Yes, Prime Minister!

The Father-crow Kakakzai, and I are neutral to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s governance and cricket stardom. Or cricket in any other form, for that matter. His current success in igniting world headlines in the Age of Woke is, however, as admirable as his erstwhile cricketing ability. Accident or design have no relevance here. Climbing the high moral ground as part of his perception of prime ministerial duty, has exposed him to the fickleness of intemperate elements.

PM Khan’s statements on rape in Pakistan have been interpreted as insinuations of victim-blaming, even provoking his usually faithful ex-lady, Ms. Jemima Khan (née Goldsmith)’s ire.

Words to the effect he is being accused of.

1. That women’s sexually explicit choice of dress in public tempts the weak-willed.

2. “…that sexual violence was a result of ‘increasing obscenity’ and a product of India, the West and Hollywood movies”— BBC.

3. That he witnessed the sixties revolution of “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” from his academic perch at Oxford University.

Let’s take the third point first.

He omitted publicly confessing that he did have a lot of fun, but can be forgiven for the oversight since TV time is limited. That aside, he may be reminded that the sexual revolution, by condoning sex between consenting adults, developing the pill for women followed by condom freebies actually, by making nooky more accessible, provided rape-decreasing measures!

Secondly, if rape comes from Bollywood plotting on behalf of Hollywood to undermine Pakistan’s pristine moral stature, then there must be psycho-sociological studies to support the contention. In their absence, this charge constitutes blame-shifting and stokes Pakistan’s thriving conspiracy cottage industry.

Actually, the first point was badly misstated since his gofer had lost the cheat sheet provided by the brilliant staffer who took his recent picture under the eternal banyan that whispers the timeless wisdom of India.

Here’s what the cheat sheet said.

“Governments of the past seventy years of Pakistan’s history were too busy channeling foreign aid into off-shore accounts to worry about education. With a literacy rate of only 59%, the male population is still prone to misinterpret a lady’s choice of dress. However, the intense popularity of  Ertugrul the Conqueror will be followed by a custom-designed programme ordered by President Erdogan to promote Kemalism in Pakistan. Subsequently, we’ll all go to school, and like Turkey, end up with 95.5% literacy so the choice of a lady’s dress becomes irrelevant.”

Alas, a gust of wind caused the cheat sheet to float up in the air, where Father-crow Kakakzai nipped it in its beak, and took it up to his tree to hold for ransom, but a stronger gust of wind snatched it out and dropped it right into the glass of lassi being nursed by the Brilliant Staffer, dreaming of his fellowship to an American think tank.

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.

Conflict Resolution in Pakistan

Interfaith dialogue has rarely, if ever, brightened up a neighborhood — it causes confusion instead of forging the requisite affiliations for conflict resolution. The representatives of each religion believe that their faith has a copyright on truth. To reinterpret and syncretize being heresy, interfaith dialogues flounder on this reef of exclusivity, surviving on toothless announcements of mutual admiration.

So these dialogues are neither about faith and nor among equals. One faith being temporally stronger than the others, it’s about concessions and handouts which means condescension and consequent resentment. Religious leaders play politicians pretending to resolve conflict while bargaining concessions and preparing tidy little press statements.

Since interfaith dialogues have done little to resolve inter-communal clashes, then maybe the existence of different faiths is not, in itself, a cause of conflict. Somewhere down the line pragmatic religious leaders hope that inter-faith dialogues grant them inter-communal leadership.

The logical alternative to pre-determined failure is an inter-communal dialogue.  That too, is fraught with danger, especially in countries like Pakistan where communities are identified by their faith and not by their geographical location or ethnicity.

So communal identity needs to be tackled and faith left to its own dynamics.  As such, leaders of different faith communities should just meet and commune regularly over gourmet meals of which all clergies are known to be connoisseurs. At these communions, religious discussions should be taboo, engendering secular relations which may then blossom into inter-communal friendships.

And since Pakistanis are no longer Mughal or British subjects, but citizens in their own right, they should not wait for the state to organize and finance the mughlai dishes, halvas and venues of such meetings. Local businesses, business associations, associations and foundations should organize a national competition of the best inter-communal meals and the best discussion results judged through public-access to the menus and minutes on the Internet.

In times of communal tension, it is these Maulanas, Padres, and Hindu, Parsee and Sikh priests who will be orchestrating peace on their mobile phones instead of gasping, overworked police officers.

Chief Justice Alvin Robert Cornelius was a stellar example of the attitude to inter-communal relations.

Cornelius Sahib was so beloved of devoted jurists that they would affectionately refer to his initials as Allah Rakha since he stood up to President Ayub Khan! His oft-quoted statement “I am a constitutional Muslim” was neither a declaration of faith, nor a desire to convert to Islam. As one of the world’s renowned constitutionalists, he had appreciated that Muslims, claiming Islam to be a culture in itself, had engineered the creation of Pakistan. As such, all Pakistani citizens, regardless of their faith, were constitutional Muslims. One may add that all citizens of Pakistan are also cultural Muslims.

On July 25, 2014, decades after ‘Allah Rakha’ Cornelius’ statement, Goa’s Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza declared that “India is a Hindu country. It is Hindustan. All Indians in Hindustan are Hindus, including I — I am a Christian Hindu”, sparking a merry controversy that let him have his day on the front pages.

It is such acceptance by minority faith communities that allow their goodwill to be reciprocated by their neighbors. Eastern Christians suffer from the reputation of their western co-religionists. Western Christianity still bears the scars of the Crusades, the Inquisition and colonization in which Eastern Christians played no part.

Yet, the residual tarnish has hardened the lives of Christian minorities in the East.

At the end of the day, Christianity is an Eastern religion, the Gospels of which encourage fellowship parallel with internal, spiritual development. Temporally declaring oneself to be a cultural / constitutional Muslim or Hindu is not a cop-out — it only enhances faith.

Thus it is that by and large, across Pakistan, Christians and Muslims cohabit in peace without the assistance of inter-faith cowboys, happily communing at Eid and Christmas. The occasional tension erupts from jealousy and land disputes, although the recent massacres and church bombings are singularly distinct.

Justice A. R. Cornelius and Sri D’Souza’s exemplary attitudes accepting socio-political reality have not been duplicated by Indian or Pakistani communities in the West. They still expect largesse to be doted out by the state, a ryot mentality of subjects. To go and get it while standing tall is the prerogative of integrated citizens.

Mirriam Webster defines a citizen as “one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman.”

Freemen do not wait for the state to organize regular dinners for the leaders of faith communities to build relationships to preempt or resolve conflict.

As minorities, they do not wait for state patronization, but incite the state to extend it.

And they savour their neighbours’ reciprocal love through hugs, eidee, cakes, sheer khurmas, biryani, jhalfarezis, and namkeen goshts, adding lustre to their precincts and mohallas.

Ritually celebrating each other’s eids, Christmases, diwalis and baisakhis is a win-win situation.

Teddyism in South Asia!

O’ Teddy, my  cruel and heartless lover, she sang!

Well before Britain started growing and exporting chilies to India and Pakistan, it cried victory over Teddyism, the youth sub-culture of the 1950s, enthusiastically lapped up by Pakistanis. Its remnants, buried deep in Britain, still flourish in Pakistan.

In the early sixties, boys strutted with their feet in pointies, legs in narrow bottomed, tight trousers, chests in tight shirts and Brylcreamed duck-tail hairstyles — after all, Teddyism and Preslyism overlapped in time. The smell of Old Spice and King’s Men after shave made the girls hide their smiles.;

Dolly liked it, though she hid her smile as best as she could.

After all, actually being caught smiling was considered ‘forward’ or too ‘modern’ for a Pakistani girl.

Yet, although South Asian women never directly adopted Western styles of clothing, girls themselves were not immune to the influence of this style on their traditional couture.

The indirect influence was clearly visible in the Ladies’ Teddy Suit of form-fitting pajama bottoms under mini-kameezes or kurtas inspired by Mary Quant’s mini and micro skirts while diligent back-combing was de rigeur.

We are, of course, referring to the hello jee western-educated urban middle classes.

This look was exemplified by the Pakistan International Airlines flight attendants’ new uniform designed by Monsieur Pierre Cardin in 1966, respectfully called Pir Khair Deen by many.

Anyway, the dopatta long scarf over a teddy suit was draped in different styles reflecting the wearer’s degree of emancipation. Some girls discarded it entirely, shocking people out of their business. But that wasn’t the only outrage about the teddy fashion.

Since their birth, the parental generation had been used to seeing white and brown Englishmen both wearing shape-hiding shorts and trousers that flapped around the legs. They were suddenly confronted with this shape-showing fashion, and in fact were most worried about the possible consequences on their growing children’s feet stuffed into narrow pointed shoes.

But all to no avail.

Teddyism took hold, spurred by Nazir Begum’s song Teddy Balam, hai zalam in the 1963 film Chooriyan, the first Pakistani Adults Only film.  Tufail Farooqi’s lilting composition and Nasira’s gyrations gave the lie to Kipling’s “East is East and West is West and ne’er the twain shall meet.” East and West met with a box office bang in this song:


Mein rang rangeely teddy

Mérà piyar vee har dum ready.

I’m a multi-colored teddy

I pant for my love is ready

To top it all, the melody was interspersed with English words like welcome, fashion, position, aeroplane, my darling kiss my hand to make Pakistanis dream and view themselves differently.

The sharp, short sound of ‘teddy’ had a welcome impact on the Pakistani ear, the word slipped into colloquial language, and is still thriving.

In 1961, Pakistan had adopted the international decimal system, with 100 paisas to a rupee. As the one paisa coins were very small in diameter they were promptly dubbed teddy paisa. The name has stuck.

Someone of short stature, even in a shalwar kameez was called Teddy.  The word even unnaturally united academia and the military. One of the Punjab Regiment’s best drama artists was Lance Corporal Salim a.k.a.Teddy, and one of the best known professors of English Literature at Forman Christian College, Lahore was also Salim a.k.a. Teddy. One was in khaki, the other one zigzagged across the leafy campus in a dark, tight-fitting teddy suit. Neither was aware of each other’s existence, except perhaps to one of Professor Teddy’s former students who just happened to be the Lance Corporal’s Company Commander!

Through both Salim Teddies the army and academe united in an ironic recognition of this little understood British movement.

In the 1950s a section of British youth decided to revive the fashion of King Edward VII’s era from 1901 to 1910 with an influence measured until 1917.

“Originally known as Cosh Boys, the name Teddy Boy was coined when a 1953 Daily Express newspaper headline shortened Edwardian to Teddy.”

The first youth group in England to call themselves teenagers, they helped to create a youth market.  They also distinguished themselves in the 1958 Notting Hill race riots in London by beating up helpless West Indian immigrants before they discovered their manly pride in paki-bashing.

Just as the word Jugni originates from Queen Victoria’s Jubilee it was appropriate for Teddyism to be institutionalized within this Punjabi musical form:

Ik din Teddy gayi darbar

A’ap andar té burka ba’ar

Ohnoon pawé Data’a di ma’ar

Ohé pir méréya Jugni kehndi aé

Té na’am Ali da,

Ali da

Na’am Ali da layndi aé

Teddy went to Saint Data’s shrine

She found herself inside

With her burka covering outside

May she be struck by Saint Data

O’ my saint so Jugni says

As she takes the name of

The name of

Takes the name of Hazrat Ali

But at the end of the day, believe me, Dolly in a teddy suit was worth a million teddy paisas!

The Indo-Pakistani Caste System: multi-hued Smarties!

Transcript of Dr. Ramaswamy’s radio interview on Caste in South Asia

Hello, Claire Herringstone for the weekly Asia Today.

Our guest on tonight’s program is Dr. Ramaswamy, social anthropologist from Madras University, whom we’ll be interviewing for our viewers on the subject of untouchables within the South Asian caste system.

“Dr. Ramaswamy, good evening and thank you for joining us.”

“Good evening, and thank you for inviting me.”

Hen-henh. The first question is — how did a country with such fine philosophical roots end up with something like the caste system?”

“Caste is an old, established institution, almost as old as history. Gautam Buddha opened temples to all castes, so even before Christ, it was well entrenched in India. It’s hard to say whether the migrant Caucasian tribes brought caste with them, or whether the social structure of the Aryans of the Saraswati was already based on caste. According to the Rg Veda, Purush, the primal man, destroyed himself to create a human society. The Brahmin priests sprang from his head, the warrior Kshatriyas from his hands, the land-tilling Sudras from his thighs, and the untouchables from his feet.”

“Indeed, but surely there must be something more than history and religious mythology to enforce it?”

“Yes. Manu’s Laws as they are commonly referred to in the West greatly reinforced the caste system.”

“When was that?”

“About two thousand years ago. Even then, Indian craftsmanship was highly valued beyond its borders. India was renowned as an exporter of the highest quality weapons steel at that time.”

“Could you tell our listeners a little more about that?”

“What the West today calls Damascus steel, and is unable to duplicate.  The ingots of this exceptional steel were exported to Persia and the Middle East, where sword-smiths fashioned blades whose cleaving power and flexibility held the Crusaders in awe. Sir Walter Scott’s description of the cutting power of Saladin’s sword in The Talisman is a good illustration. In fact, the pre-Islamic Arab word for sword was Muhannad, meaning from Hind. Thus, at that time, the skills of India’s craftsmen had placed the Indian economy in a unique position in the world. So the Indian leadership was keen to ensure the continuity of these techniques. It was considered that skills were best passed on from father to son. Encouragement soon became edict. A caste-based society further reinforced this institution by adding scriptural and scholarly justification, further empowering the ruling class.”

“Most illuminating, Doctor. In India, there’s been this name change. Mahatma Gandhi called untouchables Harijans, and they call themselves Dalits. Why is that?”

“I myself am a Dalit, and we prefer it to Harijan which we consider to have been condescending, and untouchable, or backward, which is an insult.”

“Are Dalits, then, a separate race?”

“Yes and no.”

“How’s that? Sounds like a typically Indian response!”

“I object to that. It’s an anthropologist’s informal way of saying ‘to a certain extent yes’. Indian academics prefer not to speak pompously with laypersons! Anyway, Dr Ambedkar’s research proved genetic similarities between the highest and lowest castes in Maharashtra State.”

“So how do you account for the genetic similarities between the highest and lowest castes?”

“Victors have always raped the subjugated, and India’s states and chiefdoms were forever fighting each other — that’s one reason. Then there were concubines, and love matches. Over the centuries, India’s myriad states of varying sizes saw periods in which they came under a central empire and times when they receded from its grasp. Thrones regularly changed occupants while dynasties waxed and waned. The losers either vanished into mendicant yogi orders, or disappeared into the impure bastis of the untouchables. Thus it is that among the chuhras, lowest on the rung, there are those who talk of royal lineage. The oldest of these are descendants of royal families who escaped conquering blades that sought to eliminate dynastic lines. They are the Chuhra Choudhry leaders of today, and over the centuries, have been inter-marrying with other chuhras.”

“So caste does have something to do with wealth and fortune!”

“Although caste may appear to be almost genetically fixed, it can be won, lost and reinstated by force and fortune. It is also an overlap of geography, race, profession and politico-military power. In Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, Jatt farmers were considered Sudras. However, the British historian, Colonel Todd attributed Rajput origins to them.  This places them in the Kshatrya warrior caste. Up until the rise of Sikhism in the Punjab, Jatts were lower than Rajputs. With the evolution of Sikhism as a militant force, their status rose. In the eighteenth century, as a result of Banda Bahadur’s revolt against the Mughals, Punjabi Jatts assumed the status of Kshatryas, for the simple reason that they exchanged their ploughshares for swords. Tribes that had jealously claimed loftier origins were content to pass themselves off as Jatts rather than Rajputs. Conversely, at the height of Muslim power in India, tribal bards invented fantastic Arab and Central Asian origins for their chiefs. Muslim Arains claimed to be from Iran, whereas as Hindus, they were Kumbhos and claimed Rajput origin which society in general denied them anyway. If, by some freak accident of history, a region had come under Chuhra rule, these very tribes would have started claiming Chuhra origin. Maybe that is why India has this proverb “the buffalo belongs to him who wields the staff.”

 “But the Sikhs and Muslims have no caste!”

“Their religions don’t recognize it, but their communities practice it. Despite calling itself an Islamic Republic, Pakistan practices caste! So do the Christians, especially the ones in the South.”

“And why’s that, Doctor?”

“Because, it is India’s curse, with which we are all tainted. On the other hand, as Deepa Kandaswamy says, the West suffers from race and class.”

“Indeed. Could you tell our listeners a little more?”

“Chuhras converted to Sikhism are called Mazhabis, full fledged members of the warrior brotherhood that served the British and now serve India in its armed forces. Chuhra converts to Muslims who remained serfs are called Mussalies, and often with a change in fortune, assume the tribal names of their former masters. Those that managed to leave serfdom took the titles Sheikh and Khwaja, which were the titles of the highborn Muslim missionaries from the Middle East or Central Asia who converted them. Chuhras converting to Christianity took the family name of the British missionary who converted them. Thus it is that in India and Pakistan are found Sheiks who would scandalize an Arab, Smiths and Johnsons who would shock an Anglo-Saxon— we are indeed, a multi-hued nation, like a packet of smarties!”;

Diasporic Pakistani Christmas menu

Biryanis and Christmas cakes from Pakistan to Europe;;;

Pakistani Christians have been able to create their own Christmas menu without any conflict with their belief system, combining the best of several worlds. Ladoos, gulab jamans, pala’a and sha’ami kababs had no quarrel with Christmas puddings, roasts and trifles, just as shalwar kameezes, turbans, achkans and suits harmonized with comfort. Christmas trees have always been a minority option.

Pakistani Christians are all converts from Hinduism, Budhism, Islam, Sikhism and Animism. The converts’ pre and post Christian socio-economic parameters continue to overlap the conflicting forces of their pre and post Christian culture.

The outward manifestations of culture can be reduced to the life cycle of birth, marriage, and death, with the addition of the major religious festivals.

Before the creation of Pakistan, these celebrations retained their Hindu bias within a British cultural framework (or vice-versa). After the rebirth of the Indian Christians as Pakistani Christians, being considered a loyal citizen of the Islamic Republic became an imperative of survival. Traces of British or Hindu culture were seen as subversive. Choices were made by families and groups of families, leading to more diversity in cultural practices after partition.

Despite their best efforts, Christians in Pakistan were viewed with a faint whiff of suspicion as a residue of colonialism whose loyalties lay elsewhere. This suspicion formed the moral justification for multi-level and multi-purpose discrimination.

The general feeling among Pakistani Christians was that their efforts at giving to Caesar were lost in a bottomless pit. With the concepts of jus soli and jus sanguin non-existant, they were, in de facto terms, illegal aliens in their ancestral homeland.  They felt they would be better off in a place where they could succeed through merit without having to look over their shoulders.

That “place” was the West, the Mecca of Pakistanis of all faiths. Many Christians came to Europe by first getting work visas for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that provided them with seed money, and then making their way to Europe, an enterprising albeit ironic exit from a lose-lose situation.

In Europe, their identity went unnoticed. Profession of any religion was treated suspiciously, most of all Christianity. Europeans, considered Christians from the former colonies an embarrassment. They were living reminders of a period they were being educated to abhor. And besides, life was busy.

Yacub Masih, General Secretary of the UK Asian Christian Fellowship in his speech to the House of Lords on 4th February 2005 said: “When I came to this country 30 years ago I was very happy thinking that I am going to a Christian country but I was disappointed … people in this country have no interest in faith … They only know about Santa Claus and Cadbury Easter eggs … .”

Either ways, the Pakistani Christians in Europe quickly lost their romanticism, and then got down to doing what South Asians are jolly good at — working hard, outpacing rivals, and succeeding in the best of their warrior traditions. Denied access to opportunities in their homeland, they found themselves in a society that just let them get on with it. If they wanted to work longer hours, save, and send their children to the schools that offered them a better opportunity, so be it.

Following September 11, and the July 7, 2005 bombings in the UK, the identity of Pakistani Christians, subsumed within Asians of other faiths and agenda, is viewed with as much suspicion as other brown skins.

So that is why, ensconced in their unique mental space, the Pakistani Christian Christmas menu remains largely unchanged. Even a turkey is properly spiced up, pulao or biryani are a must and ladoos and gulab jamuns compete for table space with mince pies or French bûches.

There is, of course, a tree and there are wrapped up gifts but Pakistani Christians wish each other Happiness rather than Merriment!

The Kalash— Pakistan’s Dionysiac White Tribe’s Origins, part II of II.

In 2008 the Macedonian Institute for Strategic Researches organized a visit by Hunza Prince Ghazanfar Ali Khan and Princess Rani Atiqa as descendants of the Alexandran army.”

The Kalash have been claimed as Illyrian by Albanians, Slavs by Russians, Alpine shepherds by Italians, Alexander’s children by Athenians and Englishmen by the likes of Rudyard Kipling. Some Pakistani anthropologists, rushing in where angels fear to tread, have proclaimed them as Aryans! That is tricky terrain, especially for South Asians, since Aryan is a Sanskrit word that refers to behavior and deportment and not ethnicity, but more later in my article on the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). Surprisingly, the Alexander connection leads to Athens rather than Macedonia, allowing an overlap of  jus soli and jus sanguinis, challenging legal minds. Nobody has paused to wonder if the Kalash could fulfill an Indian agenda or at least dangle from a Christmas tree.

By far, the Greek Origin Theory (GOT) is the most popular.

The premise of the GOT is based on:

  1. Appearance
  2. Belief system and Customs: drinking alcohol, dancing, open wooden coffins, sitting on chairs.
  3. Fragments from historians’ collection of hearsay and suppositions.
  4. DNA
  5. Language

Let’s take a look at these five premises point by point

  1. Appearance. If all fair skinned and light-eyed Indians must have come from Eurasia, then all swarthy Europeans must have gone from India. Since Alexander was a Macedonian and not a Greek, and the hard-core of his army Macedonian, and since only 10% Macedonians are blond and light-eyed, this is reduced to a 10% probability. Alexander did employ Greeks, but there too, the blond hair and light eyes are a one-fifth minority. Many Greeks are swarthy enough to be North Indian or Mediterranean. Arachosians, Bactrians, Parapamisadae, Sogdians Scythian and Indians also constituted a large part of Alexander’s army. Why only the blond and blue-eyed soldiers would have deserted is a mystery. Nordic peoples are known for their ferocity and loyalty evidenced in their tradition of the Comitatus: when their chief fell in battle, his inner war-band did not get demoralized but fought ferociously to the bitter end. The chances of such people deserting are very low.

 The Western Hindu Kush to the edge of the Eastern Himalayas yields a bountiful harvest of fair skins, and light colored hair and eyes, profitably harvested by Bollywood.

The Greeks from the islands are usually much darker than the Greeks from the mainland, and just like the Kalash, they build houses with flat roofs. But they are swarthy and brown or dark-haired. Had the Kalash been of some northern European ethnic brand, they would have built sloping roofs! And if they are Greek flat-roof builders, then they shouldn’t be blond and blue-eyed.


The two pictures to the right are typical of the inhabitants of Northern Pakistan and India who are not attributed Greco-Macedonian-Illyrian-Italian  descent.;;

2. Belief system and Customs such as drinking alcohol, dancing, open wooden coffins, sitting on chairs. The Kalash religion is syncretic and polytheistic, its pantheon including peaks, river sources and animals. Every Kalash family has a vineyard and produces its own wine. They bury their dead in open wooden coffins and their women are not cloistered. They don’t squat on their haunches, sit on chairs but have flat roofed houses in the Karakorams. These characteristics can be found in many of the non-Semitic belief systems of varied ethnologies and indeed among ethno-cultural groups in India itself! That includes the Kalash’s horse reverence, the most ancient and most structured of which is the ancient Hindu Ashvamedha, with precise rituals and liturgy documented in the Yajurveda, one of the sacred Hindu documents dated to around 1800 BC, well  before Alexander the Great. That, therefore, is a custom indigenous to India, even though the Irish and the Norse are known to have practiced its derivatives.

Ashvamedha: the horse sacrifice of Hindu antiquity

3. Fragments from historians’ collection of hearsay and suppositions. In the Karakoram mountains of India, the sight of ivy growing around the hills of Nysa convinced Alexander’s army that the city had been founded by Dionysus. According to Arrian, the Greek historian and philosopher of the 2nd-century Roman period, Alexander’s soldiers “… wept … eagerly made wreaths … crowned themselves … and were transported with Bacchic frenzy.” In Arrian’s history, the citizens of Nysa begged for clemency by claiming to be the descendants of Dionysus. Making this claim when their lives were threatened is no proof of Greek descent! It is worthwhile to remember that ivy is as native to India as it is to Macedonia, but such misunderstandings, like that of the word Aryan, can lead to decisions of momentous import.

Furthermore, Philostratus (born 172 AC) writes that Indians near the Indus believed that Dionysus was the son of the river Indus and the Theban was his disciple, which would make the Dionysiac cult an Indian export and not a consequence of Alexander’s failed attempt to conquer India.

4. DNA. Most DNA studies show no evidence that either proves kinship between the Kalash and Greeks, or points to a European origin.

5. Language. Just like Kashmiri and other languages spoken in the Karakorams, the Kalash language is part of the Dardic group, included in the Indo-Iranian sub-group of the Indo-European group. Asko Parpola, professor emeritus of Indology and South Asian Studies at the University of Helsinki believes the Dardic languages are directly descended from the Rigvedic dialect of Vedic Sanskrit.


Dardic script on the left, Vedic Sanskrit script on the right.;

In fact, by the 4th century BC, when Alexander attempted to invade India, Kalash culture stretched from Jalalabad in present day Afghanistan to the Indus in India, an area of roughly 68,000 square kilometres. They were known as Assakenoi (Ashvakas in Sanskrit), ancestors of ethnic Afghans and Pashtuns who fought against  Alexander. They could only have been descended from Alexander’s soldiers if they had possessed a time capsule.

Ever since Judge Jones’ 1786 Discourse to the Asiatic Society in which he suggested that Sanskrit, Greek and Latin languages had a common root, the relationship between Indian and European peoples has been so variously interpreted as to have become a hotly contested arena today. Max Muller pointed out “how violent a shock was given by the discovery of Sanskrit to prejudices most deeply ingrained in the mind of every educated man.”

The Asiatic Society

The Asiatic Society;

The Mahabharta, conservatively dated to around 1900 BC, provides a strong lead to the possible origin of the Kalash through their appearance and habits. The Mahabharta mentions Jatrikas and Madrakas, both known as Vahikas or Bahika from the names of two demons living in the river Vipasa known as Beas today that flows in the Punjab.

River Beas

These people were fair-skinned, wore blankets, drank wine, ate cow’s flesh with garlic and boiled barley and delighted in indecent talk and acts. Their women, overcome with wine, danced naked and called to one another “O’ ill-fated one – husband-slayer”. These last two insults are still used by the Kalasha and all North Indians and Pakistani Punjabis, though the women do not get drunk and dance naked — not any that I’ve heard of, but they do dance when they can! In any case, as my forthcoming article on the Aryan Invasion Theory will postulate, India had people of different appearances living within the same space.

The answer to the question of Kalash origins remains in suspension just like my origins and yours. Ignorance and obscurity lie beyond every individual and group’s last-known ancestor. Why the poor Kalash have been selected to compensate for such ignorance is more enigmatic than their origins. It is a conundrum to be solved individually on a journey of self-knowledge. At its destination, the origins of the Kalash, like those of all fair skinned and light eyed South Asians — Kashmiris, Himachal Pradeshis, Pashtuns, Jaduns, Sudhans and Abbasis — fade to irrelevance.

The Kalash, however, remain in close-up, seeking the benefits of modern life without sacrificing their beliefs, customs and traditions, struggling to avoid becoming everybody’s Christmas decoration.

Highly recommended further reading: Riders on the Wind, by Salman Rashid

Next: wait for The Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT)

Ancient India

The Kalash— Pakistan’s Dionysiac White Tribe.

Part I of II

The Kalash are a fair skinned, often fair-haired and light eyed people nestled in three valleys in the heart of the soaring peaks of Pakistan’s Karakorams. They are considered unique by virtue of their belief system — a theological oddity in an Islamic fastness. In the 4th century when Alexander attempted to invade India, these Dardic people stretched from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to the Indus, an area roughly 68,000 kilometres. They are now confined to about a dozen villages in three valleys, with a total population of fewer than four thousand. By the 14th century, most of the Kalash had chosen Islam over polytheism, wine-making and other pagan traditions.

So the Kalash are not a ‘lost’ tribe but just the remnants of a people who chose Islam over their ancestral religion. Kalash, means those who wear the black robe. Their ancestry is embroiled in intersecting theories that boost fanciful personal agenda.

The version that seems to have fixated the world’s fancy is that deserters from Alexander the Great’s army settled in the valleys and the Kalash are their progeny — or perhaps even Alexander’s himself,  although that would make them swarthy Macedonians, a tad disappointing. Rudyarad Kipling’s The Man Who Would be King further fed this childlike desire to solve a puzzle or find a treasure exclusive to the finder. For further reading you may consult Dan Brown’s bank account!

More on this in Part II, but whatever their ancestry, the Kalash are certainly an endangered minority.

As polytheists, their culture is distinguished by a pantheon of deities appeased through animal sacrifices. They grow and make their own wine which they consider sacred. Seasonal festivities are celebrated with wine, music and dancing. Free-striding, bare-faced Kalash women in their headdresses intricately woven with cowrie and crowned with multi-hued feathers are believed to be part-fairy. They choose their husbands if they so wish.

Shepherds and subsistence farmers by tradition, tourism and trade are nudging the Kalash into a cash-based economy. And they don’t really mind. Roads, cell phones, clinics and schools are bringing them out of their isolation. Yet, Kalash who have managed to integrate themselves into the Pakistani system without giving up their belief system are a rarity.

They are not, after all, a species to be preserved in a zoo. Breaking the vicious circle of poverty and ignorance through education and socio-economic mobility is probably a better guarantee against cultural encroachment than half-hearted legislation that is high on spin and low on application.

The Kalash’s descent from Alexander the Great is a romantic story that reels in tourists. Even though a DNA test failed to establish  a connection, the Greek Foreign Ministry’s Hellenic Association has been aiding the Kalash for quite some time on the basis that charity begins at home. The effort is laudable even if they got the wrong address like American commandos did in Yemen on November 25th.

But then, us homo sapiens are prone to believe what they choose.

Thinking of the Kalash as lost Greeks is an enjoyable thought that feeds upon itself.

Video – The Kalash People:

 Wait for Part II: the origins of the Kalash

Something to Share: our enduring love story, by Peggy & Al Schlorholtz

” …  enduring, gripping, enriching …”

Something to Share by Peggy & Al Schlorholtz reveals a delightfully harmonious intersection of literary genres— love saga, autobiography, travelogue, adventure, multiculturalism — within a lifetime of loving service. Multilayered perceptions challenge stereotypes of meaning and raise the reader’s self-awareness.

The love story started with a tenth grade Iowa beauty flinging an orange at Al Schlorholtz to grab his attention in the Study Hall. And grab it she did, till the ends of the earth, starting from rural Iowa to Princeton to Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Nepal.

A love story of epic dimensions that goes beyond romance to include the exotic peoples of faraway lands.

The Schlorholtzes were clearly multicultural well before the advent of the term as it is generally understood these days. The sub-text of this remarkable work is in the mise en abyme tradition retrieved from heraldry by André Gide for the purposes of critical analysis. It leaves no doubt that despite himself, the author’s crystalline insight into a pivotal geostrategic environment is piercingly unique.

For its penetrating understanding of South Asia, Something to Share should be compulsory reading for the blow-dried inductees into the US State Departmant’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, just as Mumtaz Shahnawaz’s The Heart Divided was avidly read by missionaries of the Schlorholtzes’ caliber. Perhaps that, but certainly the clarity of their Christian faith made it hard to believe that they were actually missionaries, as with love and without any fuss they served others.

For the discerning reader, the fact that a one-star general’s phone call was required to clear the Schlorholtzes household furniture going from Pakistan to India speaks volumes. That Pakistan had a Christian general is startling. The authors do not state the obvious, offering adventure after adventure to be retrieved by the reader in quest of the truth.

That the authors state the facts and withhold their opinion is an example for the kind of contemporary journalism that appears to excel in opinion over fact!

And that is the skill with which the intersecting molecules of this remarkable narrative sustain each other.

The missionary professor and his wife’s life story is laudably free of religious clichés or evangelical rhetoric, while carrying veins of mineable secular abundance. The Christian message is implicit in acts of selfless devotion.;;

The Schlorholtzes lived through Ayub Khan and Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorships, survived two wars that included getting bombed and watching aerial dog-fights over their landscaped campus home known for its gracious hospitality. They survived Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s socialism while their daughters studied at Radcliff with Benazir Bhutto whom they remember as ‘Pinky’!

Something to Share revives the forgotten tradition of the likes of Reverends James Gardner and John Williams,  Margaret Prentice, Adomain Judson, William Carey and John and Ida Scudder, who continued enriching lives by penning their unique experiences during retirement.

La difference Schlorholtz is that the professor’s legendary wit pervades the manuscript in Balzacian brush-strokes.

So do settle down with your tipple of choice in your favourite armchair and let Al & Peggy Schlorholtz work their magic on a cold winter’s day.

Pakistan’s Muslim Clergy condemns mob killings of Christians: Pakistan’s blasphemy laws explained.

Asma Jehangir, champion of human rights in Pakistan and an Officer of France’s Order of the Légion d’Honneur, has hailed the long-awaited participation of the Muslim clergy in condemning the misuse of Pakistan’s Blasphemy laws. Since the 1980s, minority communities, mainly Christians, have been suffering under the misappropriation of this law. Passed under Zi-ul-Haq’s dictatorship, these laws boil up simmering passions within people which only the clergy can redirect. Only a hearts and minds campaign will alleviate this suffering, and the Muslim clergy have the power and competence to institute this change.

Condemnation of Christian couple’s killing by religious parties good omen: Asma.

Dawn, November 21, 2014

LAHORE: Condemnations by Pakistan’s top clerics and religious parties against the misuse of blasphemy laws could help reverse a rising tide of mob killings, according to Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s leading rights activists.

A Christian couple accused of desecrating the Holy Quran were beaten to death this month, by a mob of 1,500 and their bodies thrown in a furnace in a spate of lynchings in Pakistan.

A day later, a policeman hacked a man to death with an axe, who had been accused of blasphemy while he was in custody.


What are Pakistan’s blasphemy laws?

BBC 6 November 2014

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws carry a potential death sentence for anyone who insults Islam. Critics say they have been used to persecute minority faiths and unfairly target minorities.