Cattle Rustlers across the LOC Kashmir Part III of V

Preamble. LOC Kashmir will offer autobiographical short fiction in one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, the 740 kilometer Line of Control dividing the Pakistani and Indian parts of Kashmir. Approximately 500,000 Indian and 300,000 Pakistani armed and battle-hardened troops face each other across their gun-sights. Both sides indulge in infiltration and aggressive patrolling. Exchanges of fire occur with regular frequency. This is where and how I spent my late teens, as a young officer in the wake of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War, before having to enlist in the French Foreign Legion. I wish to see peace in beautiful Kashmir during my lifetime, even though I am not very hopeful.


Cattle Rustlers across the LOC Kashmir

Part III of V

 Chamb sector facing the Line of Control in Kashmir is a three-hour drive southeast of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. In the years following the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, the officer’s mess of the Punjab Regiment battalion was headquartered in the bombed out police station of Chamb town, captured and retained by the Pakistanis in the 1971 war. Partial roofs were completed by tarpaulin over shell-pocked walls, blown out doors and windows. Offices, kitchen, staff officer’s quarters and the mess cohabited without complaint.

I had spent dinner in silence.

“Its okay, Gill. Soldiers are meant to follow orders,” the Colonel said, which only made it worse.

“Young man,” Major Waraich lisped. “Your men followed your orders. Then you followed the orders of the Brigade Commander.”

“Have another meat boti, Gill badshah,” the Quartermaster urged, his close-set eyes glowing.

“Thank you sir, no problem sir!” I replied equally to all the sincere and insincere condolences, seething inwardly over having to return the Indian buffalo I had unthinkingly ordered my men to retrieve.

Then one by one they all yawned their way off the steel folding chairs and left.

I sat there for a while in silence, then looked at my watch and lit a cigarette, waiting.

The three-striper havaldar who ran the mess stamped his foot at the salute and broke into my thoughts.

“Havaldar Mehram just rang, sahib. He says they’re ready and waiting.”


His hand rose in the salute. “Good luck, and be careful, Saab!” he said.

I smiled and nodded — no secrets in a bloody infantry unit!

In shorts and a tee shirt, I was at the crossing point thirty minutes later, a surplus M-1 bayonet and two grenades in my belt, a small pouch and a tent picket in my hand.

Three shadows emerged from the saroot reeds. They assumed shape in a moonless night under sporadic clouds. The water in the Tawi shimmered dully.

Havaldar Mehram, one-striper Lance Naik Sudagar and Jawan Allah Ditta, in shorts, dark tee shirts, ropes across their chests, bayonets and grenades in their belts and tent pickets in their hands. Their eyes shone.

“Make sure you walk behind me, stepping into my footsteps.”

“Yes Saab.”

It was 02H00. The silence ensconced sentries on both sides. They were awake and alert, muzzles pointed at each other. Especially my company, which knew what was going down. At the slightest suspicion, safety catches would slide to the off position, and on orders, deadly 7.62mm rounds and 60mm mortar bombs would rake and explode the saroot cane stalks.

I sank into the lying loading position behind the saroot reeds.

My men followed.

Soundlessly, we crawled slowly down the embankment. Since we carried no firearms, there was no point leapfrogging for a fire and move sequence. But movement was very slow. Inch by inch, with pauses to listen. However soundless your own move for another, you may be overwhelmed by your own imperceptible sounds. Respiration, heartbeat or a breath of air stirred by a moving limb can overwhelm your own hearing.

The undulations in the terrain might have appeared flat, but to the trained eye they were a series of dead ground providing concealment and cover. Tiny waves lapped the pebble beach. At the water line we paused, listening, observing and studying in a single, silent line, our silhouettes too low to be made out by the Indians. I turned back and got a thumbs-up from Mehram. Sliding into the icy cold water with my head just above the surface I had to start fighting the current and the numbing cold of the Himalayan stream. But there was no ripple, no rustle and no skyline break.

We crawled out of the ice-cold water on to the opposite bank, clothes wet. The breeze rustling through the high saroot reeds and over our wet clothing was numbing, but welcome. It would also mask any sound we might make. In absolute terms, the silent approach is only possible in fiction. Otherwise it is silent only in relation to the adversary’s ability to pick it up.

We lay like crocodiles waiting for their unwary prey. We were now in Indian Territory, without passport or visas, on my personal initiative. On their soil, violating their sovereignty. Shooting us dead would be justifiable homicide, at the least, though my men would have replied in force.

This was the flood bank. The sandy channels between the reeds were our allies, and the Indian sentries sky-lined on top of their crescent shaped concrete bunkers were hereditary, professional warriors. Like us. Yet, between the undulating channels and high saroot reeds there was dead ground to be exploited with patience and skill.

But before that there was the minefield to be crossed.

Even a fake minefield can delay, disorganize and hinder the enemy from using an area or route. It also has the advantage that the side laying a fake minefield can always go through it.  This one was different. Just after the 1971 war, some cattle and careless or unlucky soldiers had been injured. For the past few months, the freely grazing cattle within it had not caused a single mine to explode. Over time, persistently inclement weather causes even the best-laid mines to drift or become inoperative. But the possibility could never be erased unless a marked minefield passage had been cleared.

Fifty meters ahead of us, the minefield hungrily brooded behind its rusty barbed wire strung on oddly-leaning wooden posts. Just short of it, the reedy saroot clumps rose above head height. We quietly listened but there was no sound alien to the environment. I started crawling forward while the others waited on the beach.

Inch by inch, I covered the fifty meters. From the lying-loading position I probed the posts. They were suitably wobbly. I signaled and then Havaldar Mehram crawled to my side. We both knew what to do. We raised two fence-posts about ten inches and rolled them aside to form a meter and a half gap. Then we crawled forward into one of the sandy undulations until we reached the saroots. Being higher than us, we would be able to walk upright on the soft sand. I stood up and signaled.

Then Lance Naik Sudagar and Jawan Allah Ditta joined us, teeth smiling in the dark.  I gave each one his share of alfalfa from the pouch in my belt. We crushed it in our hands and rubbed it over our palms. Hoping to catch the sound of buffalos breathing, we cocked our ears. Then Allah Ditta sniffed. He had caught the smell in his nostrils, and then we did too. I signaled, and Sudagar and Allah Ditta moved into the flanks while Mehram and I went ahead. Two turns and the buffalo stumbled up, snorting.

Before the animal could come to full wakefulness, Ditta and Sudagar had secured their nooses around its horns from either side. Mehram and I went up and stroked the buffalo and let it smell the fodder on our palms. It followed us meekly until the edge of the saroot line. A patrol is most vulnerable during exfiltration and we were doubly careful. The buffalo being untrained in fieldcraft, there was no real stealth option. Allah Ditta and Sudagar walked the buffalo across, hunched next to it, molded to its rounded silhouette.  Once they were across, Mehram and I folded the fence back in place, crawled to the beach, went back into the water and crawled back up the embankment.

Subedar (warrant officer) Khizar Hayat stood stone-faced behind the first bend, blanket held out to wrap around me. Three other soldiers did the same for Ditta, Sudagar and Mehram and another two took charge of the buffalo. The track back to my bunker ran parallel with the front line posts. I could feel my men’s fierce looks. I felt no fear, no cold, no pride, no arrogance. Just the relief of a job well done.

Subedar Hayat led us to the company cookhouse a few hundred meters behind the lines. This time, the salutes from the men were different although there was anxiety behind their eyes. I understood.

“Saab?” I addressed Hayat — even the Presidents of Pakistan and India address Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) as saab.

“Jee Saab?”

“Slaughter the buffalo now. Cut it up, distribute the meat to all the company cookhouses. Send the liver and kidneys to the officer’s mess.”

There was a second of silence. Then grizzled smiles split the night. They understood. You can’t return a dead buffalo and once the officers had smacked their lips over a spicy, masaalaedaar liver and kidney balti, they would be in no position to complain.

“And the skin, saab?” Havildar Shahnawaz wanted to know.

“You’re in charge. Clean it, salt it and then take it to Sialkot and sell it. The money goes into the company fund.”

“Jee Saab!”

There was a general smartening up and we got down to the serious business of consuming semolina makhadi halwa made with ghee and dried fruit, washed down with hot cardamom tea.

It was a fine night.

Wait for Part IV



Cattle Rustlers across the LOC Kashmir Part II of V

Preamble. LOC Kashmir will offer autobiographical short fiction in one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, the 740 kilometer Line of Control dividing the Pakistani and Indian parts of Kashmir. Approximately 500,000 Indian and 300,000 Pakistani armed and battle-hardened troops face each other across their gun-sights. Both sides indulge in infiltration and aggressive patrolling. Exchanges of fire occur with regular frequency. This is where and how I spent my late teens, as a young officer in the wake of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War, before having to enlist in the French Foreign Legion. I wish to see peace in beautiful Kashmir during my lifetime, even though I am not very hopeful.


Cattle Rustlers across the LOC Kashmir

Part II of V

The powerfully muscled Gurkha two-striper naik nimbly took a signed receipt from his officer, saluted him smartly, about-turned and, unruffled by Pakistani gun muzzles trained on him, walked unhesitatingly across the pebble beach to enter the shallow but fast-flowing river Tawi.

At the same time, I lithely walked down the stony path under the sights of the camouflaged Indian rifle company’s weapons. I could feel Indian and Pakistani warriors’ eyes boring into me as I, too, stepped into the ice-cold current of the Tawi. Total focus and sheer pride kept my balance over the treacherously slippery pebbles of the river bed. I could feel the current grabbing at my already numb ankles.

And it was the same for the Gurkha naik.

We came face to face accurately in the middle of the Tawi, an unrehearsed approach perfectly timed by the same instincts of professional pride.

We stopped.

The Gurkha’s raised his knee bringing his thigh parallel with the water. Then he stamped his foot down as though he was standing on a level parade ground in Dharamsala. A spray of water shot up in the form of an inverted triangle, masking us from each other and glistening like a supernatural omen. His right hand slapped the Sterling 9mm sten gun over his left shoulder in a sharp crack that reached the Pakistani lines.

Totally focused, I replied with a parade ground full stamp and return salute worthy of Subedar Major Asfar Khan’s approval at the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul.

“Namaskar, Saab!” he welcomed me in his gravelly voice through the second shot of spray in his face, slitted veteran’s eyes boring into mine.

“Salaam aleikum, Ustaad!”

He smiled at my use of the customary Indo-Pakistani form of address for a naik which meant teacher, and stuck his large-sized hand out.

His grip was neutral. I was outmatched in musculature. He had the strength to crush my hand and the skill and experience to gently misbalance me. My troops were watching. But he didn’t start any rangbazi one-upmanship. He was a gentleman and I owe him one.

“How’s it going, saab?”

“Very well. And you — are you happy in the Indian army?”

He chuckled. “Yes, saab.”

“You’re a Nepali citizen. Why don’t you come fight for us?”

“No problem, saab. When I finish my contract with India and if you pay me more!”

I laughed. “What’s your salary?”

“Twelve hundred rupees, saab.”

He was lying and we both knew it. That was the salary of a second lieutenant, if at all!

“That’s great. You should have a lot of fun with that!”

He grinned cheekily and then in a pounding of hoofs and a screen of gravel Jawan Allah Ditta skittered down the embankment with the snorting buffalo for me to swap for a signed receipt. Another exchange of salutes from behind water jets and the unnamed Gurkha and I returned to our opposing worlds.

I walked back up the embankment through a wedding cake of total silence.

Wait for Part III

Cattle Rustlers across the LOC Kashmir Part I of V

Preamble. LOC Kashmir will offer autobiographical short fiction in one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, the 740 kilometer Line of Control dividing the Pakistani and Indian parts of Kashmir. Approximately 500,000 Indian and 300,000 Pakistani armed and battle-hardened troops face each other across their gun-sights. Both sides indulge in infiltration and aggressive patrolling. Exchanges of fire occur with regular frequency. This is where and how I spent my late teens, as a young officer in the wake of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War, before having to enlist in the French Foreign Legion. I wish to see peace in beautiful Kashmir during my lifetime, even though I am not very hopeful.


Cattle Rustlers across the LOC Kashmir

Part I of V

To command a Rifle Company of the Punjab Regiment when you are not yet nineteen is a thrilling challenge. Commanding it in the field enhances the experience. On the Line of Control in Kashmir, a world hot-spot, it is unique.

In the 70’s, Pakistan army units were deployed opposite the Indian army in underground earthen bunkers, linked by open crawl trenches ankle-deep in slush after a rainfall. When cobras or Russell’s vipers fell into them, they had to be killed or tolerated in these confined spaces. The nearest Indian and Pakistani machine gun posts in the Chamb sector were 50 meters apart, the farthest 300. Our machine guns pointed at each other, ready to open up on orders. Both armies still have observation towers manned by armed soldiers equipped with binoculars and clipboards to spot and report enemy movement for analyses. On the slightest pretext, a cease-fire violation can stain the earth with blood. It is ugly trench warfare, with the only recreation being improvised sport. Boredom can lead to stagnation and affect performance levels.

Which is why every day, one to two-thirds of a company is withdrawn a few hundred meters to the rear for training, education and firing.

Young officers were hardest hit.

I would run and do Battle PT with my men, supervise and take part in tactical training and then walk two miles to the battalion headquarters, sten gun over my shoulder, magazines in their pouches, grenades and a combat dagger in my belt.  After doing my company’s man management paper work, I’d have lunch in the makeshift officer’s mess in a bombed out building and then walk back to my own bunker. Then I’d check over the sentries and either do afternoon sport with my company or walk three miles back to battalion headquarters for collective sport, then walk back again to have a bucket shower under a thorny kikar tree. After ensuring that the troops’ dinner was well cooked and distributed I had to walk back to the mess for dinner, then walk back. There were minefields everywhere and barbed wire was no guarantee against a mine sliding onto a cleared track after a rain. Coming back at night, I had to be alert against an ambush by an Indian patrol.

And every night, I got up at odd hours to check that the sentries were alert.

And if life was hard for me it was hard for all of us.

For example, there were no water points in Chamb. A towed water trailer brought potable water which had to be rationed for personal hygiene.

Which is why the Pakistan Army maintained the British habit of holding regular platoon, company and battalion durbars. Without having to seek his commander’s interview through ‘proper channels’, a soldier can just stand up, state his name, rank and number and announce his problem, which has to be summarily dealt with — a challenge at any age or rank but more so to a nineteen year old. By being a company commander I was supposed to be mother-father to nearly a hundred and fifty warriors, Muslim to a man and if I did my job they would ignore the fact that I was a heathen Christian and follow me into hell.

I was determined not to fail my men.

“2280224 Sipahi Pir Bakhsh Saab!” — From Pind Dadan Khan, he was a good wrestler and known for his honesty.


“Saab, it’s a sin to have a wet dream and not wash right way. And there’s no water for a shower. What are we supposed to do when we have one in the middle of the night?”

Nearly a hundred pairs of eyes were locked on to me.

I thought on my feet. “How do you perform your ablutions before nimaaz prayers in the desert when there’s no water?”

“We are allowed to make the motions of washing and thus absolved, saab.”

I smiled smugly in the silence, then suddenly my men started smiling and clapping.

“2198651 Kudrutullah Saab!” — a two striper from Attock, he was a boxer known for his ready wit.

“Yes, Ustaad!” I used a corporal’s customary form of address, which means teacher, since that rank dispenses basic training in the Pakistan Army.

“Saab, many of our minefields and those of the Indians between our lines have been washed away.  Cattle wander through them safely. If they cross over to our side, what do we do?”

I was buoyed with my success at the preceding reply and completely unaware of its consequences.

“Grab them!

And that is exactly what they did.


That fateful and decisive morning, leaving, as usual, one third of my company to man the trenches, I had taken the rest of my men for firing practice. The firing results were good and we were in high spirits when we passed the company cookhouse at the time when I would have stopped anyway to taste that day’s lunch.

But there was something different that day.

A handful of Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and men were standing outside the cookhouse where the cook and his assistants usually lounged. They looked sullen. The “hoshyar” bringing them to shun was a battle cry. Their eyes smoldered at the salute.

“What’s up?” I snapped.

“Saab, following your orders, we grabbed a buffalo that had wandered into our territory. The Indians did a noisy lock and load and so did we. They then got through on the Generals’ hot line and now the Captaan Saahib from Brigade Headquarters is here. Said as soon as you got back, the buffalo would be returned.  He’s waiting at the front line for you. We obeyed your orders, saab.”


I strode off to the front line, only three hundred meters away and into an unforgettable scene.


The river Tawi flowed all of nearly a hundred meters wide with a medium current over a pebble bed. The sand and pebble beaches and flood channels rose to an escarpment on the Pakistani side, giving them the advantage of high ground.

Opposite, the Indians benefited from the concealment offered by the high rising reeds and dips in the sandy flood channels. Within this natural camouflage, they had spent a fortune in cover by building crescent shaped concrete bunkers, like tiaras, sloping down from the middle to either end. Standing on top, a sentry could see over the reeds, but otherwise the field of fire had very limited range. On the other hand, the intensity of fire at short range is devastating. In addition to the odd sentry sky-lining himself, the Indians relied on patrols and the bluff of minefields even when partially defunct.

On the beach below our positions on the escarpment facing the Indians, two of my men held a buffalo on a leash. All my men were on lock and load, itching for a fight. On the opposite bank, an Indian major and a muscular Gurkha two-striper naik coolly stood facing us, unperturbed by our muzzles trained on them.

I reached Captain Khalid Mujeeb standing on the escarpment like Thomas Hardy’s two handled mug and prayed the Indians would not notice his wimpiness. He was the General Staff Officer Grade III (GSO or G-3) which made him the Brigade headquarters de facto factotum. I gave him an angry salute.

He licked his lips. “Sorry, Gill badshah, Brigade Commander’s orders. Indians got on the hot line.”

“Sir!” I didn’t trust myself to say more.

“Brigade Commander desires that you be the one to return it.” I fought my annoyance at army English and its mixed up definite and indefinite articles.

“Right sir, I’ll get down to it.”

“Get receipt and leave your weapon here,” he sniffed.

“Am I under open arrest? Do you want my belt too?”

“No, Gill Badshah, I mean what if fight started.”

“In that case,” I said pityingly. “They’ll be unarmed and I’ll have nothing.”

“Okay, but stay cool, partner.”

Thinking it best not to reply, I walked down to the beach.

I was only about fifty meters from the two Indians.

I came to shun and saluted the Indian officer.

He returned the compliment with a smile.

“If the receipt’s ready, sir, we can meet midway.”


Wait for Part II

The Verbal Persecution of Pakistani Christians

Pakistani Christians may be Chief Justices, magistrates, sessions judges, police bosses, generals, surgeons, college principals or street sweepers, but they are all verbally persecuted by being referred to as Chuhra — the C-word. Legislation will not repair the damage since it cannot change hearts and, name-changing of persecuted communities across the world has also failed to redress their conditions. Something else is needed, but before that an explanation of the background of the C-word and how it stuck itself to the proud sons and daughters of the Punjabi soil — a tale of lost heritage, conversions and death by the kindness of bumblers.

Being indiscriminately associated with the C-word (below) has played such havoc with the psyche, identity, self-image and well-being of Pakistani Christians that being called Isai or Masihi is no longer relevant.

Chuhra Dalits are the lowest among the untouchables within South Asia’s shameful caste system. History reduced them to being scavengers and handling carrion. Actually, only the least fortunate among the approximately forty Chuhra clans are scavengers. Each clan has a designated vocation, such as executioners, assassins, basket-weavers, makers of winnowing sieves, bird-trappers, trackers, tanners, canine and equine groomers, machchi bakers and midwives, mirasi minstrels, doom singers, farm laborers and so on. The clans have names, traditions, genealogies, priests to perform their rituals and recount their kursinama genealogies at weddings.

They are also identified as the Balmiki faith community. Balmiki was the author of the Ramyana and is also known as Bala Shah and Lalbeg.

Converted to Islam, they are called mussalies. When they prosper, they may attach the prefix Sheikh to their name, as practiced by some of the higher caste converts. In South Asia, Islam was able to disassociate mussalies and Sheikhs from their erstwhile stigma of scavengers. Sikhism can claim even more credit for disentangling Mazhabis and Rangretas from their past — Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s elite Nihang units bristled with Mazhabis and Ranghretas as did many of the Sikh crack Light Infantry regiments of the British Indian army. The result is that a Sikh, irrespective of his caste or clan is addressed as Sirdar-jee. And they’re all levelled out with the Singh suffix.

Name-changing by Sikh and Muslim untouchable converts was helpful.

In the case of Christian converts it was tearfully comical.

The Christian ruling class didn’t mind them borrowing their names but that’s where the buck stopped. The Brits only socialized with the higher caste Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs —from a safe distance.

Socio-politically, Christian missionaries in South Asia failed to launder their converts’ past into a respected entity. It was asking too much from their British rulers to accept these converts within their ethnic and social hierarchy. And the missionaries also believed that a ‘Christian’ name was an English name. Converts with feeble antecedents were encouraged to attach the suffix Masih in the hope of instilling pride through a name-change. The approach failed but was continued since the collection of brilliant seminarians were unable to come up with a viable alternative actually staring them in the face.

Many caste names, especially those of the higher castes and in particular of the quarter million Jatt and Rajput converts to Christianity, were replaced by English first names. This quarter million potential buffer against the slur of the ‘C’ word disappeared into thin air, except for a few stubborn families who clung to their heritage.

Even among the forty untouchable clans only a small number were scavengers. It is a pity that proud clan names such as Luté, Jahé, Dhae, Sahi, Tengré, Goriyé, Kandara, Kotana, Kurtana, Pathan, Rawat, Machchi, Doom and others have been locked in cold storage.

Their founding myth is tragically illustrious.

In the time of the Mahabharta wars between the Kauravas and the Pandavas there were four sons of Kanwar Brahma, a Brahmin noble —  Bharata, Sadhara, Paratna and Purba. When their cow died they made Purba, the youngest, drag away the carcass, first promising to help him in his task, but eventually casting him out, disinheriting him and, dividing his inheritance among themselves. Purba found shelter with the scavengers and carrion-handlers who already existed as outcasts from other clans due to differing reasons. The descendants of Purba, the fallen Brahmin, are the Chuhras, themselves a collection of over forty clans.

Five consequences of the abortive Anglicization of Christian converts still challenge them.

They found themselves alienated from the macro-culture, they were bereft of a micro-culture, they became dependent on mission jobs and they are considered a residue of colonialism by Pakistani Muslims.

They are also  an embarrassing residue of colonialism for the former colonizers who have  smugly converted from Christianity to rationalism.

The consequences of God being considered an Englishman came home to roost after the creation of Pakistan.

The Muslim menial workers suddenly filled the gap of the departing Hindus and Sikhs in other vocations and new land-owners fired the Christian laborers on the former Hindu and Sikh farms. This happened on a scale yet to be measured and there was an influx of Christians in the cities seeking work. They were channeled into sanitary workers’ jobs eagerly vacated by Muslims who were retrieved by their newly empowered coreligionists for ‘cleaner’ jobs.

One has only to read Shauna Singh Baldwin, especially What the Body Remembers, to appreciate that before 1947, a regular household sweeper in Rawalpindi was a Muslim addressed as Sheikh.

 The Christians of Pakistan need to rehabilitate and reinstate their rightful clan names, whether they be low or high-caste. I always considered it a tragedy that the Director of the Lahore YMCA,  Sham Sunder Singh Sandhu, a land-owning, over six-foot tall Jatt had to become S.S.S. Albert at the Independence of Pakistan for fear of being taken for a Sikh and killed or harassed as being potentially seditious.

Pakistan has come a long way since then and the blunders of duffers can be tackled.

It is time for the Dalit Christians of Pakistan to stand up to the higher castes of their own community, get them to act on their behalf to change their situation through education and affirmative action and proudly claim their ancestral heritage of fallen Brahmins.

Further Reading. “Dalits Were Uppercasts”: BJP’s national spokesperson Bizay Sonkar Shastri, in “The Hindu”, October 29, 2015.


The Real Da Vinci Code

Leonardo Da Vinci held reason-based beliefs, was gifted with unrivaled intelligence and followed many of his peers’ habits, such as using models. The real code hidden in Leonardo Da Vinci’s celebrated and critically polemical painting, The Last Supper, points to his own descendants, just as the three purported tombs of Mary across the world are those of three ladies with the same popular name.

Ladies ready to model for artists were chosen for their willingness from a limited supply. Many of the models used to depict saints and the Virgin Mary were ladies of easy virtue, often artists’ mistresses.

It is in character for a rationalist to impertinently infiltrate his mistress disguised as one of the apostles in the Last Supper to ensure that he could laugh from his grave until the end of time at those of inferior intelligence who sought to fit his irreverence into puny theories to fulfil personal agenda.

The purported Mary Magdalene is a female model impersonating a man just as men in Da Vinci’s Italy impersonated women in the opera.

Burying hints in paintings or in writing was not only an artist’s prerogative but also a practice followed by monks. Prior to the invention of the Gutenberg Press, monks hand-copied Bibles. When they got bored or just felt like tweaking discipline, they inserted deviant images and marginal comments, the best known of which is “Now I’ve written the whole thing: for Christ’s sake give me a drink.”

Da Vinci, too, had his private tongue-in-cheek jokes, one of which, embedded as a challenge in The Last Supper, took five hundred years to incubate before it got the world’s knickers in a twist.

He also had an artist’s imagination, which, on its own, is never a scientific fact. When an artist paints a blond, brown, black or East Asian Jesus, the outstanding fact only ascertains the strength of the artist’s own cultural perception. Nativity crèches in the French Foreign Legion often show baby Jesus with a white képi on his head and here are Légionnaires disguised as the Magi or the other way round!…biw=960

Personal inclination or a vivid imagination could conclude that the Magi in French Foreign Legion uniforms are a clue indicating that the Magi who came to find Jesus were Roman Legion officers seeking to make contact with the family of the greatest revolutionary in human history to make sure he was their revolutionary. An embedded clue for neophytes.

So, a female as one of the Apostles in da Vinci’s The Last Supper could equally well be dismissed as an artist’s imagination, or a last minute, desperate attempt to substitute a model for the inebriated male who’d been stabbed in a tavern the night before.

Anyway, let us not forget that a well-argued construct without factual basis is the argument a lawyer wins just before losing the case. It is also a common occurrence to find women being part of a religious or philosophical group without a sexual or romantic affiliation.

After all, not along ago, Mahatma Gandhi slept with young girls without having doubts cast on his vow of celibacy.

Accordingly, after Jesus’ resurrection, Mary Magdalene married Simon, one of his brothers. He was a wealthy fisherman who owned several boats. After the resurrection of Jesus, his family found itself under pressure from the Romans and the Jews. With Mary Magdalene — Maryam Magdaleenee — expecting a child, Simon felt it would be expeditious to leave.

They sailed for the coast of Gaul, present-day France. On the way, Simon was swept overboard in a storm and Mary Magdalene landed in Marseille, a wealthy widow accompanied by three handmaidens. They were called Maryam’s Rebecca, Maryam’s Esther and Maryam’s Sarah.

Once Mary of Magdalene withdrew into the cave in St Baume, not far from Marseille, her handmaidens were freed of their duties.

Maryam’s Esther became an ambient missionary, ending up in the mountains overlooking Islamabad in present-day Pakistan. Since in her identification Maryam preceded Esther, when she died her tomb was called Maryam’s tomb. After some time, due to a confusion of names, she was thought to be Mary the Mother of Jesus. A settlement grew around it, called Mari or Murree, which became the summer headquarters of the British Indian Army’s Northern Command and is still a popular summer resort.

Maryam’s Sarah married a Greek who traded along the Mediterranean ports. He was older, wealthy and due to retire. They settled in a beautiful house in Ephesus, Turkey. Her tomb, too, is remembered as that of Maryam.

Maryam’s Rebecca reached the court of Gondophares, one of the Magi and the prince of a northern Punjab state in India. He converted to Christianity, they married and had children. Later, her descendants migrated to Europe but retained the name Mary as their maternal ancestor and jumped to the conclusion that they must be descendants of Mary of Magdalene whose husband had to have been Jesus.

By the time their oral family history blossomed to this conclusion, France had become a mainly Christian country and so they formed a secret society to pass on this presumption from generation to generation.

So here’s all the much-ado over the Da Vinci Code.

Da Vinci did not marry.
His legitimate descent has been traced through his siblings and one of his descendants is the acclaimed film director Franco Zeffirelli
However, Da Vinci has left a startling clue.
The answer to the apostle everybody is fighting to proclaim as a pregnant Mary Magdalene is the clue left by Da Vinci to inform us that his line continued through the lady in the picture and a study of concomitant accounts including rivals’ letters confirms this.

Jesus’ Kashmir Connection

It doesn’t take much to figure out the Jesus Connection in Kashmir.

In Srinagar, Kashmir, the Roza Bal shrine is the tomb of a man called Issa, presumed to be that of Jesus Christ since Jesus is usually called Issa in Arabic, which means he who resuscitates the dead. In Swahili and Arabic it also means salvation and protection. It is often superfluous as the Arabic translation of Jesus, since in Arabic, Jesus is Yasue.

The Gospels reveal that Jesus’ birth name was Yeshua and that the word Jesus is its derivative.

Except for one, the Gospels were written in Greek. The word for Jesus is Iησοῦς pronounced as “eeaysoos.” When “eeaysoos” was transliterated into the English long ago, it became Jesus — the word used in English today (

Matthew 13:55-56 discloses that James, Joses, Simon and Judas, were Jesus the son of Mary’s brothers. The sisters are not named.

Mark 3:31, Mathew 12:49 and Mathew 12:46-50 further confirm the existence of Jesus’ brothers.

So even when the Bible does not specifically refer to Jesus’ cousins, nieces or nephews, their existence cannot be denied. And since names do tend to run in families, cousins may carry the same name. One of Jesus’s brothers was Joses, only a short Greek form of Joseph. So Joses was named after his father, a cross-cultural practice right up to the present. Every contemporaneous son of Joseph does not necessarily refer to Jesus or one of his brothers.

From all this information, then, Issa, as an Arabic attribute of the act of raising the dead cannot be considered Jesus’ name. And since there is no evidence in the Bible that Jesus flaunted his gift of raising the dead, he would not have referred to himself with such an attribute and even less so in Arabic which was neither his mother tongue in Israel nor spoken in Kashmir at that time.

By all the known, consensual evidence, Jesus and his disciples stayed within a linguistic environment of Aramaic, Greek and perhaps some Latin but not Arabic or Swahili.

The attribute Issa as he who raises the dead could not have been given until at least the first raising of the dead and that happened only after the thirtieth year of Jesus’s life. We are dealing with an act and not a proper noun.  The attribute of raiser of the dead in Arabic was given only after news of the miracle reached the Arabic speaking world.

As stated earlier, Jesus never brandished his miracles. Even if he had gone to Kashmir, he would never have introduced himself as Issa. Furthermore, there is neither any evidence of the dead being raised in Kashmir two thousand years ago by a certain Issa, nor any trace of the Arabic language or Arabic speakers to justify the attribution Issa to a person. Starting from the 13th century, Muslim preachers brought Arabic into Kashmir in trickles, since the Qura’an is written in and Muslim prayers are formalized in Arabic.

The burial site of Issa is located in the Roza Bal shrine, in the Khanyaar neighbourhood of central Srinagar, the capital of the mountainous Indian state. The site used to be a center of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shaivism for a thousand years before Islam.

The Issa buried here was Jesus’ nephew who had the gift of faith healing which many Christians and non-Christians have had since the beginning of time without being messiahs.

The name given to the person who is buried in Roza Bal is Yuz Asaf meaning “Son of Joseph and also implies “Leader of the Healed.”

Since Joseph and Joses are the same name, this son of Joseph / Joses was Jesus’ nephew.

Phonetically, the sound of Yuz Asaf can, with mild tweaking, be pronounced as Jesus — a practice so fraught with errors that no scholar would attempt it for fear of the derision and rejection of peers. That is because homophonic sounds are more often coincidental than incidental, except as an amusing after-dinner parlor game.

The common cognate meaning of two words is the decisive factor confirming a common origin. That is absent between Yuz Asaf  and Jesus and Issa. The cognate of Yuz Asaf is compounded from the Hebrew he will add and leader of the healed. But Yuz Asaf also means Son of Joseph, and one of Jesus’s brothers was Joseph / Joses (Matthew 13:55-56).

If Jesus did appropriate the tenets of peace and neighborliness, and nothing is known of his life between the age of 12 & 30, he could as easily have retrieved them from Australian Aborigines or Siberians and not necessarily Buddhists as some believe. These universal concepts are not exclusive to Buddhism. Synchronicity — Jung defined it and Sting sang it.

Why an Aramaic speaking Jew in 78CE, the date of the supposed Jesus in Kashmir, would use an Arabic attribute to declare his most singular power in a language that was to take a thousand years to reach Kashmir is devoid of sense.

Pinpointing The Jesus Connection in Kashmir is Rocket Science 101.

British Asians will Bend it like Beckham


In the UK, Asian refers to the 4.9% of the population that is of South Asian origin. Football evokes the rest of Britain. Much to the consternation of DJ Nihal of BBC Asian Network, football and Asians don’t mix. Even in areas where the Asians form 20% of the population, there are only 1% of them in the fan clubs. Apparently, even when they are welcome, Asians prefer to support rather than play football. Although Nihal might consider it a lack of “education”, it is due to ingrained prejudice against the sport received from first generation immigrants.

Here’s the story.

During the British, Raj, Indians disdained football as a sport of ‘cooks, butlers and grooms’! They enthusiastically adopted and played cricket, tennis, hockey and badminton, lauded as gentlemen’s sports. It would be an intellectual cop-out, though, to process this cultural transference as emulation, projection and self-loathing.

This is easily challenged by inverting the situation.

Raj-Brits did not play kabbadi, gulli danda or fly fighting kites in Gandhijee-type dhotis. These commoners played polo and went hunting on elephant-back, both of which were princely pastimes. In fact, polo was appropriated so thoroughly that between Prince Charles and Ralph Lauren it has lost all hope of being instinctively associated with South Asia. The Raj Brits played Mahararjars until it was time to go back home to extol the virtues of vacuum cleaner housework over live flunkeys.

The Indian and British cultural cherry-picking is actually very much in order.

In an encounter of two cultures, each retrieves and attempts to appropriate selective accoutrements of the other’s upper classes, rejecting components of the lower classes.

Social acceptance is subject to an equally disproportionate mechanism.

An English working or middle class individual will happily accept an upper class foreigner as an equal. Yet, within the framework of social class, surely the upper class foreigner is not an equal, but a superior!

South Asians will process a visiting foreigner in the same way.

Racial profiling thrives under this disproportional perception of The Other that feeds and re-designs the perceiver’s self-image.

The stiff upper lipped British colonials are a stereotype and not a ground reality. Only a minority of them were graduates of Sandhurst or Haileybury College. The rest were box-wala merchants of indifferent upbringing and the rank and file of their army who enlisted, according to  Philip Mason in A Matter of Honour, for “a shilling and a warm coat”.

They were uncouth, chewed tobacco, smoked, drank, kept common law native wives, were under debt to Pashtun usurers, and were unmitigated racists who played bingo, volleyball and football.

The only Indians they were able to coopt or coerce into their games were their social equals they considered to be their racial inferiors trying to move up the social ladder — from the scullery to the football pitch.

‘Nice’ Indian children were thus warned to stay away from this sport, study hard, play tennis, cricket and badminton and excel.

This attitude accompanied the Post Second World War immigrants from South Asia. In the UK they populated working class neighborhoods and the life-style of their neighbors only vindicated their inborn attitude. So they resurrected the role model of the successful middle class individual ‘back home’ who played cricket and wore bespoke western clothes with a flair. It also helped that the same Asian role model was actually available in the UK in a doctor’s surgery or a pharmacy. So football had no place in this mindset, and even less so when the sport’s associated hooligans started appearing on the front pages.

Perhaps Asians are the United Kingdom’s most prosperous community because they stuck to South Asian middle class goals and values which, with a spot of tennis or cricket, led them from corner shops to pharmacies, hospitals and universities, rather than football pitches.

Time, though, will ensure that worries about the Asian community’s degree of cultural integration are laid to rest. After all, they already have their street gangs.

The current generation or the next one will, sooner or later, end up bending it like Beckham. They might even start mortgaging their pharmacies to fill charter seats for binge drinking holidays in Majorca! And it may be hoped that the Brits will then stop moaning about the insufficient integration of its most prosperous wealth-creators.

The Kohinoor Blight and Nalanda University

The Kohinoor diamond has once again been dragged into pathetic squabbling by South Asians hoping to wrest some honor after having lost their birthright for over a century to beef-eating fishermen turned pirate under the thin garb of corsairs. The current semantically enabled bunch with overdeveloped vocal cords should be force-fed a session of Satyajit Ray’s pointed Shatranj ké Khilardhi — The Chess Players. Our ancestors, busy playing chess chanting hymns, or admiring themselves, successfully lost everything to waves of looters who came through the Khyber Pass and eventually, the sea.

Their princes, bereft of their ability to pursue their dharma of war, emasculated themselves into parodies of western playboys in a game of one-upmanship with their rulers that fooled nobody and amused many.

Now, just as the so called ‘world’ has started accepting that India is a prominent player among the comity of nations and that the new-look Pakistan might join it one day, the Kohinoor hullabaloo is a stentorian reminder that we were either cringing water-carriers in loincloths or debauched, impotent pseudo nobles who lost the heritage of people for whom they were mai-baap — mother-father.

 Netaji Subhash Chandra Bhose believed that without an armed revolution to wrest freedom, Indians/Pakistanis would never retrieve their honor. The current edition of give-me-back-my-stone only proves him right. An attempt to recover war booty by the losers without going to war to complete the circle reduces the effort to pathos.

Evoking moral reasons passed into law by the erstwhile conquerors further drags down pathos into bathos.

To establish ownership other than by right to conquest, there is a conflict of Place and Person for the origin of the Kohinoor. Chronological claim should have it back in its place of origin in the hand of the original owners, like the relationship between descendants of Jews and Swiss bank accounts and objets d’art.

In that case, being a three thousand year old stone claimed by Hindus, that’s who it belongs to unless their descendants are now living in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, the UK or the frozen wastes of Antarctica.

As claimed by Muslims of Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Kohinoor was mined in the 13th century under Muslim rule. Which only makes it property appropriated for personal aggrandizement by a monarch and not at all a national treasure.

Which is why the Supreme Court of India has wisely ruled that the Kohinoor may continue to dazzle in Queen Elizabeth’s crown. (That should make the British PM smile).

The Kohinoor was then looted by Nadir Shah in the 18th century and in the next century, circuitously ended up in the Punjab, displayed on the arm of Maharajah Ranjit Singh Jee who valued it as worth “two shoes” i.e. finder’s keepers and the principle of possession being nine points of the law.

And if the Kohinoor was gifted to the British by a subjugated monarch, it’s still a gift – and you don’t give a gift and ask for it back, especially when you are neither the donor nor a direct descendant — if the latter, play possum!

Loud voices are accusing the British of stealing, which is acquiring somebody’s property by stealth. In this case, it happened in broad daylight with the connivance of the possessors at that time, tripping over themselves to curry favor with the new rulers.

In all this noise there is no mention of the Peacock Throne and the Darya-e-Noor in the possession of the Iranians — why are they being let off the hook? Their Nadir Shah, touted as the Iranian Napoleon or Alexander, snapped up the Peacock Throne, the Kohinoor embedded in it and added the Darya-e-Noor diamond.

The Iranians and the British both should contribute a sum worth the value of the Kohinoor, the Peacock Throne and the Darya-e-Noor to Nalanda University in Bihar, India, resurrected by the efforts of the Nobel laureate in Economics, Professor Amartya Roy.

In the 13the century, Bakhtyar Khilji ransacked and destroyed this seat of learning. The size of the library alone can be gauged by the forty days it took to burn. In the 700 years from Bakhtyar Khilji to Bahadur Shah Zafar, no Indian Emperor ensconced on the Delhi Throne built a single university. This period only testifies to astounding architecture displayed through places of worship, tombs of the dead and palaces. Nothing for the people. It is time to use the Kohinoor issue to raise the Darya-e-Noor and Peacock issues and imbibe Nalanda with funds that restore it as a seat of world learning.

Child Sex Abuse by UN Peacekeepers

If proven, child sex abuse by United Nations peacekeepers is a heinous and unpardonable offence for which the perpetrators’ junior and senior commanders are equally responsible.

France’s ambassador to the UN, Francois Delattre, described the reports of UN Peacekeepers’ behavior in the Central African Republic as “sickening and odious”. He should have also proposed the time-honored French Foreign Legion solution of Bordel Militaire de Campagne (BMC) — the French Army’s erstwhile military brothels that ensured local girls against molestation or ham-handed pickups by Legionnaires.

George Orwell is supposed to have said that “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”.

These ‘rough men’ are ill-suited to refined work. Yet, they are forced into it by pot-bellied decision makers seeking virtue by proxy while appeasing the bean counters breathing down their necks.

Instead of raising a dedicated peace-keeping force of educated and politically correct peace-makers, they deploy trained Rottweilers with the expectation that they will suddenly convert to Labradors out of a sense of decency and obedience to orders.

Contradictory training commands destabilize attack dogs, borne out by dog trainers the world over.

The “institutional failure” is the inability of decision makers to recognize the oxymoron implicit in lumping soldiering with peace keeping. It is compounded by their incapacity to distinguish between the opposing imperatives of national defense and peace-keeping. The former is bare-knuckled while the latter requires velvet gloves and sensitive souls.

And soldiers are neither recruited for their sensitivity nor trained in the use of velvet gloves. When their own countries are threatened, they are let loose to kill pitilessly without a thought for their own lives.

There is no other role in which a soldier can be or is adequately trained without compromising the taxpayer’s trust.  It is unreasonable to expect virtuous behavior from professional soldiers in the field deployed to uphold righteous, world-order ideals.

Yet, one may hold their leadership to be accountable for lax discipline under their command. It is then up to this leadership to demand, through proper channels, for the establishment of military brothels for their troops. After all, the desk jockeys spouting behavioral slogans aren’t denied female company but impose a sexual quarantine on young men in their prime.

Since no full-time, dedicated, international peace-keeping force can be envisaged in the medium term, the potentially rampant sexuality of young male animals should be provided with an outlet. The French experience in managing ‘rough men’ is worth emulating.

The remaining few French Foreign Legion bordellos are overseen by a Warrant Officer.

Military policemen’s unhesitating billy clubs guarantee gentlemanly conduct, clients and sex workers are subject to medical scrutiny and advance booking further ensures smooth management.

Needless to say, molestation and harassment are so well contained that the local girls complain of the absence of Légionnaires at parties.

If found guilty of the charges, the animals and their seniors deserve the harshest punishment.

However, a program of military brothels would be a self-supporting preventive measure which deserves serious consideration.

Christian Warriors of Pakistan

Azam Mairaj’s three finely penned English articles and Urdu book Dharti Jaey Kyun Paraey (links below) are a timeless gift that position him as a selfless historian of Pakistan’s Christian community. Without provoking or whinging, Azam Mairaj brings into focus the input of Christian warriors to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He does this at a time when Christian minorities within Muslim lands are undergoing discrimination and persecution as a misconstrued extension of the West.

There are mindsets that presume a Christian counterpart to the transnational political Ummah, supposed to be a faith community, which has now assumed political dimensions that put Muslim minorities in a conflict of interest. The absence of a Christian Ummah and a fundamental belief in the separation of church and state, ensures the integrity of the national loyalties of Christian minorities.

Azam Mairaj’s writings on Christian contributions to the defense of Pakistan performs this unparalleled service of bridging a credibility gap between his community and the rest of the nation without making any but the most positive of waves. In the light to his creativeness and consequent experience, it is now time for him to start a foundation to finance a collective of writers to continue the remaining stages of his initiative.

The artist Zulfikar Bhutto might want to set aside his apparently Marxist-Leninist analyses of society, appreciate that communities in Pakistan are identified by their belief systems and come on board such a project. He and other mainstream intellectuals have this opportunity to go down in history as Ralph McGill, Virginia Foster Durr or Joel Elias Spingarn did for the American civil Rights Movement.

There are enough well-filled Pakistani pocket books to compete with the patronage extended by the White majority of the United States to its minority communities. The moral high ground on which Pakistan stands should be at the same altitude as that of the United States of America to freely brandish anti-American rhetoric!

Mahatama Gandhi said: “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” Accordingly, before quantitatively expanding the subject of minority participation in Pakistan’s defense and development, two dust devils need to be vacuumed.

The first one is about the inversely disproportionate number of Christian officers to Christian Other Ranks (OR s), Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs). The second dust devil is the swearing-in of Christian officers whereas Muslim officers only ‘solemnly affirm’.

Unless things have changed in the last three decades, the Pakistan Army had no provision for Christian applicants as combatant ORs. Their state of scholastic, medical and physical fitness notwithstanding, they were only employed as sanitary workers. Most of them were strapping lads from Christian villages representing martial castes deridingly amalgamated within the C-word reserved for the Christians of Pakistan. So, every regiment had its contingent of ‘Masihs’ as they were known and, occasionally, the odd Christian officer. But no combatant ORs, NCOs or JCOs, which is perhaps why only two of them are mentioned by Mr. Mairaj.  And it is telling that the author has not been able to unearth any information about Lance Naik Yaqoob Masih from 21 Punjab. This is a subject of study worth a research grant.

Now to the second dust devil.

The stirring ritual of the Pakistan Military Academy Kakul’s Passing-Out Parade, commissioning officers of the Pakistan Army, is solemnized within the framework of military precision and pomp. Muslim Gentlemen Cadets (GCs) ‘… solemnly affirm …” their loyalty to their profession and nation to become commissioned officers.

Then the Adjutant raises his sword and orders Christian GCs to take one step forward, triggering a moving display of Silent Drill.

The GCs step out.

A splendid looking Havildar Major in full regalia including a curling moustache and crimson sash marches across the parade ground carrying a silver bound Holy Bible on a solid silver tray.

The exact second that he slams to attention in front of the GCs, their palms go over their Holy book and they start reciting the lines of the oath pronounced by the Adjutant, ‘I … swear by Almighty God …’.

The ceremony leaves no spectator or participant unmoved.

Yet, the Muslim GC only needs to affirm his fealty but the Christian has to swear by Almighty God.

The consequences of this difference were brutally brought to my attention by the Head Clerk of my Punjab Regiment battalion.

Prime Minister Bhutto had instituted a new oath in which we all had to promise not to take part in politics. So, I once again had to swear by Almighty God. Then I had to affirm my men, as Company commander and Adjutant. The men were lined up and waiting when a deeply embarrassed Head Clerk, who is also the unit’s legal advisor, hurried up. With great embarrassment and, unable to look me in the eye or actually say anything, he handed me the open section of the Manual of Pakistan Military Law (MPML) to read. It unequivocally stated that only an affirmed officer (and not a sworn officer) could administer the affirmation to junior ranks.

I was stunned.

I could lead my men to hell and back but not affirm them?

Another officer had to replace me.

The men looked sulky.

I was a popular and respected officer. The embarrassment of my troops’ and most of my brother officers took a while to settle down.

This, too, is a subject of study worthy of academic scrutiny.

The unifying consequences of Azam Mairaj’s initiative on inter-communal harmony cannot be underestimated in this time of communal alienation and strife.

Mahatama Gandhi’s contemporary, John Dewey, philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer offers food for thought: “Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”