Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Only Kashmiri on Mars, 1898


In 1897-98 when H.G. Wells came out with his 'The War of the World' it took the western world by storm. The plot set in London had aliens from Mars who almost succeed at exterminating humans on this planet only to be stopped accidentally by microbial infection. Inspired by the success of plot and world's fascination with Mars, a slew of derivative unofficial spinoffs by other science fiction writers followed. In one of the best know unofficial sequels to 'The War of the World', a Kashmiri, the only human living on planet Mars, puts end to the Martian scourge and saves earth for human race.

In 'Edison's Conquest of Mars' written by American astronomer Garrett P. Serviss in 1898, actions begins where 'The War of the World' ends. Martians have been defeated, but humans know they will be back to finish the job. To stop them, a group of brave men lead by American inventor Thomas Alva Edison decide to take the fight to the Martians. In a they leave for Mars using the 'anti-gravity' device built by Edison. And on reaching Mars what do they find besides the giant Martians? Surprise! Surprise! A beautiful Kashmiri girl, the last one remaining of the race of humans that nine thousand years had been abducted from Kashmir and taken to Mars as slaves, the one who now sings songs to the aliens and keeps them entertained. The girl offers them the solution to the Martian problem, she tells them how to flood the canals of Mars and end the Martian civilisation.

I am not making this up. An extract from the book:



One of the first bits of information which the Professor had given out was the name of the girl. 
We Learn Her Name. 
It was Aina (pronounced Ah-ee-na).This news was flashed throughout the squadron, and the name of our beautiful captive was on the lips of all.
After that came her story. It was a marvellous narrative. Translated into our tongue it ran as follows:
"The traditions of my fathers, handed down for generations so many that no one can number them, declare that the planet of Mars was not the place of our origin."
"Ages and ages ago our forefathers dwelt on another and distant world that was nearer to the sun than this one is, and enjoyed brighter daylight than we have here."
"They dwelt—as I have often heard the story from my father, who had learned it by heart from his father, and he from his—in a beautiful valley that was surrounded by enormous mountains towering into the clouds and white about their tops with snow that never melted. In the valley were lakes, around which clustered the dwellings of our race."
"It was, the traditions say, a land wonderful for its fertility, filled with all things that the heart could desire, splendid with flowers and rich with luscious fruits."
"It was a land of music, and the people who dwelt in it were very happy."
While the girl was telling this part of her story the Heidelberg Professor became visibly more and more excited. Presently he could keep quiet no longer, and suddenly exclaimed, turning to us who were listening, as the words of the girl were interpreted for us by one of the other linguists:
"Gentlemen, it is the Vale of Cashmere! Has not my great countryman, Adelung, so declared? Has he not said that the Valley of Cashmere was the cradle of the human race already?"
"From the Valley of Cashmere to the planet Mars—what a romance!" exclaimed one of the bystanders.
Colonel Smith appeared to be particularly moved, and I heard him humming under his breath, greatly to my astonishment, for this rough soldier was not much given to poetry or music:
"Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere,
  With its roses the brightest that earth ever gave;
Its temples, its grottoes, its fountains as clear,
  As the love-lighted eyes that hang over the wave."
Mr. Sidney Phillips, standing by, and also catching the murmur of Colonel Smith's words, showed in his handsome countenance some indications of distress, as if he wished he had thought of those lines himself.
Aina Tells Her Story.
The girl resumed her narrative:"Suddenly there dropped down out of the sky strange gigantic enemies, armed with mysterious weapons, and began to slay and burn and make desolate. Our forefathers could not withstand them. They seemed like demons, who had been sent from the abodes of evil to destroy our race."
"Some of the wise men said that this thing had come upon our people because they had been very wicked, and the gods in Heaven were angry. Some said they came from the moon, and some from the far-away stars. But of these things my forefathers knew nothing for a certainty."
"The destroyers showed no mercy to the inhabitants of the beautiful valley. Not content with making it a desert, they swept over other parts of the earth."
"The tradition says that they carried off from the valley, which was our native land, a large number of our people, taking them first into a strange country, where there were oceans of sand, but where a great river, flowing through the midst of the sands, created a narrow land of fertility. Here, after having slain and driven out the native inhabitants, they remained for many years, keeping our people, whom they had carried into captivity, as slaves."

The plot twist devised by Garrett P. Serviss mashed up some of the more popular obsessions of the western world around that time: 'Canals of Mars', 'Eden on Earth'. The idea of Kashmir as Eden comes from 1806 writings of German philologist Johann Christoph Adelung who attempting to explain the common origin of all languages, postulated Kashmir as cradle of entire human civilisation. Add to that the romantic image of Kashmir in western mind as created by Thomas Moore's famous lines from Lalla Rookh (1817) - 'Who hasn’t heard of the Valley of Kashmir?', an exotic science fiction brew, (or Kehwa as we Kashmiris would prefer) is ready.

So, Who hasn't heard of the Valley of Kashmir? Apparently, even Martians have!

-0-

Read:
Edison's Conquest of Mars (1898) here at gutenberg.org


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