Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Manto's Kashmiri Coolie

When the smoke lessened, the policemen saw that their quarry was a Kashmiri coolie. He was lugging a heavy sack and running with admirable ease despite the weight on his back. The policemen's throats ran dry with blowing their whistles, but the Kashmiri coolie's pace didn't slacken.
By now, the policemen were panting. Tired and fed up with the chase, one of them took out a gun anf fired. The bullet hit the man in his back. The sack slipped and rolled down. The man turned, and looked at the still-running policemen with frightened eyes. He also saw the blood seeping down his calf. But with a quick jerk, he bent bent, picked up the sack and began to limp away hurriedly. The policemen thought,"Let him go to hell."
The Kashmiri coolie was limping badly when he staggered and fell heavily - the sack fell on top of him.
The policemen swooped down on him and took him away to the police station. The man kept pleading all the way,"Gentlemen, why are you arresting me? I am a poor man...I was only taking a sack of rice...to eat at home...why have you shot me..." But no one paid him any heed.
The Kashmiri coolie went on with his explanations at the police station, pleading and crying,"Sir, there were others in the bazaar...they were carrying away many big things...I have only taken one sack of rice...I am a poor man...I can only afford to eat plain rice."
Till, finally, he gre tired and desperate. he took off his skull-cap, wiped the sweat streaming from his forehead, cast one last, lingering look at the sack of tempting rice, then stretched his palm before the Thanedar abd said,"All right, sir, you keep the sack with you...but pay me my labour charges - four annas."

Extract from cameo titled 'Payment' from 'Black Borders: A collection of 32 cameos', Rakhshanda Jalil's translation of Saadat Hasan Manto's Siyah Hashiye (1947).
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Image: Kralkhod, Srinagar, 2008
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Previously: Pundit Manto’s First Letter to Pundit Nehru

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Veena and Tabassum

'You should not have left Kashmir'
The shawl seller from Kashmir concluded while trying to show his ware. Something about the statement ticked off Veena.
'You should be glad my brother's are not at home. They would have answered it better. No, I don't want to buy anything. Please, leave!'

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My first Id was at the house of Tabassum, friend and colleague of my bua Veena Didi. I remember eating sevaiya at the house of her friend somewhere in downtown Srinagar . I remember how excited about visiting the house of the famous friend of my dear bua. They would run experiments on rabbit blood. I would ask her if I were to visit her office, would I see rabbits, white rabbits. She promised, I went, but I never saw any rabbits. Her office smelt of hospitals. It was a hospital. That year, besides her impeding marriage, she was excited about the new imported machine in her office. This machine could churn blood at an unimaginable RPM, round and round, separating blood into fine individual components for study. Among her sibling she was the only one to have gone outside the state to study. It was a time she was to always remember fondly. I remember how excited I was about eating real sevaiya. I remember the shops in the area, the pistols, that looked too real and the police holsters, that were certainly real, handing from the roof of those shops. I was obsessed with Bandook that year. Guns were all I could think of that year. Diwali was just around the corner. I wanted a gun that year. The visit turned out to be a formal affair. We were sitting, on floor, in the drawing room of a house that looked newer than the house in which I was born. Tabassum served the dishes. Sevaiya were different and certainly better. And then we left.

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She was the first one to leave.Veena didi finally got married in Jammu in middle of a cerfew over an issue that would roll-ball into what would be remembered as 'mandal comission'.  A year after her marriage, some people from Kashmir paid her new home a visit.

'Where is Veena?' That is all the woman at the door wanted to know.
Veena's mother-in-law was in a fix on hearing this question. At first she was suspicious of the Muslim brother-sister  duo that had come inquiring about the whereabouts of her daughter-in-law. Al though her family had a house at Chanapora, she had spent most of her own married life in Amritsar. How do they know? How did they find out? Terrorist? These thoughts filled her up instinctively. But on hearing a lengthy explanation on the nature and depth of relationship, she was convinced enough to tell them,'Veena is at the place of her parents. Perhaps you should come some other time. Sorry!'
'Okay, take us there. I won't leave without meeting her.'
Shocked as she was at this unabashed display of emotion, under duress and with a word of advice, 'Take Care', she deployed Veena's husband to accompany the brother-sister duo to the place of Veena's in-laws.

It was a colony which was in winter filled with 'Durber move' Kashmiris. It was the place were I celebrated a couple of more Ids growing up with boys from Kashmir who would bowl like Imran Khan and Wasim Akram. Boys who taught me reverse swing even before the rest of the world knew it.

'How could you not invite me to your marriage? You thought I wouldn't come?'
'How could I?'
With that the two friends, Tabassum and Veena hugged each other. Veena welcomed her into the two-roomed house of her parents.

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I have no recollection of the second event. It's a story my Bua likes to recall sometime. She went on to teach herself programming just around the time when I first started to pick it up in school. In her exercises to keep herself busy, a thought that filled minds of a few pandits in Jammu, on weekdays she teaches computer science to village kids, who in Summer sometimes bring her offering of Mangoes, and on weekends she spends a lot of her time in the ashram of a Kashmiri Saint freshly relocated to Jammu. I think she misses her imported Beckman machine and the rabbits. She tells me she again heard from Tabassum a few years back. Tabassum is married and in U.K. May on somedays, she too misses that blood churning machine and those white rabbits.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Kashmir by Martin Hürlimann, 1927

Came across these at ebay, unidentified. I recognized some of them, swiss photographer Martin Hürlimann with his brilliant use of vertical power shots is hard to miss (and hard not to be influenced by). These probably are from his Burma, Ceylon, Indo-China (1930).


A Rural House. 1927
Some where on way to Gulmarg. 2008. [some more houses]

Mar Canal by Martin Hürlimann (?)

Dal Lake

Paddy Fields
Paddy fields near Qazigund, 2008



view of Qazigund
View 2008. Previously: View of valley and Hügel's Atmospheric phenomena 


Nishat
History of Nishat

Raghunath Temple Jammu




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Sunday, August 28, 2011

picked kashmir at Delhi book fair, 2011

August 28, 2011

Continuing with the tradition [pick from year 2010], this year's loot include:

 In This Metropolis
by Hari Krishan Kaul.
Translated by Ranjana Kaul.
2011. Rs. 75.
It's a collection of short stories by a Kashmiri writer (b 1934) known for his kafkaesque style. This is the translation of his year 2000 Sahitya Akademi Award winning collection 'Yath Raazdaane'. This was the first time a Kashmiri won the award for short stories. The book starts with writer's re-working of a Lal Ded saying rendered as: 
My wooden bow has but arrows
made of grass
This metropolis (of my mind),
has been entrusted to an unskilled carpenter'

 Kashmir Hindu Sanskars: Rituals, Rites and Customs
by S.N. Pandit
2006.Rs 475
Published at Kashmiri Pandit run  Gemini Computers, Jammu
Sponsored by Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi
Based on year 1982 research paper by the author "Kashire Battan Hindi Rasim ti Rewaj", this book is a definitive guide to living and dead rituals and festivals of Kashmiri Pandits.  Peppered with  arcane Kashmiri folk lyrics associated with various rituals and festivals, this book is a treasure. My mother, much to her delight, actually managed to recall and sing some like 'Diri diri honya, yati kyo yati kyah', 'Go away; go away dog, what is here? Who is here?', Kashmiri lyrics  reserved for times when inauspiciously dogs start howling.

 A History of Kashmiri Literature
by Trilokinath Raina
First published by Sahitya Akademi in 2002.
2005. Rs.100

Trilokinath Raina's erudite and precise contribution to Kashmiri Literature, its History. A must have!

 Abdul Ahad Azad
by G.N. Gauhar
First published 1997. Rs.25
In the 'acknowledgements' to this biography of the great Kashmiri poet, we read ' The prevailing situation in Kashmir caused total damage to the approved typed manuscripts' and about the poet we read that he was more of a Subash Chandra Bose fan than a Gandhi fan (unlike Mahjoor).

 Zinda Kaul
by A.N. Raina
First published 1974.
1997. Rs.25.
Life sketch of a man who was perhaps the last of the 'saint-poet' of Kashmir.

Children's Literature in Indian Languages
by Dr. (Miss) K.A. Jamuna
1982. Rs. 18
Al though  Trilokinath Raina's 'A History of Kashmiri Literature' does does upon children's literature in Kashmiri language but given there isn't much to right about, the section in actually only a paragraph. However, in this book we have a complete essay (not too detailed as compared to some other languages) by Ali Mohammad Lone on this oft ignored but important subject. And we get to read (in brief) about work of Naji Munawwar, perhaps the only dedicated Children's writer from Kashmir.

 Tales from The Tawi: a collection of Dogri Folk Tales
Suman K.Sharma
First published 2007. Rs. 60

Have no clue what to expect from this neat book for children. A good reason to get in Dogri folk tales!


Folk-Tales of Kashmir
by Rev. J Hinton Knowles
Second Edition
First published 1893
This famous book starts with a Shakespeare quote,'Every tongue brings in a several tale'. I have read most of the tales in this book online, now I have a hardbound copy. Hopefully someone will come with a Amar Chitra Katha version of these engrossing tales someday.


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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kashmiri Brahmins of Francis Frith, 1875


I first came across this image some years ago on columbia.edu site who in turn had picked it from ebay. Cited as 'Kashmiri Brahmans' and photographed by Francis Frith in around 1875, the image offered an enigma in the sense that its subjects seemed out of place, all the other photographs of Kashmiri Pandits taken during that era has pandit in his usual place, handling scrolls or roaming around temples. So who were these Brahmans and what were doing with those bundles of cloths?

 I have finally managed to get through to the answers that this image demanded. The photograph is used and explained in 'The Jummoo and Kashmir Territories: A Geographical Account' (1875) by Frederic Drew. An excerpt:


First, standing out marked and separate from the rest, are the Pandits. These are the Hindu remainder of the nation, the great majority of which were converted to Islam. Sir George Campbell supposes that previously the mass of the population of Kashmir was Brahman. An examination of the subdivisional castes of both Pandits and Muhammadans, if it were made, might enable us to settle this question. Whatever may be the case as to that, we certainly see that at this day the only Kashmiri Hindus are Brahmans. These whatever their occupation-whether that be of a writer, or, may be, of a tailor or clothseller - always bear the title "Pandit" which, in other parts of India, is confined to those Brahmans who are learned in their theology. 
The Kashmiri Pandits have that same fine cast of features which is observed in the cultivating class. The photograph given, after one of Mr. Frith's, is a good representation of two cloth- sellers who are Pandits, or Brahmans. When allowance has been made far an unbecoming dress, and for the disfigurement caused by tho caste-mark on the forehead, I think it will be allowed that they are of a fine stock. Of older men, the features become more marked in form and stronger in expression, and the face is often thoroughly handsome. In complexion the Pandits are lighter than the peasantry; their colour is more that of the almond.
These Brahmans are less used to laborious work than the Muhammadan Kashmiris. Their chief occupation is writing : great numbers of them get their living by their pen, as Persian writers (for in the writing of that language they are nearly all adepts), chiefly in the Government service. Trade, also, they follow, as we see ; but they are not cultivators, nor do they adopt any other calling that requires much muscular exertion. From this it happens that they are not spread generally over the country; they cluster in towns. Sirinagar, especially, has a considerable number of them; they have been estimated at a tenth of the whole of its inhabitants.
Reader may make allowance of Drew's 'i believe because I believe' assertion that Pandits were not cultivators.

Kashmiri Pandit women working the fields, 1890.  [Update: They appear to be working in  field, dying cloth and yarn here]




Reader may also make allowance of the fact the Drew didn't get into the breakdown of Kashmiri Pandits into Karkun Bhattas (Working Class Pandits, into Govt. Jobs, into Persian, the one described by Drew) and Basha Bhattas (Language Class Pandits, into Religious affairs, into Sanskrit, the one usually photographed with scrolls, Gors, Pandits, the ones that much later often derogatorily referred at Byechi Bhattas (?) or Begging Class Pandits). Besides that there were minority called Buhur, or the Trader Class, someone more likely to take up a trade like clothselling.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Great Soul Ghost



Still laughing, one of the kids put his arm around the other kid's shoulder. While taking a stroll on the Island, the two brothers in arm together start singing a devotional sing.
'MAa SHera WAliyay, TEra SHer AAgaya!'
It was the opening line from gut-busting Akshay Kumar number from year 1996 film 'Khiladiyo Ka Khiladi'. Hero's brother is about to be bumped off by the bad guys, our hero gatecrashes the Jagrata party of  Villainess and as precursor to his convoluted plan for rescue his brother, sings, 'MAa SHera WAliyay, TEra SHer AAgaya!', 'O Tiger Riding Mother, Your Tiger Has Arrived.'
Mock singing over, the two boys break into guffaws. Their Parikrama of the island is over, on the way out, over the footbridge, they spot a Babaji, a veteran of Amarnath Yatra. The two friends decide to test him. Shooting straight, they ask him one of the most elementary question that has baffled the greatest of human mind:
 'Bhoot Hotay Hai. Bhoot.'
 'Do Ghosts exist?'

Baba, perhaps thrown off by their accent, or perhaps evading the question, replies, 'Avdhoot. Avdhoot.'
The boys repeat their question,  'Bhoot Hotay Hai Kya. Bhoot.'
Baba repeats his cryptic answer,'Avdhoot. Avdhoot.'
At this the boys break into more laughter. An arm over each other's shoulder, marching toe-to-toe, humming something, the two walk out of the island and back to their homes in the surrounding village. The babj proceeds to pose for the camera.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fish


Strange Tales from Tulamula
Fish.

 Syen'dh at village Tulamulla.
River originates in Gangbal-Harmukh and is not to be confused with Sindhu or Indus River. 
The feeling was that of disorientation. As I entered the Island, I was lost in some old memory of the place. A fleeting vision. And then I was lost, really lost. I somehow got separated from rest of the pilgrims that included my parents and relatives. None of them were in sight anymore even though we were all walking together moments ago. In front of me was an iron grilled door, but I didn't know if it was the entrance or the exit. Towards right, I saw a security building and for some strange reason assumed that everyone must have gone inside it to get registered or something. I felt like staying lost for sometime more. I sat down at my old spot, little stone steps next to the footbridge over the stream that surrounds the island. And I scratched that old memory out:

I walked between innumerable pair of legs to get out of the frenzied melee around the spring. That sight: a man standing on a wooden plank over the milky whiteness of the spring, a bridge to the island, a bridge between deity and devotee, it was unnerving. It was like watching someone rope walk only there was no rope, only a piece of wood. Did the Priest, the conduit on this precariously placed plank know how deep the white spring went? How many meters below the level of flowers? All the pushing and shoving was getting a bit too much. What if I fell into the spring. Holy or not,  I had no plans of measuring the depth of the spring. And one can barely see anything in this rush. I walked between innumerable pair of legs to get out of the frenzied melee around the spring.  I went back to the stream. The devotees were still taking dips in its cold, dark waters. Even the thought of its water scared me. Earlier in the day, I had escaped the compulsory ritual bath thanks to my little drowning incident in the swimming pool of Biscoe. I was still a bit traumatized, even though it had been more than a month now. I told everyone in clear terms that I was never going into water ever again in my life. Now I sat on muddy, half broken and slippery steps that lead into the dark stream. I chose the spot next to the footbridge that connects the island to the village. There were people diving into the stream from the footbridge and there were kids my age frolicking in water, swimming. In the swimming pool, other kids had been holding onto a side bar with their both their hands while paddling their both feet in a synchronised. They was practising swimming. I learned drowning. I missed that little detail about holding onto something and started paddling my feet without holding onto anything.  After I was pulled out of water by a Ladhaki instructor, I found myself in middle of the pool and I was still paddling. I had gulped down a good amount of water. I believe I would have died had I stayed underwater a bit longer. Or, maybe not. The instructed carried me to the side before the judge of my performance, the class teacher. I pleaded with the teacher to have me pulled out of the pool. I told her that these waters were going to kill me, that I was going to die. She calmly pointed at her watch and said there were still twenty minutes for the period to be over, there was still time. I cried. I held on to those sidebars for rest of the twenty minutes. On the ride back home, standing in the school bus, I vomited green water. My underwear was wet, it stuck to my skin me like an insult. I had completely forgotten that our class was to going to have swimming lessons starting that day and that we were supposed to bring a towel and an extra underwear to school.  What stupidity! On reaching home I told my grandmother, I was never going back to that monstrous school. I laughed to myself. Swimming is for fish.

I noticed little black fish swimming in the shallows where the waters met the stairs. They would swim to the stairs and then swim back. I threw little pebbles at them, just to wake them up, to watch them swim. I always liked fish. I named my grandmother's sister, Machliwalli Massi, only because her house at Rainawari overlooked Jhelum. The first time my grandmother wanted me to go to her sister's place, I wanted to know if I could see fish from some window of the house since it was on the river bank bank. She said indeed I will. I was disappointed, no fish from the window, even the river was a bit far from the house, it wasn't on the river, but there was some beauty to it, and the name stuck. She remained my Machliwalli Massi even after her family moved to Jhallandar. Even as she lost her memories to old age.

This day, I couldn't spot a single fish in the waters of the stream. The waters were not dark anymore. The water was green and grey. And it was clean, totally incapable of inducing fear or even maybe any mistaken nostalgic sense of devotion. It was a mini-canal, with steel barricades at two ends to control the flow of water. 

Later in the day, before visiting the spring, I went for the ritual bath. The object on my childhood fear was now a joke. It's shiny surface offered no mystery. It's recently cemented bed offered helpless all familiar rigidity of modern life that only cement can provide. The water barely reached my chest. I never learnt swimming, but these water were tame, domesticated. Safe. And hopelessly fishless. Not far from me, just outside the woman's bathing section - a cesspool long carved into the stream, an area still greasy and ever stinky - a balding, pot-bellied, middle-aged father clocked his young pre-teen son as he swam laps between the two shores of the canal with much noise and splash. Cheered on by his father, the kid was making a lap every three seconds. A crowd was gathering. The fish were maybe moving further away. Maybe poisoned by cement. Where were they? The stream seemed to be too small, the Island, the Spring, time, these all seemed too small. A miniature. Where was the grand canvas of my childhood? Everything had shrunk. 

A devotee praying on one leg. Summer 2008.
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Miniature Art





From miniature art painting exhibition at Kala Mandir, Jammu.


A re-creation of this one and a couple of more were featured in J&K Bank 2008 Annual Calendar
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Aftermath



View from rooftop a few months after years 2008 Amarnath Land transfer Syapa.  Febuary 2009.

War drums

'Bhaiya, you won't believe what we did today. It was such a riot,' my little cousin sister excitedly informed me over phone. Hearing this, I expected her to tell me how she and her younger sister pulled a fast one on someone, their latest adventure in mischief. As she started to tell me the story, as I laughed, a  feeling of deja vu gripped me, a familiar sinking feeling, something akin to sadness.

'It was evening. We were on the rooftop, reading out books. Suddenly, we heard distant shrill metallic sounds, like some people beating steel plates. Soon the sound got louder, got nearer. Other people had picked up the call. The sound was now everywhere. It was party time. So we too got our self a thali, a chamach and joined in the party.'

People were beating utensils as a form of solidarity with cause, in protest. So my little sisters too had taken part in it, the agitation. And they were not alone. She went on to tell me how neigbours would visit our house looking for my Uncle, seeking attendance of at least one family member in the daily rally. The rallying call apparently was: 'Pandit Ji, this is for you too. All of your loss. No more loss. Now we stand. Together.' My Uncle went along a couple of times, but most of the times only Rotis rolled out by my aunt and grandmother went out to the agitators.

My cousin who was back then in 8th Standard, ended her story on an even happier note, 'Do you know we haven't been to the school for about two month?'

We walk along a line on Möbius strip of time and memories.

Back in 1990, I was in 3rd Standard and lost an academic year because schools in the small city of Jammu had no space for hordes of new "migrant" kids arriving from Kashmir. And once I got admission, I again sat through a class that I had already mastered. Back then, I realized school could be a violent place. Unlike schools in Kashmir, school violence in Jammu was epidemic. Every second day, you could watch someone have his skull smashed by a brick, every third day you could hear about some student getting knifed, and every forth day was a holiday or a half-day due to bomb blasts. Post a bomb-blast came shutdown, bandh and a long walk back from school to a one roomed rented place called home. Maybe I exaggerate, but then my memory association with events of those early years works in a way that may someday make sense to someone who grew up in blast ravaged Karachi or Lahore or Islamabad of year 2010, or any blast prone area of any era.

Television premiere of Chalbaaz on Doordarshan, day the deadliest Matador blast happened. I  imagined a snub nosed green matador, a muknas. Everyone of it must have been listening to the 4-tracked stereophonic 'welcome to Jammu' anthem, 'Dil Diwana Bin Sajna kay Manay Na'. It must have been a usual hot day and every one in the bus must have been wet with sweating. Thinking of heat and wetness of others, someone must have sat near the seat next to the missing door, the conductor seat. Just below the seat, next to the cranky speaker, any one could place the bomb. It could be anywhere and everywhere. Release of Karan Arjun, blast in Apsara theater. Three days after Republic day blast, a head of a victim found on the rooftop of government apartments next to Bakshi Stadium. Blast at Raghunath temple, three school mates cut shot their 'school-bunk' adventure, sneak back to class room laughing, they were sitting only a tea stall away from the blast site, they thought it was a tyre-burst. Listening to tyre-burst, sitting on a wooden bench scrawled with 'Poonam+Nikhil', I was hoping it was a bomb blast, and praying the school goes off. Reading messages in buses about 'Agyat Vastu' and finding them funny. Hearing stoic announcements in Metro about 'Unknown Objects, radios, transistors ', I assume we are already well trained, we are ready for what is coming, 'unknown', trained for life by death.

I was in Jammu a couple of months later. Things were back to what is deemed normal. Happenings of previous few months had left little remains, only a 'Andolan' graffiti here and there, and echos. At  home, the Gujjar milkman had picked a new habit of frequently ending sentences with, 'You people were right. They are wrong.' He must have been repeating it, having himself heard for last couple of months now. Old Massi, our Gujjar neighbour was still looking after her growing household and house, number by number, floor by floor, sq ft by sq ft. Her progenies were now running a playschool-cum-creche, and one of her grand-daughters was now a Dentist. Her two grand-sons from her daughter too didn't turn out too bad. When the kids were young, Massi got then a Mudarris, a Koran teacher. The boys grovelled, recited back, cried, recited back, picked their nose, recited back, ran helter skelter, recited aloud. Massi, the designate observer of their afternoon study session, profusely apologizing to the teacher would usually get them by their ear and back in front of him. But some days she too found their antics funny and would laugh her guts out. Funny faces behind teacher's back is always funny. Now these kids had have grown up. Although I suspect their grades in school were still low, their politeness score had gone high. 'Kab aaye Bhaiya!Aur...' an infrequent visitor never gets unacknowledged. Massi seemed content, content enough for you to imagine her offering a grey teeth blaring smile carrying a heap of fresh green grass on her head for the young goat tied outside her kitchen, her hair henna-dyed hair, burnt brown, peeking from the corner of a fluorescent pink dupatta covering her head, held in place by her one hand, the other hand carrying a dhrati.

'So, who did you vote for?'
'BJP, of course.' My Uncle answered, a bit surprised at the stupidity of my question.
'And so did everyone from our family, including you.' He added.

View from the roof was tinted saffron. There was a BJP flag fluttering on the roof of my Jammu house. There were flags fluttering from the rooftop of every second house. I started to open the knots of the threads that tied the flag firmly to a television antenna.

Later back in Delhi, when the results of the election came, I was in for a surprise. BJP had the seat lost from my area. 

Aftermath.

'It's all funny business. I remember when I was a kid, this one time I had a big fight with my father. He had voted for Congress. And I was a BJP kid. He reason he gave was that the guy he selected had done lot of good work in the area. I would have none of it. BJP back then was the best thing that could ever happen to a  school going kid. BJP was the Chutti Party.'

'Chutti Uncle,' I inadvertently interrupted my Marwari friend's monologue triggered by my stupored monologue. I was back in Delhi talking about my experience with two of my friends.

'What?'

He didn't get it. There's no reason why he should.

'Nothing. Continue. Continue.

'Listen, Kashmiri. So BJP was naturally the greatest party in the world for me. Every second day they were on street enforcing ye Bandh, wo Bandh. So no school. And on top of it, they were going to build The temple. They were alive, electric, like tube light, other dead or old, like Bajaj Bulb. All shiny. Apparently that wasn't enough for my father. So we fought. I may even have been a bit embarrassed of his action. It was a crazy time. I now see his point. I was too young to understand all this back then. He has worked hard all his life. Coming from a village and making a life in this city.'


Every once in a while, my friend goes back to visit his village, a place called Behal in Rajasthan. His ancestors were village grocers.  They have a family temple in the village. They still have some land holding, taken care of by local guys tied to his family for generations. Poor local guys who in death are mourned like a death in the family.


'At least you guys get to visit your village as and when you like. You have a place to go back to. In our case...'

'In your case what? Don't start again. What is your case? You too are here right now drinking beer. Happy. Listening to some 'Bhawgwan knows what' song by a Chinki band.'

'It's a Diamonds and Rust. Baez. Manipur.'

 'Talking nonsense. I think BJP still is great. Everyone in my family votes for it. Everyone once in a while we need to push the chain and flush the system. They are do'er while others are all duffers. Talk and more talk.'

My other Marwari friend finally had had enough of our drunk talk. A distant cousin of my monologue buddy, he too traces his origin to Behal, only his ancestors moved to Jorhat near Guwahati in Assam where they have land holding leased out to companies for years. His family moved to Delhi when he was a kid because of ULFA condition but mostly because of his then, strangely enough, Asthma condition. Why would anyone move to Delhi to cure Asthma? I once tried to get an answer but he ended up talking about ULFA. For every JKLF story that I would come up with, he would come up with a ULFA story. I knew what was coming. He too wanted to be listened.

'You think you have seen everything. How do you thing ULFA lost its teeth? My father knew all the guys who went on to be local ULFA leaders. It was all business. This one time...'


By the end of the year, friend of mine moved back to Guwahati where he now sells iron at almost thrice the profit margin at which my Marwari friend is able to sell in Delhi.

I understand the math.

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Photograph was taken using the camera lent out to me by my friend from Jorhat. This was my first D-SLR camera.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cursive Script from Kishtwar

Shared by Man Mohan Munshi Ji.


A natural cave at Bathastal in Kishtwar, J&K


(above two) Cursive script on the ceiling of Bathastal  Cave

Medieval Sanskrit inscription at Dachan in Kishtwar J&K

Distant and near views of Deodar  temple at Kaikut in Doda Dist. J&K
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Map of Lakes of Ladakh, 1853

Scanned and shared by Man Mohan Munshi Ji.




A map showing major lakes of Ladakh published in book" LADAKH , Physical, Statistical & Historical " by Alexander Cunningham first published in 1853 AD . The lakes are Tsomorari,Kaiger Tso, Tsokhar and Pangkong Tso all situated in eastern Ladakh.

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Previously: Martand as described by Sir Alexander Cunningham

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kashmiri Refugees, 1947-48

 A news bureau photograph of Kashmiri refugees who had been driven from their homes by the turmoil of 1947.

A group of refugees from Kashmir, who arrived at the Pakistan border recently are shown as they moved down from the mountains. Group were reportedly fleeing "the invaders from India." They were ill-clad and suffering from the effects of hunger and hardship after their long trek to the order.

via: Columbia.edu
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People who became refugees on this side of order. Stories of Dakotas and people carrying mothers on back were to become part of local folkfore.

"Air-evacuation of thousands of refugees to welfare centre was among the numerous tasks which the Transport-squadron of RIAF successfully carried cut during Kashmir Operations in 1948. An aged refugee couple from Poonch area, their sons killed and daughters abducted by the raiders, on their way on an airstrip in a forward area for air evacuation by an RIAF Dakota to a refugee welfare centre." - April 1948. (Photodivison India)

    Air-evacuation of thousands of refugees to welfare centre was among the numerous tasks which the Transport-squadron of RIAF successfully carried cut during Kashmir Operations in 1948. A refugee family from Poonch area.
- April 1948. (Photodivison India)
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