AfsanaBadosh, presented by Firstpost and Jashn-E-Qalam, celebrates the spirit of storytelling through the narratives of the greatest stories in Hindi and Urdu. This is episode 6 – “Kamdhenu” by Salam Bin Razzaq, performed by KC Shankar.
Editorial, performance and text support by Neerja Deodhar | Art by Pinaki De | Episode edited by Varun Patil
afsana (history, legend) | khanabadosch (wanderer, gypsy)
AfsanaBadosh is the meeting of stories and a wandering perspective to explore the world of fiction. She is embodied by the kind of person whose head is always in a book, or who searches for stories in the places she visits and the people she meets.
But it’s not this shot of an old man with a long white beard who trades legend and can’t rest in one place. AfsanaBadosh this is us: ordinary individuals who have experienced the beauty of storytelling in different contexts – as a way to get to know the world better, to find a sense of comfort, to enrich and to entertain. It speaks of an ability to listen to and fight ideas different from our own; learn from the past and build a better future.
AfsanaBadosh is First post and Jashn-E-Qalam’s celebration of the spirit of storytelling through fictional tales written by some of the greatest Hindi and Urdu writers. These include Rajinder Singh Bedi, Saadat Hasan Manto, Mannu Bhandari, Krishan Chander and Premchand.
The stories that are part of this project were chosen for their continued social resonance, decades after their publication. The foundation of every story is a sense of truth, whether real or imagined.
Episode 6 – Salam Bin Razzaq ‘Kamdhenu‘, performed by KC Shankar. Listen to more episodes here.
SALAM BIN RAZZAQ made her literary debut soon after graduating, with a short story in the magazine Shayar. Decades later, he would win the Sahitya Akademi Prize for his collection of short stories in Urdu. Shikasta Buton Ke Darmiyan. In addition to writing in Hindi and Urdu, he also translates works written in Marathi.
He retired as principal of a school run by the Municipality of Mumbai. In 2013, he received the prestigious Ghalib Prize. Ordinary people and the circumstances they cannot escape are the subjects of Razzaq’s fiction. “You can’t expect the common man to fight like a hero. He must compromise if he is to survive, but his compromise is not to surrender, “he once said. mentionned.
Many of his stories are also an examination of communitarianism. At the same time, he draws his literary inspiration from religious texts such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The image of KAMDHENU, rooted in mythology, is associated with wholeness. She is the cow of plenty, the divine bovine goddess, the very embodiment of sustenance and sacrifice.
To worship any cow in India is to honor the Kamdhenu ideal. And the cult of the cow is no joke in our country. The militarization of the cow is also not in the politics of the country – whether in electoral politics, or through the beef ban, or the vigilance of the cow.
This is what makes the central image of Razzaq’s story so powerful – that of a cow owned by a cowherd, who is repeatedly milked without even giving the cowher notice, let alone asking for his permission. .
Razzaq begins this story with a description of the village of Bharatpur: the natural beauty of its fields, the sound and image of the dairy animals, cowherds and milkmen who reside there. It describes the many festivals and religious rites that take place in this small village, which has an integrated population of both Hindu and Muslim. What is common to people of both religions is the practice of dairy farming and cattle breeding.
Bharatpur is unique in that it has never witnessed community violence. It is not that the inhabitants of this village are closed to news of riots and turmoil outside, but that their own hearts and minds are not moved by such social divisions. When the battles took on a common color, they were resolved quickly.
The tranquility of the village is disturbed by the jarring presence of jeeps, rallies and flags of political parties. It is election time in the village, and the air is filled with proclamations over the loudspeakers about worthy political candidates and their agendas. The jeeps carrying these candidates and their many supporters capture the attention of every resident of Bharatpur.
Turab Ali is among the first politicians to visit the village, appealing to the feelings of the villagers as cowherds. He invokes his faith and identity, forging vague ties to their livelihood, trying to pass himself off as one of them. He completes this masquerade by declaring that he is going to milk a cow. The whole village is impatiently waiting to know which cow will be chosen for this purpose.
Ultimately, he’s the one who stays in the no-frills home of Madhav, a cowherd who has lived even beyond the Harijan colony.
Madhav is at first stunned when Turab Ali arrives at his doorstep. When the situation is explained to him, when he is told that his fortunes will change if his cow is milked by Ali, he becomes even more dazed. He wanted to decline this offer, since he had milked the cow just that morning. He wanted to shake his head to express that.
But he was a man who had spent his whole life bowing to the words of men more powerful than himself. Almost reflexively, he nodded, instead of saying no.
What followed was a spectacle: Turab Ali preparing to milk the cow with great pomp, a stool and bucket appearing out of nowhere, and people climbing the walls to watch the scene.
Ali thanked Madhav for letting him milk the cow, to prove his connection to the cowherds. Madhav wanted to oppose, but he had no opportunity to speak.
The events of the morning repeat themselves a few hours later, only the politician and his identity change. Pandit Omkarnath, the son of another pandit who has built an ostentatious temple, is the next candidate to campaign in the village. He claims to be the voice of the people and the representative of the culture and traditions of India. He says he has a real connection to the villagers, and that roots cannot be built just by milking a cow, unlike what his competitor has tried to portray. Like Ali, he invokes faith and religion, tracing the identity of today’s cowherds back to Krishna himself.
As is typical of the kind of politics we see today, where those who claim to be “native” or “native” Indians attempt to “reclaim” Indianness from “outsiders,” Omkarnath decides to milk the same cow. than Ali. Reclaiming the cow is synonymous with reclaiming the country; he even “purifies” the cow before going to work.
A third politician, Baburao, is trying to put on the same show for the third time, claiming a stronger bond with the cowherds due to his socio-economic status. He turns Madhav’s cow milking into a matter of respect and dignity. For the first time, Madhav opposes it, but no one pays attention to him.
The cow gives milk to the milker. It validates the identity of those who claim to be cowherds, or have a connection to them. Without a word, it becomes part of the political agenda in which it is framed. But her injuries and traumas are only for her and the cowherd.
By itself and in conjunction with the cow, Madhav signifies both religion and ordinary Indians – such is the genius of Razzaq’s craft, that his metaphors are multifaceted.
In a country where religious conflicts and discrimination are a daily affair, using religion to gain votes is inevitable. People’s faith, arguably a personal matter, is turned into a probing matter, and the ability to “protect” or “nurture” or “represent” religion becomes a marker of competent leadership. What is lost in the market is social harmony, rational thinking and scientific temperament.
Madhav’s predicament also mirrors that of citizens who rushed to political rallies, offered development promises, even presented non-consensually in government advertisements, to sell the idea of a certain political party – for be abandoned and forgotten once the election results are announced.