The Middle Man - or, A Manual Of Treason
November 26, 2014 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Hindu ki bas eik khasusiat: Baghl mein churi, moen par Ram Ram. My Urdu, at the time, was idiomatically sub-par. I had recently moved from Doha, Qatar, to General Zia ul Haq’s Lahore and his 9th grade Social Sciences textbook was nearly incomprehensible. The teacher read the line with a sneer. I intuited from his body language, and from the twitter that ran through the class, that this was a derisive remark, but I couldn’t quite follow: If someone had just been stabbed in the side with a knife wouldn’t he be crying to the gods in pain? What’s the shame here? I went home and asked my mother. She explained the idiom: Baghl mein churi does not mean a knife in the side but a knife concealed in the armpit of a garment. Moen pay Ram Ram is not a gesture towards pious invocation (like my grandmother’s recitation of Ya Rahman Ya Rahim)—it is meant to stand as insincere. The Hindu has only one characteristic: He conceals a knife, ready to strike, even as his lips intone Ram. I remember wanting to see or speak to a Hindu, to corroborate or defy this assessment, but Lahore in the mid-1980s held only bare traces—a place name, the legends of a boarded-up building, a strange spiral shape buried in the horizon—of its Hindu past. The city of Madho Lal or Chandarbhan had disappeared even from memories. Our teacher was a history enthusiast and he quickly warmed up to my hesitant question: Sir, why are Hindus never to be trusted?
Also in Urdu [PDF]. Manan Ahmed writes at Chapati Mystery posted by the man of twists and turns (3 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Oh wow, this looks fascinating, thanks for sharing.
posted by Fizz at 12:02 PM on November 26, 2014

Oh man, this was great and I only wish that it was longer because it's fascinating!
posted by klangklangston at 12:10 PM on November 26, 2014

Interesting stuff; I love stories that complicate propagandistic/nationalist simplifications of history. I just wish the essay had gone into how it was that Hotchand got singled out as the personification of (imagined) treachery. Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 3:02 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

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