Thursday, October 27, 2011

Neighbour, gur tang'e wol

Neighbour, gur tang'e wol. 2008
I turned the big wooden bolt and threw open the gates. I was in. The old house was on left, whining, grunting, wheezing, as usual. The horses were inside. Were they tied proper? I hoped they were.  Nobody else home. I didn't have much time to loose. I looked at the wall in front of me, our side of the common wall. Gauging from the speed at which beer'e ball shot off from my bat and the point and the angle at which the ball then crossed the wall, it was most likely to have dropped somewhere to the right.  I turned right and my eyes met mounts and mounts of horse dung. The smell now hit me. It seemed half the courtyard was buried under 4-feet of dung. Further away from me, the dung seemed months old, hardened, but closer to me, one look and I knew it was fresh. On one of these mounts, not too far from me I found beer, the precious wooden ball that I had earlier in the day stolen from the cabinet of uncle Nanu. It was a remnant from his schooldays. I was not supposed to play with it till I grow-up a few more years. I never saw him play with it. He said it was dangerous, these were his words: It is so hard, it will break your empty skull. Having lost it, I now feared for my skull in any case. Last summer, I had started believing I was He-Man. I would return back from school, take off my uniform, but before wearing anything else, I would put on my marvelous winter gum boots, run out of the house, out the old wooden door and into the yard, holding up over my head a pencil in hand, screaming my lungs out, 'Iiiiii haaave dhA PAawaaaR!' This went on for days, or a few weeks and my Castle Grey Skull was only besieged when one day after my superb performance Nanu, simply pulled the shoes out of my feet and threw them out. A proper Kash'kadun, as they say in Kashmiri. One landed on the roof of Naya Kambra, the newly built room next to the main gate and the other, based on the angle it was tossed, probably crossed over the wall and landed on horse dung. I had tried to recover the shoe that landed on roof and failed (there was no proper stair to roof-top). The other, I hadn't even thought as recoverable. I mean, this house was the ground of my most precious but forgotten nightmares. On some nights, even as the sound of distant trucks moving on national highway receded, these horses kept on singing their wheezy lullabies and they kept on thumping our house to sleep with their hooves. On some nights, I thought they were sad and in most nights I wished they would go to sleep. Were Ghardhivta giving them bad dreams? There were ghosts in that house. Wasn't Mansaram the family house help from Orissa slapped one dark night in that house by an unseen hand? At one time, like most houses in the area, this house too used to belong to the Razdan clan. If stories are to be believed Razdans were settled here by Badshah. If one explanation is to be believed, the people who were settled in the marshes of Chattabal by Badshah were given the name Raz-Dan as they got to eat from royal oven. There is a pass near Gurez named Razdan pass. Pass that. Just before my birth, sometime in late 1970s, most of these families moved out of Kashmir to Indian plains, moved to Ghaziabad or Faridabad. Before leaving they sold on half of the house to a Gur Tang'e Wol. The way these houses were designed and the way these families lived meant that splitting a house wasn't easy and often aesthetically unpleasant. So now the house next to us was owned by a Tongawalla.
It was house of horses and ghosts. A perfect setting for bad dreams and good adventures. So here I was trying to recover this stupid ball. I retreated from the house.

I returned. I stepped into shit. I had come back prepared. I was wearing my shiny new red snowshoes. I only had to take two steps in that valley of dung to reach the ball. One step in, I started sinking. I didn't drown but I was ankle deep. I tried to roll the ball towards me using a stick. It worked. It wasn't long before I had it in my hand. It was over. I did get it back. World was a beautiful place. Man could do whatever he willed. God was with those who help themselves. Thirty cross and his mighty pebbles. It was all true. I started to make my way back. As I pulled my one foot out of shit and on to the solid ground, the other foot somehow slipped deeper in shit. In the same instant, the shoe stuck and only my foot came out. I lost one more shoe.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kashmir in Peoples Of All Nations, 1920s

In 1920s someone came up with a bright idea of putting all the interesting information about all the peoples of all the nations into a book. The result was 14 volumes of 'Peoples Of All Nations: Their Life Today And Story Of Their Past' [Google Books, low-res] edited by J.A. Hammerton, spread over 5000 pages with more than 5000 photographs and more than 150 maps.

Here is Kashmir as it appeared in this book under the section 'India & its myriad races'.

I was lead to this book looking for antecedents of the above image. 


Kid with Kalam and Mashak, 1952

Kashmiri Kid with a rather big 'nar'kon' kalam and Mashak.
Photographed by Ewing Galloway.

This was the cover short for 'The Oriental Watchman and Herald of Health: A Magazine for Health Home and Happiness' September 1952. Caption: "A serious little student in Kashmir with wooden slate and huge pencil."
Came across it in Adventist Archives.

20s-30s, in pictures

Kashmiri Love Seat in NY, 1930

India State Railways, 1936

Fair Ground in Kashmir 1923



Kashmiri Nautch Girls, 1928. (by Ewing Galloway )

Indian State Railways Ad, 1939
Came across these on ebay shop of periodpaper.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

She often sings
She sings songs that I do not understand
She sings of Gods that I do not know
I wonder:
Who wrote it?
How old is it?

How does it matter?

She sings

She often sings
Khir Khand Khyen'chi ae'sis pr'ye
kan-mool khey'th wo'yn kad'ya su dyeh

ga'yom hay'e Ram dand'ak wan
s'yeeth Seeta ti by'e Lakhman

ga'yom hay'e Ram dand'ak wan
ky'end ma'sy'nas tha'ye kho'ran

ga'yom hay'e Ram dand'ak wan
pyeth'kaayan osus na waar
burzakaayan wo'yn an'ya su baar

A transliteration of the lines:

He used to have Candy and Kheer
Now he lives on wild roots and vegetables

My Ram has gone to live in Dandaka Forest
Along with him have gone Sita and Lakshman

My Ram has gone to live in Dandaka Forest
Will not thorns bruise his soft feet
My Ram has gone to live in Dandaka Forest

Even silken robes weren't soft enough for his skin
Now, will he roam around wearing Birch barks?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kashmir in 1913

From 'Sport & folklore in the Himalaya' (1913) by H. L. Haughton.


Dead bears still make news in Kashmir

kotarkhan (2010)

Gujjar Settlement at Gulmarg. 2008

Outer Pavilion , Shalimar Bagh. 2008.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Kashmiri in the Log Cabin talks

Bakshi Ghulam Mohamed, a mute  and perhaps an unwilling witness to one of the funniest 'log cabin' sequence from Indian Cinema, listening in on 'a storm outside-a storm inside' innuendos being passed between Saira Bano and Shammi Kapoor in Junglee (1961). Don't tell me that should have been Sheikh Abdullah. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Poet Budshah

Budshah (Sultan Zain-ul-Abdin, 1420-1470) was a poet too. Under the pen name 'Qatai' he wrote in both Persian and Kashmiri. A sample of his work in Kashmiri:

Zaavyul Kamar aavyul badan shokas chaman 
zokas chhu ban
Yaaduk sezar raaduk thazar fasrshas chhu kan 
arshas chhu thum


Came across it in A History of Kashmiri Literature by Trilokinath Raina.

All I can think about right now is hearing the talk of these old aunts about some woman named Badshah Bai.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kaniv Stuff

Dah Pohsun

so named because it resembles the design of Indian 10 Paisa Coin



Monday, October 10, 2011

Snake Lords of Aishmukam

The Legend of Aishmukam as told in 'Sport & folklore in the Himalaya' (1913) by H. L. Haughton.

His honour did wish, so, having got out a pipe and seated myself on a rock, I listened with interest to the story of : Zainudin-Walli of Pohar Pajjan

Aishmukam, 1927. Martin Hürlimann 
"Many, many years ago the Liddarwat was not inhabited, being given over to the beasts of the forest and djins and fairies. Gradually men moved up the valley, clearing jungle, bringing water in little irrigation cuts from the river, and making little patches of cultivation near the huts which they built. But beyond a certain point, no man could establish himself on account of the enmity of numberless snakes, and that djin who, in the form of a snake, was the king of them all. Many had tried to build houses and settle there ; but all had either died of snake bites, or had been obliged to beat a retreat. At last there came to the country a very holy Pir, named Zainudin-Walli, who, on seeing the stream, the fertile valley, and the gently sloping hills, asked why it was that no one lived in such a spot, where but little labour might produce fine crops of rice and corn, and where there was grazing for so many cattle. Then the people told him of the djin, who, assuming the form of a snake, lived in a cave on the side of the hill, and how that this evil one and all the snakes who were his subjects prevented them from settling and living there. So the Pir, who in his sanctity feared nought, desired the people to show him the cave where the djin lived, and with several men as guides, set out for the spot.  When they came near to the cave, the men who accompanied the saint pointed to the dwelling of the djin, but would not themselves go near. But Zainudin- Walli without hesitation entered the cave, and at once perceived a large serpent, which raised its crest and hissed at him with widespread hood. Nothing daunted, the Pir, calling upon Allah and the prophet, cursed the snake and turned him into stone. And thus he stands, a figure of stone to this day, and on his broad hooded head a lamp is kept burning in honour of the saint who overcame him. When Zainudin-Walli had disposed of this djin who was king of the snakes, he summoned to him all the rest, and ordered that in future they should bite no man unless he first attacked them and tried to harm them.  The news of the saint's exploit, and the orders which he had imposed upon the snakes, soon spread, and men readily came up the valley and took up land and built houses for themselves and their families. Because of the beauty of the spot and the richness of the soil, they called the place Aishmukam — ' the Home of Luxury.' Now it so happened that of all the snakes, one, such as we call a Pohar, refused to obey the orders of Zainudin-Walli, and continued to attack whomsoever he met ; so the people of Aishmukam went to the Pir, and reporting the matter to him, asked for his assistance again. At once the Pir went in search of the rebellious Pohar, and having caught him, he put him into one of those round baskets, which we folks call a Pajjan, and carried him to the top of that high peak, where he left him imprisoned in the Pajjan. Wherefore from that day the name of the hill has been Pohar Pajjan, and the snakes of the district, remembering the orders of  Zainudin-Walli, never harm those who do no harm to them."
The story-teller had spoken with a simple reverence, as though he had perfect faith in the powers of his saint, and in the snakes remaining true to their treaty obligations; personally, though interested, I am afraid I still remained wanting in faith, and killed several snakes within the next few days, for there were plenty of them about. Nor did the fact, that a few days later three men of Boogmoor village were bitten by snakes when cutting grass, increase my trust in the efficaciousness of Zainu- din-Walli's arrangement. But of course, as my shikari said, the foolish men must have lost their heads and attacked the snakes first !

Highly recommend this book for legends from Gilgit 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011


The Kashmir section of 15th Anniversary issue of India Today published in 1990 ends with a photograph  shot by Prashant Panjair.  It's a Migrant camp. Other than the evocative footnote photograph, there is no mention of the migration in the reports that trace the origin and consequences of what must have been back then a disturbance. Maybe no one thought it possible, something like this almost never happens, certainly not to people who have possessions, migration must have seemed like a temporary situation, so these desolate people were referred as Refugees, people who may not need refuge anymore someday. Or that the situation threw some uncomfortable questions that were best ignored for greater good. So all we have is a photograph of a camp which in this case, from the looks of it, for the looks of its walls and floor, was probably the Dharamshala next to a temple whose courtyard  in old city of Jammu seldom saw sunlight, the coolest camp which soon with the coming of monsoon proved to be the dampest. A place that now  reminds me only of paracetamol and phenol, sleep and steel trunks, .


tsogh to nail

Student of University of Madras. Preparations for exams (working hard, they tie hair to nail in wall to prevent falling into sleep)
From V.M. Doroshevich's 1905 book 'East and War' (Востокъ и война).

And I thought my father was kidding me when he used to suggest that I ought get a tsogh and then tie it to a nail, 'like your ancestors', to keep awake while trying to study at night.


Shared by Man Mohan Munshi Ji from his collection. 

A pair of moths circling the lamp
Bride and bridegroom on a ceremonial vyoog
Having mud-washed her kitchen clean, Tekabatini
Out of the window into tree-shade leaned

~  a few lines of  Dina Nath Nadim translated as 'Sugar Candy and Wormwood' by GL Labru.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

'Habba Khatoon' of Basheer Badgami, 70s

After Doordarshan Centre was established in Srinagar in 1972, a number of tele-films were made.  These first few films were about things that all Kashmiris used to cherish, mytho-memories and words of their Habba Khatoons, Rasul Mirs and Badshahs. Among these tele-films Habba Khatoon by Basheer Badgami was probably the most popular and famous. The film had Reeta Razdan as heroine in the role of  poet-queen of Kashmir and Ghani Khan as King Yusuf Chak. The songs were sung by Shamima Dev (who later went on to be Azad [previously]).
This much I know from 'A History of Kashmiri Literature' by Trilokinath Raina. But till recently I hadn't see any of these films ( who knew a few of them were shown in Kashmir Film festival organised by Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in 2009 [.pdf of Films Schedule]).


This morning [thanks to Mrinal Kaul] I came across the famous Habba Khatoon.

Uploaded to Youtube by 44x4x4x [who given his profile picture there, a painting called 'A Beauty of the Valley' by G. Hadenfeldt, found in 'The Charm of Kashmir' (1920) by V.C. Scott O'connor' , is probably already a reader of this blog or someone who somehow found a part of it. I big thanks to the uploader for sharing].

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