Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Kankali

Kashmiri Nautch Girl
A postcard from 1920s

A lovely little girl, she became a thief quite soon:
Honored by the townsfolk during the changes of the moon,
She was invited to their homes where the little dear
Made all their sacred vessels completely disappear.
When she was only seven, her voice already bold,
Her mother started teaching her how she could be sold;
Out of greed mom tutored her to play the harlot's game,
And at the market gate, Deathtrap soon became her name.
She wore a pair of falsies and shells upon a string;
Hugs and kisses pleased her lovers - she'd do most anything.
One day a merchant's son, Master Fullofit Esquire,
Shopping for some saffron, just happened to pass by her;
He was young and handsome - he wore fourteen carat gold.
Later in a gambling joint, where drinks were also sold,
She winked her eye, raised her brow, did all that she could do
To rouse his eagerness for a nighttime rendezvous.
While clinging to his neck that night as he lay fast asleep,
(since he had had a lot t drink his snooze was very deep),
She stole his golden earrings - he still did not awaken -
And the rings from off his fingers quietly were taken.
"Help! Help!" the girl then shouted, "Oh! Oh! I have been robbed!"
As if to stop a thief, "Help! Help!" she loudly sobbed.
Robbed and awakened, to avoid a family disgrace,
The salesman ran away, using his clothes to hide his face.
All decked out in dazzling duds, looking young and pretty,
She changed her name and moved along to another city.

~  'Samayamatrika' of Kshemendra written during the reign of King Ananta, around A.D. 1050. Starting with a hymn in praise of Goddess Kali, it narrates the comic exploits of a harlot named Kankali (Skeleton) as her narration travels around Kashmir, from childhood to old age,  from one heroine to another, from one adventure to another. The (improvised) translation given above is from Lee Siegel in his book 'Laughing Matters: Comic Tradition in India' (1987 ). These particular lines are about a girl named Arghagharghatika (Gurgling Little Pot).

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2 comments:

  1. Samayamatrika of Kshemendra has been translated into English as "The courtesan's keeper" by AND Haksar (not in verse though) -- I guess you've seen it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been looking for a copy. But it seems to be out of print now. Instead, I managed to get my hands on the translation by E. Powys Mathers done in 1927, which was probably the first. Will try to upload it soon.

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