Thursday, September 29, 2011



Epilogue

The beloved listens or not
I address him for it gives me relief
in proximity of saffron land
I own a vegetable shop
Hoping that a customer may
Flavour my vegetable with saffron

~ Zinda Kaul

From biography of the poet by A.N.Raina for 'Makers of Indian Literature' series. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On the Dal lake
Can I confine the limitless with limits,
Does at all mercury offer its lap,
For a while of restful lull,
To easy loving pleasure-hunters,
For their luxurious enjoyment,
In houseboats and shikaras.
Does the fire of vanity and valour
Contain the fatigue of cowardice.

~ select lines from 'The River' by Abdul Ahad Azad.
Translation from biography of the poet by G.N. Gauhar for 'Makers of Indian Literature' series.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kashmir in National Museum



Gurj from Kashmir, 18th Century A.D.



Vishnu Vaikuntha from Kashmir, 8th century A.D.

Came across these in Treasures of the National Museum by Dr. N.K. Banerjee (1992)

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Previously:
Kashmiri Swords, Divine Bow and Arrows, Shalimar the Clown

Saturday, September 24, 2011

DIrI dIrI honyo


DIrI dIrI honyo, yati kyo yat kya:h,
Yati chi: DevIta:h, HalmatI yAgnya:h,
Achin su:r dandan syakh, payyiyo honaya:h,
du:r tsal Kutta:h

I came across these lines in 'Kashmir Hindu Sanskars (Rituals, Rites and Customs): A study' by S.N. Pandit. The lines were sung in response to the wailing dogs.


Go away; go away dog, what is here? Who is here?
Here are the gods; here we perform a Yajnya of god Ganesha,
Oh dog! Let ashes be in your eyes and sand be under your teeth,
Oh dog go away - go away.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

memento

For the series 'things that crossed over'

Belongs to my Bua. Used to sit on a wall in naya kambra in Srinagar. Now sits on a wall in Jammu.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vad'veyne gobro oush ma traav



Vad'veyne gobro oush ma traav
Kaavan traeviy reki ad'paav
Aed thaw chan'das
Su kheyzi wan'das
A'ed thaav a'elis
Su kheyzi
Retikaelis

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

a book

For the series 'things that crossed over'. 


I don't think of my father as a literature person but somehow, along with other things that crossed over, a torn away end-part of a book also reached Jammu. I have no clue how the packing decision was made at the time and how this piece of a book was picked. But I am glad it was part of the samaan. Almost a decade after the migration, after my parents managed to build a new house and the samaan was unpacked, I took this piece of a book for myself and put it safe with my school curriculum books. It was in a way the first book in my library. First in the many to come, I promised myself. The ink blots were not originally there. These are remains of an ink-pot accident. Mercifully, the book were still remained legible. I read and re-read the tragic stories it told, stories set in a far away cold land with a river oddly named Don and a land sometimes even more oddly called steppe, stories about old men with bent but strong bones, kids who were perhaps born sad, young men with no legs, women who scratched the chest of their dying men, men who sang folk songs about war, men who went to war and horses that could only be salvaged with death but finds life.

I read these stories often, too often I guess. For a long time this was all I had. Often, I wondered who wrote them. The pages offered no clue. that was originally a collection of English translations of Russian short stories

Now I know that the part that I had was originally an old English translation of 'Tales from the Don' by  Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov.

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Medical Missions, 1919



A photograph from 'Ministers of Mercy' by James Henry Franklin, 1872.

The book briefs out works of first few medical missionaries working in places as varied as Afghanistan, Arabia, Persia, Japan, Africa, China, India and Kashmir. Here's an extract dealing with work of Neve brothers operating in Kashmir. The part I found interesting involves Srinagar "The City of the Sun," being described as "The City of Appalling Odors,", a city portions of which never received sunlight, and whose canals at times only offered pestilential odors. I found it interesting because I have heard people still describe the city along those lines. And then there is the part about Biscoe boys cheering for Cholera.


The Kashmir Mission had been opened about 1863 by the Rev. Robert Clark. The first attempt at medical mission work met with great opposition. The governor and other officials were antagonistic and apparently permitted, if they did not incite, mob violence. In 1864 Mr. Clark made the following entry in his diary : " The house was literally besieged with men and noisy boys. They stood by hundreds on the bridge, and lined the river on both sides, shouting, and one man striking a gong, to collect the people. Not a chuprasse, or police officer, or soldier, or official of any kind appeared. The tumult quickly increased, and no efforts were made to stop it. The people began to throw stones and some of them broke down the wall of the compound and stables. Our servants became greatly alarmed, for they threatened to burn the house down. The number present was between one thousand and one thousand five hundred. When I went to the Wazir to ask for protection, it was said that he was asleep. He kept me waiting for two hours and then did not even give me a chair. He promised to send a guard and never did so. The police also announced that if any one rented a house to the missionaries, all the skin would be taken off their backs."
A few weeks later Mr. Clark wrote in his journal: " Men are again stationed on the bridge, as they were for weeks together last year, to prevent any one from coming to us. Our servants cannot buy the mere necessaries of life, and we have to send strangers to the other end of the city to purchase flour."
[...]
The capital city, Srinagar, is surrounded by scenes of Alpine beauty. The Kashmir Mission Hospital, perched on a jutting hillside overlooking the city, commands also a view of a vale of purple glens and clear, snow-cold streams. Srinagar has a population of 126,000 people, living in crowded houses, and using for their chief and central high- way the Jhelum River, with intersecting canals that could make of Srinagar a second Venice, if people and architecture only lent themselves appropriately. While Srinagar has been called "The City of the Sun," it has also been suggested that it might be called "The City of Appalling Odors," The dense population is ignorant of sanitation. The drainage of a city without sewers runs into stagnant canals in which people bathe and wash their clothes,. and from which women fill their jars with water for drinking and cooking. Portions of the crowded city never receive a direct ray of sunlight, and in consequence there is a deposit of vile black mud in winter and nothing less than a riot of pestilential odors in summer.
 In 1886 Dr. Arthur Neve was joined by his brother, Dr. Ernest F. Neve, who had also studied at the University of Edinburgh, where he established a record for thorough work in his classes, activity in religious organizations, and service for the poorer classes. The younger physician declared that Srin- agar, from a sanitary standpoint, was like a powder magazine waiting for a spark.
The spark fell into the magazine a few months after his arrival, when a case of cholera appeared in the city, and soon he and his brother and the Superintendent of the State Hospital were face to face with a baffling situation. When the outbreak occurred, the Mission Hospital was crowded with more than a hundred patients, while great numbers daily thronged the waiting-rooms. On one day alone the two doctors admitted thirty patients to the hospital and performed fifty-three operations. Two of the patients died from cholera, and in a few hours the hospital was empty. The people were panic-stricken. In two months, more than ten thousand died in the city. Dr. Ernest Neve, cooperating with the state physician, took charge of a large section of Srinagar; and Dr. Arthur Neve visited almost every section of the valley (nearly ninety miles long) where deaths were reported. Wherever pure water could be secured in good supply, the people escaped to a great extent. To teach the populace a few simple principles of safeguarding their health by suitable food and water was the privilege of the physicians.
Srinagar suffered again and again from the scourge of cholera. In reporting an epidemic Dr. Arthur Neve wrote: "The turbid and lazy stream sweeps against the prow masses of dirty foam, floating straw, dead bodies of dogs, and all other garbage of a great city. How can one admire the great sweep of snow mountains, the deep azure of the sky, and broad rippling sheet of cloud and sky-reflecting water, when every sense is assailed by things that disgust. Upon one bank stands a neat row of wooden huts. This is a cholera hospital. Upon the other bank the blue smoke, curling up from a blazing pile, gives atmosphere and distance to the rugged mountains. It is a funeral pyre. And as our boat passes into the city, now and again we meet other boats, each with its burden of death. All traffic seems to be suspended. Shops are closed. Now and again, from some neighboring barge, we hear the wail of mourners, the shrieks of women as in a torture den, echoed away among the houses on the bank."
In 1885 the Kashmir Valley was shaken by a terrific earthquake. It was most violent near Baramula, where villages were reduced to ruins and thousands of persons were killed outright In one hamlet only seven of the forty-seven inhabitants survived, and four of these seven were severely injured.
Immediately after the earthquake, Dr. Arthur Neve hastened to Baramula and opened an emergency hospital. Other missionaries visited the devastated district to collect in boats the wounded who could be taken to Dr. Neve. In two weeks' touring, they visited villages where the roll of the dead included not less than three thousand. Besides the dead, there were many injured whose cases became more serious daily, as bones began to knit in unnatural forms, dislocations to stiffen, and wounds to mortify. Such service as was rendered by the missionaries could not fail to reach the hearts of the distressed people.
In times of special need, the missionary staff at Srinagar could always rely on the help of the older boys in the Mission School which, by 1912, enrolled about fifteen hundred students of varying ages. Dr. Elmslie, the first medical missionary in Kashmir, had begun the educational work. Fortunate the mission whose pioneers are wise enough to establish good schools and thus prepare the native forces for leadership in Christian movements in their own lands! The Kashmiri boy was not an encouraging subject for Christian education, but Dr. Elmslie and his successors, — such men as the Rev. C. E. Tyndale-Biscoe and the Rev. F. E. Lucey — had faith in the power of the gospel, taught through daily example as well as by precept, to transform the characters of the unpromising lads of the Kashmir Valley. "In all things be men," was the inspiring motto of the school. A pair of canoe paddles, crossed, was the crest The paddles signified hard work, or strength. The paddle blades, in the shape of a heart, suggested kindness; for true manhood was described by the teachers as a combination of strength and kindness. The crossed paddles suggested the Christian symbol of self- sacrifice and was intended to remind them from Whom they should seek inspiration to be true men.
Throughout the city, schoolboys might be seen wearing this badge, and any one in danger or distress might appeal to them for assistance, since they had been taught to be ready always to serve those in special need. Their sports at school were taught not for their personal pleasure, but to make them stronger in the service of the weak. One of the practical results of the aquatic sports was the saving of eight lives in a single year. If a conflagration was discovered in the city, the school was quickly dismissed for the day, while the principal and his boys hurried to the fire, taking along the fire-engine from the mission-compound and fighting the flames, thus saving the lives of women and children. The boys were taught to protect women from insult, to show kindness to invalids and old people, and to prevent cruelty to animals. One winter a hundred starving donkeys were fed by the boys. Occasionally, a sanitary corps would visit some especially unwholesome section of the city and, with pick and shovel, show what was required to prevent the spread of disease. Convalescents from the hospital were taken out on the lake for an airing. The boys assisted the police in running down gangs of men who terrorized women and children, and they held boat-races on the river when cholera raged, in order to enliven the people and relieve their mental tension. Once, when told that the plague offered many opportunities to them to play the man, the boys actually gave three cheers for the cholera! When floods swept the valley, they rescued families that were stranded on roofs of houses or on small spots of dry ground. Native teachers in the school gave their personal assistance to the medical missionaries in caring for cholera patients. The big task which Mr. Tyndale-Biscoe undertook was " to teach the boys manliness, loyalty, charity, manners, cleanliness, truth, and Christian doctrine." 

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saffron Sorrow

'The convoy was stuck at Pampore. From the window of the bus I could see the Saffron fields stretched far and wide.. Have you seen a saffron field when the flowers are in full bloom? You must not have. It's a beautiful sight. Most beautiful purple, spread as far as your eyes can see, all purple. But how long can one stare at beauty. Special when it reminds you of other things. We had been stuck at that spot for more than five hour. The only other thing we could stare at was an almost endless stream of vehicles lined up on the highway. Trucks and buses. We wanted to get out of there. We wanted to get back to our families. Government officials, that too Hindu, we were sitting ducks on that road. Which we were despite the trucks of security men deployed with our convoy. They were at the front and at the back. Why wasn't the bus moving? We asked ourselves and stared at the saffron field now lit by the light of fading dusk. Security men were the first one to jump into the fields, crushing the blooms under their boot, kicking the bulbs. Soon we too joined them. In a moment of mad frenzy, men got down from the buses and unleashed their vacuous anger on beauty. The reason of the delay had finally reached the travelers. There had been an IED blast up ahead on the highway. We understood that the delay was caused by a bomb that was meant for them. Someone wanted us dead. The thought clawed into our mind and drove our bodies to action, made our hearts stiff, our eyes blind. By the time buses were moving again, those fields were denuded of all flowers and the ground was leveled by our shoes.  We had destroyed all of it. It was a sad sight. The thought of it still disturbs me. Saffron fields are beautiful. Do you know in old times Saffron was passed off as a cure for sadness?'

Tamasha comes to Kashmir

In this extract from 'Vignettes of Kashmir' by E. G. Hull (1903), one can read about how Kashmir was introduced to Magic Lantern, one of the first image projectors invented, named Tamasha or spectacle by locals, and we can see how this magic of images was used in missionary work. On set of magic beliefs trying to replace another set of magic beliefs.


A village in the Valley

'THERE are men and women feeling after God in Kashmir, as in every land, and it is worth more than a day's journey to light on one of these.
The lady doctor with her medicine chest, and I with a magic lantern, had started for a tour in the villages one bright spring day.
After pitching our tents and taking a hurried meal, my companion spread her medicines on a little table, and was soon surrounded by a modern Pool of Bethesda crowd, whom the news of the arrival of a lady doctor had brought together, while I set out to visit in the neighbouring town. 
The first house I went to was that of the Chowdry, a state official. I was shown into the sitting-room, where he sat upon a kind of dais, with another man, whom I afterwards found to be the family priest. Both men sat facing a recess in the wall, the interior of which I could not then see, but which I afterwards discovered contained the hideous household god. 
The Chowdry received me kindly, and a rug was spread for me on a low table, disconnected with the dais, on which of course, as a Christian, I could not be allowed to sit. I was soon joined by the two women of the household, the Chowdry's mother and wife.
Finding, from my conversation, that I was a Christian teacher, the Chowdry expressed great pleasure at my coming. He seemed an earnest man, with but little belief in his own religion, yet not content, like so many Indians, with being without any religion at all ; and he said eagerly : " God has shown you English people the way ; come and show me the way, for I can nowhere find it." I was amazed at his frankness, especi- ally before his priest, but perhaps the priest himself, like others I have mentioned, was seeking "the way." My heart yearns over the priests, for I have a strong idea that many would gladly relinquish their idol worship, were it not that " by this craft " they get their living. 
I spent some time in endeavouring to set forth " the Way, the Truth and the Life " to this little household, all, including the priest, giving me an attentive hearing. It was but one of many conversations I had  with the Chowdry, who made a slight deafness in one of his ears the excuse for a daily visit to our tent. 
Having brought with us our magic lantern, we were afterwards able to exhibit to a large audience in his house, including more than one Hindu priest, a fairly complete representation of the principal events of our Lord's life. It seemed like a revelation to them. The women especially, sitting in front, gazed long, with folded hands and heads bowed in reverence, at a beautiful picture of the Babe of Bethlehem, saying afterwards to me with much emotion : " Truly it seemed as though God had Himself descended into our house to-day ! " 

The Tamasha

 The Tamasha, or spectacle, as people called our  lantern, gained for us an audience everywhere, besides that of the sick and suffering women, who gathered round the lady doctor for treatment.
In one village, the chowkidar, or policeman, was very helpful in many ways, and of his own accord he sounded a gong for the women to leave their various avocations to come and see. 
A large upper room, used in winter for storing provisions, but so far empty, with no aperture through which the light could come but the door and a window with a wooden shutter, enabled us to show our lantern in the daytime, and so secure a much better audience than we should in the evening, as Kashmiris do not like going out at night ; they have a strong belief that not only the pestilence, but other mysterious things too, "walk in darkness." The long, low room was densely packed from end to end, and as there was no possible means of ventilation without letting in the light, it was well we had no time to think of the atmosphere ! 
The audience was entirely composed of Muhammadans, and the darkness gave some of them courage to ask very intelligent questions. It was a solemn moment, and an awed silence fell on all as a picture of the Crucifixion was thrown on the sheet. It was the one known as " The Marble Cross," in which the dying Saviour is alone represented. We did not break the silence by any explanations, but allowed them for a moment to sit still in the presence of the Crucified One. But awe grew into something like enthusiasm as we passed from Death to Resurrection and Ascension. One could hardly have believed it to be a Muhammadan audience. " There will be one more picture," I said, " but we cannot show it as yet." I was referring to the Coming in Glory, but, ere I could explain my meaning, I was interrupted by a young man, who from the first manifested very great interest. He now sprang to his feet, exclaiming: " We must see it now, we must see all." When he allowed me to resume what I was saying, I told them that we could not show them that picture, but that God would, because it was written: " Behold, He Cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him." Yet even this promise scarcely satisfied them that we had not the picture of that awful Advent somewhere concealed. Our lantern has told its story to many a strange audience. We have shown it to the sister of the Amir of Kabul and her household, to a Dogra official of high standing and his household, and to the family and servants of one of the Kashmiri rais or nobility, as well as to the poor sick ones in the dispensary, so that eye as well as ear may drink in the message of salvation. 

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 I am using the above given extract as a postscript to a story shared by my Uncle Roshan Lal Das. On the surface it tells of the comic coming of Lantern to Kashmir. The story could have been a skit performed by Bhands of Kashmir. It could be the remnant of the above given story.


LALTEN SAHAB

-------------------------------------------------

Long ago, a news spread in our ancestral village Harmain that one Lalten Sahib had arrived in Kashmir. Lalten Sahib was described as a beast with a fiery belly burning with hell fire. The affects of this news would be felt all over the valley. The news were spreading fast. The people in Harmain heard that Lalten Sahib had reached Srinagar and was now moving towards Shopian. They heard that he would soon their village too and bring the the fires of hell upon them.

So one dark evening all the villagers assembled under a walnut tree. The village's head 'Moulvi' started addressing them, encouraging and consoling them alternatively. He said "My dear village brothers, we know, Lalten, the scourge of God has reached shopian and any time he can descend in Harmian.' 

Silencing a flutter of exclamation sighs from a listless and restless crowd, in a pitch higher he added, 'However we should have faith in Allah, who will help us destroy Lalten. He will help us overcomie this hour of museebat. However, we should prepare ourselves for a fight.  Everyone should arm. Carry an axe,shovel, spade or even a sickle.'

Dusk turned to night and the Moulvi carried on his sermons. When it seemed he would carry on well into the morning, suddenly he stopped in the middle of a sentence about how men had brought on this curse upon themselves by their violations against God's word, he became tongue tied, he face froze in fear, it seemed like the meaning of his own words had dawned upon him, like he was contemplating on his life of misdemeanors, like he was about to tells the truth now, but when he finally spoke, the only words that came out just before he passed off, were: 'Run for your life, Lalten is here'. The peasants scrammed here and there and finally nestled inside the mosque whose doors were now tightly bolted. One of the faithfuls had carried the Moulvi on his shoulders and into the mosque. The shivering peasants sat praying loudly, their backs swaying back and forth. Some of them wailed and occasionally asked Allah aloud as to why they were being punished for no fault of theirs. The moulvi regained consciousness. All of them asked him in one voice, 'Moulvi Sahib, Moulvi Sahib,What did you see Moulvi Sahib?'

Having regained his senses, his fear of hell fire partly dowsed by a tumbler of water that was splashed on his face, the survivor replied:

'Don't' ask my beloved brothers and sisters. Don't ask. I can still see its fire. It was the devil himself. One of the darkest figures I have ever seen. Just behind you, it was moving in from the bushes. A fire of hellish hue was emanating from its belly. Only a miracle can now save us from Lalten. Pray my dear brothers. Pray. It may well be our Judgement day.' With this everyone around him began crying.
Hours ago, the news of a potentially dangerous gathering in Harmain had reached the local Naib-Tehsildar stationed in a nearby village. Armed with his the newly acquired official Lalten, the Lantern, or Hurricane lamp or Angrez log, he had rushed with his assistants towards Harmian. Arriving in the village from a clearing in the fields, they were greeted by commotions and pandemonium bought on  something that they failed to fathom. 

When they finally convinced the villagers to unbolt the door of the mosque and to let them in, the officer and his men were flabbergasted to see the wailing peasants. Something terrible must have happened, they thought. But when they were bombarded with queries about Lalten Sahib, the visiting party had a hearty laugh. In the darkness, the Moulvi had mistaken the lantern in Tehsildar's hand for the fire emanating from devil's belly. The proud owners of the Lalten Sahib went on to show a practical demonstration of how to control the fire in the devil's belly. The peasants finally understood the working of Laten Sahib and laughed sheepishly over their own stupidity.

The valley of Kashmir was not electrified till 1930s. Until then People used torches (mashaal).The wooden staff with cloth was laced with natural volatile oils. The city folks used earthen lamps. Kerosene lamps were used by richer families and foreign tourists.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Pandit Peasant Women, 1895

From British Library. Dated 1895. Photographer Unknown.
Casually explained as: 'Photograph of two women, posed with wicker baskets on their heads, in the modern-day state of Jammu and Kashmir, taken by an unknown photographer in the 1890s. Jammu and Kashmir in a Himalayan region in north-western India famous for its lovely mountain scenery and lakes. Kashmiris work mainly on the land, producing crops and tending animals. Kashmir is also famous for its woollen textiles and the people produce fine shawls and carpets still using traditional methods going back centuries.'

Besides the fold in lower portion of their Pheran, the thing that identifies these women as Pandit is the thing that can still be used to identify old Pandit ladies living in various Indian cities, the thing dangling from their ears, Dejhoor.

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Update: From British Library, another view of the same scene. The photographers


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mogul's Kaini



That morning we were left in care of Mogul. We were not to return back home until someone came for us. Standing on Mogul's creaky old balcony, I looked out in the direction of our house. The courtyard was out of sight, hidden by cement and tin of rooftops, top-view of rooms of cousin Sheebu and Binnu. Towards the right the old house stood tall. Too tall. I stuck my neck out to see the top. Did I expect to see anything? It was hopeless. Straight ahead I could see the little cart-shop of Mogul's eldest son. He sold little packets of Sauf which always had a pink or green plastic whistle inside or maybe sometimes a ring. In his cart shop were stacks of peanuts and channa, and fried green peas, peppered, and grams of all color. His wide rimmed glass bottles held candies, always orange, half molten, looking licked, and stuck to wrappers. There were bottles of Bubble gum and mint. There were toy guns and balloons. There were games, a hand-held roulette, a maze with rolling balls, a puzzle set - order the numbers and get to see Taj Mahal at the back. And then there was the fish shaped 'water game' - press the big rubber button on the water-filled hand-held device and hook the little plastic multi-colored rings dancing in water inside to the two poles. People said Mogul's elder one was a little slow of brain, and that he just couldn't bargain. But he worked so close to home. That ought to count for something. And why was water inside the belly of those plastic fish so sweet? Was is really poisonous? How exactly did he die? I again looked back at the house from Mogul's Kaini. It was a nice spot. In morning, sun would light it up perfectly. I would often come to this place and find Mogul sitting on the floor spinning her wheel, churning cotton to thread. Singing something. I would ask for Posha, an excuse, and sit and watch the woman work her Yedir. Posha, Mohul's young daughter started talking about something that ought to regale us kids, make us laugh. She was always for laughs. I would have joined in but that day something else was keeping me engrossed. The wailing, when it started, in middle of one of Posha's Jokes, was unlike any crying sound that I could identify. So it had begun. The house still looked calm. But the wailing now came in waves. Rising and falling. It came from the courtyard. I could identify the sound of my grandmother, grand-aunts and together they sounding like sound of someone unknown previously, but now intimately known . The women of the house had started mourning the death of my grandfather's bachelor brother. That day I spend the entire afternoon in Mogul's Kaini watching and listening to the songs of death for first time. For the longest time, I wrongly believed the old man died of smoking. He died of kidney failure. For the longest time, I believed death meant an empty room. Death meant now absent. I thought it meant a room cleared of useless belonging. I thought it meant finding beautiful shiny old lighters long buried in ground.

Mogul's eldest was the first one to die. It is believed he died in cross-firing. Of other two, one died of drowning, and the other went on to join JKLK and died too. Posha went on to marry a grade three government officer. For her dowry, she took my mother's dressing table with her. Mogul's Kaini now it seems is a point of minor neighborly dispute. Mogul gripped my grandfather by his hand and asked him to confirm whether or not he had explicitly let her build that balcony out and intruding on his land. He answered. She found hope in his answer and he found hopelessness.

She asked him to repeat it out loud and aloud to all, especially to the new owners. And then she proclaimed the matter as settled, forever.





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Saturday, September 10, 2011

House of Horses. Chattabal, 2008. 


All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

~ Yeats

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Neighbours, not mine. Name, not my name


Neighbours, not mine. 


"Simi Ji! Simi Ji!" A little girl living in that house would sometimes call out loud at odd hours. I never knew the caller by face. I could only hear a voice coming somewhere deep from the inside of that Muslim house and then I would hear the laughter. My mother would run to the window with a false start and then half-way, catching onto the prank, she would curse, "Trath Temis". If it wasn't enough that she had neighbours who would clear-out their spittoons and night soil into her courtyard, now she had to deal this bratty child's game. Sometimes I would run to the window to catch the little jester. But I never saw anyone. Our game would continue.

My Nani had a strange habit. She would visit her daughter's place but would try to keep her visits reticent. She wouldn't knock on the door or ring a bell. She wouldn't walk into the house and simply meet her daughter. No, for my Nani, these visits were part of a ritual of checking up on her daughter's married life. As part of this ritual her would stand under the second-floor window of our house and call out my name, my Other name. On hearing my Other name, mother would look out from the window and find my Nani with maybe a bag of fruits, baker's bread or something such. Moments later, she would run down and standing below that window, a bit embarrassed, she would ask her mother to be more proper and not create such scenes. But only weeks later my Nani would again be under the window calling, 'Simi Ji! Simi Ji!'

My Nani wanted that I be named Sameer. Naturally, the nick name would have been symphonic and girly Simi. But then I was born on a wrong day. An elder Bhabhi of my Dadi vetoed that for someone born on such a great day, Vinayak Tchorum, and that too a Sunday, only Vinayak would be a proper name. Simi would have been lost like Sameer but for my Nani and the unseen neighbour girl, the two custodians of my other name.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

zoon chey gindaan taarkan



bish'te bish'te bya'ro, khot'kho wan
tore kyo'ho wo'luth
bab're pan
su kaman dyututh
koo'taran
kotar byi'thiye maar'kan
zoon chey gindaan taarkan

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gadadhar Temple, Jammu




In the post 'The Romantic Kashmir, 1906', I identified the below given image from 1945 as that of Gadhadhar Temple Srinagar.

The Gadhadhar Temple in Srinagar actually looks like this back in 1906:



I assumed that in next couple of decades it may have changed a bit. So made a connection between an unidentifiable location and an identifiable location. It turns out I was wrong.

Man Mohan Munshi Ji pointed out the mistake. Gadhadhar Temple in Srinagar still looks pretty much the same. The discussion lead me to an interesting fact that there is in fact a Gadhadhar Temple in Jammu too. It seems Dogras built twin temples separated by geographical locations and just next to their two seats of power.

The following photographs and description were sent by Man Mohan Munshi Ji of Gadadhar temple in Jammu.





View of Gadadhar Temple Jammu from the south-western gate of Mubarak Mandi . (old Secretariat). Temple is located on the first floor and ground floor houses some shops and offices.




Front view of the Gadadhar temple on the first floor

 Statue of the deity inside the temple, note the Gadha in the hand of the deity

The filled up tank in front of the temple used by Dewan Badrinath School as play ground.
Note the western gate of the old Secretariat Jammu on the right side
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Update: I now believe the original image to be of a Jain temple in Calcutta. Check original post (Kashmir in 1945) for updates.

Kherishu, Varishu. I love you, I need you!

In April 2009, four months prior to his death, Gulshan Bawra, one of the lyricists of Harjaee [1981], recounted how another song in the film was created:"We had gone for the shooting of a film in Kashmir and dusk had fallen over the valley. Near a ropeway, I heard two locals call out to each other in a language I did not understand. One of the silhouetted men seeded to ask a question and the other seemed to reply in the affirmative. My panic swelled as the only recognizable word sounded like "shoot". I interpreted this as "Should I shoot?" and "Yes, shoot" respectively. I hurried away from the scene, understandably quickly. A couple of days later a friend of mine in Bombay clarified amidst relieved laughter that what I had heard was "Kherishu?" and "Varishu" which meant "How are you?" and the reply "I am fine". When I told the two words to Panchan, he asked,"Which language is this? Russian?" "No, this is Kashmiri," I replied. An amused Pancham used the words for an Asha Bhonsle-Kishore Kumar duet and the song "Jeevan me jab aise pal...Kherishu, Varishu was born.

From - 'R.D.Burman The Man, The Music'(2011)  by Anirudha Bhattarcharjee and Balaji Vittal.

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The two Kashmir words were finally passed off in the song to mean I love you and I need you.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Politics of Information

A couple of weeks back, on a Sunday at around 11 at night I finally started writing that story. I had been wanting to write it, get it out, for more than two years, but couldn't find time. Writing takes too much necessary time. You have to bargain with time. That night too I was bargaining with time to finish a story. I had a job to report to in the morning. It was around 2 when I laughed to myself and thought,'Can't stop now. I am never get down to writing it. May this be a long night!' The story 'Fish' finished at around 4:30. I didn't poofread it, I almost never do. Let it be 'Kehu Main Pade Khuda. Time is nothing. It is just a unit. I hit the publish button, went to sleep. Woke up at around 8:30. 'At least earlier they used to look like map of India, now they look like Antarctica.' With that I bid my mother and her Parathas good-bye. After a two and a half hour commute that included cycle-rickshaw, Auto-Rickshaw, Metro and the again Cycle-Rickshaw, I was in office where I going to stay for entire next week, tying to design a social game. Now week's days would be spent trying to understand behavior of people online, and nights would be spent bargaining with time. And on every second night, like a wound up monkey with cymbals for hand, a monkey in love with the noise he is making, [system crashes, dies, as it tries to recover, I pick up a half-read book, flip to the page with a folded top corner and read a few pages only to stop after the narrative reaches the part about lyricist Gulshan Bawra's ironic inspiration for an early 1980s Bollywood love song peppered with Kashmiri greeting, 'Kherishu, Varishu'. I want to write some more. But my system does not respond. It crashes. I return next night to finish this post from a friend's system. Like an automaton, I would religiously hit the publish button.

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Last week, thanks to my super vanity - a habit of self-googling, I realize 'Fish' got posted to some newspaper called kashmirmonitor [kashmirmonitor.org/krkashmirmonitor/08232011-ND-strange-tales-from-tulamula-10326.aspx]. Although my name as the author is there next to the miss-titled story, 'Strange Tales from Tulamula', no one wrote to me asking 'Hey, nice stuff, can we use it?', No, it just got posted, filled up a space. Served what purpose? No clue. What monkey business! And what harbingers of new social change.

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Two nights ago, I run into more monkey business. I was going through comments section of various articles on Kashmir Current Affairs. My sorry excuse for this despicable exercise is that inspite of all my genuine efforts, I still regularly fail at entirely burying myself in Past, and sometime I too get tempted to get in touch with Present whose commentary offers us the LOLs of future. So I was digging comments. And I ended up the gallery of vintage photographs collected from "various sources" set up by an online newspaper called 'kashmirdispatch' [kashmirdispatch.com/gallery.html]. Yes, among other stuff ( some new even for me, sourced from who knows where) I saw Vintage photographs of Kashmir that I have been posting for more than two years now, with notes on dates, places, photographers and sources. That's more than 60 post with more than  And I saw stuff that Man Mohan Munshi Ji  posted on this blog from his personal collection, like  The paperwallas just post it on their website as part of a gallery without any adjoining description. The exercise serves what purpose?

When I started posting, I could have easily put a big 'Search Kashmir' logo on all of them. But that would not have served the purpose of their existence. The fact that these photographs were shot by someone long ago, and that they were used in detailed narratives about an exotic foreign land written mostly by men (and in some cases by women) seemingly burning with a strange zeal for information, and the fact that these photographers were mostly always duly acknowledged, that these photographs were preserved for years, and only now scanned for free by billion dollar companies, that part of the story of these photographs tells us just as much about the politics of information as the manner in which we the 'subjects' now use or misuse these information. And right now I think we, in this part of the impoverished world, still don't get it.

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On one hand I have newspaperwallas who just Monitor and Dispatch and on other hand I have people who are kind enough to drop in a line before even posting stuff to their Facebook Walls. For people who use this blog, please feel to use use whatever you want but...try to give credit where it is due. If this post leaves you confused enjoy this video by Nina Paley.


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