Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rahman Rahi by M K Raina

For me the interesting part in this film isn't hearing the famous Kashmiri 'poet of silence' actually speak but it is the way his voice comes across as a person, when he talks about his life and then as a poet, when he talks about the thoughts that invade his mind. It is the way his poetry interacts with a listener and then how people interact with him in person, question him. 'Why silent?' isn't the only question. The question could also be why words written decades ago, concerns that first etched them, why those words still offer quasi-resonance.

First section  of a Ranjit Hoskote essay titled 'Winter Thoughts about Spring' (link) starts with a conversation with Rahman Rahi and ends with part were Bollywood eats up culture.

Right, Rahman Rahi with Lata Mangeshkar.

In this film, perhaps the most ironic part is when one sees a young Kashmiri girl in middle of a discussion about future of Kashmiri Language, trying to make a strong point and then struggling to find a Kashmiri word for her point. Or perhaps most ironic part is watching the poet quote Koshur poet Mahjoor and Dilli poet Mir with just as much ease. Or perhaps it is hearing him worry about losing his memories: ASI protected Sun temple ruins of military campaigner Lalitaditya and Muslim Auqaf Trust run Charari Sharief of soul campaigner Alamdar-e-Kashmir Hazrat Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Wali/Nund Reshi.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Raja Vikarmajitery Kath

  dyar hase chu saf'ras
     yar hase chu na as'nas
  ash'nav hasa chu as'nas
gaye tre kathe beye ze kathe hasa chy'au
  sa zanana chy'auvna pane'ny
     yesa na asi pan'es sai'th
beye hasa
     yus rats bedar rozi
     suy hasa zae'ni raje Vikramajit'ney kur

Monies, sirs, is for a journey.
A friend, sirs, is for when there is no money.
A near relation, sirs, is for when there is money.
That makes three things, and, sirs, there are two others : —
 That woman is not for you
 one not in know of herself
And, again, sirs : —
 He only will win Raja Vikramaditya's daughter
Who keepeth awake by night.

I never imagined I will read these Kashmiri stories. But here they are, preserved. Preserved complete with all the intellectual rigor that their listening induced among its recorders. The above lines form a mishmash of a particular verse in 'Hatim's Tales: Kashmiri Stories and Songs' (1928), recorded with the assistance of Pandit Govind Kaul by Sir Aurel Stein. I created this mishmash based on the two version offered by Aurel Stein and Pandit Govind Kaul.

The Kashmiri songs and stories in this book were recited to Sir Aurel Stein in 1896, at Mohand Marg, high in Haramukh range, in Kashmir, by one Hatim Tilwon of Panzil, in the Sind Valley, a cultivator and a professional story- teller. They were taken down at his dictation by Sir Aurel Stein himself, and, simultaneously, by Pandit Govinda Kaul. The work is unique in the sense that (as the introduction to the book explains):

"[...] Hatim's language was not the literary language of Kashmiri Pandits, but was in a village dialect, and Sir Aurel Stein's phonetic record of the patois, placed alongside of the standard spelling of Kashmiri Pandits, gives what is perhaps the only opportunity in existence for comparing the literary form of an Oriental speech with the actual pronunciation of a fairly educated villager."

The stories that Hatim told included not just a story of fabled Vikarmajit, but also of Mahmud of Ghazni, albeit in a familiar fabled grab of a benevolent king who goes around town at night in the grab of a poor man. He also tells the story of a farmer's wife who complains to a Honey-bee about harshness of a revenue collector. The stories are told in songs and verses. The most amusing Kashmiri song offered by this book is the one about the turmoil created in lives of Kashmiri working class by Sir Douglas Forsyth's mission to Yarkand in 1873-4.  The workers, cobblers, tillers, carpenters and all with a typical tongue-in-cheek Kashmiri humor sing:

Yarkand anan zenan

Khoni keth doda-not ware heth
bari drav
Lokan chu sapharun tav
Tahkhith doda-gur Jenatuk bagwan

Yarkand anon zenan
Watal dop watje bonay sara zah

Chim mangan dalomuy ta kah
Tsoratsh ta or heth met hay, pakanawan

I found Govinda Kaul's translation (rather his pick of English works for certain Kashmiri work) a bit too easy on Imperialists, almost turning the song on its head.  Here's what the song conveyed to be:

Yarkand he is conquering
Carrying a milk-pail in his haunch,
earthern pots in a load
he goes forth

For people
journey is exhaustion

He , forsooth

White horse

Heavenly God
Yarkand he is conquering

Cobbler said to Cobbler's wife
"I shall not remember forever,
they want my leather and lace,
leather-cutter and awl,
and they want me.
O, they are taking me too"

Yarkand he is conquering

You may read the complete book here at openlibrary.org

Related Post:


Pandit Govinda Kaul belonged to the clan of famous Birbal Dhar. Famous D.P. Dhar was a direct decedent of Birbal Dhar.

Unrelated Post:
about short film that I was involved with in a minor way Raag Sarkari. (Nominated for IFFI, 2011).The story of a day in the life of a Jailer somewhere in U.P. and day happens to be D.P Dhar's first death anniversary.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Izband Zalun

If a smell or a sound could take you to a place.
Burning Izband (Harmal/Wild Rue Seeds) inside Kangri,

Kadal at Baramulla

Photograph fof Baramulla Bridge from Vignettes of Kashmir (1903) by E.G. Hull 
At Baramulla we saw the first of those extraordinary constructions which form so peculiar a feature of the river scene at Srinaggar a new form of bridge, in the variety of which structures this country seems so prolific.
It spans the river just above the town on a succession of six piers, and is composed entirely of undressed logs of pine and cedar timber. The whole tree trunk, in fact, lopped of its branches. The strongest and longest of them, laid side by side, are stretched across from pier to pier to form the roadway, and merely rest, without any further security, by two or three feet of their length at either end upon the tops of the opposite piers, which may be from twenty to twenty-five feet apart.
The piers are built up of similar logs arranged side by side in layers of a square shape, the logs of each successive layer crossing those of the other at right angles, and lodging in notches cut in the logs below. The lowest layers are the broadest and diminish gradually as they ascend to the centre, above which they again expand successively up to the top, where the logs equal in length those at the bottom, thus giving the pier an hourglass sort of contraction. The piers rest on a foundation of stones embedded in the muddy bottom of the river, and are protected against its current by a cut-water pointing up the stream, and built of loose stones filled into a frame of logs. Above they are furnished with upright posts, which support the railing that runs on each side of the roadway span.
This kind of bridge is called Kaddal, which appears to be the Kashuri form of the- Hindi kathan "made of wood," and is very strong and durable despite its ricketty construction and very dilapidated appearance. There are six or eight of them on the river at Srinaggar, which bear the traffic of the two halves of the city, and some of them are further weighted with a row of shops on each side the way ; most perilous looking abodes projecting in all degrees of obliquity above the main structure, and from its sides over the stream.
The timber being cedar is very durable, and accidents rarely occur, owing to the elasticity of the construction, and the outlet afforded to sudden floods through the many passages in the substance of the piers. I wit- nessed the behaviour of these bridges in the inundation of 1869, and though they were nearly swamped by the flood, none of them gave way, whilst many of the houses on the river's bank the one I occupied amongst the first were completely destroyed.
~Kashmir and Kashghar. A narrative of the journey of the embassy to Kashghar in 1873-74 (1875)Author: Bellew, H. W. (Henry Walter), 1834-1892

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jammu and Kashmir by Somnath Dhar

Jammu and Kashmir by Somnath Dhar
National Book Trust, India
Second Edition, 1982
Pages 200
Price Rs. 17 (bought for Rs. 200 at ebay from a Jaipur based seller of )

“Tell me what land can boast such treasures?
 Is aught so fair, is aught so sweet?
Hail! Paradise of endless pleasure!
Hail! Beautiful and beloved Kashmir!”
~ Iranian Poet "Toghra” of “Ispahan”

When I first started writing about Kashmir I came across a lot of writing by Kashmiri people. Most of it repeating the same old stories. But it was writings of  Somnath Dhar that I found really interesting and engageable.  Interesting  - because he had cataloged folk songs and folk tales. Engageable - because when he writes that Abdul Ahad Azad mentions a series of articles entitled "Mahmud Gami's Yusuf Zulekhan" that appeared in a German magazine in 1895, you search online and find that the articles and partial translations were done by Karl Friedrich Burkhard. When he quotes an Iranian poet on Kashmir, you find that the lines may have been part of Ta'rif-e Kashmir-e Toghra. His writings offer a process of learning. [He was one of the teachers of  T.N. Madan] His writings, which till recently I had only accessed online, were certainly an inspiration for me. Often while looking for a piece of information, I ended up coming across something written by him [like for the post on 'Origin of Kashmiri Houseboat']. Finally, I have managed to get my hands on one of his many works on Kashmir.

Somnath Dhar's Jammu and Kashmir (first published in 1977, re-published in 1982, 1992 and 1999) is supposed to be a beginner's guide to Kashmir but somehow in just around 200 pages Somnath Dhar manages to offer a lot more than a brief snapshot of the state. he manages to cover almost everything. The content from this book is still used, re-used ad-lib.

In fourteen chapters Somnath Dhar covers People, Language, History, Heritage, Music, Songs, Folklore, Literature, Poems, Drama and Monuments. In addition it even offers details on government developmental plans, and numbers stuff like this population breakdown of the state:

                      1961               1971
Muslims        24,32,067      30,40,129
Hindus         10,13,193       14,04,292
Sikhs            63,069            1,05,873
Buddhists     48,360            57,956
Christians     2,848              7,182
Jains             1,427               1,150
Other religions 3                  8
Religion not stated 9            42

Jains? Probably from Jammu. Religion not stated? Probably too poor to care or probably too educated to care. That's why I like reading stuff like this. There are also subtle lessons on how various historical narratives are used in a grand 'conflict' to make seemingly innocuous but potent comments in favour of a political position. It's a practice that Kashmiri are still finding too addictive and hard to resist. That too interests me. The myth-making.

The best part of the book is perhaps the songs from Leh and Dogra Land and of course, Kashmir.

From Leh we hear Ladakhis singing the song of Zorawar Singh's wife:

I do not wish to eat bread received from the sinful northerners
I do not wish to drink water received from the sinful northerners
Amidst the inhabitants of this land I have no friends and relations...
When arriving at the Zoji-la-Pass, my fatherland can be seen...
Although I can see my fatherland, I shall not arrive there...

In Jammu a woman sings:

Tera miga ladga i manda, O gadda,
tera miga lagda i manda,
Eh Patwari migi khat rehyum liki dinda,
sau sau karnian Chanda.
Kehsi banai Rama
Jange di Chakri

I am sick of separation, my love,
I am sick of separation,
I entreat the Patwari again and again,
To write a letter for me, but he refuses,
So you leave the army and return home.
Why, O God Rama, have you created a permanent institution like the Army?

In Kashmir girls dance while singing:

O you must tell me
Where my boy has gone.
Is he a fountain in life's garden,
Or, a well of nectar, sweet and delicious?

Another thing of my interest, description of Kashmir by the early western visitors. People who pronounced the name of this place as "Cassimere, Chismeer or Ouexmir".

 In addition the book offers there views of Kashmir:

The tea Kashmiris brew in the Samovar is called Kahva. they love to sip it in the orchards when fruits are in blossom. (Courtesy S.P. Sahni)
Kashmiris open a bottle of cold-drink at Chasmeshahi. 2008.

That fold in the lower portion of pheran, I still find interesting.

Women of Ladakh wear colorful clothes. Their special headgear called Perak, is made of red cloth
and tapers down to the waist over the plaited hair.

The silverwate of Kashmir compares favorably with any turned out by sophisticated establishments elsewhere

Jama Masjid, Srinagar, is the most 'architectural' structures in the wooden style of Kashmir.

A view of the Ganderbal hydro-electric project


Shankaracharya Temple

The interior decor of Santoor (Ranjit Hotel, new Delhi)-  creation of architect Shiban Ganju

Raghunath Temple


The Map


You can buy a recent edition of the book here for around Rs.75:
Buy Jammu and Kashmir by Somnath Dhar from Flipkart.com

from Gulshan Books, Srinagar

A couple of weeks back I got an email from Sheikh Aijaz, Chairman Gulshan Books, a publisher based in Srinagar, Kashmir. He wanted to send me their catalogue. I thought he wanted me to promote it. I told him I would be more than happy to share it around with my readers. In the next mail he asks me for my address and praising my Kashmir blog promises to send me two books as a token of appreciation. I was more than happy.

This week, in office, I received a package addressed to 'Chairman Search Kashmir'. People in office had a good laugh about it. 'What's the Deal Bhai! Bum hai Kya!Kaha ka chief hai bhai!' Later at my place as I go through their catalogue, I am pleasantly surprised to see the pages embellished with photographs of Kashmir (at least one of them, my own click) that I have been posting to my blog.

from my review of First Kashmiri Film Mainz Raat (1964).
The actress is Krishna Wali. My father went to school with her son.

The catalogue now offers me names of some more rare and interesting books on Kashmir to hunt for. Gulshan Books has re-published some really old and out of print book on Kashmir. Those in Kashmir can check out their store at Residency Road or their stall at Srinagar Airport. Rest can check out their website and order online [gulshanbooks.net, I had a tough time finding their website when I first heard from them. Hopefully, Google will be kind to them now!].

The two books that they sent me - 'Kashmiriyat through the ages' Edited by Prof. Fida Mohammad Hassanain and 'Srinagar: My City My Dream' by Zahid G. Muhammad - are turning out to be engrossing reads that are going to provide more ideas for this blog. 'Kashmiriyat through the ages' is a collection of essays on...um...Kashmiriyat while 'Srinagar: My City My Dream' offers a nostalgic trip around Srinagar city. The books having a combined hefty price of $50 that had me wondering how would a common man afford them. And these are certainly books that ought to be more easily available (a few of them are already available for free online) but I guess publishing books from Kashmir is not an easy business affair.

I wrote back to thank them and to tell them that I am no chairman of anything. I told them that I am just a log keeper and that I was eight years old when my family had to move out of Kashmir.

You can buy it from here:
Buy Srinagar My City My Dreamland from Flipkart.com

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Old Secretariat, Jammu

Photograph of the heritage building from Jammu sent in by Man Mohan Munshi Ji.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hair like Mathra Devi

The wittiest wisecrack came from my grandmother. She said I now look like Mathra Devi.
I had to ask. My long hair reminded her of a sanyasin named Mathra Devi who used to live at Durga Nag near  Shankarcharya Hill. Apparently she had such long hair that it used to take five attendants to help  wash.

Mathura Devi (1878-1985) used to stay at Durga Nag in 1960s.

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