Retrograde. Bamboozlement! More Bamboozlement!

Pamphlet Art Kashmir, 1948

Cross posted from my Kashmir blog
"The pamphlet cover displayed above is from a title published in 1948 by the Kashmir Bureau of Information in Delhi. The design is arresting, and clearly leftist in inspiration. The designer (the name is in the bottom left hand corner) was Sobha Singh, at the time a young progressive artist. In later years, he became better known for his religious paintings of the Sikh Gurus.

The woman in the foreground depicted lying on the ground and aiming a rifle is Zuni Gujjari, a woman from a milkman's family who became renowned as a militant supporter of the National Conference, the main Kashmiri nationalist party. The black and white photograph is of members of the Women's Self Defence Corps, a women's militia set uplargely by Communist supporters of the National Conference in October-November 1947, when Srinagar was in danger of being overrun by an army of Pakistani tribesmen."

Found it at the site of Andrew Whitehead author of 'A Mission in Kashmir'.

Besides Zuni Gujjari, the other women featured in this incredible image include Krishna Misri (nee Zardoo),  her younger sister, Indu, Begum Zainab, Jai Kishori Bhan. Usha Kashyap - known now as Usha Khanna- wife of Indian freedom fighter Rajbans Khanna (associate of Director Bimal Roy) , niece of Balraj Sahni(one of the pioneers of left leaning IPTA or Indian People's Theatre Association and the hero of 1972 bilingual film Shayar-e-Kashmir Mahjoor based on life of Kashmiri poet Mahjoor) and the founder of Samovar restaurant at the Jehangir art gallery in Mumbai.

Do check out Andrew Whitehead's blog for more on these incredible women and stuff like this:


Tip off- Autar Mota ji. Thanks!

Update(25/3/11):  Got the name of one more woman in that pamphlet thanks to Vijay Kashkari Ji. He writes:
"My mother Shanta Kashkari is also in photograph. She was an active member of the peace brigade formed for voluntary works, when Kashmir was raided by the raiders.My mother is  2nd behind Jai Kishori Ji [woman under first 'E' of DEFENDS]. She is wearing white saree, head and arm is covered by the saree."

Shanta Kashkari would be the woman under left edge of 'D' of DEFENDS.

Unrelated post: Heroines with Guns

Kumkum does that thing

She does that thing.

Kumkum in 'Dagha Dagha Vai Vai Vai'  from Kali Topi Lal Rumal (1959). It's a gif than can be easily made using any of the tools easily available online. Displaying a gif in Blogger though needs a little trick as blogger doesn't support gif. I first uploaded the gif to Google Docs, then set its share setting to everyone, took the image link url and then used it here.

That's the easy part.

Now, here's the  real mindbender.

Created using a Python script created by Philip Guo  (at

It basically takes a static jpg image, adds a user defined Zoom effect to it (using a beautiful logic that let's a person even control the 'Zoom' area) and then outputs it as a gif (using ImageMagick, making which work with the script in Fedora proved the first hurdle. I kept running into "x11"  problem that was finally solved by: yum groupinstall "X Software Development".)

The Python script is meant to be used for a static image, instead I fed it a .gif. It kept running into "list index out of range" problem. Simple codemonkey solution: I added a try-exception-pass-continue at some specific lines and wallah!

(There was also the issue of size. The original gif went to about 12 MB. Controlled that using Gimp by keeping the gif indexed at 8 bit. Brought it down to just about 3Mb...still rendering can be an issue on slow connections.)

Previous crazy project: Trying to re-create a Kashmiri tune from 19th century.

The Return of Rajni Nimbupani

Came across this rare second coming of Mario Miranda's famous creation Miss Rajni Nimbupani - the famous Film Star, in NFDC publication called 'Cinema in India',  July 1990.
Mario Miranda, Previously

Holi Afternoon

Almost post-apocalyptic. Holi afternoons. Sparse traffic. No shops open. Roads open and wide. Pink faced men slow paddling their cycles. Often half-inebriate. An occasional school of boys and men on bikes or cars, or on foot, a wall of sound, men happy about something, screaming. Definitely inebriate. Men sleeping in ditches or right next to one, at a spot carefully picked, in shade. A woman. Some kids still not tired. A man on a bike with his two kids and a wife. A bunch of men sitting under a tree working on their dholaks, out of tune, singing about women or gods. Holi Hai! Holi Hai!


Moon around my Neck

Called T'chandram among Kashmiri Pandits.
It is supposed to keep the mind calm. It was supposed to cure me of books. 

A 'Janara' or the Moon amulet from Naples. From the chapter 'The evil eye and allied Notions', in a work mostly written in Kashmir, 'The Symbolism of the East and West' (1900) by Mrs Murray Aynsley. According to author, 'the lower orders in Naples' thought of Janara or Moon as the wife of Janus, the Sun. And if one Neapolitan 'lower order' woman called another woman a 'Janara', the word implied a 'witch'.


"Super Moon". 20/3/11. Using Nikon D3100 with 18-55mm lens at 1/200s, f/22.0, ISO:400.
Not bad considering I wasn't expecting much.


"Super Moon". 6/5/12. Using Nikon D3100 with 55-300 mm lens at 1/160s, f/5.6 ISO:100.

Original Indian Supermodels

The previous post with a suspected 'Persis Khambatta sighting' got me chasing names like Yasmin Daji(turns out it may have been her and not Persis!), Reita Faria, Meher Mistry, Nayyara Mirza, Anjuman Mumtaz Beg, even Colleen Bhiladvala...till I gave up and settled for something rare.

Persis Khambatta. Miss India 1965.
Meher Mistry. Miss India 1964
Meher Mistry, 25, (left), Fowzia Kardar, 24, and Persis Khambatta, 21, (below).
Persis looks like she is accompanying her elder sister on a vacation.
The photographs were taken during their Australia visit in 1968 (or 1970?).  These and a couple of more photographs of this trip can be found in the digital archives of State Library of Victoria [Search Link, Copyright held by The Herald & Weekly Times Limited]

The photographs may be rare, but names are famous except for Fowzia Kardar. That got me interested.


Notice the heading: 'See-through mini from Sari-land'
Fowzia Kadar at a show in Singapore.
The Straits Times, 19th March 1970
found at National library Singapore
Meher Mistry and Persis Khambatta was also there.
(Guess the photographs are from 1970)

Fowzia Kardar's father was famous director-producer A.R. Kardar who at first made silent movies in Lahore and in later years became renowned for making remakes of Hollywood films at Bombay.

A. R Kadar auditioning an unknown girl in his studio.
Photograph by James Burke for Life magazine,1951 [previously]

Lure - Yasmin Daji Ad

Yasmin Daji
Ad for Lure Beauty Mask. Early 1970s. Model: no clue but uber.

Update: Model is in fact famous Persis Khambatta [Thanks, Geetali! You are awesome!]. I had a hunch but didn't pursue it because of previous 'no she is not' experience.

It's incredible how her looks changed through the 60s - Miss India and 'Bombai Raat Ke Bahon Mein', 70s - the ads and then the 80s - the Star Trek head shave. 

Update: Thanks to an anonymous tip-off (check comments) we have another (more  probable) name - Yasmin Daji., who was crowned Miss India in 1966 by Persis Khambatta. Apparently this same image was used by Persis Khambatta in her coffee table book 'Pride of India' (1997).

Update: I checked that book and it is indeed Yasmin Daji. And this image is used in the book.

Faizi's Love Story

Manmadin (Kamadev) by Pierre Sonnerat
"The Hindus, unlike any other religious sect, say that every one can get to heaven in their own way, at the same time maintaining that theirs is the most expeditious method.

In the time of Akbar their Vedas, or sacred writings, had not been translated from the Sanscrit; accordingly, Akbar's secretary and great friend, Abul Fusl, the historian, tried by a ruse to investigate the principles of their faith, and sent his young brother Feizi, then a mere boy, to Benares to the Brahmins, in the character of a poor orphan of their tribe. This fraud was practised upon a learned Brahmin, who received him into his house, and brought him up as his own son.

When, after ten years of study, Feizi had perfected himself in Sanscrit, Akbar took measures to ensure his safe return. Feizi, it seems, on attaining manhood, had fallen in love with the Brahmin's only daughter, and her father, seeing the mutual affection of the young pair, offered him his daughter in marriage. Feizi, perplexed between love and gratitude, discovered himself to the old man, fell down at his feet, and with many tears entreated his forgiveness for the deceit which he had put upon him. The Brahmin did not reproach him, but drew a dagger and prepared to stab himself; but Feizi seized his hand and conjured him to say if he could make any atonement for the fraud. The Brahmin answered that he would forgive him, and consent to live, if Feizi would grant him two requests viz., that he would never translate the Vedas, nor repeat the creed of the Hindus."

The above intriguing passage is from  'Our Visit to Hindostan, Kashmir and Ladakh' (1879) by J. C. Murray Aynsley.

I have spent last couple of years gobbling up old books on Kashmir [mini list ]. One of the interesting things about most of these 'Kashmir' books, besides their love bordering on obsession with Lalla Rookh, is the freedom with which the writers of these travelogues quoted, re-mixed, re-used the older works available to them. Say while describing a place or a people, even the adjectives, verbs, adverbs, entire sentences, would be put to use, as the writer tries to squeeze the grist of an experience offered in an older work by some other writer/traveller. There works have passages, sometimes entire chapters, that in today's world would simply qualify for 'Copy-Paste'. These days, no scholarly paper created this way would be called scholarly. These day's even search engines might not pick them up.

Yet, if one thinks about it, these 'Copy-Paste' passages don't seem such a terrible thing. Yes the writer may have been a bit lazy, not too lazy as he or she at least did read the original work, may be the writer had nothing new to add, may be there was a quick buck to be made from the latest exotica, yet what his/her re-use of those works ensured was that a particular piece of information was now available via multiple means; it made a piece of information not easy to lose. If one limits or restricts the means, the chances of loss are higher. Pandits, old and new, should know.

Of course, that must not have been the original intention of the writer but these 'Copy-Paste' passages have often led me to some odd stories. 

The love story of Abu Fazl's (point to note elder) brother Faizi, as offered and indeed credited by J. C. Murray Aynsley,  comes from 'The history of Hindostan', translated by Alexander Dow (1770-72) from  Persian work of Muḥammad Qāsim Hindū Shāh Astarābādī Firishtah known as Tārīkh-i Firishtah/ Gulshan-i Ibrahim (1560–1620).

Faizi is credited with translating Mahabarata and Bhaskaracharya's Lilavati to Persian.


Saint Bhoori's Convent

Somewhere in Ghaziabad, around 20 Km from Delhi. 2011.

is your nation's head

March 12, 2011

Came across an interesting article in today's HT. 'The national body' by Gopalkrishna Gandhi [HT link]offers his musing and anecdotes on the whole popular business of Bharat Mata's Body - Kashmir is the crown head, Delhi is the heart, then there is pancreas, liver, so on, left, right, down, lower, there are some unmentionable but nevertheless important parts, so on and so forth.  You get the idea - the national body.

Gopalkrishna Gandh devotes quite a few lines to the crown, Kashmir, as the article was triggered by the fact that someone had asked him to 'chief guest' an event about great treasures and antiques of Kashmir. The event was to be called 'Crown of India'.

The print version of this article carries an inset image of 'Bharat Mata' [image] famously drawn by Abanindranath Tagore in 1905. Towards the end of the article Gopalkrishna Gandhi writes a bit about the beauty of Abanindranath Tagore's vision of Mata, how the painter had not transposed Bharat Mata 'onto a geopolitical map of India.' The really interesting part for me was the he ends the article with a reference to the rather obscure Kashmir series by  Abanindranath Tagore. Last year, I stumbled across that incredible series in a travelogue called 'The Charm of Kashmir' (1920) by V.C. Scott O'connor (available in public domain at About a year back, I shared the images from that Kashmir series by Abanindranath Tagore over my Kashmir blog. I am quite happy at this public consumption and public reclaimanation of those works of art by the master.

Looking for India in Chinar leaves

Kheer Bhawani in village Tulamulla of district Ganderbal near Srinagar is probably the holiest shrine of Kashmiri Pandits. The place in fact is in fact a small island surrounded by a river and mash land. The origin of this place mentions a Mulberry tree, hence its popular name Tulamulla, but the only trees to be found on this island are old and new Chinar trees.

During my 2008 visit to the place I found the usual Hindu pilgrims from India participating in a rather curious exercise of recent origin that in part may have been affected and initiated by more than two decade long  presence of Security forces on this island. The visitors, often on advise of other visitors or on advise of a security man equally fascinated by the 'miracle' are asked to look up at the big branches of Chinar trees from a particular spot on the ground and observe the distinct shape of India being formed by the leaves on intertwined branches of those magnificent old tees. At the end of  the exercise, that involves lot of pointing up at the trees, everyone agrees that those leaves do form the shape of India.

Looking for India in Chinar leaves. 2008.


brash bath

Welcoming Summer. Welcoming City.
HUDA City Centre, Gurgaon.  6/3/11

Thamas Kuli Khan's Loot

While tracing the family history of Nehru Clan, Dom Moraes in his book Mrs. Gandhi (1980) gives the reader an account of Nadir Shah's saking of Delhi. He tells us that on May 16 1738 when Nadir Shah finally left Delhi, along with the famous Kohinoor and the famous Peacock throne
his soldiers, after having killed Thirty thousand people in five hours, also carried along with them to Persia more that thirty million pounds sterling in cash, jewels
plate...and other valuable property...also... thousand elephants, seven thousand horses, ten thousand camels, a hundred eunuchs, a hundred and thirty writers, two hundred builders, a hundred mason and anticlimactically two carpenters". The pathos of this section from the book ( which Moraes based on Sir Wolsely Haig's Cambridge History of India Vol. IV, 1922) is built upon realization that Nadir Shah's great campaign ended anticlimactically with enslavement of two carpenters. In wars and related matters hundreds, thousands, missions are acceptable figures of speech, while two is pathos. It adds an air of abomination to the campaign. It offers an abnormality. Almost manages to pronounce the loot unholy.

Everything was normal with the campaign by the end of which two hundred thousand people were killed.

James Fraser in his book 'The history of Nadir Shah, formerly called Thamas Kuli Khan, the present emperor of Persia' (1742) [link] offers:

The Particulars of what Nadir Shah carried away with him:

Jewels from the Emperor and Omars valued at 25 Crore, Utensils and Handles of Weapons fet with Jewels, with the Peacock Thronem and none other fet with precious Stones valued at 9 Crore, Money coined in Cold and Silver Rupees valued at 25 Crore, Gold and Silver Plate worth 5 Crore which he melted down and coin'd, Fine Cloths and rich Stuffs of all kinds valued at 2 Crore, Household furniture, and other valuable Commodities: 3 Crore, Warlike Weapons, Cannon, etc: 1 Crore. The total thus around to 70 Crore. In addition he carried with him Elephants 1000, Horses 7000, Camels 10000, Eunuchs 100, Writers 130, Smiths 200, Masons or builders 300, Stone-Cutters 100, Carpenters 200.

So that paragraph from Indira Gandhi's biography should read simply 'and two hundred carpenter'. No Anti-Climax.


Nadir Shah was awarded the name 'Thamas Kuli Khan'  or more probably 'Tahmasp Qoli Khan' by his lord Tahmasp II after  Nadir Shah helped him fend-off a powerful Afghan challenge in 1729. And Kuli also got to marry one of Tahmasp's daughters. 
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