Thursday, September 26, 2013

Travels in Kashmir by Brigid Keenan, 1989


Brigid Keenan originally meant this book to be a booklet on papier mache art of Kashmir, but once she started collecting material, as often happens in case of Kashmir, she got swept away in the flood its colorful history. So, instead she wrote a 'general' book about Kashmir. A book that picks the best bits about Kashmir and presents it beautifully.

The book revisits those old literally routes through which the west discovered Kashmir. It does this by presenting the interesting stories of early European visitors, most of them now famous because of their journals, but also some minor one and their little known travel diaries (some of them still not publicly available ). So we read story of George Forster travelling under guise of a Muslim and almost getting caught because in a moment of lapse he takes a leak while standing, like a man devoid of faith. And on other end we have the story of a Kashmiri tailor named Butterfly, maker of finest lingerie for British in India, who accidentally embarrassed his Memsahib clients when he brought out a catalogue carrying neatly sketched details of his comfy products and the names of the elite clients enjoying them.

Besides all this, what really makes this book stand out is that Brigid Keenan gives us the description and location of some heritage sites associated with British in Srinagar. Their playgrounds, their famous camp sites (Chinar Bagh), their church (All Saint's Church), their graves (Shiekh Bagh) and their colony (Munshi Bagh). And much like the books of early visitors to Kashmir, this book too provides us a vital snapshot about the status of some old monuments and heritage sites of Kashmir. Reading this book we get to know their status as they stood in 1989 - already vanishing.



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Buy Travels in Kashmir: A Popular History of Its People, Places and Crafts

1 comment:

  1. Seems, getting cought while taking a leak standing is influenced by Richard Francis Burton - guy who introduced Kamasutra to west; who did Haj disguised as a Muslim in 19th century, and was caught in the similar awkward position by an Arab boy. Legend has it he killed that boy to conceal his secret. Dinesh

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