Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mess in Kangri

Mess or the water chestnut (G'aaer). Once the staple winter food of Kashmir. Part of winter life. One of the best things about winter. And the best way to have them...

Roasted in a Kangri.

I don't even remember clearly when I last had them. I think I was eight and still in Kashmir.

Panjayeeb G'aaer

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Zov Tcharaan

Zov Tcharaan. Picking lice in warmth of winter sun.
December 2012. Jammu.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Baking no help

[Dec 14, 2012] Follow up on Help the local Kashmiri Bakery [Dec 5, 2012]

'So you received no money.'
'But, I know quite a few people are interested in helping.'
'Yes, some people did call. Said they have collected money. Wanted to know if they should send cash or cheque. Then they wanted to know some bank number. I told them I don't know all this.'
'So still no money.'

Just then a late middle-aged Panditji, probably a regular customer who lives nearby, walked into the shop and exchanged Namaskars with the Baker. Then it was business as usual. He asked about the price for Wangan Hat'ch (dried Brinjal, which seemed to have freshly arrived from Kashmir or Jammu). Then he started to bargain for a discount worth ten rupees.

I continued.

'How much did you lose in fire? It was an electric short-circuit?'
'Yes. Lost some quintals of walnuts, pulses (Var'muth), masalas and stuff like that. All from Kashmir. We were preparing for Shivratri season. It was a good thing I hadn't ordered for new Janthris. I was going to order 8000 of them. But I didn't have money at that time to pay upfront. It was a good thing. We would have lost them too.'

Panditji interjected,'Fire? Was there a fire here? That is bad. Very sad.'

I talked some more to the baker and then started to leave. But the Baker stopped me and handed me a  some freshly baked warm biscuits packed in a sheet of newspaper. He refused to take money for it. It was free. Embarrassingly, I was still getting freebies from the bakery.

Again posting.

Name: Roshan Lal
Bank and Branch: J & K Bank. Sector 18, Noida. [IFSC Code: JAKA0GHAZIA]
Account No: 0319040100093092

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Roohafza and Flit, 1960

A couple of photographs I came across in the book 'Asia' by Dorothy W. Furman (1960).

Roohafza and Flit!
Michel Serraillier - Rapho Guillumette

Roohafza is still Roohafza. But Flit. My father still calls an insect killer, of any brand as 'Flit'. It must have been quite effective at getting rid of those lovely T'chars, Khars and Kan'hepins.

Dal Lake
Ewing Krainin - Monkmeyer.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ghulam Da'en, the three card trickster

Based on a random conversation with my father and some uncles. Story of Ghulam Da'en, Golaam the witch, perhaps the greatest three card trickster from Kashmir.

Every month. At the start of every month he would pocket half of my salary. He was a real  trickster. No one could catch him. He would clean your pockets with you only complying willingly. And he had all these techniques. Some so obvious. Like at first, after his cries of - Begam ko Pakdo, Begum par Lagao - had your attention and you moved in to see what was going on, why the crowd, you could always see him handing over money, to some lucky winner who had just picked the queen from three random cards. And then another one from the crowd would win. Then another. You would feel lucky. Like this day your luck would hold out against Ghulam Da'en, Golaam the witch. You too would bet. And of course, you win. Your lucky day. Crowd cheering. You bet more. You loose. You bet more. You loose. And soon you realize what happened. That Ghulam Da'en tricked you again. It was a setup. It should have been obvious. Those other winners were of course with him on it. Wearing a fur cap on his head and an old worn pheran, he would do this to random people at Pratap Park and to tourists at Boulevard Road, but his favorite haunt was Karfali Mohal near Sharabi chowk, near Parimoo Chemist, Habba Kadal where even his victims were his regulars. And fast. He could switch cards with a gentle flick of his nails. You wink and you miss. Once while dealing he showed me a deck full of queens. From the deck placed three cards down. Asked me to bet and catch. Of course, I bet and picked a card. And I lost. I lost. Then to rub it in, he turned the other cards too. Not one of them was queen. Not one. He would play you. He would play you like a fool. But some days he would let you win too. Go home with a real winning. He would show you three cards. He would show you which one is the queen. Before the serve, while the cards are still in his hand, you would notice that the queen card has a little tear on a corner, or a fold, or a quirky mark. You would memorize it. This is easy. He would lay the cards. You would place the bet, pick a card. He would flip it and of course, you win. He would give you the money. He would tell you this is your lucky day. You bet to play again. The mark is there. Raise the bet. You win. You start believing in you good stars, in God, in Ghulam Da'en's bad luck and your smartness. You raise the bet. He tells you not to steal livelihood for a poor man on his bad day. You raise the bet even higher. You want round. There is old debt to be settled. You would clean the house this time. He serves the three cards. You can't believe your luck. What treachery is this! What witchery! All the three cards this time have the same exact little tear on the corner, the same exact fold, the same exact not so quirky mark. And that is how you would lose half you salary to Ghulam Da'en. Go home to get an earful about it from your wife or parents. And you couldn't fight him over it. It was all fair and square. You definitely couldn't fight him. He once pulled a snake on me. He actually had a live snake in his pocket. That Ghulam Da'en, the three card trickster.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Help the local Kashmiri Bakery

Back in 2009 I had written about Kashmiri Bakery in Noida Sector 53. [here] Over the years, I have posted quite a few photographs of their produce. Some of which are now doing the random rounds of social networks. I have a crazy theory about these bakeries: you can tell the state of Kashmiri society, or any society, by the state of its bakeries and the state of the people running them. On one of the photographs of Kashmiri bread that I posted to Facebook page of this blog, someone from Srinagar actually complained about the fact the now these varieties of bread [roth] are even rare in Kashmir. It is nothing-less of a miracle that these things are relatively easily available to the Pandits living outside Kashmir in Delhi thanks to a handful people. This bread culture is a remnant of  a way of living. If you were a kid in Kashmir, and if one day your family sent you out to buy the bread from the local bakery, you knew you were not a kid anymore, you were now a grown-up ready for all kind of responsibilities. I remember of first few visits to the local bakery in Srinagar. I remember dogs getting fed by patrons and kids getting freebies from the baker. There was a kind of good freebie culture in Kashmir, I guess...even Milkmen, Dahi sellers/Zamdod wol often used to offer freebies to kids. Anyway...

Recently someone wrote in to inform that the good folks running the Bakery in Noida Sector 53 are in real trouble. Mukund wrote in to say:

 "The KASHMIRI BAKERY talked about in this blog is in SERIOUS TROUBLE. There were two brothers working at this bakery one of whom died(i don't know how). It brought all the responsibility of his family(plus his own family)on the second brother who was running this bakery alone, until a few days back. I went to his shop today and to my horror his ENTIRE SHOP WAS BURNT because of an electricity accident. According to him the accident caused damages worth A FEW LAKHS, which is a lifetimes earning by this man's standards. Poor guy was still working on the choolah which was the only thing that seemingly survived. The guy was so depressed that wasn't even accounting properly and was making mistakes which were lowering his profit(i.e. asking for lesser money than he was due), until an elderly gentleman told him. Im saying all this just to let our people know that this is the only kashmiri bakery in the entire Noida/greater Noida area and has been around with us for at least past 10 years(maybe more). And every kashmiri in this area have had his girdas, lavassas, telwurs etc at some point in time.WE SHOULD SPREAD THIS ND HELP HIM AS MUCH AS WE CAN VIA MONETARY DONATIONS. PS: he hasn't asked me to do anything, its just that i felt moved by what ill fate he has struck."

I hope the community living in the area would come forward to help. Here are the bank details of establishment. I the folks running the bakery and they already plan to open it this week.

Name: Roshan Lal
Bank and Branch: J & K Bank. Sector 18, Noida. [IFSC Code: JAKA0GHAZIA]
Account No: 0319040100093092


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Faces. Again.

'Art and Crafts Jammu and Kashmir Land People Culture by D.N. Saraf' (1987)

Some photographs from the book 'Art and Crafts Jammu and Kashmir Land People Culture by D.N. Saraf' (1987).

working on a namda

A carpet weaver

a craftsman's family

old master and  young apprentice

for the love of kangri

Rouff Dancers.  Based on the snake headdress, probably a production of Heemal Nagrai

soofiyana kalam gathering

for the lover of pheran

a kashmiri girl

Ladakhi/Bott women

Photo-Portrait of Kashmiri Pandits, 2007

Deepak Razdan shares some pages from the photo-book 'Enduring images frozen in time: a Photo-Portrait of Kashmiri Pandits by S N Pandita and Ramesh Manvati' (2007). This book has more than 200 images of Kashmiri Pandits spread over a century. From what I read, the only problem with the book was the it gave very little or no information about the actual subjects in these photographs, doesn't tell you who they were, where was the photograph taken, general stuff like that would have made this book more personal. Still, a great effort. As I have written quite a bit about vintage photographs from Kashmir, I am adding some additional notes to some of the photographs shared here. [Those interested in buying the book can do so here ]

The photograph is by Francis Frith.  I have written in detail about it, more about the image here

The youngest in the group wearing a Ladakhi Gomcha. Others in collared Pherans. (change visible in dress code)
 Deepak Razdan's grandfather's brother JN Kaul with Indira Gandhi
First Kashmiri Photographer. Pandit Vishi Nath Kampassi in his studio (1893 A.D.)
A few of his works survive in the book 'Kashmir in Sunlight & Shade: a Description of the Beauties of the Country, the Life, Habits and Humour of its Inhabitants, and an Account of the Gradual but Steady Rebuilding of a Once Down-trodden People' (1922) by Cecil Earle Tyndale-Biscoe. You can see it here, here and


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Snake Dancer

Another one of my little cousin sister got married. This one chose a man from Agra. Meinzraat proved to quite an experience. The all Kashmiri troupe sang folk songs interjected with some balle balle at the right moment, and there was much dancing by all the guests. Highlight proved to be the snake dance. This is the first time I actually saw it or rather even came to know about its prevalence in Kashmir.

Gulzar Ahmed from Budgam
The act has him put a ring into a glass and then placing that glass over his forehead, all using only his two feet. Then he dances to the infamous 'naag dhun' while balancing this glass on his forehead and asking all those in attendance to drop money in it.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Play Harishchandra in Kashmir, 1903

"Satich Kahvit (Kashmiri) is a play (1929) by Nandlal Kaul [Nana] (1870-1940). It marks the beginning of the modern age of the history of Kashmiri drama. We are told some plays were written in Kashmiri prior to Satich kahvit and Zaina vilas (The play of Zaina) is often quoted as an instance. This was written when Zainaul Abidin (1420-1470) ruled Kashmir, but the original manuscript of the play has not been located so far. This means that Satich kahvit revived the tradition of drama in Kashmiri after a lapse of almost six hundred years.

The play is based on the famous story of Harishchandra and Taramati. Harishchandra was the 28th king of the Solar line and the son of the famous king Trishanku. The story of Harishchandra is included in Aitrya Brahmana, Mahabharata, Markandeya purana.

This drama, though based on an old story, enjoyed great popularity and was staged again and again at Rughnath temple (Srinagar) and at Sheetalnath (Srinagar). The play was seen through the press in 1935 after it had been staged at various places between 1929 and 1932.

As far as the technique of the play is concerned, the author has to a large extent followed the tradition of both Sanskrit drama and Hindustani drama of the twenties of this century. At certain places the play comes very close to the Parsi theatre. Besides the sutradhara, we find the character of vidushaka in the play. The language is a mixture of Sanskrit and Kashmiri, and for this reason perhaps its appeal is restrictive. Besides the theme, its diction is nowhere close to the present day Kashmiri. However, the author has made good use of mythology and Hindu tradition and has delineated well the characters of Harishchandra, Taramati, Rohit and Vishvamitra. The story of Harishchandra was made the basis of yet another drama, Satich vath (Path of truth) written by Tarachand Bismil in 1936 and published in 1939.

Satich kahvit represents the third phase of prose writing in Kashmiri. Its dialogues are in rhythmic prose, but its influence was short-lived as it attracted the attention of only a few writers, and came to an end with Tarachand Bismil (1948).

The author has to his credit three other plays, entitled Ramun raj (The period of Rama's reign), Paz pativrata (A fathful wife) and Dayilol (Devotion of God)."

~ Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: sasay to zorgot By Mohan Lal. Based on works of: B.B. Kachru, Kashmiri Literature (Wiesbaden, 1981); J.L. Kaul, Studies in Kashmiri (Srinagar, 1968); S.K. Raina, Kashmiri bhasha aur sahitya ka itihas (Delhi, 1968)

Recently, I had an interesting discussion with a culture vulture writer friend from down south Bangalore. In the second hand-book market of Bangalore he had picked an old book by J.L. Kaul (front page missing, most probably 'Studies in Kashmiri') and was now researching for a paper on drama history between 1900 - 1950. He wanted to know what was the story in Kashmir. He wanted to know about the pre-IPTA days of Kashmiri Drama and if women were involved with it and if yes, who were they. I told him about a couple of books, sent some links, told him about Bhands, Bacchhas, Hafeezas, told him I don't think any women were involved in any of this. I wasn't much help but managed to learn about things like: Krod Thirath Sabha Dramatic club in Baramula that staged a play in 1938 called grisy sund gari ('A Peasant's House') by Mohi-ud-Din Hajani (1917-93) (also published in Pratap magazine that year).

I wondered what it must have been like to be in audience of one of these plays. Then a couple of days ago, I came across this passage by one Edmund Russell (a follower of Madame Blavatsky) in 'Everybody's Magazine, v.8, 1903, Jan-Jun:

"Connected with the temple the Maharajah keeps a company of players, as has been the custom of his ancestors. In that weird courtyard, by the light of torches, a Sanskrit drama was given for me. The performance was preceded by a procession of priests bearing flowers and gifts. My choice was the heart-rendering "Harischandra," and given with the simplest surroundings, it was played with an intensity and spirit we could not excel. The audience itself was a thing of wonder as I, the only European present, looked on those upturned, tear-swept faces lit by the torches' glare. A sea of emotion swept of all conventionality. It told what the old-world spectacles must have been."

This was in around 1903, a couple of decades before what is believed to be the antiquity of Nandlal Kaul's play on Harishchandra and beginning of modern play in Kashmir.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Arts and Crafts Map of Jammu & Kashmir & Ladakh

A map listing important places of arts and craft from the book 'Art and Crafts Jammu and Kashmir Land People Culture' (1987) by D.N. Saraf.

Travelling Kashmiri Shawl Sellers

Kashmiri Shawl merchant in Simla.

From Volume 4 of 'The people of India : a series of photographic illustrations, with descriptive letterpress, of the races and tribes of Hindustan' (1868) 

A shawl seller at Qazigund bus stand, Kashmir. 2008.
Travelling Kashmiri Shawl sellers in Gurgaon. 2012.
Still a regular winter phenomena in North India.
In fact, I have come across them down as far as Nagpur too. 


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mystery ancient brick inside a Mughal Sarai, Rajouri

Shared by Rafiq Pirzada who came across it inside a Mughal Sarai along the Mughal Route in Rajouri called Darhali More, an old monument in shambles, reduced to dilapidated outer walls and a ruined outer gate. On one of the inner walls he saw this strange image. He wrote in to ask if anyone has any clues about it.

I wasn't able to find any reference to it but to me it looks like remnant of some other structure. It looks like a battle scene, possibly a victor king slaying an enemy king. The scene seems like a dedication to the winning king. What stands out is the elaborate headgear on the entities, a  symbol of royalty perhaps. I am tempted to think that it may be Greco-Buddhist because Rajouri did fall under that belt but then there aren't many battle scene depicted in Greco-Buddhist art found in Kashmir.


from the bakery

Kashmiri Roti

Kandur Roth
Baker's Kashmir bread


Jammu Chocolate

From Prem sweets 'Kud walle'. Since 1925.
Previously: Do Kashmiris have a sweet tooth?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

lyrics, madano pardeh royas tul

From Shameem Azad Collection, 1978

Someone asked for a translation of the song. Here are the lyrics and an attempt at translation (corrections are welcome).

madano pardeh royas tul
be lagay'e dard'hetay gul
t'che mo'laag bewafa bilkul
be lagay'e dard'hetay gul
madano pardeh royas tul

Beloved lift that veil off your face
love ached
I want to offer you a flower
You don't play
a compete unfaithful
I want to offer you a flower
Beloved lift that veil off your face

walo maya'ne kaal bomburoo
at'chan hind gash ta'ey nooro
sula yamberzal my'oz'tul
be lagay'e dard'hetay gul
t'che mo'laag bewafa bilkul
be lagay'e dard'hetay gul
madano pardeh royas tul

Come my black bumblebee
light of my eyes and my sight
A narcissus I picked, earlier
I want to offer you a flower
You don't play
a compete unfaithful
I want to offer you a flower
Beloved lift that veil off your face

walo maya'ne lockcharo ve
zolvin nov bahaaro ve
dama chu maar vyun'chay sul
be lagay'e dard'hetay gul
madano pardeh royas tul

Come my Childhood
swarming new spring
a sip of wine remains
there is still some time
I want to offer you a flower
Beloved lift that veil off your face

~ Abdul Ahad Azad (1903-1948)

Although Abdul Ahad Azad is now mostly remembered for his revolutionary songs tinged with socialism, but as the above composition proves, his hold on romanticism rooted in Kashmiri idioms was just as fine. He should also be remembered for his contribution to documenting the oral poetic works of Kashmir. A translation of Kashmiri Zaban Aur Sairi, his three volume history of Kashmiri literature, is long overdue.


Update 2017

Young Kashmiri Pandits singing in Delhi!

video link

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