Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mubarak Mandi Rubble


Third Refuge, 1990-91

As the winter of 1990 set in, we moved to a newer better place. This was the third move. The place was in a mohallah of old Jammu city known as 'Chogan Salathian', overlooking the Tawi river from a high ground. The area is just next to Mubarak Mandi palace in Jammu, the power seat of old Dogra kingdom.

A century ago, in this mohalla lived the administrators and relatives of the old Dogra ruling class.

By 1990, some of them had already moved on to other destnations, leaving only their big old houses behind. At this place, we took on rent a diwan hall of an old haveli known as 'Diwan Ki Haveli'. It cost us nine hundred rupees a month. Given the conditions in which most pandits were living in Jammu at the time, it was the most luxurious place that money could rent. That hall is still the most specious room I have lived in, ever. I felt like a royalty. It still amazes me that more than a decade later when my father moved to Noida, Delhi-NCR, he took a hall on rent, quarter in size with no windows,  that cost him around fourteen hundred.

The room came with no furniture. Previous owner had only left a copy of Gita and a small bronze statue of Krishna.

New Door. The place was locked, no one lives here anymore. So, I couldn't go in.

Door of the house just opposite the haveli. The old door of the haveli looked something like this. It had those protective metal spikes.
There were at least three other Pandit refugee families already living in the haveli, beside two Dogra families, one of them caretakers of the Haveli. The other families had taken up various rooms of the house. In our case, we created our own room.

We carved three room out of the hall using bedsheets and curtains. In the first room: kitchen and parents. In the second room, the middle one: my parents and sister. Third room, near the door: uncle and guest room. I was free to live in any one of them. I liked the outer room the most in the day. It had a big old window on which you could sit and watch monkeys steal cloths. At night I would sleep in the kitchen, nestled between my grand-parents.

We also had an extra room. Under the stairs that led to the hall from the coutyard, we build a bathroom. Given the number of people living in the haveli, access to bathing space was going to be an problem. So building our own private bathroom was a good option. There was no shortage of water (at least not in winter), haveli had a big water tank, that looked like a white tiled walled swimming pool. Toilet, however was an issue. The entire Haveli, for its about fifty inhabitants, had only one. Of course, the door to it had no bolt. I now realize, it is a deliberate ploy. This way, whoever is inside, is always under threat of being forcefully removed if one does not get out in time after the first few warning knocks on the door.

The window would be the one at absolute top (not clearly visible)
When summer came of 1991 came, it became obvious why my family moved here. My family, due to my grandfather's state government service, had experience of Jammu thanks to 'Darbar Mov'. They knew where to stay safe from Jammu's summer. These old haveli's, due to their build and design, would stay relatively cooler even as outside temperatures rose dramatically. The windows of the hall were facing only late afternoon sun. You could sleep it off the noon heat. But, I guess only elders worried about the sun, temperature and sweat. I spent most of my time on the roof.

The haveli was proving to be a mysterious playground for me. On the roof top, under a mud mould, I once found a bag of marbles. There must have been five hundred of those multi-coloured glass balls inside it. I didn't know how to play Kanchey, so I just kept giving them away to random people. I made friends. There was a Dogra boy in that house that used to make torches using match-boxes, pencil- cells and LEDS. Just opposite the hall, on an outer 'chajja', balcony, of the haveli, lived a family of 'Bhats' comprising an middle aged couple, a granny, an adult son and two young daughters. The son, jobless and with nothing to do, would often join me on the high roof in the evenings to watch the setting sun. From the roof you could see the entire old city covered in gentle red glow. He could play flute beautifully. He was a cross between Anil Kapoor and  Jackie Shroff for his hair style and moustache. But he would never play that 80s tune.

I remember watching Aashiqui on a VCP in the haveli. The system had been brought on rent for viewing Bua's marraige cassette. The last time we had borrowed VCP, I had watched Rakhwala. It was summer of 1989.  In 1991, Aashiqui with its songs was the rage in town. There was even a brand of Gutkha named after it. It still exist. The general rule back then, and still applicable, was: stay away from people who carry Aashiqui. It was flavor of anti-socials.

I had my first taste of racism here at this place. On the day we moved to the hall, me and my sister noticed a small park near by. We never had parks in Srinagar near our house. We played in house and not in public parks. Park was a novelty. In Srinagar only the newer colonies like Chanpora had them. We wanted to explore the park. However, I remember getting chased away from the park by kids. Moments ago they had been teasing monkeys. And now they were on to us. As we enter the park, they told us we did not belong to the place. That we were outsiders. Kashmiris. They wouldn't let us enter. Their language was new to my ears. In that moment, it was the language of primal violence. We ran.

A few months later, I celebrated my first Holi at the same park. There was no Holi in Kashmir, atleast never like the one in Jammu. When I first heard what people in Jammu did on Holi, I thought of hiding away. There was no escape. On the day, a toli reached our place. Uncle had his kurta torn away. He was blue. I was red. Everyone was drenched in water, some mud. There was much dancing on the street. I think some of the men were drunk. A few years later, I was among the Holi toli people.

The monkey park

Way round the house.

The place nearby where a relative lived. The room on the roof is gone and the house
is crumbling
Nothing bad really happened that year. Only Badi Bau arrived one day with her head bandaged. A monkey had dropped a brick over her head. It was funny then and still is. She was crossing a particular spot in the lane the led to the haveli. There was a rundown house at the spot where monkeys could often be seen conferring. That's where it happened. One of them just dropped a brick on her as she was passing. After that brick incident, it became a habit with me to never cross that spot without looking up, always expecting a monkey holding a brick in its hands.

House of monkeys
The only other significant event that occurred during over stay at this place, also involved an animal. Grandfather game home one day with a swollen hand. Billoo Bhel, Billoo The Great Bull, had swung his tail at him. Tail had barely brushed past grandfather's hand but given him a swelling. Billoo Bhel was a legend of old city. The size of Billoo Bhel was just as huge in real life as it was in tales about him. And as nasty was his temper. If Billoo Bhel took a nap in the middle of the road, the road would get blocked, but no one could dare to get it to move. No one would even honk the horns on their cars. They would just for him to move. Every one knew what Billoo was capable of when angry. There shops in the area that have broken furniture laying about, a victim of Billoo's blind rage. It is said once an army vehicle tried to get Billoo to move. National business could not be stopped on account of a sleeping stupid bull. Billoo didn't care. He just rammed their vehicle off the road. Billoo Bhel ruled the area like a king. Everyone knew him, everyone was afraid of him, everyone cursed him, but everyone knew a tale of two about him and liked to talk about him. To honor him I stopped wearing red as he was always said to be offended by that color. But that didn't stop him from chasing my cousins once even though they were not in red. Billoo Bhel was a freak. It is said he was poisoned (or shot dead) a few years later. 

Billoo Bhel's spot

Galli Wazir Sobha Ram, wazir under Pratap Singh.
The 'shortcut' lane that lead to my first school in Jammu. It was a walking distance from the Haveli.

I saw things in Jammu that I would not have seen in Kashmir
Thing that never seize to amaze me

Luthra Academy
When the migrant children arrived in Jammu, there weren't enough schools for all of them. Slowly, after a few months, space was created. Almost every school had 'Migrant sections' for each standard. Classed would be carried in open or on the rooftops. Me and my sister were admitted to Luthra Academy. I had to go through 3rd standard all over again as I couldn't finish the standard in Srinagar. So, here I was in Jammu, finishing 3rd standard on the roof top of a school in Jammu. I was glad I wouldn't have to see Biscoe's swimming pool again. The place I was sure I was going to die.

The day we left that hall for another refuge, while packing things up, I accidentally knocked the Krishna statue over from a shelf. It's base fell off. Inside the hollow of the statue, I found a dozen old lithographs depicting various scenes from Hindu mythology done in what I now recognise as basohli art. I can't say how old those lithographs were. I packed them back inside the statue and left them as they were. Sometimes, I still wonder if I should have stolen them. I wonder if it is still there.

A town fascinated with 'Kala Bhoot'

Thursday, August 28, 2014

1857, Umrao Jaan, Kashmiris, Lucknow

Rudresh Kaul shared a page in Hindi

A page from Hindi edition (by Manoj Publications) of Mirza Mohammad Hadi Ruswa's classic urdu novel 'Umrao Jan Ada' (1899), a memoir of a courtesan of mid-19th century Lucknow.

Lines as mentioned in the english translation from 1970 by Khushwant Singh/M.A. Husaini

There is reference to Kashmiri Bhands in that page. In another instance, the bhands are mentioned in the part about 'Mutineers' of 1857. Kashmiri Bhands were entertaining the mutineers.

The page also mentions 'Dilaram's Baradari'.

For Kashmiri Pandits of Lucknow, the fact that British survived the rising of 1857 proved a blessing for Pandit had shifted the loyalties from Nawabs to British flag. And for this support they were duly awarded.

Dilaram's Baradari: Rai Dila Ram, was Chakladar [district administrator] of Tandiaon (in Awadh). He son was Shiv Nath Kaul, who was given chakladri of Unao for not supporting the rebels in 1857. He was at the time the only Kashmiri Pandit taluqdar in Awadh. After his death in 1890, his estate was inherited by his widow Jagat Rani, and the British gave a grant of 4,952 rupees. Using the money they purchased land in Unao and Lucknow. Henny Sender writes in 'The Kashmiri Pandits: a study of cultural choice in North India' (1988), 'Shiv Nath's son, Sham Sunder Nath, became the community's biggest zamindar, an enormous mansion was constructed in the Chaupation [Chaupatiyan] area of Lucknow known as Dilaram Bara Dari (referring to twelve doors of the residence) with a hall in which mushairas were held.'

From what I could gather there was also something called 'Dilaram Palace' in Lucknow.

"The registrar office [of Lucknow university] occupies, according to some historians, the site of now non-existent Dilaram Palace which was reduced to rubble by the British for smooth functioning of a battery of cannons aiming at Kaiserbagh in 1858."


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kashmiri Pandits of Lahore, 1940

Shared by Rohit Mattoo from personal collection of his 'in-laws'.

All India Kashmiri Pandit Mushaira
Held at Ratan Bagh, Lahore, on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee Celebration of the K.P.A. Lahore.

Standing:- Pt. Dina Nath Raina [Grandfather of Rohit Mattoo's wife]
Sitting:- Pt. Ratan Mohan Nath Zutshi  "Khar", Pt. Rajindra Prashad Atal "Shaiq" Pt. Tribhuwan Nath Zutshi "Zar", Dewan Pt. Radha Nath Kaul "Gulshan", Raja Sir Daya Kishen Kaul (President), Raja Narindra Nath Raina, Pt. Amar Nath Madan "Sahir", Pt. Sarup Narain Raina "Aiman", Pt. Brijmohan Nath Wanchoo "Razwan".

Chowk Market, The Mall, Lahore

[Stories of quite a few of these Pandits of Lahore is given in 'The Kashmiri Pandits: a study of cultural choice in North India' (1988), check page 202]

A community photograph of the members of the Biradari assembled at Rattan Bagh, Lahore to celebrate the Nauroz and the Jubilee of Raja and Rani Narendra Nath Sahib's wedding, 14th April, 1940.



Diwan Narendra Nath Raina, son of Ajodhia Prasad, son of Ganga Ram(1800-70), son of Kishen Das, "who walked down from Srinagar to Banaras following the establishment of Afghan regime in Kashmir".

Kashmiri Pandit community formed in Lahore primarily because of Ganga Ram who in Ranjit Singh's court, "As custodian of the official records[...] practically controlled the whole administrative machinery."

Compared to the other Kashmirs Pandit circles, biradiris, that came up in other parts of India, the Lahoris seemed to be more on the progressive side:

"The rationality of the Lahore Pandits seemed to be further confirmed by the lack of controversy when Prithvi Nath Razdan set out from Lahore to pursue his studies in England. The community did bot oppose it and in fact encouraged it.'"


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Abhimanyu in Chakravyuh in Kashmiri Miniature

Inside cover of 'Kashmir' (1977) by art critic Francis Brunel. Book gives it simply as 'Miniature from Kashmiri Hindu manuscript'. It is easily identifiable as an episode from Mahabharata: Abhimanyu in Chakravyuh.




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