Sunday, November 30, 2014

Magic Mountain (1945) by Eve Orme


Free give away rare book this month for
 SearchKashmir Free Book ProjectThis is the eleventh book released this year. Remember, these are mostly books that were not previously publicly available online.


In 1926, a British woman, Eve Orme, accompanied her husband on a shikar trip to Ladakh. It was unusual back then for a 'memsahib' to accompany a sahib on a hunting trip to Ladakh. Usually the men would go hunting to Ladakh while their women would lounge in Srinagar. Something that Orme considered ordinary holiday of ordinary woman. She wanted something more. An escape from ordinary.


In around 1945, while Britain was still a war zone, writing this 'Magic Mountain' from here personal diaries proved to be an escape from the harsh realities of World War two.

"I am at home in London with its dusty look of war-weariness; its battered, razed buildings, and its steadfast calm.
A woman passes me in Bond Street, leaving a whiff behind her of what is perhaps her last drain of expensive French scent, minty and aromatic. How strange that after eighteen years, in the heart of this island fortress, an evanescent trail of perfume should still take me back so swiftly to Ladakh. That it should remind me of the cheerful, grinning faces of our ponymen, of Rahim, who wrote though a "munshi" some years after our arrival in England, "My body is in the East, but my eyes and heart, Memsahib, turn always to the West." The ache to be on the road is in my heart again as I think of the mountain, peace, and that almighty silence."

Interesting bits:

Ladakhis staging a skit in about the sahibs visiting their land. They make fun of the fact that Kashmiris are not great mountaineers.


In Ladakh, Eve Orme met novelist Martin L Gompertz, famous as 'Ganpat'. Ganpat went to write about his experience of the trip in 'Magic Ladakh' (1928).


Eve Orme also met a French woman named Mlle La Fougie who was travelling alone in the region looking for Ladakhi paintings.

A taxidermist named Mohammed Baba in Srinagar. The same name crops up in travelogue of Walter Del Mar published in 1906, 'The romantic East: Burma, Assam, & Kashmir'

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Archive.org Link



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Saturday, November 29, 2014

How High was the Water


About sixty days after the flood
A city still damp
daubed in two shades




Camps near Dal
 
Camp dwellers.
Most of the government camps look empty. People mostly stay with relative with a nominal person staying in the camp the mark his presence, expecting relief. People on radio sound angry about the way damage is being assessed and relief being handed out.

My Address, was


While clearing his bag of old papers to be thrown away, my father found this old envelope. Before I could stop him, he tore it into two. It carried our old Srinagar address. I kept it 

Last month my father packed his bags from Delhi NCR and moved back to Jammu. Fourteen years ago, I wasn't there when he moved in, and I wasn't there when he moved out. While moving in, none of my stuff had to be moved in but while moving out, he had to pack seven cartons of books collected over my seven year stay in the city.

Once the news of unpacking was passed on, my mind was caught in a strange mathematics. My grandfather spent a major portion of his life at that Srinagar address, about 65 years. At no other place did he live for a longer duration. So did my father, about 35 years. And weirdly enough, so did I, about 8 years. I haven't stayed at a single place for more that 8 years. Right now, Chattabal is still the place were I have spent a major portion of my life. 

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My Address

Today I effaced my house number
the name of the street at the outset.
I wiped away the directions of every road.
And still if you must search me out
just knock at the door
in each street of each city of each country
it's a curse, a benediction both
and wherever you find a free soul
          - that's my home!

Amrita Pritam, translated from Punjabi by the poet.

From - 'India: An Anthology of Contemporary Writings' (1983), Ed. by David Ray and Amritjit Singh.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Aabi Guzar Toll


Previously, Aabi Guzar Gone, 22nd September:

"Over the years, I started coming across photographs of the place in old travelogues. Having never been to the place, the sight of the place in an old book became a thing of little joy for me. Earlier this year when I visited Srinagar, the thought of finally visiting the place did occur to me, but it was winter, the water levels were low, it would not have been a pretty sight, I told myself, 'Next time when the water levels are higher.'

This old building is now gone, destroyed in the flood of September 2014."


A page from 'This is Kashmir' (1954) by Pearce Gervis.



Aabi Guzar
Water Way Octroi
Francis Brunel, 1977
summer, 2010. 
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Finally visited the place on November 18th.



innards
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

aan but-e-kashmir

Image: 'Kashmiri belle' by Gladstone Solomon, 1922.
Gladstone Solomon was the principal of Bombay school of art from 1919 to 1936.


Payaam daadam nazdiike aan but-e-kashmir
Ke zeere halqaye zulfat dilam charaast asiir
Juwab dad, kin deewanuh shood dili too zi ushuq,

Buruh nuyarud deewanuhra mugar zunjeer

I sent a message to that Cashmerian idol, Why is my heart held
captive under the curl of your ringlets? She answered, Because
your heart is distracted with love; and the madman is not suffered
to appear abroad without a chain.

~ unnamed Persian poet. 

Came across the lines in 'Dissertations on the Rhetoric, Prosody, and Rhyme of the Persians (1801), Part 1 by Francis Gladwin. It is provided as an example of 'Sawal-Jawab' style of Persian poetry. Gladwin gave the verses in persian script and the translation but didn't provide the name of the author or the verses in roman script. 

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Payaam: message
aan but-e-kashmir: like a Kashmiri idol
mugar: unless

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Panditani by Fred Bremner. Circa 1900

Panditani by Fred Bremner. Circa 1900. I first came across this iconic image in 2008, it turned out to one of the rarest postcards in Kashmir series. It took a lot of waiting and searching and now I finally have it.

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The photograph of the same woman that was captioned as that on a boatwoman by National Geographic Magazine in 1921.


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The same woman that went on to be on cover of cover of 'Made in Austria' safety matchbox.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

first Persian verse composed by a Kashmiri


Ay bigird-i sham-i ruyat alami parvana'i
vaz lab-i shirin tu shurist dar har khana'i
Man bi chandi ashna'i mikhuram khun-i jigar
ashna ra hal inast vay bar bigana-i

O candle-faced one, the whole world flutters round thee like a moth;
thy sweet lips have caused commotion (or bitterness) in every home.
Such being the state of affliction of thy friend,
how woeful must be the plight of a stranger!

~ first Persian verse composed by a Kashmiri. Attributed by some chronicles to Sultan Qutub ud-Din [1373-1389] and by some others to Zayn al-Abidin [1420-1470].

From 'Persian Poetry in Kashmir, 1339— 1846: An Introduction' (1971) by Girdhari L. Tikku

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based on a painting of Kashmiri woman by B. Prabha.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Tabrizi Song


A persian song 'What Plan, O Musulmans' based on 'Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi' of Rumi. This version was collected by Ananda Coomaraswamy from a Kashmiri minstrel named Abdullah Dar in around 1913 and presented in 'Thirty Songs from the Panjab and Kashmir'

The same thought in more popular, still, in sub-continent in words of Bulleh Shah from Panjab. 

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Monster of Kausar Nag

Gamera of Japanese Kaiju series
"One of our friends went to bathe in the spring and with little knowledge of swimming he went inside. Suddenly his two feet stopped swimming. We took his turban and tied a stone to it, and threw it over (the water). So he reached the bank by pulling it along with it. Then we saw that an animal had swallowed his feet in his mouth. However, much we tried to injure it with stone, stick and hatchet, it did not have any effect on it, until it swallowed the body of our friend to the knees. So we put wood on its head and lighted it. As it got burnt by the fire a sound like gun-fire was heard from the stomach of the monster. It jumped once into the air and flung itself into the spring. It was destined to die of its own food. The animal resembled a shield ('Alq). Its length was two cubits and its width at the lower side was one cubit, and towards the head 8 girahs. Its skin was hard and granulated and that is why striking with the hatchet did not have any effect on it."

~ An account of visit to Kausar Nag narrated by Moulvi Ghulam Hasan Shah (1832-1898) in his 'Tarikh-i- Hasan'.

I came across it in 'Historical Geography of Kashmir: Based on Arabic and Persian Sources from A.D. 800 to 1900' by S. Maqbul Ahmad, Raja Bano (1984) where the writer suggest Hasan must have come across an alligator. However, given that gangetic turtles are found in some other lakes in the Himalayan region, it is more likely Hasan saw a type of a turtle, probably a Snapping Turtle, a creature that is known to survive in icy lakes.

Interestingly, while most Kashmiris now would be able to write tomes about Kausar Nag, its religious significance, its environmental significance and its history, why the war over it is necessary, yet, none can tell if there is (or was) a species of turtle found in the lake, its breeding cycle and diet. We are still busy chasing monsters.
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Complete Anand Koul Collection


Between 1910s, 20s and 30s, Anand Koul remained one of the most prolific writers from Kashmir. He wrote books and shot off letters to various journals. Most of these writings are now often cited in writings about language, folklore and history of Kashmir.

Last couple of years, I have been tracing, reading, uploading and sharing these works.


Works of Pandit Anand Koul complied/uploaded/scanned till now.

1. A biography of Kashmiri historian Hasan Shah and History of Kashmir by Pandit Anand Koul for Journal and Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal vol 9 (1913)
History of Kashmir by Pandit Anand Koul for Journal and Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal vol 6 (1910)

Blog Link (2014)

2. Kashmiri Pandits by Pandit Anand Koul, 1924

Blog Link (2013)

3. Geography Of The Jammu And Kashmir State (1925) by Anand Koul

Book Link (2014)

4. "Birth-Place of Kalidasa By Pandit Anand Koul. Published in Journal of Indian History VII (1928).

Blog Link (2012)

5. Note on the Relation between Kashmir and Kerala (By Pandit S. Anand Koul.
Kerala Society Papers -1928. T. K. Joseph (Ed.) )

Blog Link (2013), this one was an accidental find while I was going through history of Kerala after moving to the place. 

6. A Life of Nand Rishi by Pandit Anand Koul (1929)
+
'Life Sketch of Laleshwari - A Great Hermitess of Kashmir'
+
(The Wise Saying of Lal Ded)
The Indian Antiquary
June, 1930

Blog Link (2014)

7. Kashmiri Riddles By Pandit Anand Koul (1933)

Link (2014)

8. Two volumes of 'Archaeological Remains In Kashmir' by Pandit Anand Koul, 1935

Blog Link (2012)

9. Kashmiri Proverbs Pandit Anand Koul (1933)


10. Wise Sayings of Nand Rishi by Anand Koul for 'The Indian Antiquary' (1933)


11. 'Life of Rishi Pir Pandit Padshah' by Pandit Anand Koul for 'The Indian Antiquary' (1931). There is a lengthy detour in the piece that touches upon story of Sarmad's killing by Aurangzeb.

Link

12.  'Life of Rupa Bhawani' by Pandit Anand Koul and presented in 'The Indian Antiquary' (1932). Both this and the precious piece about Rishi Pir throw light upon the influence of Persian language among Kashmiri Pandits in around 1600s.

Link

13. Lalla-Vakyani, some additional sayings of Lal Ded collected by Pandit Anand Koul and presented in 'The Indian Antiquary' (1931-32-33). (one missing page, 2 sayings)

Link

14. A Visit to Kapal Mouchan by Anand Koul, 1909

Link
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