Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Only Kashmiri on Mars, 1898

In 1897-98 when H.G. Wells came out with his 'The War of the World' it took the western world by storm. The plot set in London had aliens from Mars who almost succeed at exterminating humans on this planet only to be stopped accidentally by microbial infection. Inspired by the success of plot and world's fascination with Mars, a slew of derivative unofficial spinoffs by other science fiction writers followed. In one of the best know unofficial sequels to 'The War of the World', a Kashmiri, the only human living on planet Mars, puts end to the Martian scourge and saves earth for human race.

In 'Edison's Conquest of Mars' written by American astronomer Garrett P. Serviss in 1898, actions begins where 'The War of the World' ends. Martians have been defeated, but humans know they will be back to finish the job. To stop them, a group of brave men lead by American inventor Thomas Alva Edison decide to take the fight to the Martians. In a they leave for Mars using the 'anti-gravity' device built by Edison. And on reaching Mars what do they find besides the giant Martians? Surprise! Surprise! A beautiful Kashmiri girl, the last one remaining of the race of humans that nine thousand years had been abducted from Kashmir and taken to Mars as slaves, the one who now sings songs to the aliens and keeps them entertained. The girl offers them the solution to the Martian problem, she tells them how to flood the canals of Mars and end the Martian civilisation.

I am not making this up. An extract from the book:

One of the first bits of information which the Professor had given out was the name of the girl. 
We Learn Her Name. 
It was Aina (pronounced Ah-ee-na).This news was flashed throughout the squadron, and the name of our beautiful captive was on the lips of all.
After that came her story. It was a marvellous narrative. Translated into our tongue it ran as follows:
"The traditions of my fathers, handed down for generations so many that no one can number them, declare that the planet of Mars was not the place of our origin."
"Ages and ages ago our forefathers dwelt on another and distant world that was nearer to the sun than this one is, and enjoyed brighter daylight than we have here."
"They dwelt—as I have often heard the story from my father, who had learned it by heart from his father, and he from his—in a beautiful valley that was surrounded by enormous mountains towering into the clouds and white about their tops with snow that never melted. In the valley were lakes, around which clustered the dwellings of our race."
"It was, the traditions say, a land wonderful for its fertility, filled with all things that the heart could desire, splendid with flowers and rich with luscious fruits."
"It was a land of music, and the people who dwelt in it were very happy."
While the girl was telling this part of her story the Heidelberg Professor became visibly more and more excited. Presently he could keep quiet no longer, and suddenly exclaimed, turning to us who were listening, as the words of the girl were interpreted for us by one of the other linguists:
"Gentlemen, it is the Vale of Cashmere! Has not my great countryman, Adelung, so declared? Has he not said that the Valley of Cashmere was the cradle of the human race already?"
"From the Valley of Cashmere to the planet Mars—what a romance!" exclaimed one of the bystanders.
Colonel Smith appeared to be particularly moved, and I heard him humming under his breath, greatly to my astonishment, for this rough soldier was not much given to poetry or music:
"Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere,
  With its roses the brightest that earth ever gave;
Its temples, its grottoes, its fountains as clear,
  As the love-lighted eyes that hang over the wave."
Mr. Sidney Phillips, standing by, and also catching the murmur of Colonel Smith's words, showed in his handsome countenance some indications of distress, as if he wished he had thought of those lines himself.
Aina Tells Her Story.
The girl resumed her narrative:"Suddenly there dropped down out of the sky strange gigantic enemies, armed with mysterious weapons, and began to slay and burn and make desolate. Our forefathers could not withstand them. They seemed like demons, who had been sent from the abodes of evil to destroy our race."
"Some of the wise men said that this thing had come upon our people because they had been very wicked, and the gods in Heaven were angry. Some said they came from the moon, and some from the far-away stars. But of these things my forefathers knew nothing for a certainty."
"The destroyers showed no mercy to the inhabitants of the beautiful valley. Not content with making it a desert, they swept over other parts of the earth."
"The tradition says that they carried off from the valley, which was our native land, a large number of our people, taking them first into a strange country, where there were oceans of sand, but where a great river, flowing through the midst of the sands, created a narrow land of fertility. Here, after having slain and driven out the native inhabitants, they remained for many years, keeping our people, whom they had carried into captivity, as slaves."

The plot twist devised by Garrett P. Serviss mashed up some of the more popular obsessions of the western world around that time: 'Canals of Mars', 'Eden on Earth'. The idea of Kashmir as Eden comes from 1806 writings of German philologist Johann Christoph Adelung who attempting to explain the common origin of all languages, postulated Kashmir as cradle of entire human civilisation. Add to that the romantic image of Kashmir in western mind as created by Thomas Moore's famous lines from Lalla Rookh (1817) - 'Who hasn’t heard of the Valley of Kashmir?', an exotic science fiction brew, (or Kehwa as we Kashmiris would prefer) is ready.

So, Who hasn't heard of the Valley of Kashmir? Apparently, even Martians have!


Edison's Conquest of Mars (1898) here at

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Portrait of a Raider

One of few works which gives a name and a face to the anonymous horde of 'Kabailis' that descended upon Kashmir in 1947-48. 

Gulmar, though his big hawk-like nose rather marred his good looks, had the attraction of youth, and was divertingly Mahsud. He asked direct, practical questions on everything. Like Rahim he had admirable manners - Pathans may prove the best servants in the world.; but he was restless, a piece of quicksilver, you could never ignore him. Possessor evidently of a strong character, you felt that, if you didn't look out, he would soon have complete control of your affairs.
He did not seem physically very tough. Within days he fell a victim to Karachi belly, and I was doctoring him with liver pills; he also blistered his feet accompanying me on walks, not yet vigorous ones because of my recent operation. Admittedly he had a new pair of chaplis - the heavy, sandal-like shoes worn by Pathans; they had been bought in honour of his fresh employment, and eventually of course would be paid for by me. But, like Rahim, he plainly thought physical exercise crazy. If you had no need to walk you didn't do it; you sat around and got fat.
During these strolls he soon became a keen and adept helper in my photographic efforts. It was a new form of shikar or sport. From just behind me he would crack jokes ingeniously with the victims, diverting their attention from the lens, keeping their faces alive until the moment of the shot - and then, the deed done, would laugh delightedly at their surprise.
When we were out shooting in this fashion one day, he spoke of his own shooting in Kashmir; real shooting.
"Shooting at what?"
"Men, of course, Sahib."
I looked at him astonished. "But you only seem about seventeen"
"Yes, Sahib."
"But you can't have been fighting the Indians when thirteen?"
"Yes, Sahib" - and enquiry left no doubt that he had, and thought it not at all remarkable. He gave details of where he had gone and they made geographical sense. He had been bombed and rocketed by Indian planes, machine-gunned by Indian infantry. He had been half smothered by the blood and entrails of a mule, blown up a few yards away. He spoke of having spent a night on a snowy hillside - without socks or coat - to snipe Indian troops at dawn.

"Carrying a man's rifle was rather tiring for me sometimes", he grudgingly admitted. Remembrance of my facile thoughts on his stamina made me ashamed.

~ Ian Melville Stephens, 'Horned moon: An account of a journey through Pakistan, Kashmir, and Afghanistan' (1953). Back then, Ian Stephens, former editor of 'The Statesman', was one of the first person allowed to cross into India from Pakistan by walking across LOC. Back then, he was also one of the few person's sympathetic to Pakistan (even quit his job possibly because he thought Pakistan was getting a raw deal), someone who believed that the country had a shot at been a progressive nation. Stephens would meet these simple natives, men capable of abominable deeds in bouts of mass madness, and yet he found them admirable as that is how things were region between Delhi and Karachi, a region he lovingly re-christened 'Delkaria'.


Monday, October 27, 2014

thousand widows 51

"Section of the thousand widows of our Kashmir Jawans -each of whom received Rs. 51/- for the loss of her husband. Rs. 51, 000/- collected from the public were distributed to these widows. Sardar Baldev Singh and General Criappa, of course made speeches. When the rupees are spent, the widows can still live on the words."

~ August 1949, Filmindia Magazine. The magazine over the years kept sliding to right of political spectrum. And was about a decade later banned in Kashmir.


Defending Kashmir (1949)

Free give away rare book this month for SearchKashmir Free Book Project. This is the tenth book released this year.

Defending Kashmir (1949)

Gives account of fighting in all the major sectors in Jammu and Kashmir in year 1947-48. Appendix for the books gives timeline of events starting from September 1947 leading to war. Also, the conditions and the terms of various ceasefires before the end of war, alongwith the first UN documents, letters and resolutions on India and Pakistan dealing with 'Kashmir Questions'.

Two Tempests on a reconnaissance flight over the Kashmir valley


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Alman Khasun

Alman Khasun: In Kashmir, climbing on top of things, roof, shelves, poles, windows, gates, walls, trees, anything, in a state of frenzy.

Clip: 1. Bollywood frenzy from a song in Mr. Natwarlal (1979) shot in Kashmir. 2. A shot from frenzy that was 1990.


Walk in School, 1961

Extract from a Czech travel documentary by M. Zikmund and J.Hanzelka who visited Kashmir in 1961.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Flowers Throughout the Year

Photo: Brian Brake. 1957.

Flowers Throughout the Year

(Sternbergia fischeriana)

When warming suns begin to melt the snow,
But yet the bitter winds if winter blow,
In sheltered nooks sternbergia's golden blooms,
Bear witness to the throbbing life below.

(Anemone biflora)

As more and more we see of earths's warm floor,
These small perennials eyes to beauty draw,
There whiteness of the snow is tinged with rose,
Or blue may be, from spring's vast colour store.

(Hyacinthus orientalis)

Now Spring is here. The hyacinth's perfume
Recalls the bear from its long winter tomb
And sends it forth to rein case in fat
A mighty carcase with an air of gloom

(Tulipa lanata)
[Gul-i-Lala, used to grow on roofs. One of the biggest of the specie]

It's tulip time, and where lanatas glow,
Great scarlet giants, other tulips know
That they, dwarfed, must bloom and unseen fade,
Unless some gentle hand to them stoop low.

(Iris Kashmiriana)

From rhizomes planted in the autumn time,
This cream white flower adores the summer clime,
Bearded and fragrant, armfuls gaily go
To market, where they fetch perhaps a dime.

(Trollius acaulis)

Golden blooms for the golden monthd
When the visitors are here,
To fill the coffers of many a man
In the vale of fair Kashmir.

(Lilium polyphyllum)

Of lilies among the rarest,
Its fragrant trumpets don't sound,
But flare as they nod, 30 inches
Or more from the ground

(Morina Coulteriana)

Beware! For if these spikes of gold you choose
To bring into the house, they may refuse,
Their guardian prickles putting up a blitz
To draw your blood and make your tongue abuse.

(Aconilun violaceum)

In Autumn draws the mountain monk
His hood about his ears to warm 'em,
And this blue monkshood shows their hue
Should he allow the cold to storm 'em.

(Gentiana Moorcroftiana)
[named after explorer William Moorcroft who visited Kashmir around 1822]

As slender as the time that's left
E'er snow is here again,
These sky blue flowers seem to say
"For winter sports remain."

(Crocus Kashmiriana)

Not wild, but on so many acres grown,
This blossom violent-blue is widely known.
For from its roots commercial saffron comes
And o'er the hills its sweet perfume is blown.

(Viburnum Nervosum)

With pink-white, clustering blooms it greets the morn,
Although of leaves by winter's hand it's shorn,
And when its scarlet berries purplish turn
Man eats them, saving thus his store of corn.

~ Verses by "Snilloc", published in the Illustrated Weekly of India.

From the book 'Kashmir, "the playground of Asia": a handbook for visitors to the happy valley' (1943) by Sachchidananda Sinha, who later in 1946 went on to be the first President of Constituent Assembly of India.

I have added some notes in []


 Frontpiece of 'Beautiful Valleys of Kashmir' (1942), Samsar Chand Koul



Song of Trees

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lal Ded on Stones

Lal Ded once entered a temple in which her spiritual guru, Sidh, was worshipping the idols. She wanted to show to him that God was present everywhere and was not limited to the temple. Sidh asked her what she had come for and she told him that she wanted to answer the call of nature, and being naked she came into the temple for privacy. He hastily led her out telling her that it was a place where idols were worshipped and it would be sacrilegious to do in it what she intended to. She asked him to show her a place where there were no idols. He led her to a place and there Lal Ded removed some earth under which idols were found. The he led her to another place and there too she removed the earth and idols were found. The Lal Ded addressed to him:-

Diva wata diver wata
Heri bun chhuh ikawat
Puz kas karak huta bhatta
Kar manas pavanas sangat

Soi shela chhai patas tah pithas
Soi shela chhai utam desh
Soi shela chhai pheravanis gratas
Shiv chhui kruth tai tsen upadesh

Idol is of stone, temple is of stone;
Above (temple) and below (idol) are one;
Which of them wilt thou worship, O foolish Pandit?
Cause thou the union of mind and soul.

The same stone is in the road and in the pedestal:
The same stone is the sacred place:
The same stone is the turning mill;

Shiva is difficult to be attained, take a hint for guidance (from thy guru)

'Life Sketch of Laleshwari - A Great Hermitess of Kashmir' 
by Pandit Anand Koul
The Indian Antiquary
November, 1921


I now have the answer to the all important question, 'If whole of Kashmir is holy, where does one pee?'


Friday, October 10, 2014

kasheer dur ast

In Indian Ocean, on an island,
the Persian built a stone home.
They called it Zanzibar.

Ace of Spade is the highest card in a deck of cards.

In Zanzibar, they call Ace of Spade:

How far is Zanzibar from Kashmir?

In winters, there's a little bird that flies all the way from Kashmir,
over Kerala, to Sri Lanka.
At both the places, they say, it steals cotton.
In Kashmir they call it:

When the British first arrived in Hindustaan,
and started collecting the tongues
for their grammars and dictionaries,
they would travel far and wide
and ask questions of simple kind

In a village in Bengal, they would ask, 

'How far is Kashmir from here?'

When King Milinda asked Nāgasena:

'How far is Kashmir from here?

Nāgasena replied, 

'Never too far. 
Kashmir in my mind is just a thought away.'


Sunday, October 5, 2014

footnotes to Haider

Jo Aazdi tumhe tumhare cliches say Aazaad nahi kare, us Aazadi ka tum kya Karoge.

Hero singing out the details of a conspiracy, how a killing was planned and how it was carried out. Hero dances on stage in front of the villain and sings out his the plans of a long overdue revenge. Hero is not Rishi Kapoor in Karz (1980), it is Shahid Kapoor in Vishal Bhardwaj's Haider (2014). Prince Hamlet sings Ek Tha Gul Aur Ek Thi Bulbul to Claudius to get his confession of guilt.

In words of Sheikh Walli Mohammed Peer, 'Bollywood, Bollywood, Bollywood.'

I will not write about the film. There is not much to say about it. Maqbool still is the best Shakespeare adaptation by Vishal Bhardwaj. My Kashmiri pride say's Kashmir deserves a Akira Kurosawa, not this meek surrender of senses. (Kasheer's Gass'ya AtumBum pyon and then we would get Akira). But then decades of conflict seems to have only produced generations of experts on the 'Kashmir Issue' and not the arts. So much bloodshed and yet we are devoid of art, a language, a medium in which original metaphors of this conflict could be produced. Instead, we have imitation of art. We look for inspiration in art produced by other conflicts. Coping bits and pieces. Putting together a kind of magic mirror that only Bollywood can produce. Perhaps it is fitting for a conflict whose narrative was and is always dying to follow the narrative curves of other conflicts. If it wasn't sad it would be funny. I said I will not write about the film (yes, I have reached a point where it seems pointless), so I will write about some random stuff that you would see (and hear) in this film and things you wouldn't see, hear or read in context of the film. We will try to see if there indeed is a method to this maddening conflict. But, first just to clear some doubts. The purpose of movies.

'All Quiet on the Western Front' (1930) couldn't stop 'Triumph of the Will' (1935) couldn't stop 'The Great Dictator' (1940) couldn't stop Vietnam War couldn't stop 'Full Metal Jacket' (1987) couldn't stop Afghan war and so on.

Movies they come and they go, the conflicts they move on. They were and they will.

But, it is always a nice idea to watch a movie about a conflict. There's a rare chance, you might learn a few things. Be entertained. Move on.

Moving on.

The Men with Mottos

In 'Haider', in a particular scene, Haider looking for his missing father moves from military camp to military camp. In a particular camp on the wall can be seen a motto,'Get them by balls, minds and hearts will follow.' This was an actual motto of the renegade army comprising of former militants trained and armed by Indian Army as a solution to Islamic terrorists. It is mentioned in a bunch of books about Kashmir issue (first in 'The Meadow' (2012) by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark about most famous case of kidnapping of the foreign tourists in Kashmir). It is an embarrassing kind of motto, the violence in it is kind of indefensible. What is probably even more embarrassing is the fact (seldom mentioned by experts) that the motto was not an original Indian invention. It was an American invention. It is said to have been uttered by their President Lyndon Johnson. It came to represent the American Military's approach to Vietnam war. We all know how that ended for them. So the question is why did some unknown, powerful, spook-infested, dim-witted man in uniform chose those lines as motto for this band of state sponsored killers? Hadn't he seen 'All the President's Men' (1976)? What lack of imagination!

The factories

PAPA2 becomes MAMA2. Simple. MAMA 2 would have made sense if the film was about a girl looking for the story of her mother. The mother could then be heard singing in the torture cell at nights. The only voice of defiance in the dark cells of this death factories in which monsters are moulded. No, wait a minute that film has already been made. Denis Villeneuve's brutal film 'Incendies' (2010). To imagine a defiant Kashmiri inside a PAPA2, one had to borrow a metaphor from an Oscar nominated film set in Middle-East conflict. What lack of imagination!

The Kids who love to sing

In a flashback scene, a teenage 'Haider' can be heard singing a Jihadi song that originated from Pakistan side of Punjab after fall of Russia in Afghanistan, 'Jago Jaho Subha Hui, Khoon Shaheeda Rang Laya' [link] made without any stringed intrument. The Jihadi song was based on a harmless fun PTV song meant for children [link] to get them to wake up early in the morning. Apparently, the Jihadi version was quite popular among kids in Kashmir in early 90s. It was their 'Eye of The Tiger'. The kind of song on which one could dream of happily blowing up. The song is available on a Youtube channel named, 'ugerWadi'. On the same channel having a whole range of Jihadi songs you can find a song called 'Apni Jang Rahay Gee'. The response of Bollywood to such songs: 'Mera Mulk Mera Desh' from Diljale (1996) based on Israeli National anthem.

Our War Remains

The original 'Apni Jang Rahay Gee' [link] was sung by Mehdi Hassan ( who gave us 'Gulon Mein Rang Bhare' ) in a Pakistani film called 'Yeh Aman' (1971) and written by lefty Habib Jalib (who spend a later part of his life having Jung with Zia). The propaganda film was made after the failure of Operation Gibraltar of 1965, the song had a refrain that relied on a Kashmiri saint, 'Ya Peer Dastgeer Madat Kar'. The Jihadi version of the song, reflecting and triggering the changing vocabulary of the Kashmir, had instead the refrain 'Ya Rabbul Alamin Madat Kar'. (In Haider, in one of the torture scenes, you can hear a Kashmiri swear on Dastgeer Saheb).

What has all this got to do with Haider?

 'Yeh Aman' (1971) had Tabu's father Jamal Hashmi playing a Kashmiri. It is one of the few films on Kashmir in which Pandits (comically) are part of the story. More on that film, some other day. It is interesting that Shahid's father Pankaj Kapoor played the first famous Kashmir terrorist in Roja (1992), a film that couldn't even be shot in Kashmir.

These Bhands

In the scene in 'Haider' where 'Bhands' are introduced, we are also introduced to the other sort of actors: the new Politicians of Kashmir out to 'sell'. 'Bhand' has been used as a derogatory term in India for a long time, but the term in Kashmir is employed even more potently. In Kashmir, these traditional performers have had to deal with the label of 'traitors'. It is recalled that they right from the time of Nehru have been performing in the State capital. They have been deemed collaborators. Some unknown masked-men remember their Pandit origins and their love for fiddle, so these artists have faced bullets. Their art dying a slow death. In fact, the art of using masks in Bhand performances (the mask the are parts of  'Haider') was revived only in 2012-2013. It is extensively used in a performance known as 'Shikargah Pather'.

These Actors

The other variety of collaborator is also some sort of actors. The Mimicks. The Bhands. The Jesters. The Salman loving two Salmans. We could say it is Bollywood making fun of themselves. But, here too they chose the easiest target they could find and shoot. So, the only characters in the film within the influence sphere of Bollywood too have been shown as collaborators. In Kashmir of that decade, a film loving Kashmiri may or may not have been a collaborator but he certainly was a suspect. Under that glare of scrutiny, allegiance to Bollywood moved from public to private sphere. They don't watch films in public in halls but in safety of their homes. The film tries to imply that it is because Cinema Halls became torture cells. The film doesn't tell the entire story. Some of these halls were burnt down by Jihadists. Like in case of 'Palladium' where in 1947-1948 massive pro-India rallies were organised. It was here that Sheikh Abdullah welcomed Nehru with the lines of Amir Khusro:

Mun tu shudam tu mun shudi,mun tun shudam tu jaan shudi
Taakas na guyad baad azeen, mun deegaram tu deegari

I have become you, and you me,
I am the body, you soul;
So that no one can say hereafter,
That you are are someone, and me someone else.

The cinema hall were a mini-theatre of war and protest even back then. In around 1965, the playing of Indian National anthem in cinema halls of Kashmir was stopped. Palladium was the stronghold of Bakshi brothers in 60s, to the Islamist puritans, the house of corruptor.  No wonder it had to be brought down in the 90s. The ideology of the unknown masked-men remembered and attacked the symbols and what they stood for.  The body and soul, separated. Salman and Salman crushed to death. Death to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

The Stage

Beside the Cinema Hall, the only other stage presented in film is the ruins of Martand. It's odd to note that Martand was an place were Kashmiri at least up till 1950s used to gather to dance and sing. Few remember it now. This stage too is now gone. Instead, we have idiotic manufactured controversies over 'Ahansa, he showed Shaitan in our Mandar. Down with the film.' From the way the scene is set, the temple, is used to represent Kashmir in which a dual faced devil (or Roman Janus, the god associated with among other things, Sun and changing time) watches all and devours some.

When Haider does Dhamali, he not just mimics dance steps from Gangnam style, he is riding the horses of the sun god.

The Shadow Men

'Haider' tells us a middle-class well educated Kashmiri Muslim even when close to death, would ask another person, if he is a Shia or a Sunni. A convenient contortion of creative zeal in a Bollywood film penned by a Kashmiri. A contortion that deforms an otherwise brilliantly throughout idea by Basharat Peer: The ghost of King Hamlet. 

The answer of the Ghost is:

Dariya b main, Darakht b main
Jhelum b main, chinar b main
Daer hu, haramm b hu,
Shia b hu, sunni b hu
Main hu Pandit;

Main tha, mein hu aur mein he rahuga

The lines are a mashup Lal Ded's:

Aassi aiys ta asi aasav
Aassi dur kur patu-vath
Shivas sari na zyon ta marun
Ravus sori na atu-gath!

We did live in the past and we will be in future also:
From ancient times to the present, we have activated
this world.
Just as the sun rises and sets, as a matter of routine,
The immanent Shiva will never be relieved of birth and

And Heraclitus' "war is the father of all things and the king over all"

The ghost of Hamlet becomes Roohdaar, the father of war, the vengeful soul of Haider's father, the body of an ISI agent.

The body of Ghost who walks

In Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Mission Kashmir, the invincible ghost has his head slit and yet he survives. In Bhardwaja's Haider, he is shot and drowned and yet he survives. Make a few more Bollywood movies, throw in poisoning, and it would definitely seem like we are trying to kill Rasputin.

The ghost claims immortality. The only thing immortal in all this is war. It seems both sides, the pro and the anti, have conceded that the war is immortal. So, our war remains.

The physical appearance of Roohdaar, the dark glasses on snow burnt eyes reminded me of a character from Kashmir known as Nabgagal.

The Violence

Violence is an act in which ideas are not attacked but the head from which ideas originate is attacked. Trotsky must get Snowballed. Haider intentionally and unintentionally cracks every skull that he deems source of his suffering.

The Gravediggers

In 1990, NSD theatre artist Bhawani Bashir Yasir was among the people who crossed over to Muzaffarabad. He took a new name Dr. Haider Mizazi and in Muzaffarabad took over the work of propaganda for Amanullah fraction of JKLF. Bhawani returned to Srinagar in 2000, took up his old name and again returned to theatre. In the irony that is Kashmir, Bhawani plays one of the three gravediggers in 'Haider' and sings 'Aao na'.

So Jao. A century ago, the only Kashmiris who would dig their own graves while alive, were called Rishis and Peers. They were worshipped even back then.

The Missing

The case of missing Pandits is brought out in the film by a real Pandit, Lalit Parimoo, who plays a cop collaborating with the state. In the scene, he seems to be forced to break character to bring up the argument. It is abrupt and out of place. Missing Pandits is an argument made by many people when Kashmir is discussed, particularly by Pandits, but seldom by a Muslim man of the establishment to counter another Kashmiri Muslims's claim over victimhood.

The missing witness

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the only real friend Prince Hamlet has is Horatio. He is supposed to bear witness to almost all the major events. He is the only one left alive to tell the tale of Hamlet to the world. In 'Haider', the friendly witness is missing. The friend is played by a girl. And she too dies. Did Haider's of Kashmir have no real friends? The audience  can't be the witness because even though they see all, not all the people watching are friends of Prince Hamlet. They can't help laughing, spilling pop-corn and soda, when a Kashmiri (cameo by Basharat Peer) won't enter his own house without going through frisking. So, who first bore witness to the story of Kashmiri Hamlet? It seems like Haider himself. After having left Claudius alive, feeling great about not being revengeful anymore, he went on to write his experiences and the wisdom it brought to him. Or maybe even Claudius, after being left alive, feeling remorseful, vengefully went on to write about his loss of humanity. Or perhaps the writer of Haider.

Even though Kashmir is still in a 'to be or not to be' state, Haider the film doesn't end on that note. It is forced into a 'to be' state. What death of dreams. What march of Tamasha.

P.S. What's with the Moby beat from Bourne Identity (2002) and the end sequence. The gun behind the chain-toilet is a nod to Godfather (1972). In 'Yeh Aman' (1971), 'Mission Kashmir' (2000) and in Haider (2014) the loss of Kashmir, peace, is symbolised by things blowing up by a projectile. In Haider it is the house while in both Yeh Aman' and 'Mission Kashmir', a Shikara is blown up in first one minute of the movie.

The story of missing doctor in Jhelum comes from Jalil Andrabi murder case of 1996. The young boy found alive in a truck of dead bodies, and then dancing. That tale comes from Gawkadal Massacre of 1990.

PAPA2 was shut down in around 1996. Later, the colonial building became residence of PDP's Mufti Sayeed in around 2005. In 1947, a priest of the Hari Singh had declared the building inauspicious as it was built over a spot dedicated to a goddess.



Anyone read 'Shalimar the Clown' (2005) by Salman Rushdie? The one which mashes up Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' with 'Hamlet'. The revenge story which actually ends on 'to be or not to be' note. The story in which a woman named India/Kashmira, born of Ghazala and Khurram, must choose what to do with King Hamlet, Shalimar the Clown who has turned killer.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Oumra'kadal to Habbe'kadal, 1965

Mataji's universe.Mataji. Oumra'kadal to Habbe'kadal. 1965
A Pandit woman on a tonga
 [grab from a video via British Pathé archive]

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