"And all, all, suppose that the past has been nothing, or a small matter, that the near future is everything: hence this haste, this crying, this self-deafening and self-overreaching!"
Frontline dated November 1 2013 has an article "Story of two riots" by A G Noorani. I read every thing Mr. Noorani writes for Frontline...Every single line.
This time I got more excited because the essay mentions one of the most enduring (and one of my favourite) books in Marathi 'Mumbaiche Varnan' (मुंबईचें वर्णन) by Govind Narayan Madgaonkar (गोविंद नारायण माडगांवकर)
The book was first published, 150 years ago, in 1863 and then it went out of print. The second edition/reprint came out only 100 years later in 1963! (This must be a kind of world record for a very good book in a major world language.)
Historian N R Phatak (न र फाटक) 1893-1979 wrote a lovely introduction to its 1963 avatar. (Among other things, Mr. Phatak laments poverty of Marathi there: '...या पुस्तकाची ही नवी आवृती मुंबई मराठी ग्रंथसंग्रहालय या संस्थेने प्रकाशित करून महाराष्ट्राची उपेक्षावृत्ती घटविली असली तरी या साहसांत शंभर वर्षामागील दैन्याची साक्ष आहेच…')
To celebrate 150th anniversary of such an enduring book, I would have liked to see a Marathi periodical serializing the book, a chapter a week/ month, with commentary/ annotations by experts from different walks of life, speaking all Mumbai tongues.
Hey, I am just fantasizing! The way view of 19th century Parel, below, looks to us in 21st century.
'Government House at Parel'
Artist: Sir Henry Darell, Bt. Lithographed by Messrs. Day and Son Courtesy: Frontline
I bought the book in November 2012 for a song (Rs. 50). I keep reading it from time to time.
This is how Mr. Noorani introduces Madgaonkar's book in Frontline:
"...A Goan, Govind Narayan (1815-1865), came to Bombay in 1824 and soon established himself as an author. Murali Ranganathan has translated from Marathi into English his informative biography of the city (Govind Narayan’s Mumbai; Anthem Press, India, 2012)..."
I didn't like dropping of the surname from author's name by Noorani and Ranganathan. I wonder what the late author would have thought.
Now, on to the translation quoted by Noorani.
"On 7 June 1832, the Parsis called a strike in Mumbai and rioted. The reason given is that the previous day, the dog squad had entered the houses of many Parsis and had taken away their dogs. The Parsis entreated them not to do so, as it was against government rules, and asked them to release the captured dogs. There were some skirmishes between the Parsis and the dog squad. It was then decided in a meeting of a hundred odd Parsis that all the food and grain shops would be closed on the 7 June, food supply to the English stopped, and a general strike be called. They indicated their programme to the shops inside the Fort and the bazaar outside the Fort. The only positive aspect was the rich Parsis were not with them and were in fact unaware of their plans. Most of the rioters were of the lower class like cooks and water-carriers; there were also some middle-class gentlemen. On that day, they closed the shops, and stopped the supply of roti and bread which was being sent for the soldiers at Colaba. Many of the Khatki people did not support the strike; when they were transporting meat, they were beaten up and the meat was thrown into the moat surrounding the Fort. The Portuguese Christians, who supplied bread to the English regiments, were intimidated and their produce spilt. In this manner, they continued till about ten in the morning." (bold and italics mine)
I did not understand what was meant by "the Khatki people"...Were they some kind of tribal people?
I looked up the original Marathi book (Chapter 7, page 118)...it says "… कित्येक खाटकी लोक यांस अनुकूल नव्हते,… ".
Now, it became clear...it's 'khatik'...'खाटीक' in today's Marathi… butcher! I wonder why Mr. Ranganathan did not translate it.
Mr. Noorani's quote continues:
"Their actions spread terror amongst the English. The Magistrate wrote to the Town Major asking him to send some troops as the Parsis were rioting. He however did not respond for a long time. The white regiment in Colaba did not receive the bread they were supposed to on that day. The English who were going to their offices were waylaid. They obstructed the vehicle of Sir John Awdry, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and threw some garbage and a dead goose into his vehicle..." (bold and italics mine)
'Goose' reminded me of Christmas dinners. Did ordinary rioting Parsis take trouble in killing a goose for Your Lordship? Were they waiting on or protesting? They must really respect the Chief Justice of the Supreme court!
Perturbed, I turned to the original.
"...त्यांच्या गाडीस अडविले आणि रस्त्यांतील कचरा व एक दोन मेलेल्या घुसी त्यांच्या गाडीत फेकून दिल्या..."
So it's Ghusi ('घुसी')...in today's Marathi 'Ghushi' (घुशी)… rats/ bandicoots and not just one probably more!
Even today when I walk about in Pune, I invariably find dead rats near every big pile of trash. (do they die of indigestion or brought there dead?)
So no special treatment was meted out to the Bada Saab by Parsis...just a couple of dead bandicoots for an early lunch!
Now, in 150 years, Mumbai property prices might have gone up 15000 times, Parsis in Mumbai are probably less in number than they were then, there might be more mobile handsets in Mumbai than humans but dead rats sure don't turn into dead geese even today.
This English translation has been published in 2012 and I could locate two glaring errors in less than ten lines!
Artist: Alan Dunn, The New Yorker, 19 April 1952
"No, no! घूस as in rat not duck"