Foreign Affairs

“What time is it?”

“hmm..”, taking out the phone from the pocket, “7.50”, I tell him.

“At this time of the day, nobody would be out. If a young boy goes out, the soldiers will just take a stick and start beating. I miss Kashmir. But I don’t miss that fear. You know I come from a village. It is blacklisted. Nobody cares about us. No roads. No hospitals. No schools. And beatings if you are found by the soldiers after dark. It is only because of the cement factories near our village that people still live. These factories give some facility to the people, clinic, school etc.”

“how far is Pakistan from your place?”

“There is a short hike, and from top of a mountain you can actually see Pakistan. There is another point were you can see Afghanistan as well.”

“oh! Afghanistan? We share a border with Afghanistan? I don’t remember the map.”

” Yeah we do. Anyway the actual LOC you cannot see in most maps. One side taken  by Pakistan. Another by China. China takes a few kilometers everyday. You don’t believe me?”

“Why wouldn’t I? I know India is far less aggressive. But few kilometers everyday?”

“Yeah because India does not know where the actual LOC is. So China takes advantage. You know kashmiri people don’t need visa to visit China. Chinese consider Kashmir as theirs. You just need a passport. If the address in your passport is in Kashmir, you can just walk in. Infact whenever chinese tourists come, most of them take me out for Pizza :).”

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This is the second part of the series of conversations I have had with a Kashmiri friend of mine. You can read the first part here called Sales.

 

Sales

“I have always wanted to see this place from inside. Finally”, I said smiling.

“This is a much smaller shop. If you see my MG Road showroom it is 5 times bigger.”

“Oh… what is in that small room?”, I asked moving towards it.

“Sit. First what will you have, coke, tea…Indian tea haan!”

“Tea will be nice”, I said settling into the chair.

He went outside to a nearby cafe, while I waited for him in the chair, looking around. He was back in 5 minutes.

Between us was a glass showcase in which scores of jewellery gleamed. Rings, lockets, semi precious stones, crystals.

“This looks beautiful,” I said pointing to a oxidized silver locket.

“This is unique. You see this ring, I can get it made from my jeweller. I just have to call him, and tell him the model  number. He will make an exact replica. But not this. This is from a collection. If I sell it. It is gone. I don’t know how to get another one.”

“Who buys these then?,” I asked.

“There are people who are specialists. They travel around buying things and adding to the collections. They come to shops like us and then sell us there entire collection. For example, one guy brought me these tibetan jewellery 3 years ago. I have sold almost 80% of it. Only these 6 pieces remain. I have tried finding them again. But impossible. ”

There was a a red coral oblong like a tablet, with silver inscription of some tibetan text.

“It says Om Mani Pad Mani Om,” he said. “This hear is lapis lazuli. It comes from Afghan.” He pointed to another oval stone with just a tibetan Om in silver.

“How much is this?” I asked pointing to one of them.

“This here is 3350. This smaller one is 1850.”

“I love this one. I might come some day to get it. Not today though. Sorry I am wasting your time.”

“No no. You are my friend,” he said, sounding 100% genuine.

“Are most indian customers like me?”

“It depends. People from Coimbatore have lots of money. Once a lady came and bought 6 pashmina shawls. She was a professor. Very old. Didn’t even bargain. If I say the real price for harem pants, 350, then they will say, “Bhaiyya, kam keejiye na. Real price batayiye.” I don’t entertain. They can go to other shops where they will first say 500, and then finally give for 350. You know sometimes real good people come. Once a german guy came. As soon as he entered, he put his finger to his lips. “Shhh…” he said. Don’t say anything. Then he started picking up things from here. There. Shawl. Meditation bowl. The bill came out 60k. He paid with card. And forgot his card when he left. Good thing he had mentioned the guest house he was staying. I took it back. He hugged me when I gave him the card back.  He came back the next year he was here. ”

“Don’t you go to your other shop, the MG Road one?, I asked.

“That is run by my uncle. You know. He has a different style. He is a very good salesman. I have a different style. I don’t try to sell. I make friends. Once a guy came and asked to see chess sets. I asked him whether he would like to play. We played. You know make friends. Offer tea. Thats how I sell.”

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This is the first part of a series of posts I will be writing based on my conversations with a Kashmiri friend who has a handicrafts showroom. I can vouch for this guy, if anyone coming to Auroville wants to do some handicraft shopping. Hot indian chai guaranteed :).

UPDATE- You can read the second part of the series here called – Foreign Affairs.

The warm rug

I was sitting there feeling the warmth of the wollen rug beneath me, and the lukewarm terracota tumbler with milk in my hand.
“Bhai, ye chatai kis cheez ki bani hai?”, I asked Jatan Bhai.

“kaun sa ye..? ye jungli gyag ke baal ka bana hai. meri miseej ne banaya hai.”, he said, smiling proudly.

“Gyag?..ye kaun sa janwar hai.”

“arey vo hota hai na gaay jaisa, bade sije vala. jiske lambe lambe baal hota hai”

“Yak..?”, I asked

“haan haan vahi. paltoo yak ke bhi baal milta hai. par ye jungli gyag ka hai.”

I was amazed. How did they find wool from a wild yak. I asked him.

“ye toh secret hai :D…”

“pleeeze bataiye na bhaaai….mein kisi ko nahi bataaunga.” puppy eyes and all ..

“Achha suno. Faalgun ke maheene mein hi hota hai. Us maheene mein hi ye gyag kafi thande hote hain. Inka saal ka poora chakkar chalta hai na. Ashwin ke maheene mein ye garm hote hain. Pichli baar toh mera ek dost hai Dhhuni. Uske shareer pe bahut baak hain. Ek baar davaai lene hum log oopar gaye they..toh ek gyag kahin se aake Dhhuni pe savaar ho gaya. HAA hAA hAa hAa.
aur fir 6 maheene baad phalgun mein bahut hi shant. Mein jab bacha thha tab toh jaake gyagni ke dood bhi pee leta thha.”

“Ye gyagni ka doodh hai?” I asked wondering at the sweet milk I was having.

“arey na na…ye toh vo sardaar apne bhains lekar aaye hain ludhiana se. Yahin milti hai na hari ghaans garmi mein.”

“Achha. haan toh vo phalgun mein…..?”

“Haan. Pehle toh hum log aisa gyag dhoondte hain jiska baal humey chahiye. Ye alag alag rang ke hote hain . kale , bhoore , laal, safed. Uske baad humse se jiska bhi gala sabse achha rehta hai..vo ye gana gate hain. aap ye youtube pe dekh sakte hain.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq-l1tuGwAE

“koi aisee sundar bandee nahi rehti vahan. bus hum teen char dost aur vo gyag.”

“aapke gane se kya hota hai? ” I asked wondering.

“Arey ye gana shayad gyag ko lori jaisa lagta hai. Humare purkon ne pata nahi ye kaise khoja. Kai peedhiyon se hum log yahi gana gate hain, gyag ko sulane ke liye.”

“Toh gyag so jaati hai?”

“Haan so jaati hai. khurrate maark ke. aur bus hum chakoo se uske baal kaat lete hain. Har 2 baal lene pe hum ke baal chhod dete hain. Usey nanga karna bhi sharafat nahi na.”

Jatan bhai is planning to soon start selling a couple of these rugs every year. Please keep an eye out for link to that rug selling on a superfurnish.com site, that I might soon share.

Nobody Knows

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any living or dead people is entirely coincidental.

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I had arrived a day before, but felt like a veteran, riding the official ride of aurovillians, the TVS moped. It wouldn’t go any faster, and I was dangerously close to missing my lunch. My guest house served all three meals, strictly at 7 am, 1 pm and 7pm. Avoiding the potholes and swerving to avoid the goats, I saw her waving, apparently at me. The wave changed into a thumb pointing to the direction I was going. She was dressed in loose cottons and manali pants, and you could mistake her for a spanish tourist. A pretty spanish girl who looks indian. I braked my moped to a halt and then noticed a baby near her, playing on the ground. He was covered all over his body in blue stripes.

“Ink?”, I asked her pointing towards the boy.

“Yeah must be..he was playing with another kid, and I had taken my eyes off them just for a minute….and when I noticed, both of them were covered like this.”

“Let me take my bag in front”, said I, letting them onto my moped.

“Are you living in the village?”, she asked.

“Village? I don’t know, I am staying at the Cheruze guest house. You know near the Mother’s market.”

“How much do they charge?”

“750 per day, but they include three meals and a wifi connection.”

“ohh..that is too expensive for me. I won’t be able to afford that.”

“Where are you put up now?”, I asked.

“I am looking for a cheap place, you know I don’t have much money.”

“Are you sharing it with someone?”, she asked.

“No, staying alone. It is expensive for me as well. I have booked only for 10 days. Will search for some other place, meanwhile.”

“Do you have any friends there?”

“Not yet, I know a few people, but not friends yet. I came only yesterday, you know”, I said.

“Oh”, she said, the tone of which I took as ‘oh you don’t know how to go about living in this place. Staying alone! Imagine!!’

I sensed that she wanted me to ask her if she wants to share a room with me. And suddenly I started imagining things, dirty nappies, standing in line for vaccine shots, waiting for the baby to sleep in the small single room I had, every night, and on and on. She wasn’t asking me to marry her, fuck she hadn’t even asked aloud if I wanted to share a room. Couldn’t she get a job, with her fluent english and sauve ways, if she needed money.

“What do you do in Auroville?”, I finally asked.

“I am a teacher. I was working as a teacher with the Tamil Nadu government. And then he got born, and I lost my job.”

“Oh wow..same pinch, I haven’t earned anything in the last few years. Living on my savings”, said I, hoping to establish that I was no rich corporate honcho, the modern landlord’s son.

Meanwhile the boy got excited and started jumping between us.

“He seems to be having fun”, I said.

“Yeah he does this everytime we are on a bike. He is calm in a car, but on a two wheeler, he feels like he is the one riding it. Soon he will go to prep school, or kg school or no school, since I have no money.”

Meanwhile my guest house neared. And it was with a mix of guilt and shame that I stopped my moped at the turn which takes me to my guest house. I felt the hot summer sun pouring down on us, mainly on them. What made it even worse was something she had said when she sensed that I was about to stop and say ‘bye bye’.

“I don’t know where we are headed”, she muttered anxiously.

“Does anybody”, I thought, as I raced my moped, without looking back.

Clouds on the horizon

Hello I am Mr. Selvamani, and this is a normal hot, humid, filter coffee scented morning, reporting to you live from Madras. I work in the meteorology department. Not he one who deal with meteors, aah no no. We deal with temperature both in celsius and in fahrenheit. Also with rain and the absence of it. I was the one who pressed the button for the sirens when the tsunami hit last to last year. I could also be asked to present the weather section of the evening news bulletin, if Lord Subramanium answers my prays.

The intro aside I would like to get into the main issue here. Today morning when I came into office and was reading my emails, peon Thambi came and announced that two people urgently want to meet me. I asked them to come in. They entered. One of them was middle aged, whereing a white joobaah, what you call a kurti in hindi. And a white gold edged dhoti. He was also wearing a pretty heavy gold chain on his meaty neck. The slight smile on his face made my apprehension disappear. The other guy was young and thickly muscled, and was wearing a maroon lungi with multicolored flowers. His shirt was open halfway down showing lush hairy vegetation.

“Ghung goon ghoon”, said the young man.

Why tell me, I said.

“Ghung goon ghoon goon”, said the young man, looking at the elder man, who nodded wisely.

This morning would be hard, I thought. How can I explain these simple folk of the vagaries of global warming. Of what harm their brothers and sisters had done to mother nature through the centuries.

Nowadays it is easier to forecast the winner of IPL, than to predict the rains, I thought. Sometimes we pick a card from a deck we have. That deck has various combinations ranging from humid, slightly sunny to extremely wet with knee deep rains. But how can I tell that to these men, who have such faith in my oracular powers.

“Ghung goo goo goo” this time the elder man said. To which I woke up and found myself staring out the window at a city pigeon.

भागो सेर आया

ये मेरे एक दोस्त की जुबानी एक सच्ची कहानी है .
“१८ साल पहले मेनका गाँधी ने हमारे गाँव के पास टायगर छुडाये थे . इनमे कुछ चिड़िया घर तो कुछ सर्कस से थे. एक बार में और मेरा दोस्त शाम को स्कूल से लौट रहे थे . में और मेरा दोस्त छज्जू एक स्पंज की गेंद से खेल रहे थे. में अपने दोस्त की तरफ गेंद फेंकता और वो मेरी तरफ. जंगल के साथ वाले पगडण्डी में हम लोग खेलते हुए धीरे धीरे घर की तरफ आ रहे थे. मैंने ताव में आकर गेंद कुछ ज्यादा ही ऊंची फेक दी. मेरा दोस्त आसमान की और देखता ही रहा और गेंद उसके फैलाये हुए हाथों के बीच से गिर गयी. झल्लाया हुआ मेरा दोस्त बदले की भावना से गेंद को और ऊपर फेंकना चाहा. लेकिन होनी में कुछ और ही लिखा था. गेंद कक्षा में सिखाये अनुव्रत जैसे रास्ता लिए हुए सीधे जंगले में गिर गयी. “साले तुने मेरी गेंद गुमा दी” चिल्लाया में. जंगल बहुत घना था. फिर भी एक बार ढूँढना तो बनता ही था. हम दोनों झाड़ियों और काँटों से बचते हुए आगे बढ़ने लगे. तकरीबन २५ मीटर ही चले होंगे की एक तीव्र बू आने लगी. अब हमें दर भी लगने लगा था. मेरा दोस्त बोला, “यार में नयी गेंद दे दूंगा तुझे, अब चल वापिस”. हम लोग दौड़ते हुए वापस जाने लगे. जैसे जैसे हम पगडण्डी के पास पहुँचते गए गंध और बढती गयी. पगडण्डी पे पहुँच के जो दृश्य हमने देखा, मेरा दोस्त तोह बेहोश ही हो गया. मेरी नेकर भी गीली हो गयी. सामने बैठा था जंगले का रजा अपने दांतों के बीच हमारी गेंद लिया हुआ. में तोह जैसे मिटी का पुतला बन गया. बाघ गेंद लिए हुए धीरे धीरे मेरी तरफ बढ़ने लगा. में हनुमान चालीसा के शब्द याद कर रहा था. वो मेरे कुछ दूर लाकर वो गेंद जमीन पे ही रख दिया. में एक पैर से छज्जू को लात दी. “उठ साले.” छज्जू उठकर कहता है, “हम लोग मर गए क्या? क्या ये स्वर्ग है?” वो शायद इस चीज़ पे पूरा विशवास कर रहा ठा की उसकी मौत हो चुकी है. वो बाघ के पास जाकर उसके सर पे हात फेरने लगा.

उस दिन शुरुआत हुई हमारी दोस्ती की, में, छज्जू और शेर खान की. हम लोग ३ साल ऐसे ही जंगल जंगल ख्हेलते रहे. फिर एक दिन शेर खान की मौत हो गयी. छज्जू ने उसे अपनी माँ के हाथ का बना हुआ ठेकुआ खिला दिया. बेचारे शेर खान के गले में ठेकुआ अटक गया और उसका देहांत हो गया. १० साल बाद भी में शेर खान के दन्त का लोकेट पेहेनता हूँ. शेरू तू जहाँ भी है, तुझे गेंद और खेलने के लिए बचे मिलते रहें. ” भागो सेर आया

For people who cannot read the hindi script (or the language), google translate comes to the rescue. Here is the translated version which is even funnier.

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Run apple came

This is a true story of my friends verbally.
“18 years ago, Maneka Gandhi, Tiger Chodaye near our village the. Among these were some bird Hher some circus. Once in the evening and my friend were returning from school. Chtju and my friend were playing with a sponge ball. He throws the ball towards his friend and me. We play in the woods with the Peghadndi were coming slowly towards the house. I came in anger threw the ball too high. My friend was the sky and see the ball fell from between his Afailaye hands. Zllaaya’s my friend wanted to throw up the ball with vengeance. But something else had to be. As taught in the classroom Anuwarat way straight to the ball in Jngle fell. “My brother-Tune lost the ball” in shouts. Was very dense forest. Finding it was once again formed. We both began to move forward avoiding bushes and thorns. Approximately 25 meters will be left in an intense smell started coming. Now we seemed to rate. My friend said, “Man will give you the new ball, running back now.” We began running back. As we arrive to the smell and increasing added Peghadndi. The scenes we saw at Peghadndi access, my friend was so faint Toah. Nekara I got too wet. Reza was sitting in front of Jngle our ball between his teeth taken. Toah became such an effigy of the Mite. For Tiger, the ball was moving slowly towards me. Hanuman Chalisa in the word was missing. She brought me some off the ground at the ball as he put it. Gave a leg kick Chtju. “Brother-up.” Chtju up says, “What we’re dead? What is this heaven? “That belief is probably completed at this thing has died of Tha. That tiger went Ahat letting his head was at.

That day was the beginning of our friendship, in Chtju and Sher Khan. We are Khhelte forest woods like 3 years. Then one day, Sher Khan died. Chtju her mother’s hand made him Tekua fed it. Sher Khan stuck Tekua poor neck and her expired. 10 years after Sher Khan’s teeth in the locket will Pahent. Sheru you Wherever you left to play ball and keep meeting. “

The world’s most simple language

This is part of chasing frames.
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Hi, I am Michael Souza, a linguist researching on languages which do not use recursion. It has long been held by Chomsky and his followers that the human child has an inherent instinct for languages. Teach him a few rules and he will use recursion to make more sentences and phrases. But since Everett discovered the Piraha, I have been fascinated by the other paradigm. That language is cultural. Piraha language has the lowest number of phonemes in the world. Just 3 vowels and 9 consonants. I think I have discovered the Misaka tribe has even lesser, 2 vowels and 6 cosnonants.

I was there in the middle of the amazon, for two months. Was dropped here by canoes, this area being so far out not even float planes come this way. And the worst part is we don’t have a common language we both understand. So the going is really tough. I used to grab hold of a object, say a root of tapioca and then try to find out what it is called. Just before I came back to UK I had a vocabulary of 12 words.

Now when I came back the Misaka had become famous. Printed throughout the world, and shown in news channels. I remember the episode. I plane had passed at quite a low altitude over the settlement.
I really laughed my head off when I saw the accompanying article. The entire article was based on guesswork but written like a science paper. It was absurd. For me even though I was there, I could hardly make sense of what went. I’ll try to describe the event in detail.

It was morning and I had just had my breakfast of pig liver roasted over fire. Chingwa was cleaning the lama wool he had just shorn off. He had just rubbed in the red blood of the lama they had hunted. Whenever they killed the animal they would rub their blood all over their body to get their spirit’s power. A while later the village witch would come to bless them so that the animals spirit really gets one with him.

When the plane came in the witch was blessing them. I’ll try to note down whatever I heard with what I understood inside brackets.
“ooe te pee koou. pee tuu GRRRRRR ooooo maaaa keeee” Then she went silent.
From their expression they seemed to know what to do. It was really rehearsed. I later realized that the 2 propeller plane lying across the marsh was their “hunt”.

Other than big flying objects they were quiet friendly towards others. I will go back to the Misakas in a week.

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More stories – by dipankar, amit, forced ambitions

updated on jun 27 2008 – read this report on NGC on which an anthropologist Robert L. Carneiro says:

“The point is that, because we’ve never contacted them, we just don’t know anything about them,” he said. “So anything anyone says about them has to be treated as speculation.”

read the full report here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/06/080619-uncontacted-tribe_2.html

The SuperGroup

People saw black clouds rushing, as if god had pressed the sky’s fast forward button. Nobody noticed the 4 guys silently entering their lane, as they were too busy grabbing clothes from the hanging lines and covering their vegetable carts with plastic. They ran inside their homes and birds tried to find space between shutters of old buildings. No one could have guessed what would happen in the next few hours.

Their was an old Shiva temple at the end of the lane. Some said the shivlinga their was from the time of Raja Bhrukuteshwar. Seeing no other place the 4 guys ran towards the temple for shelter. Getting wet was not such an issue, but they had to protect their cache of grass. Their was nobody at the temple. They made themselves comfortable and without much ado lighted a joint. Soon the smoke covered the room. Munching on the leftover coconut and peda, they sat their hallucinating. Their thoughts were broken when with a loud crash the door of the inner sanctum opened.

The bright light due to a lightning outside stole the darkness from the room. And as the boom crash sound of lightning followed the light there came out of the door a man, dancing wildly. His hair was very long and matted and his body covered with ashes. His eyes were so red, they seemed to spew fire. Each time his feet hit the ground it felt like the earth had been shaken. The fat one, so entranched was he, by the man’s dancing took a drum kept nearby, and started playing. Meanwhile another one took a pooja thali.

Gradually the man who was oblivious of everything initially, absorbed in the surroundings, including the four guys who were playing like rockstars. The redness of his eyes seemed to vanish with his fury.

Raising one hand, he motioned the 4 to stop playing.

Then he said, “The world had gotten so evil, I was here to do my duty by finishing off this kaliyuga. But your “wild rocking” music made me loose my anger. And it will take me about 1000 years to get fully angered again.
You better keep rocking, or I’ll be back (with a wink).