He screamed out the words, his war-cry: Cht'ye Pat'e Tekri Astin'da.
Like a miracle, the shell turned, one more time. A Mount. It was Quin complete. He won. Wild celebrations broke out. Cht'ye Pat'e Tekri Astin'daCht'ye Pat'e Tekri Astin'da. Most of the old onlookers had a look of astonishment, the old timers were still astonished by this trick. They would have wanted to discuss if it was fair play. But the young saw it as a fete, a miraculous win. They were screaming with joy.

The young bride walked away from the dark crowded room that was drowning in screams of this game induced frenzy. She heard the young singing a strange song. She had her own song to sing. And old song. She walked to the big window, took in the sight, it was still a new sight, this was going to be her new house and new family, the house was old, its mores still older. She looked down to the street, the sight of her on the window had already started a motion down on the street. Young kids of the neighborhood, poor old urchins, all Muslims were gathering. She smiled. She reached for the inside of the fancy little bag that she was carrying in her one hand. She took out Haar'e from the bag that she had brought with her from her father's house, a bagful of Haar'e just for this day. She filled her hand with Haar'e and started to throw them down on the street. They say in the old days these shells were the currency, the money. While she showered Haar'e down on the street and onto the lapping crowd of little boys, she sang:

Baz'e Chek'e Haar'e Ma'e
Yus Tul'e
Tsu'e Pa'helwaan


For the Eagles
I sprinkle these Cowries
The one who picks them
the one be a strong man

-0-

How to Play with Haar'e/ Haran Gindun



Objective: Take all the shells of your opponents.

Number of players: No limit.

Start: At the start all players contribute a fixed number of shells (usually four) each to form a pool of playable shells for the round. The unit that each player contributes is known as Tchakh. When the playable shells are finished each player again contributes his share of Tchakh till he or she can no longer offer any and hence is out of the game.

First turn: To decide who will throw first a special throw of shells is arranged. Each player contributes a special, uniquely identifiable shell, say a shell with a broken edge or a hole. This shell is known as Botul. To decide who will go first, players take turns to roll the collected Botuls. You win the right to go first if your Botul stands out. The entire game is about shells standing out. A stand out would typically mean that all the other shells are in Mount state and your shell is in Slit state or vice versa.

In the scenario presented in the above image we can say that the owner of the shell with the hole can go first. his Botul won. The next turn may be decided in the same way or you can choose to have turns clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Each Botul is returned to its respective owner. And the play begins.

Play: Each player takes turns to roll the shells.

There is no particular way to throw the shells, only rule is do not obviously turn the shell for your benefit.

The outcome of the each turn, whether you won or won nothing, is based how the shells turned, whether you turned a certain number of shells to Mount state or Slit state.


In the above scenario the player rolling the shells got one shell in Slit state and rest all in Mount State. This is the best possible scenario. It is known a Quin. The scenario in which one shell is in Mount State and all the rest are in Slit state is also a Quin. The player wins all the shells on the floor. In this case eight shells. Other players pool more shells based on the pre-decided quantity of Tchakh. The turn of the winner continues and the the game continues. If the player had turned one more shell to Slit, he could have only picked two shells.


In the above scenario the player threw a dud, all the shells are in Mount state. This is known a Tsooyt.


The above scenario is also a Tsooyt as all the shells turned Slit.


In case of Tsooyt the player does not get to pick up any shells from the floor and the turn passes onto the next player.



In the above scenario player got three eyes or To'l Tr'y - three slits. The player loses. If it had been four Slits, he could have picked four shells and the turn (Baaz in Kashmiri or Baazi in Hindustani ) would have shifted to the next player.


Another To'l Tr'y scenario. Three Mounts and rest are Slits. One more mount and he could have picked four shells. And so the game goes one until everyone else has lost all his shells and you are sitting on a huge pile of shells.

In this way, a good game of Haar'e is played and enjoyed.

Also, if one finds the rules too tough to follow, or if one is looking for some simple fun with Shells. One can also play with them like this:

Hit the Shell to claim it.
-0-

Vinayak Razdan is a Game Developer.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An August Day in Kashmir. 1938.




September 3, 1938. The Indian Express.

September 2, 1938. The Indian Express.

August 31, 1938. The Indian Express.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kashmir of Lawrence, 1889 to 1895

Walter Rooper Lawrence was the Land settlement officer in Kashmir from 1889 to 1895. In all he spent just about six years in Kashmir but from his mammoth tome on Kashmir, a classic simply titled 'Valley of Kashmir' (1895), those years seem to have been well spent taking in Kashmir in all its glory and with all its warts. These were years that he relished all his life, a reason why to Charles Dickens' daughter, an old lady already and an acquittance of his, he would say that he would like to live his life all over again. In his later year book 'The India We Served' (1928), a book much less often read and remembered, talking about Kashmir that was at a crossroad of modernity, changing to modern times, changing forever, he writes:
"It is difficult for me to write about Kashmir, for I have already written a large book on the subject, and just as one scorns to take ideas and advice from one's own family, so still less can I condescend to quote from "The Valley of Kashmir." But to live six splendid years in that valley, unspoiled by railways and roads, innocent of factories and coal, and long streets and concrete houses, sleeping in boats or in tents always pitched on green turf under the shade of plane or walnut trees, and always within sound of running, singing water that is a life to live over again. Such a climate, with the sun at its best ! The Capital is well named the City of the Sun, for summer or winter the sun smiles and sparkles in Kashmir. The air is no mere compound of gas, but a blend of dance and laughter, smiling even in drear December when the temperature is below zero: is blue, like the sapphires from Zanskar, but I never knew whether the blue came from the sky or from the rivers and lakes, or from the iris, which is the flower of the valley. And from each of the countless valleys which pass on the waters of the encircling snow range to the fabulous Hydaspes, there is the view of the naked majesty of Nanga Parbat, and the sheen of jagged Haramukh, which seemed to be always to the north. The Easterns have known the magic of Kashmir for centuries. The Moguls knew it, but Kashmir, like Corinth, was not approachable by everyone, and, though twice I have heard august consent given to the making of a railway, the tutelary divinities of this happy valley have intervened. Since I last saw Kashmir, roads have been made, and motor cars now run. But I doubt if even a railway could rob the valley of its strange and unique charm. I have said all I can say of its colour, its flowers and its fruits, and in the days when I first visited Kashmir, the only jarring note the censorious critic could hazard was that the people were Kashmiris."
In his words, words that might now be branded 'colonial', he did give Kashmiris a good character certificate - decent people, at time too wrapped up working up a subterfuge,who were who they were, god-fearing hardworking folks, in-spite of all the sufferings that they had had to suffer. He made an interesting observation that might still ring true:
"I have given my testimony regarding the Kashmiris in "The Valley of Kashmir." It was the Fashion to say hard words of them, but none, English or Indian, who berated the Kashmiris, knew anything about the villages, and it was only fair that I should say what I could ; and six years continuous camping in the valley gave me opportunities for forming an opinion."
This is the Kashmir that he saw. Photographs from the book 'Valley of Kashmir' (1895). These were taken by Major Hepburn, Captain Allan, Captain Godfrey and Alam Chand, the State photographer.

A group of Kashmiris.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seekh Tuj




Roasted Meat 'Seekh Tuj' being sold in Srinagar. November 2010. Often its the meat from brain.

Conversation veered to the subject of 'Bod Cheer' and 'Lokut Cheer'.
'Bod Cheer' or the Big Cut is the word used for Beef, more popular in countryside and 'Lokut Cheer' or the Small Cut is the word used for the other meats, obviously discounting pork.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Panjayeeb G'aaer



Roasting



Panjayeeb G'aaer or Punjabi Singhara (Water Chest Nuts) being sold in Srinagar. Srinagar, Nov 2010.

-0-

Gari gojih.

(Like) the kernel of a water-chestnut (singharah).

A Kashmiri curse, meaning " May your eyes start out of your
head through trouble and sorrow." Also when a person is not sharp
at finding any thing, another person will sometimes say, " You, gari
gojih, can't you see it?"

~ from 'A Dictionary of Kashmiri Proverbs and Sayings' by James Hinton Knowles (1885).

-0-

Aych che ya gari gojih.

Kashmiri Masala Ad, 1948


March 22, 1948. The Indian Express.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Selling Hogaad and Pulses


A cart full of pulses and Hogaad, dried fish. Srinagar, November, 2010.
-0-

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Furries or the smoked fish

Smoked Fish, locally called Furrie sold at a roadside stall in Srinagar. Anathema in traditional view of Kashmiri Pandits because grass is used to prepare the fish.

The interesting thing in this photograph, that I now notice, in the bottom left corner, is the sight of a cut at the corner empty thrown away packet of Shikhar, a brand of Gutkha ( a mix of betel nut, tobacco, catechu, lime and some other things) popular in North India; a common coat for road in the North. But in Kashmir! Migrant workers? Too many Security Men? New generation? New Age? Integration? Assimilation?

Interesting, both Furries and Gutkha are linked to Cancer.

Aanchoor

Fried Aanchar or Aanchor sold at a roadside stall in Srinagar, October, 2010
A delicacy more popular among Kashmiri Muslims than among Kashmiri Pandits.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kashmir in 1945

The following photographs of Kashmir were shot in 1945 by an American serviceman named Robert Keagle who was posted in Calcutta and Burma during World War 2. I came across the collection at the online archive of Digital South Asia Library, a project of the Center for Research Libraries and the University of Chicago. Besides Kashmir, Keagle Photograph collection also offers photographs of Calcutta and Burma. Here we will take a look at his Kashmir collection only, you can check the entire collection here


Some of the photographs in the  collection are quite unique - like the one of a street and a  market scene of sub-urban Srinagar of  1945.


"Srinagar street scene". 1945.
It looks like a typical Tang'adda or the Tonga Station. In the background one can see the houses (with roof tops covered with, not iris ) and a 'Cheap John' Paper Mache shop to the right. 


The building may not have green cover anymore but these structures can still be seen in Srinagar and the word 'cheap' still retains its charm in Kashmir. 
[The place captured above is Dal Gate Tang Adda (picked up this info. from wallpost of folks sharing this photo on Facebook)]


A 'Cheap Ways' provision Store, 2008.


Stores. 1945
A Tailor Shop, 2008


"Hindu temple and associated tank, Srinagar, Kashmir, 1945"
Some of the Photographs are even intriguing like the photograph of a Hindu temple in Kashmir which I can't identify and whose architecture looks new age ( Plaster-of-Paris Apsaras at the door!) even though it seems to have been built based on traditional Kashmiri Temple style - a water Tank up-front. 

Update On Above image:

The above temple most probably is not from Kashmir. [For more check this post on Gadadhar Temple Jammu]

The above image may in fact be of a Jain temple in Calcutta. Found a structurally similar temple in an article about old images of Raj days found recently in a shoebox.


A Jain temple complex in Calcutta.

[ Update:  That photograph is indeed of the Jain temple in Calcutta. Check photo-essay of India in Life Magazine published in 1942.
Sikh enjoying hookah. 1945.
A Kashmiri Muslim with  Hookah is identified as a Sikh ( sight of a Sikh inhaling tobacco should have been even more rare back then).  In caption to another photograph, this one of a rickshaw stand, the place is identified as Srinagar, Kashmir. One look at that image and the people in that image, you too would have your doubts. Unless Kashmir had Bangladeshi rickshaw puller back then. I think this photograph was actually taken in Calcutta and mistakenly captioned as Kashmir.


"Public transport rickshaws await passengers, Srinigar, Kashmir, 1945"
In spite of these goof-ups, the photographs are a pure delight.


"Fishermen standing up in boats with spears, Srinigar, Kashmir, 1945"
"Scene in Srinigar, Kashmir, 1945"
That view panning Fateh Kadal, Jehlum's Third Bridge. Electrical wires make their debut and once they come into picture, they never go away.


"View across city of Srinigar, Kashmir, 1945"
In the background one can see the Mughal fort Afghan fort (build by Atta Ullah Khan, the Afghan Governor in 1808 ) atop Hari Parbat.


And atop the fort, a cannon.


"Guards at old fort in Srinigar demonstrate how ancient cannon was loaded to be fired. Srinigar, Kashmir, 1945."


"Sikh guard poses with vintage rifle, Srinigar, Kashmir, 1945"
Keagle, as a serviceman must have taken special interest in these armed photographs. There are more than a couple photographs of this Sikh guard offering various military poses to the photographer. Yet, natural beauty and this martial beauty, wasn't the only thing he captured in Kashmir. 




"Four young women, dressed in their finest, Srinigar, Kashmir, 1945"
Here are rest of the Kashmir photographs from Keagle Photograph collection. Input and info. are welcome.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kha'tyae



The Sweet one.

Weeding Women


Women Clearing Weeds. Kashmir, 1890~. From British Library.
"Photograph of a row of women working in field in the modern state of Jammu and Kashmir, probably near the capital of Srinagar. The photograph dates to the 1890s. Jammu and Kashmir is a Himalayan region in north-western India famous for its mountain scenery and lakes. Kashmiris work mainly on the land, producing crops and tending animals."
A woman clearing weed at Sanasar in Jammu district. September, 2010
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