Saturday, August 24, 2013

Of White Gods and Dark Subjects


Yarkand anan zenan

Khoni keth doda-not ware heth
bari drav
Lokan chu sapharun tav
Tahkhith doda-gur Jenatuk bagwan

Yarkand anon zenan
Watal dop watje bonay sara zah

Chim mangan dalomuy ta kah
Tsoratsh ta or heth met hay, pakanawan


A few lines from a lost song 'Phorsat Sahibn Shar Yeli Yarkand Zeneni Gau' [The song of Forsyth Sabib when he went to conquer Yarkand]' by a Kashmiri folk bard named Sobir Tilawon recorded in Sir Aurel Stein's 'Hatim's Tales: Kashmiri Stories and Songs' (1928), recorded with the assistance of Pandit Govind Kaul. It talks about the turmoil created in lives of Kashmiri working class by Sir Douglas Forsyth's mission to Yarkand in 1873-4. In lives of workers, cobblers, tillers and carpenters. It probably is the first recored instance of the native consciousness in a work of folk art acknowledging the presence of Western men in their land and the impact it having on them. I wasn't content with the translation of the lines given in the book. Kaul sahib seemed a bit lenient on the British Imperialists. Or, may be a bit too smart. He translates 'Jenatuk bagwan' as 'Heaven's Gardner' and doda-gur as 'cow herder'...but if going with the way Kashmiri words work really, if Bhagwaan is actually Bagwaan and Doda gur is actually reference to color of a horse, these lines could as well mean:


Yarkand he is conquering
Carrying a milk-pail in his haunch,
earthern pots in a load
he goes forth
For people
journey is exhaustion
He , forsooth
White horse
Heavenly God
Yarkand he is conquering
Cobbler said to Cobbler's wife
"I shall not remember forever,
they want my leather and lace,
leather-cutter and awl,
and they want me.
O, they are taking me too"
Yarkand he is conquering


Punting up the river Jhelum, a gentleman aboard a dourmjah with two attendants 
Punjab Hills, early 19th Century

If from one side we have a consciousness that 'other' was like a God, with power to move men and matter at his whim, from the other side too we see a consciousness of a Godly impunity, a consciousness that 'We' have even intruded into domains where 'they' would only let 'their' Gods intrude, and a consciousness about what havoc it must be having on 'their' simple minds, and an unassuming confidence in 'his' power to get into the mind of these sorry creatures, and define the relations between 'Us' and 'Them'.

In 'Indian Memories: Recollections of Soldiering Sport, Etc.' (1915) by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, father of Scout Movement, we find this curious little incident showcasing white man's God moment and white man's consciousness of it:

At Bidjbehara, which I found too tempting to be resisted and stopped there a whole day, our charming bagh was invaded towards evening by the Resident of Kashmir and his camp, and 40,000 coolies (more or less), escort, tagrag and bobtail.  
Just opposite to where I lay moored was a Hindu temple. I had been interested in watching the ways of the devotees, and I took my dinghy and rowed unobserved close under their bank and listened to what they were saying. A priest came to them while they were eating their midday meal. He talked, not directly to them at first, but rather at them, steadily harping on one thing. " Life is vanity, the great river flowing by is like the Destiny of Life ; it rolls on ceaselessly, unmoved by the desires, or prayers, or tears of men; quiet but irresistible; calm but inscrutable." They seemed to forget their meal as his impressive refrain began to hold their attention.  
"Aye, brothers,' he continued," look at those straws, those bubbles borne along by the current. What are we but such as they ? borne along by Father Destiny, the Great River, whence ? it matters not: whither? we know not : what use for us to have ambitions, loves or hates ? Can we, mere straws, turn the Great River to suit our little aims? Do you, my brothers, not see the might of the great God ? Yes, in your heart you begin to comprehend his greatness and your own littleness. He comes to you - he comes -" 
Yes, he does, or the next thing to him does. An English tourist, kodak in hand, nose in the air, walks in, stepping through the assemblage as if they were so much dirt, and proceeds to " snap" their best idol. 
The spell was broken. Poor old priest, I quite felt for him. All his high-falutin thrown away. The disenchantment was complete. The women covered up their faces from the white man, and the men resumed their eating and began jabbering to each other their various experiences of the "mad sahib logue" they have met. 
Mad Sahib log indeed.
-0-



1 comment:

  1. What the 'priest' was saying is pretty profound, but to the materialistic imperialist voyeur on a mission to conquer, rule and loot a far off land, that profound spiritual thought must have been a damper of spirit. Hence, he discards the thought and continues on his ego trip.....

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Content protected by

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Which it basically means is: You are free to share anything you may find here. No need to seek permission explicitly. Also you are free to re-use it for non-commercial purposes provided you let others use your work for free non-commercial purposes. This blog was started with the intention of sharing information for free. But, in case of commercial use, do seek a permission first. In all cases, giving proper credit to the blog/source is the proper decent thing to do, let other people know where you found it. Do not stifle information.

Categories

10th century (1) 12th century (1) 15th century (1) 1760 (1) 1770 (1) 1821 (1) 1823 (1) 1835 (1) 1840 (1) 1851 (1) 1854 (3) 1858 (1) 1859 (2) 1862 (1) 1864 (2) 1866 (1) 1868 (2) 1870 (2) 1874 (2) 1875 (1) 1877 (4) 1879 (1) 1881 (3) 1882 (1) 1883 (1) 1884 (1) 1885 (1) 1888 (1) 1890 (1) 1891 (2) 1892 (2) 1893 (1) 1895 (6) 1897 (1) 18th century (1) 19 January (2) 1900 (2) 1901 (1) 1902 (2) 1903 (5) 1904 (2) 1905 (1) 1906 (5) 1907 (4) 1908 (4) 1909 (2) 1910 (1) 1911 (2) 1912 (2) 1913 (2) 1914 (1) 1915 (6) 1916 (2) 1917 (2) 1918 (1) 1919 (1) 1920 (10) 1920s (10) 1921 (1) 1922 (3) 1923 (1) 1925 (2) 1926 (4) 1927 (2) 1928 (1) 1929 (2) 1930s (4) 1931 (3) 1933 (1) 1934 (3) 1935 (2) 1938 (2) 1939 (1) 1940 (1) 1940s (3) 1944 (4) 1945 (2) 1946 (4) 1947 (13) 1948 (13) 1949 (1) 1950s (9) 1951 (2) 1952 (3) 1953 (2) 1954 (1) 1955 (2) 1956 (5) 1957 (8) 1958 (3) 1959 (1) 1960 (2) 1960s (6) 1961 (1) 1962 (1) 1963 (1) 1964 (1) 1965 (1) 1967 (1) 1969 (5) 1971 (1) 1973 (1) 1975 (1) 1976 (1) 1977 (2) 1978 (2) 1979 (1) 1980 (1) 1980s (3) 1981 (1) 1982 (1) 1983 (4) 1987 (1) 1988 (1) 1989 (4) 1990 (18) 1992 (1) 2010 (2) 2014 (11) 21 January (1) 26 January (1) 70s (1) 7th century (1) 90s (1) 9th century (1) A Kashmiri Tourist in Kashmir (66) A Kashmiri Tourist in Ladakh (7) abhinavgupta (3) afghan (3) aishmukam (1) Akhnoor (3) Ali Kadal (3) all Kashmiris (1) amarnath (4) Amira Kadal (2) ancient (12) angrez (68) angry (2) animals (2) anomalous dreams (55) archeology (4) architecture (21) arnimaal (2) art (49) astronomy (1) audio (1) autumn (3) avantipur (5) azad (2) baazigar (3) back log (1) bagh-i-sundar balla Chattabal (16) Bakarwal (1) bakers (1) Balti (1) bandipora (1) bangladeshi (1) Banihal (2) baramulla (6) bc road (1) bekal kalaam (48) Bhaderwah (2) Bhand Pather (7) birds (3) Biscoe School (10) bits and pieces (88) boatmen (6) bookmarks (1) books (67) border (1) bot (3) bridges/kadal (16) british raj (1) Bu'nyul (2) buddhism (5) budshah (6) bulbul (1) bund (2) Burzahom (3) cave (1) census (1) chanapora (1) change log (4) chapyin khor (2) cheen (3) Chenab (4) children (3) children's books (5) Chinar (7) Cinema Hall (3) collectible (11) comedy (5) comic (7) communists (2) confused art (5) confused ethnicity (2) confused geography (6) confused history (5) confused language (1) confused names (2) confused people (1) confused religion (2) copy for tourist brochure (12) culture (10) dal (4) Dal Lake (17) dance (17) darbarmov (1) days (2) death (1) dilli (2) discovery (1) doon (3) downtown (2) drama (1) dress (8) duggar (1) engineering (1) environment (1) erotica (5) fakir (4) family albums (7) family histories (14) farmer (2) farsi (23) fashinas'foo't (3) Fateh Kadal (3) feast (2) festival (3) first war (6) flowers (1) folkdance (1) folksongs (9) folktales (8) food (58) forts (1) free books (29) fruits (1) funny (19) Gabba (3) gad (5) game (7) Ganpatyar (2) Garden (28) ghat (2) Ghost Stories (7) Gilgit (1) glass (1) Good man the Laltain (1) gor boi (1) graffiti (2) guest posts (107) guide book (5) gujjar (1) Gulmarg (19) Haar (2) habba kadal (11) Habba Khatoon (6) haenz (4) hair (1) hakh (1) Harwan (5) hazratbal (7) Henri Cartier-Bresson (1) herat (5) hindustaan (21) hindustaantiPaekistaan (8) History (124) hoho (2) hoon (2) house (18) houseboat (13) Hunza (1) hypertextuality (5) hyundTiMusalmaan (13) id (1) idols (1) illustrations (29) immigrant tales (18) in Kashmir (20) index (1) indus (1) inscriptions (1) interview (2) iran (3) Ishber (2) Jammu (75) jeeliDal (5) jesus (1) jewiz (1) jhelum (13) kabalis (2) kafirs (1) kakaz (2) kalheer (1) Kali Mandar (1) kandur (14) kangir (9) Karan Nagar (1) karewa (1) kargil (2) karr'e (2) kashmir in summer (2) Kashmiri Beauty (28) Kashmirispotting (18) kashmiriyat discourse (1) kashmirstrotram (1) kaula charsi (1) Kausar Nag (1) Kaw (3) khandar (3) Kharyaar (3) Khilanmarg (1) khos (1) khrew (1) kirkyet (1) Kishtwar (2) kitchen (1) kong posh (1) Kongdoor (1) kotar (1) kral (1) kralkhod (3) kul (1) Ladakh (25) lafaz (1) Lake (4) Lal Chowk (4) Lal Ded (18) land (1) language (45) leelas (1) leh (1) letters (1) liddarwat (1) list (3) location (1) love (7) lyek (5) lyrics (38) maaz (1) madin sahib (2) Mahjoor (5) Mahmud Gami (5) mahrin (1) manasbal (3) mapping Rajatarangini (5) Maps (36) marriage (18) martand (8) mas (1) masjid (2) mattan (1) me'chu'na'koshur'tagaan (3) mekhal (1) metaphysical star wars (16) migrant (9) Militia (1) missionaries (7) Mix Bag (8) Mohra (1) money (2) Morning (1) mosque (2) mountains (5) mout (1) mughals (18) museum (3) Music (53) naag (3) naav (1) Nadim (7) nadru (2) naga (2) nagin (5) nalla-e-mar (2) namaaz (1) Namda (1) nautch (9) news (5) newsreel (1) NH1-A (13) nohor (4) nostalgia (3) notes on Shalimar the Clown (4) numbers (2) Nund Ryosh (8) odd (21) old hotels (2) oral bits (16) originals (1) ornament (9) pahalgam (1) paintings (53) Pakistan (3) pampore (2) pandit affairs (7) pandits (61) Pandrethan (1) panjyeb (1) parbat (10) Pari Mahal (1) parihaspora (1) parsi (2) partition (1) pashmina (1) pattan (1) pawer'cha (1) persons (3) phaka (2) pheran (1) philim (48) photo (120) pilgrimages (1) pir panjal (3) poem (26) polo (1) poonch (1) posh (1) posha (1) postal (2) postcards (20) Prem Nath Bazaz (1) prePaekistaan (2) project (7) proverbs (6) puj waan (2) qazigund (1) questions (1) radio (3) Rahi (1) Rajatarangini (15) Rajouri (2) ramayan (1) rare articles (1) rare out-of-print (6) rasul mir (2) read (5) recording (1) reenactment (8) religion (19) remembrance (4) renovation (1) reshi (1) Residency Road (1) retracing (1) riddle (1) riddles (3) rituals (2) river-life (9) rivers (9) road (1) roos (3) rop bhavani (1) ruins (5) sacred spaces (1) saints (4) salesmanship (1) samad mir (1) samawar (1) sangam (1) sanghi batta (1) sanskrit (6) saqi (1) saruf (1) School (9) sculpture (6) second war (1) See (3) Shadipur (2) shafa (3) Shah Hamadan (1) Shalimar Bagh (7) Shankracharya (3) sharda (4) shaveratri (2) shawl (7) she (1) shikara (1) shikari (2) shiraz (1) shiv (6) shivratri (4) Shorab (2) shrine (4) Sikandar (1) sikhsardar (2) snakes (6) snow (6) Sonamarg (2) songs (12) songsforexile (4) sound (3) spring (1) srinagar (12) stamps (2) stones (3) Strange Tales from Tulamula (4) stupa (1) Su (1) sufi (1) swim (5) sylab nama (11) t'song (1) tailor (3) talav (1) talk (7) tanga (1) tcharpoke (1) tchoor hasa hey (2) tea (8) temples (29) The Eternal Pandit (3) then-now (19) they write (1) things that crossed over (13) thingsthatremindmeofkashmir (11) tibet (4) top (1) tradition (7) travel routes (1) travellers in time (2) trees (1) trekking (1) tulmul/khir bhawani (20) tv tyeth (1) udhampur (1) undated (1) Uri (3) vakh (2) valley (1) varmul (1) Vejibror (2) verses (9) Video Dastangoi (3) village (1) Vintage (37) Vintage audio (2) vintage magazines (2) Vintage photos (153) vintage video (13) walnut wood (1) wasteland (1) wazwaan (1) weavers (3) wildlife (2) window (3) winter (8) wodwin janawar (2) wolar (3) women (8) words for paradise (10) Workmanship (35) ya ali (1) ya-khoda-ti-bhagwaan (2) yaarbal (1) yach (1) Yarbal (1) you tube (26) zaar (2) zabarwan (1) zafur (2) Zaina Kadal (5) Zeethyaar (4) zenana (1) zoon (2) zor-e-talwarTiBandook (2) zu (2)