Monday, April 25, 2016

Arni Rang Gom


I tell her a nightmare about loss. She sings me an old song about a man who went missing. I stitch a little dream. In our songs, we are home.





Video link
Living in another city, miles away, my wife singing me Arnimaal.

-0-

Here are the lyrics and translation from T.N. Raina


arni rang gom shraavuni heeye
kar yiye darshun deeye

The pallor of fading flowers has fallen
On the midsummer jasmine bloom in me
O, won't I behold his form again?

shaama swondury paaman laajis
aama taavan kotaah gaajis
naam paagaama tas kus neeye
kar yiye darshun deeye

My love has made me suffer jibes,
Given many a burn to sear my soul
Who will bear my message to him?
O won't I behold his form again?

kanda naabada aarud mutui
fanfa karith tsolum kotui
khanda kary nam lookan theeye
kar yiye darshun deeye

Worshipped by me as my old, my god,
Why did he slip away by stealth,
Leaving me a prey to public taunts?
O won't I behold his form again?

suli vwothav sangarmaalan
lala tshaandon kohan ta baalan
pararaan chhas by tihinzi zeeye
kar yiye darshun deeye

Let's go at break of dawn,
And look for my love over hill and dale
I wait for his restoring touch.

O won't I behold his form again?

-0-

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ode to Mandul


Brian Brake. 1950s
I have always been a man susceptible to stupidity. In my house, tales are told of my stupidity. One time, during a wedding someone sent me to buy 25 kilos of paneer, I came back with 25 kilos of Dahi. At moments like these, someone would usually quick, "tchay ne'nay mandul chatith, tchay tari nee fikri! Someone would cut off your ass and you wouldn't notice." It is a nice Kashmiri way of saying, " You so dumb!" I never understood why Dodhwol, or anyone, would be interested in cutting off someone's ass. However, I understood one thing clearly over the years: if there's one thing Kashimiris value more than their brain, it is their ass. Mandul, the ass, is intrinsic part of conversations in Kashmiri. You can't talk to a Kashmiri without him pointing to the ass. You could be discussing black holes seriously using arguments from Stephen Hawking, and someone would respond with, "Tchay chay ni Mandlitch paaye! You don't know ass!" End of discussion.

Why is Mandul so central to Kashmiri conversations? Why is Mandul center of Kashmiri lingual anatomy? Mandlu is even a Kashmiri surname! And it is seldom erotically used while speaking. Even though we have a 9th century Kashmiri poetess named Vikatanitamba, (vikaTa=horrible, nitamba=buttock) who wrote erotica.

The Mandul is mentioned in old Kashmiri sayings like:

Soyi seeth mandul chhalun

Wash ass with nettle

Keep bad company

Panzis Dap'ya Ponz zah mandul chhui wazul

Will a monkey tell another monkey that his butt is red?


Pot calling the kettle black

However, in general language Mandul is used more freely.

[Behiv manḍüjü karith, ti boziv. Sit on you ass and listen]

Here's a little list of ways in which Mandul is invoked in Kashmiri language, often in our intelligent discussions about Kashmir:

mandul ne'nay chatith

You are so dumb, someone would cut off your ass and you wouldn't even notice.

Following two are best discussion enders

Tchay chay ni Mandlitch paaye

You are trying to sound intelligent but you don't even know your own ass

If you want to go next level, say

Mandals chui Ghiss lore

There's shit on your ass and you can't even see that

Or, vunyi chuy Mandul oudruy

Your ass is still wet. Yet are yet to come of age, yet talk big.

Or even,

Mandul ye chalith

Wash your ass. You stink.



These lines are usually used if someone has got

Mandlas Kijj

Itchy ass. Deployed if a person is trying to be smart ass.

Or

Mandlas Kyom

Wormy Ass
If a person is fickly and won't sit at one place.

Or, the next level

Mandlas chi chott kyom

Tape wormy ass

The lines often end with the other party getting

Mandlas tatur

Ass inflammation

Mandul woshlun

Ass gone red like monkey

Mandul Asmanas gasun

Bending down.

Mandlas Pyeth kaduss preth

Kick on his ass

To avoid it all, you need

Mandlas aaych

Ass that has an eye. Be super smart.

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Nabas Mandul Havun

In rural Kashmir, among Pandit families involved with farming, if one wanted to make rains stop, one would pick a kid and face it's shining ass to the sky. Yes, that would make the rain stop. Indra Dev be happy. One of those Kashmiri things. They would mock the gods: "We are not afraid. My kid washes his butt with your rain!"

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Paanch Azaan


video link

1:19 min. Made over two years.

Act 1

Manasbal

 […crowds of worshippers used to fall down and rise at prayers, imitating the high waves...]
~ Dvitīyā Rājataraṅginī, Jonaraja describing Muslims at prayer.

Act 2

Nagin Lake

the man said there are now so many mosques in his area, new Ahle Hadees, competing Barelvi, then the older ones and many more. But, inside empty. Only loudspeakers. It gives him headaches. He then left for his Namaaz.

Act 3

Silent prayer.

Act 4

Village Tullamulla

She said there's a hawan going on somewhere nearby. Some one is praying. Indrakshi Stotram. Let's go. A CRPF guy standing next to a pile of stones corrects her, "Namaaz". It is Friday. He is waiting for stone pelters.

"When he (Jayapida) was appropriating (the land of) Tulamulya, he heard, while on the bank of the Candrabhaga, that a hundred Brahmans less one had sought death in the water of that (stream)."

And with their magic prayers they broke 9th century King Jayapida's head and caused his death. So say's Kalhana.

Act 5

Pampore
February 20, 2016

Two terrorists take over a JKEDI building shoddily built atop the 11th Century AD King Jayasimha's Simhapora, burying history under concrete. [link]

While the gun battle starts, in nearby village, the priest in the mosque asks people to answer the call of Muslim blood.

Army diverts the cars to take an alternate route to reach Srinagar.

We are stuck in a car near village Kunmoh, the birth place of 11th-century Kashmiri poet Bilhana.

I ask her if she is afraid.

She answers, "No."

I ask her, "why?"

"I don't know, "she replies.

Even now, knowing death is quickly closing in, 
my thought leaves the gods and is drawn to her in awe.
What can I do? My thought is obsessed: "She is my love!"

~ Bilhana.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Kashmiri dust storm that blows in Rajasthan



I got married in February. Half the marriage functions were held in Jammu where my family is now based post forced eviction from Kashmir in 1990. Other half of marriage was held in Delhi where my wife’s family is based due to the same events of 1990. A Muslim friend from Srinagar who attended my marriage couldn’t help but notice on a sad note this “scattering” of a Kashmiri community. “Chakravun” is the exact word used for scatter by all Kashmiris.

Aap logo kay saath accha nahi hua. You people had it rough, ” the Mehendiwalla hired in Jammu chirped while putting henna on hands of an aunt. As often is the case, the Mehendiwalla turned out to be a migrant worker from Rajasthan. He then proceeded to prove how well he understood the Kashmiri Pandit story.

“Nehru….Jagmohan…”

Most people present were surprised and delighted that people now know the story. Pandits always feel people are oblivious to their story. People asked him how come he knows all this.

He gave his source, “I saw it on that Zee TV special about pandits of Kashmir. And that video by Anupam Kher.” 

Everyone thanked Anupam Kher for telling their story, as it is. "Truth", they call it.

It was the Hindi TV news channels that did the work. I was already having a tough time convincing people that what Anupam Kher is doing with Kashmiri Pandit story is wrong. It has been conveniently molded into a handy weapon for communal political ends that in no way redress the genuine issues faced by Kashmiri Pandits. So, where is this weapon getting used, how and why?

A month later, I was in Rajasthan with my wife. In Udaipur, a local shopkeeper guessed from my looks that I was a Kashmiri. He said I looked like the guy who runs the shop next to him. The next shop was of Kashmiri handicrafts and shawls. The two were good friends.

On entering Jodhpur, I could see that a lot of walls had an appeal painted on them,"Gow Mata kay hatiyaro ko phansee do. Hang the killers of Mother Cow.”

While leaving the city, I asked the driver to stop for tea. Just outside the city on way to Jaisalmer, we stopped at a local roadside tea stall. As I ordered tea, a middle-aged man sitting on a plank under a tarpaulin shed called out to me. I turned around to see it was in fact a gathering, a bunch of men with nothing else to do, just sitting and talking. I was going to be the topic. I greeted the man with a smile and walked to them. I sat down and we talked.

“Where are you from?”

Over the last many years, I have answered this question in a lot of different places all over India. Earlier on hearing Kashmir, conversation would be about “Halaat kaisey hai” and ‘Terrorism”. However, since last few years, conversations are becoming more invasive.

“ Dharam. Jaat. Gotra.”

Everything was asked.

“I am a Kashmiri Pandit”

On hearing the words, what followed was a discourse in which the doctor had finally found the patient about which he had read and studied a lot. The man proceeded to diagnose Kashmir and kept testing my pulse to look for a communal beat.

It was the usual report: Nehru was a dumb idiot, UN was not needed, Brahmins were always weak, Jagmohan saved the Pandits, Muslims can’t be trusted. What they did to you was wrong!

Aap log sadak par aa gaye.

I couldn’t help pointing out, I was traveling in a car, he was sitting by the roadside.

It was obvious he was performing to an audience that had gathered. He was the local genius who sits under the banyan tree dispensing wisdom. It was the Sangh narrative.

I wasn’t biting. I tried to reason. But, it was as if the man was on some drug.

He offered the medicine.

“Modi will get you back. Just see. We are all with you.”

I told him Modi was no good for me.

He suggested, “Go back. Answer them in same language. Kill your neighbours. Take back your homes.”

The narratives in which all Kashmiri Muslims are seen as perpetrators of ethnic cleansing is at work here.

I laughed and asked, “You mean everyone?”

“You can’t trust them.”

I must have laughed nervously for my driver now intervened as the casual banter was taking a heated turn.

Kya Bakwaas kar rahe ho?

My driver was a Muslim from Mount Abu. For entire length of the journey, he only played Muslim religious songs in the car. He had been listening to the sermon silently till now. The man offering the sermon was suddenly aware of the presence of a certain other.

“Tum kaha say ho bhai? Where are you from?”

Ajju Bhai, the driver was not going to play along.

“Calcutta say! Tu kya kar lega? Calcutta! What is it to you? Chalo Sir, we have a long distance to cover.”

I couldn’t leave with doing a bit of a performance of my own. All that people understand these days is acting.

The secular performance, “Log kharab nahi hotey. Halaat hotey hai. People are not bad, time is.”

Back in the car, Ajju Bhai explained, “These guys are Jokes.”

“These guys?”

“They are all low castes. Men with too much time and no work. We don’t even talk to them. And this is not a good time to discuss such matter.”

Ajju Bhai it seems was an expert on Manusmriti. His opinion on caste was another debatable topic, however, I could see the talk at the tea shop has impacted him in a different way. The way it is supposed to: cause a little burn. It was no play. He told me that the previous night there had been minor rioting in Jodhpur city. He had been up half the night keeping a vigil in the streets where Muslims live. It all started when head of a cow was reportedly found outside a temple. Soon, a crowd was stoning the Muslim shops. Few men were arrested.

Far away Kashmir was just a fuel in such local stories.

We reached Jaisalmer. I wasn’t looking for a guide. At a tea stall, a man with Sandalwood tilak on his forehead offered to show me the fabled Yellow city. From the talks he seemed like another performer. I hired him. The man selling the tea exclaimed, “Kaha say pakad liya! Where did you find him!”
Ten minutes into the tour, it became obvious that the man’s brain is littered with Saffron bombs. Explaining the Gadisar lake, he reached Israel and claimed Jews are actually Hindus too.

“Where are you from? Dharam. Jaat. Gotra.”

When I gave him the answers, he pulled out a rudraksha necklace from around his neck and claimed to be a “first class Brahmin”.

The usual narrative started, “Nehru idiot…”

Mr. Purohit, the guide, claimed to be a VHP worker having worked for them for more than fifteen years. The delight of being part of a secret group reflected like a glint in his eyes.

“Caste has weakened Hinduism. I don’t believe in it. We believe in Sanatan Dharam.”

I asked him if he was okay with a Brahmin marrying outside the caste. He evaded the question, continued to prove Yahoods were actually Yadavs, so part of Sanatan Dharam.

There’s a small ill-maintained crafts museum just next to the lake. The guide thundered how Indians neglect history. He claimed Muslim fakirs had predicted fall of Hindu empire in Rajasthan. How foreigners will walk like bulls in its streets. I looked around and saw a foreign tourist was keenly trying to make sense of the sermon. The guide claimed the local VHP unit works closely with the intelligence unit of the state, reporting on smugglers and other threats. He believed he had some power. He believed he could put a spell on politicians and make them lose. “I will give them all cancer.”

We reached a square in the fort city, he exclaimed out aloud, “Make way! This here is an intelligence agent from Kashmir.” 

I couldn’t help but chuckle at his antics. In Kashmir, in certain circles, a Kashmiri Pandit was and is always an intelligence agent.

“Aap logo kay saath acha nahi hua”

Again, I could see who the audience of Kashmiri Pandit story was. Where the daggers were getting sharpened.

We reached top of the fort. Purohit climbed on top of a view point next to a rusty cannon and pointed out at a Haveli the owner of which in old days had molested an entire Brahmin village. He turned around and claimed there’s only one real hero in India: Nathuram Godse. He screamed it at the top of his lung.

He showed me the Jain temple inside the fort city. Proudly he pointed out the Ganesh inside the Jain temple. With a sly nudge he pointed out the stones in “Kamasutra” pose. Then insisted I visit the old Hindu temple too.

On the way down he claimed to be a Kabirpanthi. I told him I didn’t know that Kabirpanthis were also members of VHP. I left the thread, didn’t want to offend Kabir.

Outside the shop, Ajju Bhai caught up with us. Purohit’s language changed. He and Ajju Bhai got along well. I told them to drop me and my wife at the famous Bhang Shop. Ajju Bhai was a little annoyed. He only believed in Zarda. Purohit proceeded to sing a hindi paean about the benefit of Bhang. I couldn’t understand it. They laughed.

We left Jaisalmer and headed back for Udaipur via Barmer. It was late at night when we stopped again for tea. I was hungry and asked if anything could be had. He had only tea to offer. I noticed a 786 in the shop name. Ajju Bhai probably noticed it too. His language changed. He now talked with a heavy tinge of Urdu with the shop owner. As if to tell the owner that he is a Muslim too. The owner of teashop was from Gujarat. He used to work in diamond industry but due to heavy loss in business had to leave everything. He was starting over again. I could see, behind the shop he had setup a little house. His infant child was in a makeshift cradle. His wife, head and face all covered, walked out to us with a big plate of papaya.

“How much for the papaya?”

“No charge for that. You asked for food. We had nothing. Just this papaya. We offered you half.”

In house of a dispossessed man, I finally found some respite from Kashmir.

-0-

The piece was later republished on EPW, 07 May, 2016.

Republished by raiot.in

Monday, April 18, 2016

useless



Abhinavagupta was useless. He was writing at a time when a power hungry woman in 10th century Kashmir was literally devouring her own grandchildren. Did Abhinavagupta help us make any sense of it? Did his esoteric writing have any significance? Did he help make world a better place?

If he were a present day writer, he be on Facebook screaming "Intolerance" or he be joining a Censor board and offering guidelines on 'cut-for-Indian culture' aesthetics. His birth ceremony would have been scandalous stuff IndiaTV is made of. It would have entertained us.


How does one make sense of it? What has happened to our senses?

Abhinavagupta was not useless.

He did answer the basic questions.

What is history?

Past visualized as if it was happening in present.

Why do your write?

The best writing is one that provides equinamity. Santa-Rasa, the rasa of peace.

How do you mix the two: History should be vividly descriptive and offer the reader visions of past and future. It is a piece of literature.

The result: In 12th century, Kalhana wrote Rajatarangi in Santa-Rasa. The theories of Abhinavagupta were to influence writers for ages.

Srivara was to write:

Will there be anybody in whom the present 'River of Kings' would not engender disillusionment by the vicissitudes [of the] rise and fall of the rulers, witnessed [by me] with my own eyes and [so] remembered?

Centuries later it was Santa-Rasa of this work that provided literal succor to weary kings like Budshah and Akbar [and even Nehru]. Offered then visions of past and future. Paving the way for secular discourses.

-0-

In the world of ideas, he swam like a fish
In real world, he sank like a stone
Over muddy Jhelum, on the hump of a camel
Poshker Nath stood one more time
at the edge
awaiting the final push
wondering if a story would catch him in time

--

हम पंड़ित है
थोड़े बेअकल भी
थोड़े मुसलमान
हमने देखी हिजर भी
देखी कई खुदाई
चली हवा
जो जहा जैसे
पूज लिया
देखे कई मसीहा
हुऐ एक रोज़ ईसाई भी
बेबुध कहानियो मे हम यहूद
हिन्द का हिन्दू अब बस तू
तू पंड़ित है
बेअकल भी

-0-

Burzahom. Then and now.

First dig.
1936


Megalithic Menhirs.Yanderhom Karewa, Burzahom. 

2014
Story of the discovery for some other time.

-0-
SearchKashmir turns 8.

beautiful carpet spread that will be aazadi

The method is simple.
You ask a Nazi about Jews.
You ask Jew about Palestinian.
You ask Sunni about Shia.
Iran about Israel.
Israeli about Muslims.
Pakistani about Hindus.
Hindus about Muslims.
Brahmins about Dalits.
Rich about poor.
Poor about money.
Men about women.
Gods about women.
Women about modesty.
You will find the pricks.
Walk away, Left Compass will show the right way.
But, never ask a Kashmiri Muslim about Kashmiri Pandits.
"Ja... it was a conspiracy. k."
Ignore
What's a small lie in a stream of lies?
A little wrong knot in the beautiful carpet spread that will be aazadi.
Hush for now.
There's a human struggle for truth and dignity going on.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

I found Harwan


In February 2014, I tried to look for Harwan Buddhist site, ended up finding a water filtration plant, returning believing it to be the heritage site. [Read all about it here]

In November, I went back to look for it.

I found Harwan.


I took the right turn this time. I realized why most people miss it. The place is too hidden, you have to hike to the place. Most Pandits visiting are too old, can't climb, have no old association with the place.

And older cousin of mine however did remember the quite little place near Chandipur where they would sometime go for excursion with Walden school.




Diaper Pebble Technique

The lonely worker was carrying out repair for damage suffered by Stupa due to the flood of September.

I remembered that this high terrace was buried under debris due to cloudburst and flood of 1973 and  finally cleared in 1978-80.


Coming in from some distance, I could hear the sound of men sitting somewhere inside an invisible security bunker.

The sun was setting, it was time for me to move.



I am convinced that when the place was conceived, the level of Dal Lake would have been higher. The site would have stood just next to the water body.



From Louise Weiss's Cachemire (1955)

In 1950s, you could just walk around Harwan and the now famous tiles could be seen strewn all around the place. Back them people hoped, it would be an open museum for the tiles.



One the way back, I again lost the way. I couldn't figure out how to get back to the main road.


"hum wayti, maalya"

-0-

Sunday, April 3, 2016

An Evening with Triloke Kaul


The post from 2012 about evolution of modern painting in Kashmir:

 In 1947, just when geographic borders of Kashmir were getting re-defined, a bunch of artists started on a journey that was to alter the borders of Indian art. Six young artists founded the Progressive Artists Group in Bombay. These were FN Souza, SH Raza, KH Ara, MF Husain, SK Bakre and HA Gade. Around same time three men in Kashmir were also going Progressive mentored by the artists from Bombay group. These were S.N. Butt, Triloke Kaul and P.N. Kachru. When SH Raza reached out to these artists in Kashmir in August 1948, the result was formation of 'Progressive Artists Association' in Srinagar in October. It's first exhibition was held in May 1949 and by October that year the exhibition traveled out to Delhi. The two progressive groups continued to inspire each other for many years to come. Raza famously went on to explore the Tantric symbolism in his paintings inspired by Kashmir. In 1950s, Raza went on to mentor one of the best known progressive artists from Kashmir, G.R. Santosh who too worked on Tantric symbolism. 
[can see the work of Bombay group here]

The post from 2011, giving the work of Kashmir Artist group from late 1940s:

VILLAGE SCENE by Trilok Kaul, 1948
Earlier this year I got married. I married someone related to Triloke Kaul. Kashmiri marriage formalities require that the new couple eat-out with relatives of each other. A meeting with Triloke Kaul is what I looked most forward to. I wanted the complete story of the art movement in Kashmir.
And I had something special for him: images from March 1955 issue of Marg: A Magazine of the Arts (Heritage of Kashmir Special Issue) edited by Mulk Raj Anand. The issue carried some of his early works along with that of his colleagues.


In his room the TV was on Tetris mode. I think he plays. He doesn't follow news much. Classical India Music plays, he records it and neatly arranges them by the Ragas.

We talked about the magazine, turns out he helped Mulk Raj Anand edit the particular issue, he even ghost wrote the introduction to the issue He identified the sketches done by him in the issue...most of the sketches of Kashmiri ornaments.


In the magazine, he saw one of his early work: Ajanta. It was done during his Baroda days. He doesn't have it with him. I have promised to send a scan to him. He also asked for a work of S.N. Butt.

And about that iconic self-portrait. I was happy to see that he had a sense of humor. He indulged me when I suggested that he offer me a pose with the cigarette. He even suggested the proper angle. He told me that back in 1950s when that portrait was exhibited in Jehangir Art Gallery, a photographer did capture him against the painting holding onto a cigarette between the lips.

No, he doesn't have most of his old work with him. In 1990, he lost most of his early work to conflict when he was forced to shift to Jammu like other Kashmiri Pandits.


Left: the deity from his ancestral village talked art. 
He talked art and history. How he mentored Santosh and how young Raza greatly influenced all of them. The names of the Kashmiri artists of earlier generation and the politics of the later years.

Here's the audio of the conversation (primarily in Kashmiri):

History of Progressive Art in Kashmir with Triloke Kaul

video link
-0-


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Bismillahi mantrena nashantea Vijayeswara




Bismillahi mantrena nashantea Vijayeswara
बिस्मिल्लाही मंत्रेणा नाशंते विजयेशवरा
~ Strange tales from Rajatarangini


In Ain-e-Akbari it is mentioned that when Parihasapura was destroyed by Sikandar Butshikan (1389-1413) "a copper-tablet was discovered on which was inscribed in Sanskrit, that after the lapse of eleven hundred years one Sikandar, would destroy it, and gather for himself exceeding great chastisement"


A similar story was narrated to Aurel Stein by priests of Vijayeshwara temple. (Point to note is that both "prophecies" get the dates of destruction wrong) Aurel Stein in 'Memoir On Maps Illustrating Ancient Geography Of Kashmir' (1899), in a footnote gives us:

Ekasasasalam varsam Sikendaramahabalabismilla iti mantrena nasyante Vijayesvarah
After the lapse of 1100 years, Sikandar the Mighty
would utter "Bismillah" and destroy temple of Vijayeshwara


While on the subject, here's another one.


Taj-i-shahi az sare Shahane Kashmir bara fated wa sardari an hama rabanagoisari nihad
The royal crown will fall from the heads of the kings of Kashmir, and their government will be overthrown

~ Maulavi Mohammad Sahib on death of Sultan Fateh Shah after a bracelet given by Shah Hamada to Sultan Qutb-ud-Din (1373-89) was buried with Sultan Fateh (1486–1495).

-0-

The reason for this post: Last month I was in Rajasthan, in Jaisalmer, at a tea shop I hired a local guide. After a lot of delightful but lunatic conversation, he claimed that he was a member of VHP. So all his theories about Jews also being Hindu suddenly made sense. During the conversation, he mentioned that a Muslim Sufi saint had predicted that the Rajputs would lose royal seats and that the foreigners would roam freely in their land.

-0-
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