Srinagar, Kashmir

Saturday, June 8, 1929

Had a regular time today. We had planned to get our boxes packed and sent home so we could leave today. Thus we set out early with a million things to do—boxes to have made and plenty of other things to do before noon. Among other pleasant jobs, Mort and I visited the director of the Tourist Bureau with reference to the trouble at the lock. The account given by the other man was false—just because he was a servant of the State, employed in the granary, he thought he would put it over Abdulla. The charge was that our boat damaged his shikara; that Abdulla assaulted him and tore his clothes. I think that Mort straightened it out pretty well.

By three o’clock, when the post office closed, the boxes were still far from packed and I had not received word from Cook’s in Delhi about my money. The only remaining thing to do was to stay over till Monday.

During our absence, my box man came around and left a box for me with a Beta crest on the lid, and a similar box for Mort, at the same time asking me to return his table. My box was clearly not the box I had contracted for in the first place. It had been made in the meantime, which proved my suspicions, and was not of a good workmanship. This sure got me hot and when the man sent a servant around for the money and table later, not caring to come himself, I sent the man back after his master. When this latter put in an appearance, I was waiting for him and we had one grand time in which the other party got called a dirty low-down cheat and a liar, etc. etc. Of course he denied that boxes had been switched, and finally he said he would bring it before the Residency. The tables were somewhat against me for I had taken his table as security, and even though I did want to buy it, but not at his price of Rs 10, the case was against me. I had a right to refuse the box for it wasn’t the same one I had contracted for (though I would have had a hard time proving it), and because I didn’t like the way he put the crest on.

When he left, I made another visit to the Tourist Bureau, where these complaints are handled, and laid the whole affair before them. My position was not so bad and I figured it even good for everyone knows what liars these sellers are, and these latter have no great desire to get  mixed up with the Tourist Bureau. As I figured, the cuss came back just before supper, apologized “if I was wrong” and wanted to make a peaceful settlement as “the evening time is a good bargain time.” He offered to come down to nine on both the box and the table. His whole manner was very obsequious but his price ridiculous. My proposition was eight for the table and five for the box, or I would “let the Tourist Bureau continue to handle the case.” This prompted him to come down to eight on the table without further loss of time. As this took care of my deposit, the rest was immaterial. I have no doubt but what his dishonest face will be reappearing around here soon for the box is doing him no good with my crest, such as it is, on the lid, and Dad’s initials on the inside of the lid. Certainly the workmanship is no selling factor.

By suppertime Mort and Frank had their two boxes packed and sewed and mine was about done. Abdulla informed us he had another party who was to live on his boat when we left. The man and his wife are paying Rs 300 per month in contrast to our Rs 120 or so. They will be on board a month, then travel a month. I had to complete Abdulla’s picture album so he could show it to this gentleman today and perhaps sell him a trip to Ladakh. Abdulla is so durned proud of the book he can’t see straight. Had me write little chits by certain pictures telling of a man 107 years old whom they talked to, of a Sanaska Gompa in which an Australian lived for a year and a half, and which was then never entered again for 103 years till Mr. Bakatey and Abdulla did so last year. In this gompa or monastery is a mysterious fountain from which fifty men can drink at one time. But when they have had their fill, it ceases to flow. This spring seems to be very squeamish, for the waters will only issue forth when the male variety wishes to drink.

For some time Abdulla has been talking about the “tamashe,” meaning show. [I have kept Hall’s misspelling throughout.] In fact, it seems to mean almost any sort of an affair. Last night we went. The theatrical company was from India. A rather crude theatre had been rigged up in a vacant field surrounded by a fence. The stage and dressing rooms behind it were rough, unpainted lumber. High tent poles supported several large canopies of strange colors and designs overhead. The sides were enclosed to a height of ten feet by canvas walls. Long rows of wooden benches marked the section where the audience was to suffer. Seats in the front were Rd 3 and ranged back to a piece of raised ground, 70 feet from the stage, where you could squat and see the tamashe for four annas, 9¢. Still farther back was built a balcony, more like a chicken roost, enclosed with chicken wire. Here squatted the women, heavily veiled, and all but out of sight of those men in the audience. I was a little surprised to find women present, for I thought they never attended entertainments in India, for that matter in the East.

The scenes were not so terrible as one would expect. Otherwise the performance must have been very similar to those given by traveling shows in America some decades ago.

When the Hindu gods and goddesses pictured on the screen were rolled up, a court scene was revealed, in which the raja sat on his throne, and from either side radiated a line of females clothed in brilliant colors, of all sizes, and all singing the same song, though one would never have guessed it. Indian songs are all written in eighth notes with many difficult runs. Imagine these fourteen or so “chorus gals” trying to tear off runs that would tax an opera star.

The raja then dismounted from his throne, walked to the front of the stage followed by a villainous-looking minister, and tore off a song. During this song the minister stood a little to the rear and held his nose with a large handkerchief. Not understanding the song, I would say that either the raja smelled bad or else the song was singularly rotten. After fifteen minutes of this heavy court scene in which the raja, his minister, and the chorus took turns at spouting off, someone blew a whistle and the curtain fell with a roll.

Immediately two comedians took the foot-boards, one a silly son and the other his old mother. Abdulla confided that the mother was trying to get money from the son. She would hit him with a paddle, much to the amusement of the audience. Abdulla’s eyes and mouth were wide open, even more so than mention of baksheesh or Nautch Dancers spreads them. The thing was worse than slapstick comedies, too dumb not to laugh at.

Whistle—and the scene rolled up to disclose the raja and another, more snappy minister, both attired in red with white jodhpur britches. Raja grabbed the floor and got verse after verse of sad, sad love songs off his chest—which must have been a great relief. It was a visible relief to the audience when the whistle blew. He looked exactly like a braying mule as he dropped his jaw down to look like Mammoth Cave and emitted appalling noises therefrom. His gestures were magnificent. First one arm popped up as if asking for baksheesh, then the other, then repeat, repeat, repeat, for fifteen minutes.

The raja wished to give his wife the gate and take on another long, lanky, bony, bespectacled specimen in her place. He was bewailing the fact that rules would not permit this for one year. However, by hook or crook, the saffron-clad priest, appearing more like a bootlegger, fixed things up so the event could take place sooner. A dancing girl (who never danced) was the go-between and was to fix it up between the raja and beanpole. She next took the stage and wailed about the poor terms of the raja or his tightness about giving baksheesh. During this episode the priest appears, full of dirty intentions, and wanted to take the go-between away. Next the beanpole, a servant, got all worked up over something in the agreement.

Men take all parts in the show for it is still considered bad for a woman to appear before the public. I was afraid the heroine’s beard would grow out before this act was done.

Conversation during show: “Why did the raja want a new life, Abdulla?” “Like this—to make tamashe.” “Call time while the heroine shaves.” “Why is the raja going to get married?” “He is just going to make marriage to make tamashe.” Abdulla: “Raja wants big one.” “Gosh! Why doesn’t he take her? There’s no competition.”

There came an intermission of a half hour, so we came on home. On the way we saw another good tamashe. A group of college boys were having a very heated argument with some men down an embankment on a houseboat. They had been drinking and one man staggered up the embankment after the group above. One of these latter picked up a big plank and nearly hit the fellow. Luckily the others grabbed him. They then pushed the drunkard back down the steep hill and he ended up in the river. There ensued a more heated argument and then we stepped up. They immediately poured out their troubles to us and, I think, half expected us to go down there and wipe out the bunch for them. Must have taken us for British soldiers as most everybody else does. In the meantime, Mort had picked up the man’s turban (who was drunk) and had disappeared for a few moments. Later he somehow discovered the thing had somehow fallen inside his shirt. Seems as though these two older medical students had started out for a big time and had come to this houseboat (there are many) where was this Nautch dancer or prostitute—or maybe she was both. One had Rs 100, and the second Rs 200. When the first had spent his Rs 100 here, he became angry because he was told to beat it while the second was enjoying his extra hundred. It sure started one big tamashe and everybody that was full of hot air sure got rid of it during the stormy controversy. We didn’t interfere and a short time later the group went on its way—mad to the core. The men reentered the houseboat and we returned home for some sleep. Had more strawberry shortcake today.

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