Retrograde. Bamboozlement! More Bamboozlement!

House, Woman

Some place near Rishikesh.
May 2009.

Idol factory

Jai-Maa-Kali Pratima Centre

c1/12, Sector 31 Noida (U.P.)

The end product is supposed to look something like this - Durga, the goddess who rides Lion (or tiger).

But here the goddess (or is that a god) is sitting on an Elephant. That could mean the deity is either Indra or Laxmi. Chances of that are bleak.

The deity here could simply be riding the Elephant of Mayawati's BSP.

Pandit Nehru by Homai Vyarawalla

27th May, 2009

Remembering Jawaharlal Nehru (14 November 1889 –27 May 1964) with some photographs of Pandit Nehru taken by Homai Vyarawalla 'Dalda 13', India's first woman professional photographer.

Pandit Nehru besides a 'Photography Strictly Prohibited by order' signboard at Delhi's Palam airport.

Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru greets American first lady Jacqueline Kennedy at his residence with the traditional 'tilak' (vermilion mark) on the forehead. In 1969 1962, Jacqueline Kennedy was on a private nine day visit to India and stayed with Nehru-Gandhi family at Teen Murti.

Credit: Found these amazing photographs of Jawaharlal Nehru in a Catalogue for a Photo Exhibition organized in year1999 by Press Trust of India celebrating  50 years of its existence. So, Thank you PTI!

The Goat who Stood for Bagpipes

Here's an interesting image from LIFE magazine  photo archive.
According to the caption:
Taken in Kashmir on December 1951 by photographer Howard Sochurek.

 "Kashmir has been wrongly looked upon a prize for India or Pakistan. People seem to forget that Kashmir is not a commodity for sale or to be bartered. It has an individual existence and its people must be the final arbiters of their future. It is here today that a struggle is being fought, not in the battlefield but in the minds of men."

- Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi on June 11, 1951.


A Story: Happenings of 1951 as recalled by a Kashmiri Goat

{India}N Graffiti{S}, Rishikesh

Found this (these) interesting graffiti (s) painted (carved) on a wall near a wire bridge that lead to a riverside beach camp some 35 Kms past Rishikesh.

Together they present a sharp contrasting mix of two different styles of Graffiti art. One comes from the west and the other comes from India. One believes in bright aerosol paint and the other in plain engraving. One is all about style, the other is all about content. In one, the artist believes in anonymity and in the other, anonymous believes in names - good, bad and profane. Both forms see  artists expressing their inner thoughts through graphic cryptic messages. One is all about...

Oh hell! I could go on; the Hindi carving on the wall are usual and a common sight in India, but the truth is that I took that photographs thinking that colorful graffiti (does that read M (i,b,l) PUB? ) to be a gang signal spray painted as a territory marker.

Hammer and the Sickle of Mehboob Productions.

Mudai Laakh Bura Chahay To Kya Hota Hai,Wohi Hota Hai Jo Manzoor-e-Khuda Hota Hai

Mehboob Productions founded by Mehboob Khan in 1943. This one is from his classic film Mother India (1957).

famous Gemini Twins of Gemini Studios

Gemini twins with bugles

`When the bugles blow, there's a good show!'

Reminds me of late afternoon Sunday movies of Doordarshan. this one from Gemini Studio Chandralekha (1948).

In 1941, S. S. Vasan bought a studio on Mount Road, Madras, in `court auction' and re-named it Gemini Studio. The Studio never made too many films but its powerful logo of 'Gemini Twins' instantly remind people of old black and white big buget movies.

Read more about S.S. Vasan and Gemini Studio here at a fine article from The Hindu.

Ads from Times of India of 1930s

An Ad for Valet Auto-Strop Safety Razor
From Times of India Annual, 1930.
Artwork by W S Bagdatopulos.

Found it thanks to an awesome gallery of  vintage ads set up by Phil Beard

There are some other old ads from Times of India that can be found in the gallery. Some of these include:

Do check it out!

Sharbat Rooh Afza - Nourisher of Soul

Summer. Summer. Summer. Bottles of Rooh Afza. Sweet and syrupy. Red of rose and life. But it doesn't smell just of roses.

  Sharbat from Hamdard. Available and popular also in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The ingredients. Names impress that it may be an elixir. Sugar syrup. Pineapple juice, Dhania, Gajar, Khurfa, Tarbooz, Palak, Pudina, Hara Ghia, Kasni, Muaqqa, Sandal Sufed, Khas Hindi, Chharila, Gul Nilofar, Berg Gawzaban, Keora, Orange Juice and Rosa damascena.
 The summer drink since 1907.

Completely friendly. Completely Natural.
An ad for Rooh Afza, June 2000, Gentleman Magazine.

Viking, Ramayan

What can I say! Both the things are masterpieces.I just put them together.

 The video got featured at popular American site Boing Boing

Laloo Mud Pack

Make Laloo look good.
Give him a mud-pack.

- An ad from year 2000 for a popular game at

It was the year he went to jail in connection with a 'disproportionate assets ' case. The scribes were not yet endorsing the Laloo Brand Socialism. That started only after year 2006 when Laloo and his wife were acquitted in the assets case.

Guitar Shop in Noida - "On Stage"

A friend of mine recently somehow got the idea into his head that he's the re-incarnation of great god Hendrix himself.  I first started seeing the Purple Haze around his head when, one day, out of the blue, he started talking like, 'Do you know how Blues was born? O you know! Tell me. You don't know. You know. So tell me.You don't know.'  I knew he picked up all this cool stuff from a North-East guy. Apparently my friend picked up too much. Now he says, "Led Zeppelin is cool. Have you heard Black Dog?" And I remembered his God'e'smack days of college.
Quite a spirited fellow, this friend of mine.
'Have you heard XYZ?' This went on for months.

'I can't be Hendrix if I can't play guitar! Can I be?'', my friend must have rightly told himself. So, one day, not many days ago, he got himself an old broken down guitar from a cousin of his (who, after some training, can now easily strum the great number 'My heart will Go on' on a guitar ). Next he picked up a Guitar bag from the famous Rikhi Ram of Connaught place. I had dropped the name a couple of months ago. I blame myself.

And today he asked me to pick up his fixed up guitar form a shop.  I was surprised to know that the shop is in Noida. It turned out to quite a place. Rock may be dead in West but it's alive and kicking in this part of the badlands of Uttar Pradesh. Actually Rock never died in India. When Google came up with it's Google Music Trend, the now defunct feature that mixed with Gtalk to give info. about how people consumed music, one trend was quite obvious in India - boys, men and maybe some girls here in India were still getting high on an unhealthy dose of G'N'R, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Jim Morrison and other relics of musical eras gone by. And that's not all, the genre for these songs was often listed as 'Blues'. At times you could actually say, 'Hmmm...that's strangle. I have the same tracks, in same order on one of my Mp3 CD. Thanks to Pallika, the same CDs were, and may be still are, going around in the country.
That was a deliberate digression.
Back to the Guitar Shop. The place is called 'Onstage Music Factory' and its just behind the McDonald's joint of Sector 18 market of Noida.
The shop covers two floor spaces. Inside, in a corner, a lone North-East guy, the technician, was tuning and fixing up a guitar. A bunch of teenagers were there to pick up their amp. A guy with long hair, tied up into a pony, was behind the counter. Shiny guitars were hanging on the walls. The ambiance befits a guitar shop. The place offers everything that one needs to start a complete band - Guitars, Accessories, Processors, Amplifiers, Drum Kits, Mighty Bright Lights and everything in between.

The range is almost unbelievable and considering all the colleges (and offices) in this areas, its quite a location for a guitar shop. The shop opened  September last year and must already be popular in the circles. On its walls are posted messages advertising requirements of drummers and rhythm guitarist; advertisements for guitar lessons and dance instructors. It may well turn into a little hub for Rock fiends of the area.

Here's the address of the Guitar Shop in Noida:

Onstage Music Factory

J-12, 1st and 2nd Floors,
Behind McDonald's,
Sector 18, Noida

[For more do check out their website :]

Snake Oil Salesmen

Tribal Medicine Camp on the outskirts of Delhi.

A  tape runs constantly in the background, the voice cheerfully and continuously advertises the miraculous cures on offer. And they claim to have a cure for ever illness under the sky. And its all natural. Who designed the hoardings?

These tents move from one place to another. Travel all over the North. They come from far off places. This one is from a tribal belt in Orissa. I was told you need a government license to run this business. Inside there are bottles filled with dark liquids, dried up tree barks, leaves, roots and wild fruits. Photographs of Gods. Glassy gems and Stones. Dark men. And of course, there is Shilajit - a crystal fruit born of rocks.

303 Innuendos

from Gentleman Magazine (that really was the name)
dated January 1999

Bandook Ke Peeche Kya Hai?
Nuts. Really Nuts.

Garmiyon may Kashmir Jannat hai

Garmiyon may Kashmir jannat hai

In summer Kashmir is a paradise
- from "A dictionary of hindustani proverbs: including many Marwari, Panjabi, Maggah, Bhojpuri, and Tirhuti proverbs, sayings, emblems, aphorisms, maxims, and similes" by S. W. Fallon, Richard Carnac Temple, Dihlavi Fakir Chand. Originally published: Benares : E.J. Lazarus & Co., 1886.

Photograph taken by me in June 2008.: View from a Shikara floating on Dal Lake.

What's wrong with this picture?
An old photograph by James Burke.
Is the frame upside down?

Gandhiji's NCERT Talisman

“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?
Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”
- Mahatma Gandhi [Last Phase, Vol. II (1958), P. 65].

Lines could be found on the first page of every school text book printed by NCERT (National Council of Education Research and Training). Hindi text books had a translation of the lines.


Photograph: A child on the outskirts of Delhi. 14th May 2009.

Unrelated post from my Kashmir blog: Bhookha Nanga Hindustan

An Indian Army Bagpipe Band

We fight and our formation never wavers.
Orders we obey and this is right.
At a word from our commander fathers
We ride out to cut and thrust and fight.

- An old cossack song. Came across these lines, many years ago, in a short story by Mikhail Sholokhov.

And we create music.

Photographs taken at Jammu in April 2009.

Right, the Army Band: Bagpipers of The 18 Grenadiers of Indian Army.

Silver Elephant in Blue

Silver molded into a scene depicting a colorful Elephant ride

Cost: around Rs.12000
Where: Jewel Emporium (since 1841),
Rambagh Palace Hotel, Jaipur

An elder cousin bought it as a present for my sister.

Illustrations of Hindu Deities (1774-81) by Pierre Sonnerat

Pierre Sonnerat (1748-1814), a French naturalist and explorer, between 1769 and 1781 traveled deep into southeast Asia and documented the religious practices, sciences, arts (and birds) of the places he visited.

In 1782 the account of his travels was published in two volumes under the title (french) 'Voyage aux Indes Orientales et a la Chine, fait par ordre du roi, depuis 1774 jusqu'en 1781. Dans lequel on traite des mœurs de la religion, des sciences & des arts des Indiens, des Chinois, des Pégouins & des Madégasses' ( Journey to the East Indies and China, Undertaken at the King's Command, from 1774 until 1781: In Which the Religious Mores, Sciences, and Arts of the Indians, the Chinese, the Pegouins, and the Madegasse are Discussed. )

Volume 1 was completely dedicated to India and Volume 2 covered the far east including China, Burma, Madagascar, the Maldives, Mauritius, Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka), Indonesia, and the Philippines.Volume 1 has some wonderful illustrations of Hindu deities (probably based on original bronze works)and Volume 2 had lot of illustrations of 'new' birds.

The book is available for free download at Google Books (Vol 1, Vol 2

A finer and more detailed copy of these  books was recently made available at the The World Digital Library - A UN funded project that let's you browse the various cultures of the entire world, region by region, using many such scholarly old books. [You can check out Pierre Sonnerat's work here]

As I browsed through the book, expecting familiar face (10 incarnation dasavatara of Vishnu were in fact the easiest to spot, only the book, unlike the conventional Hindu view,  had Parsuram as the 8th avataar, born after Rama who inturn is mentioned as the 6th) of Hindu deities in it, I was surprised by a couple of illustration, sometimes because of their names, or sometimes because of their portrayal. Here are those illustrations by Pierre Sonnerat and what I later learnt about them:

Manmadin or Kamdev -God of Love, as he is popularly known.This one was probably the easiest.

A wound, a blight, a curse, a doom,
Bowing young hearts to the tomb!

Well may storm be on the sky,

And the waters roll on high,

When MANMADIN passes by.

Earth below and heaven above

Well may bend to thee, oh Love!

- Manmadin of Letitia E. Landon's "Man- madin, the Indian Cupid, riding down the Ganges"

The cations say's it's Vairevert, but here's the interesting thing:

Vairevert, also known as Bhaironath, the third son of Shiva, created from his breath.
according to one tale: Vishnu and Brahma got into an argument over question of superiority, their weapons drawn, each claiming his own greatness; worried devtas called Shiva to mediate. Shiv, the destroyer, erected a firewall between the two and asked them to measure it to the end and whoever reaches the end first - wins. So one God went up into the heaven and the other God went down into nether-world. Soon both realized that the wall was infinite. Both returned to Shiva. Vishnu admitted defeat. Sensing an opportunity, Brahma lied and said he had reached the end. Shiva got angry and out of his angry breath was born Bhaironath, Lord of Terrible, who pulled off the lying fifth head of Brahma with his nail .

According to (an ingeniously named) Southey's Common-place Book (1851)
 by Robert Southey:
Vairevert, the third son of Eswara, was created from his breath, to overthrow the pride of the Deverkels and the Penitents, and to humble Brahma, who had vaunted that he was the greatest of the three gods. Vairevert pulled off one of Brahma's heads, and received the blood of all the Deverkels and Penitents in the skull; but afterwards brought them to life again, and gave them purer hearts. This is the god who by Eswara's command will come to destroy the world at the end of the ages. He is blue, three-eyed, with two tusks like crescents, a collar of heads round his neck, falling on his stomach ; his girdle is made of serpents, his hair of a fire colour, bells are on his feet, he rides a dog."
Notice the word wall. Now look at the below give illustration from  Pierre Sonnerat's book.

Caption reads - Virapatren.

Virapatren or Virbhadra was born of Shiva's anger to punish Daksha, father of Sati.
The one tale:  Daksha, father of Shiva's wife Sati, threw a party for gods, organised a great yagna, but forgot to invite Shiva. Sati being the daughter, still went to attend this fare. Daksha proceeded to insult Shiva with his words. Unable to bear the gross insult being heaped on her husband by her very own father, Sati jumped into the fire pyre meant for yagna and thus she went Sati. Shiva flew into rage when he heard about his wife's death. Out of this rage was born Virbhadra who unleashed havoc on the party. Dakha had his head cut off and thrown into the pyre at his hands. After Shiva calmed down, he brought back Daskha to life giving his head of a goat.

In the image notice the figure with folded hands on the left and the pillar on the right. The attendant is certainly Daksha, Prajapati with his newly acquired goat head. But the pillar in the image reminds one of Vairevert.

According to some traditional tellings, both these forms - Virbhadra and Bhaironath - are that of angry Shiva. So, probably the pillar is an indicator to his previous form.

If according to Shiva Stories - Vairevert will end Kalyug then Vishnu tales, more famously talk about Kalki. Famously as there is even a quirky novel from late 1970s written by quirky American writer, Gore Vidal, in which an American with  "a single blond tuft of hair, a sure sign of divinity." claims to be Kalki and manages to end the world - but the things still don't work out.

Image: Horse headed 10th incarnation of Vishnu


Prostrations to Shri Ravinandana(Saturn, Shani), by whose unfavorable position
Gods, demons, celestial beings, celestial musicians, wisdom-teachings masters
And even celestial snakes succumb to sufferings.

-  lines from Shani Dasharatha Stotra

Found this image very interesting because of snakes.
Shani, lord of Saturday, rides Crow or Vulture or, like in this image - a Cuckoo bird. Interestingly, Shani Dev temple ( popular as known as Kokilavan Dham), at Kosi Kalan near Mathura (U.P.) links Shani, Krishna and Cuckoo.


Dharam dev as Bull.

I had read about it: According to the 'Bull  Metaphor' of  'Law Giver' Manu and in the stories from Puranas - Dharma Bull loses a limb at the start of each  - increasingly unrighteous - yuga.


Took me sometime to recognize this one. The toe sucking pose didn't help.

Vatapatrachai, in french.
Toe sucking...then I remembered.

Vatapatra-Sayin - Vishnu in form of a toddler joyfully sucking his right toe, floating on a Banyan tree leaf, while the universe drowns - the world safe in baby's belly - even as Brahma dies in the great deluge. The the world start's a fresh from his navel.

This was the most difficult and certainly the most interesting illustration.

Mou Devi. I was thinking, maybe, goddess of measles or smallpox. But that's Sheetala.

The french caption 'déesse de la Discorde et de la Misere' translates (thanks to google) as 'goddess of discord and misery'
Has to be Sheetala of North, Harita/Hariti - 'the green one' - the goddess of smallpox from Gandhara art Kushan dynasty, the demon goddess of 500 children who was reformed by Buddha.

In the end, the trail led me to an ancient goddess temple in Kashmir.

Mou Devi, who is this goddess - the one riding a donkey, and carrying a crow banner, the one not particularly 'beautiful' ?

Pierre Sonnerat, in his book, (again) mentions Moudevi and 'Churing of Sea' and (in this version) how it produced three goddesses - Saraswati (claimed by Brahma), Laxmi (claimed by Vishnu) and Moudevi (unclaimed).

Southey's Common-place book added that Moudevi is often represented green.

 A book called 'Roles and Rituals for Hindu women' by Julia Leslie (1992), that in details mentions a goddess named Jyestha, offered final clues.

 Jyestha is often in Tamil called Kakkaikkodiyal (crow-bannered) the one who ride a donkey (Khararudha). Crow is the bringer of bad luck and femine. And the goddess often carries a broom.

In some parts of India, particularly North(in south as Mariamman?), she is identified as Sitla or Sheetala (Aha!) who also carries a broom and rides a donkey.

(Julia Leslie wrote her book, ''In none of the images at my disposal is Jyestha shown with a 'vehicle' or mount". 1992, internet was in infancy. )

So who is Jyestha ' Elder' - 'Misfortune'?

The story , most of them lead to Sagar Manthan or Churning of the  Sea. Apparently, she was the second thing that came out of the sea, just after poison, and finds herself unwanted as she is inauspicious. According to another story, she is in fact Mohini, the female seductress form of Vishnu who saves the Amrit (elixir) from Asuras (demons).

Religions de l'antiquité, tr. refondu completé et dévelopé par J.D. Guigniaut [and others] by Georg Friedrich Creuzer, published 1825, (french had a lot to say about Moudevi) also talked about 'Moudevi' and gave her alternate name as "Mahadevi and "Bhoudevi", born of churning of sea, second wife of Vishnu.

But, Julia Leslie, in her book, did not link Moudevi with Jyestha. In fact, the name 'Moudevi' is not mentioned. Julia Leslie also mentions Lingapurana according to which Jyestha, the first one born from Sagar Manthan and married off to a hermit who couldn't control her unreligious beliefs that make her, feel at ease among "the false mendicant (bhksubimba), the naked Jain monk (ksapanka), and the Buddhist (bauddha)."

According to some other traditions, Jyestha was taken in by Eshwara (Shiva).

As I read about Jyestha and Eshwara, I remembered the Zeethyar temple of Srinagar that I visited in the summer of year 2008. The place has a spring dedicated to Zeestha Devi and it's origin also mentions churning of the sea. The temple, where meat (particularly goat liver) offerings are still the norm, is situated at  the foothills of Zabarwan in the vicinity (a mile) of famous Shankaracharya Hill spot of Shiv temple dedicated to Jyesthesvara.


Here are the rest of the illustrations of Hindu gods from the book by Pierre Sonnerat. In all there are 29 works on Hindu deities, plus an image of a Shiv Ling and a scene depicting Rath Yatra. Enjoy!

Rabindranath Tagore, Lyrics, Moscow, 1967

7 May, 2009

A ball-pen Sketch

Rabindranath Tagore (7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941)


Page 36

Resin, viscous and heavy, endeavours to ooze out in frangrance,
which would like to be locked forever in resion form.

And melody calls for movement and searches a cadence,
while rhythm pushes on into melody back to transform.
Vagueness wants to acquire both form and definite facets,
whereas form fades in fog and dissolves in amorphous dream.
Things unbounded long to be squeezed in straitjackets,
with the limits eroded afresh by the boundless stream.
Who hath laid for eternity laws of the primeval quarrel - Death engenders creation, quiesence foreshadows a tamult?
When restrained, all and everything seek to any corral,
When as liberty looks for abode and a final result.

Page 71

The silly mind, it's looking for a way
To see itself in history in vain.
It roams aimlessly, from room into the open,
And further to the distant fields ahead,
And to the forest dense
It stamps its feet, and raises dust, and howls,
And bumps its head against the trees
It goes in circles to arrest it.
And like a babe it falls
Onto the grass,
And knows not where's dreams
And where's life.

- Rabindranath Tagore, Lyrics, Khudozhestvenmaya Literatura Publishers, Moscow, 1967 (in Russia)
Found this translation in an old slim book on Philosophy published by a communist press in Moscow.

Indian Coffee Machine

The Coffee machine used to be a star at marriage functions.
It had big knobs and bigger switches, a (dead) steam gauge meter, and an angry exhaust pipe.
Instant Coffee powder, usually Nescafe, some steam and some chocolate powder later, you had your sweet coffee.

Baba Lakha Da Daata

Baba Lakha Da Daata would probably translate as Baba Blesser of Millions.

Found the image hanging high on a wall near the kitchen of a banquet hall in Jammu. Seemed really interesting. Had to climb up on chairs to photograph it.

I didn't know anything about Baba Lakha Da Daata whose followers are spread all over Punjab, Himachal and Jammu region.

Looking around the net, I also realized Punjab may be having more than one Lakh Da Daata as people may have given this honorific title has also been appended to some other pirs of undivided Punjab. There is one shrine in Punjab of Pakistan, one in Himachal and one in Tarn Taran district of Indian Punjab. Or maybe these shrines belong to the same person.

Here's what I found in a piece by W. Crooke, author of The Popular Religion and Folk-lore of Northern India (1896). ( Came across it in Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (Part 21)  By James Hastings(originally published in 1935)[Google books, 2003])

Possibly the oldest tale of Lakh Daata is that of one legendary-mythical King Sultan Sayyid Ahmed - saint Akhil Sarwar 'Generous Leader', Sakhi Sultan 'Friendly Lord', Lalan Wali Sarkar 'Nurturing Governer', Lakh Daata 'Giver of Lakhs', born somewhere between 6th and 12th century A.D, son of one Hazrat Zainul Abedin who came from Baghdad and settled in Shahkot near Multan, and whose shrine is at Nagaha (re-named Sakhi Sarwar) in Dera Ghazi Khan (Punjab, of now Pakistan).

The shrine houses the tomb of Baba Lakh Daata, a tomab of his wife - Bibi Rai and the tomb of a jinn whome he is supposed to have defeated. Here, visitor's are also shown finger marks and foot marks of Ali. Baba Lakh Daata's urs starts on the first day of Hindu first month - Chaitra, and lasts till the first Thursday of Baisaakh (somewhere between late March and early April).

Apparently, shrines of Lakh da daata, that seem to have spread all over Punjab, always have a statue of 'Bhairav' outside. There is certainly a cult of Bhairav in this region stretching across to Jammu where defeated Bhairav is worshied at Vaishno Devi Shrine of Katra, and in Kashmir, where old Hindu temples also have Bhairav guarding the gate (and even have entire temples and rituals dedicated to them). W. Crooke called Bhairav, a earth-god associated with fertility and in the end he conculded that:
It therefore seems probable that the place may have been for ages the seat of the cult of the earth-god and of the powers of fertility and that this was taken over by Buddhism and Hinduism, and finally connected with a modern Muhammadan saint - an interesting example of that fusion of cults which is at the basis of so much in modern Hinduism.

A Curious Case of Indian Bosom Serpent

"O, 'tis a mere nothing! A snake! A snake! The commonest thing in the world. A snake in the bosom — that's all" 
- Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent by Nathaniel Hawthorne [Google books link]

On the morning of 24th April, I reached Jammu to attend the wedding festivities of a cousin sister.

Since it was still morning, ritually, I had a cup of tea and opened the local newspaper- Daily Excelsior, the most widely read newspaper of the city. It offered usual unusual dose of death and mayhem. Sad, sad news. Mini-wars and min-conquests. National dailies have got nothing on them. Farther you get from the center, near the edges, grimmer the picture gets.

But on that particular day the paper, on its front page no-less, offered something bizarrely, slitheringly different.

While reading the News piece, please do keep in mind: this is the region where in ancient times the cult of Snake, Naga worship flourished. In fact, in Bhaderwah district of J&K people still perform ancient rituals of song and dance on certain days to please the snake gods whose leader is Vasuki Nag. Some trivia for filmy people, remember Rajkumar Kohli, the maker of all time classic Bollywood snake (revenge) film Nagin (1976), he too belonged to this region. And generally, everybody knows, in India snakes are still revered.

Since I grew up in Jammu, I have my own fair share of strange snake stories, and yet I was surprised to realize that snakes are still putting up a fight in this rapidly urbanized part of the region. I thought all snakes had been purged. But snakes seems they are still fighting the man. And what a fight! A suicide attack, no less.Well, it wasn't actually meant to be a fidayeen attack, but...anyway, here's what happened in what I like to call 'A Curious Case of Indian Bosom Serpent':

In the late hours of the night, a three foot long snake saw a five-foot-five man sleeping, near a comfortable ditch on the side of the road,  It's mouth was open. Too open. An invitation. Snake knew what he had to do. Such opportunities come but almost never in a snake's life. If everything goes fine, he won't have to work for the rest of his life. Carefully the snake crawled down the man's throat and reached its stomach. But the man turned out to be rather short, as, even though snake was about to reach the bottom of this man's stomach, his tail was still dangling out of its mouth. Not good. Even as snake tried to adjust and head for the bottom, make room for his tail, a sudden obnoxious smell hit the tips of his forked tongue. But he couldn't stop his descend down the stomach, his senses were already failing and he was now sliding, not slithering, he was falling down. A man's stomach smells obnoxious anyway, but as the snake's head hit and broke the surface of the liquid pool at the bottom of the man's stomach, the snake recognized the putrid smell. Alcohol. Darn that stupid man! A drunkard. If you think alcohol - that too, desi - smells bad, come and smell it inside the stomach. It is hell. The snake, his trail still dangling out of the man's mouth, was now drowning. He was fast loosing conscious. The man was still comfortably unconscious. If its conscious did stir-up for a second or two, the man must have thought it was bad eggs from that Jalandhari Egg'n'Chicken soup.
Death came slowly to the snake. He held his breath for long. He could. He could delay. But not death. He knew he was dead even if they caught him alive. Some alcohol did make its way to his stomach too. He thought of eggs. He wished he was a water snake. 'Can I crawl out of this one? How far is the other hole, the way out? Nah, that only happens in fairy tales', he thought. Death came slowly to the snake. In its last moments, he was convinced it was a bad idea from the start - this desire to be a bosom serpent, or may be he should have stopped at the bosom and not be too greedy, stupid and venture into this pit. People should quit drinking. Snake tried to move. No use. More alcohol entered his body through the nostrils. It was good.

In the morning, people discovered a snake's tail sticking out of a man's mouth. Panicky, mystified, surprised, secretly delighted people called the poor man's family. Together they pulled out the snake from its tail. The snake was found dead. The man was taken to a government hospital and survived.

The incident was talk of the town for a couple of days.

Pandit Manto Ki Famous Obscene Kahaniyan

Are they using pictures of Mozelle to sell stories of Saadat Hassan Manto? No, the women doesn't look Jewish. She looks like Raj Kapoor's Mandakini, only brunette, or may be she is a  chubbier version of some nymphet from any page of Amar Chitra Katha. The person lured into buying is sure to be disappointed. Or may be not. A case of 'Never Judge A Book By Its Cover'. Or may be not.

These thoughts went through my mind as my gaze settled on the cover of Manto Ki Prasidh Kahaniyan. Well, not actually. I just had one thought, 'Is that Manto?'

So a book-stall at Jammu Railway Station sells work of Manto like it was some raunchy Hindi pulp.

Actually this is nothing new, Manto has been treated like this for quite some time now.
Several suits have already been filed against me on charges of obscenity. But look at the injustice that in Delhi, right under your nose, a publisher brings out the collection of my stories and calls it The Obscene Stories of Manto. I wrote the book Ganje Farishte. An Indian publisher has published it as Behind the Curtains.… Now tell me, what should I do?
— Manto writing in Pundit Manto’s First Letter to Pundit Nehru, dated 27th August 1954.* In this particular letter, first in a literary work written like series of letters meant for various people including Uncle Sam, Manto also wrote about his Kashmiri origin.


* Translated from the Hindi version of the original Urdu by M. Asaduddin
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