Friday, 31 January 2020

Dedicated followers: Collectors of book inscriptions share their notes

The words left in books by their previous owners can tell intriguing stories – but do they enrich or sour the next reader’s experience?

The book tells you a story before you’ve read a word of it. On the cover is Charlie Brown, carrying a baseball bat and dejectedly dragging his mitt, above the title in emphatic, meme-ish font: “WINNING MAY NOT BE EVERYTHING, BUT LOSING ISN’T ANYTHING!” And on in the inside leaf, written in pen in looping cursive: “I love you.”

The pocket-sized book of Peanuts cartoons by Charles M Schulz, charming in clashing red and orange, is one of Wayne Gooderham’s favourites. “Everything about it works,” he says, leaning over the cafe table laden with his finds. “Charlie Brown on the cover, the title of the book, the sentiment inside – the fact that it’s been given away.”
Wayne Gooderham’s dedicated copy of a Charlie Brown book. Photograph: Wayne Gooderham

As the curator of Dedicated To…, a blog bringing together poignant or intriguing inscriptions inside secondhand books, Gooderham can’t help but imagine the past lives implied on their inner leaves. Over 10 years, the project – born of his scouring secondhand bookshops for particular Saul Bellows and all Pnins, which he collects – has led to a publishing deal for Gooderham and inspired his fiction writing.

But though he delights in the “secret histories” of the books he finds, Gooderham does not these days write in those he gives himself. Why did he stop? “Because of this!” He nods at the stack of books between us: among them, a copy of Sartre’s autobiography, Words, with “I loathe my childhood” in huge type on the cover – and a correspondingly pointed address to “Mummy” inside.
The project has made him conscious of books’ long, migratory lives. “It’s made me more wary, I think, that they are likely to end up somewhere else … You see stuff and you think: ‘Oh my God – at the time, that meant a lot.’”

That someone can immerse themselves in following strangers’ paper trails, yet shy from leaving their own is testament to the highly personal – and often contradictory – policies by which people interact with books. It is not a straightforward division between those who like their books to look “lived in”; and those intent on keeping their collections pristine.

“It totally depends on the book and the copy, for me,” says Emily Hutchinson, a bookseller at The Second Shelf in Soho. “As a general rule, for paperbacks that have arrived to me in a rubbish condition, I just do whatever with them.
‘Everything about it works’ … Wayne Gooderham’s Charlie Brown book. Photograph: Wayne Gooderham

“If it’s something that is either particularly significant or particularly beautiful, I treat them with a bit more care,” she says. “But it’s a different kind of care if you’re making notes, carrying it around with you – loving it that way.” 
Hutchinson will write in the margins in pencil, and even dog-ear the pages; just the thought seems to scandalise Gooderham. “Never! Nevernevernever. I’ve got bookmarks.”

Among bibliophiles, the debate can be polarising and nuanced. For example: is it ever acceptable to write in a book? If yes: in pencil, pen or – heaven forbid – highlighter? Are all books fair game, or just some? And once they are so “defaced” – can you ever then give them away?

People who really put their books to work for them, such as academics, tend to devise elaborate systems. Hazel, an office manager, tweeted a photograph of her husband’s copy of Moby-Dick, thick with Post-it notes: “About 75% of his books are like this,” she complained. “He also did this to my Ivanhoe, without asking! … When you add 200 Post-its to a book, it does not retain its original dimensions.”

Gooderham follows a similar multi-step process before underlining – only books that he intends to keep, after a review of the Post-it page markers he left during reading. “It’s all very anal,” he says with a self-conscious laugh. 

But though he prefers to buy books secondhand, he finds other people’s underlining an unwelcome interruption to the reading experience: “When the line ends, I’ll stop as though it’s the end of the paragraph.”

From a bookseller’s point of view, it is black and white: a book with underlining has been defaced. Even just a line or two can cause the value to plummet by as much as 80%, says Christina Oakley Harrington, proprietor of Treadwell’s esoteric and occult bookshop in Bloomsbury. The exception is where the scribblings in the margins are by the author, or another notable figure. Then, “you’re kind of touching a piece of their inner intellectual and imaginative life”.

Oakley Harrington gives the example of Aleister Crowley’s poetry, written to his male lover at Cambridge: “He changed his lover’s name to ‘Christ’, ‘Jesus’ and ‘Lord’ so that it read as religious poetry and, in his copy, he crossed it out and wrote ‘Jerome’, ‘Jerome’, ‘Jerome’ – so secrets are sometimes revealed.”

Crowley changed his lover’s name to 'Christ' so it read as religious poetry. In his copy, he wrote ‘Jerome’
Hell is other people’s books … ‘Hetty’s’ gift to her mother

Some secondhand copies of Tanya Luhrmann’s anthropological study of contemporary London witch covens have the interviewees’ pseudonyms debunked in the margins – a case of the past reader contributing to the text, rather than detracting from it.

For some secondhand buyers, motivated more by sentiment than money, the traces of past readers are part of the appeal of what Virginia Woolf termed “wild books”. In his pursuit of a complete set of Picadors, author Nicholas Royle has amassed a collection of paraphernalia tucked inside their pages: business cards, boarding passes, photographs, cheques, currency, love letters. “I call these things ‘inclusions’, like flies or bits of bark caught in amber – because they’ve stopped time, in a way.”
How to woo a bookworm … Photograph: Wayne Gooderham

His favourite is a love letter “to somebody called Andrew, from somebody called Catherine”, written at 10.30pm on a Thursday, found in a hardback copy of The Duchess of York, by Lady Cynthia Asquith. “I’m quite nosy – I’m interested in stories within stories, and that’s literally that,” says Royle. “One story is about the Duchess of York and within it there’s this other story about the relationship between these two people. You’re thinking, ‘How did it end up here, how did it get given away?’”

Covering the walls of Skoob Books – in the bowels of the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury, London, where Gooderham finds most of his inscriptions – are finds from inside donations: postcards, photographs, foreign currency. (The most ever found was a US $1,000 note – though James, behind the counter, declines to go on the record about what happened to it.)

Some of these are powerfully evocative of past readers: it is impossible not to wonder about the person who carefully clipped a newspaper story headed “Forest trail ‘may lead to Bigfoot’”, now yellowed and curling on the wall above Skoob’s till. Sometimes, Royle says, he will buy a book he otherwise wouldn’t because of what he found inside it, which he is careful to keep on exactly the same page.

He himself treats books “quite carefully”, he says – not writing in them, never dog-earing. (“No! God no.”) When Royle comes across those he has written in secondhand shops, “I like to see that they’ve been well-read. I like to see the spine broken, and pages turned over, and names written in the front. But I would never do that to a book myself.”

(Source: The Guardian)

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Sex slavery in Islamic India

Enslavement of women, children and men, followed by their sexual exploitation was an integral part of the Muslim rule in Medieval India.

by KS Lal

Women and children were special targets for enslavement throughout the medieval period, that is, during Muslim invasions and Muslim rule. Captive children of both sexes grew up as Muslims and served the sultans, nobles and men of means in various captives. Enslavement of young women was also due to many reasons; their being sex objects was the primary consideration and hence concentration on their captivity.

Psychology regarding Sex
Islam originated in the Arabian peninsula which is by and large stony and sandy. There is no luxuriant herbage, there are no lofty trees or winding rivers. Muhammad used to say that “three things gladden the eye of the gazer: green fields, running water, and fair faces.” [1] Since green fields and running water were denied to the medieval Arab, he concentrated on deriving comfort and society mainly in fair faces. This phenomenon became prominent in the course of Islamic history throughout the world.

In the campaigns launched by Muslims, it was easy to capture women, more so after their menfolk had been massacred. The Prophet’s one great aim was propagation of his religion and as Margoliouth observes, “Abu Bakr (the chief campaigner for Muhammad’s creed) probably was aware that women are more amenable to conversion than men.... slaves than freemen, persons in distress than persons in prosperity and affluence.”[2]  Women slaves turned concubines could increase Muslim population by leaps and bounds when captured in large numbers[3]. Hence there was particular keenness on enslaving women from the very beginning of Islam.

This was also encouraged by the injunctions of the Quran. Muslims are allowed four wives besides they are allowed to cohabit with any of their female slaves. Surah iv:3 says, “Then marry what seem to be good to you of women”; Surah iv:29, “Take what your right hand possesses of young women”, and Surah xxxiii:49, “Verily we make lawful for thee what thy right hand possesses out of the booty God hath granted thee.” Muslims are allowed to take possession of married women if they are slaves. Surah iv:28 declares, “Unlawful for you are... married women, save such as your right hand possesses”, that is, female slaves captured in war. Manucci’s observation on the seventeenth century India is significant in this regard. He says that “all Muhammadans are fond of women, who are their principal relaxation and almost their only pleasure.” [4]

From the teachings of the Quran quoted above, it will be seen that while Muhammad restricted the number of lawful wives, he did not restrict the number of slave girls and concubines.[5] All female slaves taken as plunder in war are the lawful property of their master, and the master has power to take to himself any female slave married or single. T.P. Hughes adds that “there is absolutely no limit to the number of slave girls with whom a Muhammadan may cohabit, and it is the consecration of this illimitable indulgence which so popularizes the Muhammadan religion amongst uncivilized nations, and so popularizes slavery in the Muslim religion”.[6]

In brief, the climatic conditions of Arabia the birth-place of Islam, Muhammad’s life-style as a model for Muslims, and injunctions in the Quran and the Hadis, determined Muslim psychology about women. Islam permits polygamy with unbelievable liberality. A man can have four wives at any point of time, that is, if he chooses to have a fifth one, he can divorce one of the already at hand and keep the number within the legal limits of four. Besides, he can have as many slave girls or concubines as he pleases. It is related in the Hadis that Muhammad said that “when the servant of God marries, he perfects half his religion.... Consequently in Islam, even the ascetic orders are rather married than single.” [7] In Islam there is provision for temporary marriage (muta), multi-marriages, divorce, remarriage of widows, concubinage — in short, there is freedom from all inhibitions and reservations in matters of sex. The insistence is on everybody marrying and celibacy is frowned upon. According to a tradition derived from Ibn Abbas and quoted by Ibn S’ad, popularly known as Katib al-Waqidi the Prophet’s biographer, Muhammad said that “in my ummah, he is the best who has the largest number of wives.” [8]

It has been repeatedly said Musalmans are allowed by the Quran and the Hadis to have four wives. The aphorisms and maxims current about this phenomenon indicate that all wives could not have been procured in the normal way; some would have been purchased, some others captured. One aphorism says, “One quarrels with you, two are sure to involve you in their quarrels; when you have three, factions are formed against her you love best; but four find society and occupation among themselves, leaving the husband in peace.” [9]  According to another, “Wives there be four: there’s Bedfellow, Muckheap [dirty], Gadabout [idle] and Queen O’ women. The more the pity that the last is one in a hundred.” [10]  Yet another says, “A man should marry four wives: A Persian to have some one to talk to; a Khurasani woman for his housework; a Hindu for nursing his children; a woman from Mawaraun nahr, or Transoxiana, to have someone to whip as a warning to the other three.”  [11] The mention of so many nationalities in the sayings show that obtaining wives and concubines through all kinds of means — capture, purchase, enslavement — was in vogue among medieval Muslims.

In later times, this encouragement to polygamy was taken advantage of by Muslim conquerors. That Muhammad restricted the number of lawful wives but did not restrict the number of slave concubines, came handy to Musalmans. He “thus left upon the minds of his followers the inevitable impression that an unrestricted polygamy was the higher state...” [12] Hazrat Umar, the second Caliph, was the first to allow instant divorce (by the pronouncement of talaq, talaq, talaq, three times) called talaq-i-bidat (innovative form of divorce), “to meet an extraordinary situation brought on by wars of conquests”. Those wars brought in such an influx of women that constant divorce became necessary to falicitate quick acquisition of fresh spouses by divorcing the old ones. “Victory over an enemy would seem to have been consummated only when the enemy’s daughter was introduced into the conqueror’s harem” [13] — a precept so enthusiastically practised by Muslim conquerors and rulers in India.

It is therefore no wonder that from the day the Muslim invaders marched into India to the time when their political power declined, women were systematically captured and enslaved throughout the length and breadth of the country. Two instances pertaining to two extreme points of time would suffice as examples. When Muhammad bin Qasim mounted his attack on Debal in 712, all males of the age of seventeen and upwards were put to the sword and their women and children were enslaved.[14]  And after the Third Battle of Panipat (1761), “the unhappy prisoners were paraded in long lines, given a little parched grain and a drink of water, and beheaded... and the women and children who survived were driven off as slaves — twenty-two thousand, many of them of the highest rank in the land, says the Siyar- ul-Mutakh irin ,” [15]

The special interest of Muslims in sex slavery was universal and widespread and a plethora of evidence is available in contemporary Persian chronicles. In fact, Muslim historians derive extra delight in narrating anecdotes and stating facts about Muslim indulgence in sex and allied activities. Two incidents from the lives of the first two Sultans, Qutbuddin Aibak and Shamsuddin Iltutmish, may be mentioned here as examples.

On the arrival of Qutbuddin Aibak at Karman (situated between Kabul and Bannu), Tajuddin Yaldoz received him with great kindness and honour and gave him his daughter in marriage. A fete was held on the occasion and poetical descriptions in Hasan Nizami’s Taj-ul-Maasir follow — “of stars, female beauty, cup-bearers, curls, cheeks, eyes, lips, mouths, stature, elegance, cups, wine, singers, guitars, bar- bets, trumpets, flutes, drums, of the morning, and the sun.”- [16] And again, when Aibak, some years later tried to remove Yaldoz form his kingdom, he marched to Ghazni and occupied the throne. But only for forty days, for during this period he was “wholly engaged in revelry”, wine and riot, and the affairs of the country through this constant festivity were neglected, and the “Turks of Ghazni and Muizzi Maliks” invited Yaldoz back to his capital. Aibak was incapable of opposing him and retired to Delhi.[17]

The following anecdote is related of Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish. He was greatly enamoured of a Turkish slave girl in his harem, whom he had purchased, and sought her caresses, but was always unable to achieve his object. One day he was seated, having his head anointed with some perfumed oil by the hands of the same slave girl, when he felt some tears fall on his head. On looking up, he found that she was weeping. He inquired of her the cause. She replied, “Once I had a brother who had such a bald place on his head as you have, and it reminds me of him.” On making further inquiries it was found that the slave girl was his own sister. They had both been sold as slaves, in their early childhood, by their half-brothers; and thus had Almighty God saved him from committing a great sin. Badaoni states in his work, “I heard this story myself, from the emperor Akbar’s own lips, and the monarch stated that this anecdote had been orally traced to Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban himself.” [18]

[Shamsuddin Iltutmish (1211-1236 AD)]
Distribution of Slave Girls
Marriages brought servants and bandis, but the largest number of slave girls was collected during raids, campaigns and wars throughout the medieval period. We have briefly seen the achievements of Muslims in this regard from the time of Muhammad bin Qasim onwards. It was a consistent policy to kill all males, especially those capable of bearing arms, and enslave their hapless women.[19] Al Biladuri writes that “the governors (who succeeded Qasim) continued to kill the enemy, taking whatever they could acquire...” [20] Most of the captives were distributed among nobles and soldiers. Two examples of this custom may be given, one from the Sultanate and the other form the Mughal period.

Muhammad bin Tughlaq became notorious for enslaving women and his reputation in this regard spread far and wide. Ibn Battuta who visited India during his reign and stayed at the Court for a long time writes:

“At (one) time there arrived in Delhi some female infidel captives, ten of whom the Vazir sent to me. I gave one of them to the man who had brought them to me.... My companion took three girls, and — I do not know what happened to the rest.” [21]

On the large scale distribution of girl slaves on the occasion of Muslim festivals like Id, he writes:

“First of all, daughters of Kafir (Hindu) Rajas captured during the course of the year, come and sing and dance. Thereafter they are bestowed upon Amirs and important foreigners. After this daughters of other Kafirs dance and sing... The Sultan gives them to his brothers, relatives, sons of Maliks etc. On the second day the durbar is held in a similar fashion after Asr. Female singers are brought out... the Sultan distributes them among the Mameluke Amirs” [22]

Thousands of non-Muslim women were distributed in the above manner in later years.[23]

Shahjahan attacked the Portuguese in Hugh in 1632, and captured many women. One such was Maria de Taides “one of the sisters living in the palace of king Sahajahan.” [24] Maria de Taides was later married to Ali Mardan Khan.[25] One Thomazia Martins also had been taken captive during the fall of Hugli. Many more like these were distributed among the nobles.

[Muhammad bin Tughluq (1300-1351)]

Slave girls had two main functions to perform, domestic service and providing sex if and when required. In medieval Muslim society sex slavery and concubinage were almost interchangeable terms. For the polygamous Muslim men of means slave girls and maids were as much in demand as kanchanis or dancing girls, concubines or even free born women. Whether they were purchased in the open market [26], or captured during war, or selected during excursions, or came as maids of brides, in short whatever their channel of entry into the harem, the slave girls kept in the palace of the king or mahals of the nobles were invariably good looking. Their faces determined their place in the harem and in the heart of the master. Their being a little sexy was an additional attraction [27], but those with bad breath and odour in the arm- pits were avoided as unpleasant smell was repugnant to kissing and caressing.[28] They used to be elegantly attired. Their garments were sometimes gifted to them by their masters or mistresses. It was a custom that the princesses did not wear again the dresses they put on once, and gave them away to their bandis.[29] Some favourite slave girls were taught to sing and play on musical instruments. Many of them were trained to recite verses, naghmas and gbazals. The habit of speaking elegantly in correct diction and immaculate pronunciation was so familiar to the females of Muslim society that maids too were readily distinguished by their refined language. Placed as they were, they knew how to win the hearts of their masters who gave them lovely and caressing names like Gulab, Champa, Chameli, Nargis, Kesar, Kasturi, Gul-i- Badam, Sosan, Yasmin, Gul-i-Rana, Gul Andam, Gul Anar, Saloni, Madhumati, Sugandhara, Koil, Gulrang, Mehndi, Dil Afroz, Moti, Ketki, Mrig Nain, Kamal Nain, Basanti etc., etc. Elaborating on their ethnic status Manucci adds that

“All the above names are Hindu, and ordinarily these ...are Hindus by race, who had been carried off in infancy from various villages or the houses of different rebel Hindu princes. In spite of their Hindu names, they are however,-Mahomedans.” [30]

As a rule, “being kafir is a defect in both ghulam and bandi as by nature the Musalman detests to associate with or keep company of a kafir.” [31] Obviously, the number of such converted slave girls was so large that even Hindu names of all of them could not be changed to Islamic ones. For instance, while under Aurangzeb women and children of the Rajputs and Marathas [32] were regularly enslaved during raids and invasions, even nobles of lesser note indulged in reckless enslavement throughout. Sidi Yaqut of Janjira or Zanjira (Zanj is used for black African), once took a Maratha fort and seven hundred persons came out. Notwithstanding his word to grant quarter to the garrison “he made the children and pretty women slaves, and forcibly converted them to Islam... but the men he put to death.” [33]


Early in the eighteenth century Muslim rule in India set on its path of decline. The harems of royalty and nobility began to suffer from a financial crunch. Many slave girls in these establishments, unable to bear the rigours of penury, left their palaces and mansions and took up quarters in the cities to fend for themselves. Thousands of eunuch guards of the harems also took to the streets when their services were dispensed with or starvation knocked at their doors.[34]

In their effort to provide means of livelihood for themselves many slave girls adopted the profession of dancing girls and prostitutes and hundreds of eunuchs, thrown out of employment, turned bhands and hijras. Prostitution is practised the world over, hijras are a people peculiar to India. Basically, and historically, they have come down or ‘descended’ from the medieval eunuchs.

A typical and complete hijra was Sultan Qutbuddin Mubarak Khalji (1316-1320). He occasionally dressed himself in female attire, embroidered with laces and adorned with gems, and went about dancing in the houses of the nobles like a typical hijra. Similarly, Hasan Kangu, the ruler of Malabar, often used to come to court {darbar-i-am) dressed in the fashion of females. He bedecked his arms and neck with jewellery and ornaments and used to ask his nobles to treat him to sexual passivity.[35] In short, the courts of Qutbuddin and Hasan Kangu presented licence and obscenity of the hijras in utter nakedness.

In the polygamous Muslim society some men possessed a plurality of women leaving many other men to remain unmarried. This led the latter to entice, abduct and enslave girls wherever possible as well as to make love to beardless boys (amrads) and hijras. Thus need combined with perversion contributed to the proliferation of hijras. This is amply reflected in a brief survey of life in Delhi in Muraqqa-i-Dihli (Album of Delhi) written by Dargah Quli Khan who visited the metropolis in 1738-39 and often walked through its streets. Like in the fourteenth, in the eighteenth century also one found in the city of Delhi boys dancing in a world of lecherous sinners soliciting their hearts’ desire. Amrads were as much in demand as courtesans.[36] During and after the decline of the Mughal empire, hijras did not remain confined to cities like Delhi or Agra. They spread far and wide but especially where the scions or governors of the Mughals established independent states like in Avadh or Hyderabad. A good number of hijras are found in Lucknow and in Hyderabad, as well as in cities like Bombay where ‘composite culture’ and a respectable presence of Muslims obtains.

These unfortunate hijras, who have continued as a legacy of the Muslim slave system, still play a pernicious and parasitical role in Indian society. Their aggressive demand for benefaction makes them detested. There are many negative aspects of Muslim slave system of which probably the hijra is the worst. But in medieval times hijras were as essential a part of Muslim society as any other section. In Delhi and its environs there are extant a number of mausoleums, called Gumbads, of the Saiyyad and Lodi period. It is an interesting fact that with Bare Khan Ka Gumbad (Dome and Tomb), Chhote Khan Ka Gumbad, Dadi ka Gumbad, and Poti Ka Gumbad, there is also the famous Hijre Ka Gumbad.[37]

This excerpt is taken from MUSLIM SLAVE SYSTEM IN INDIA by KS Lal and reproduced with the kind permission of the publisher.

References / Footnotes
[1]       Margoliouth, Muhammad, 149-
[2]       Margoliouth, 97. For role of women in spreading Islam see also Arnold, Preaching of Islam, 234.
[3]       Arnold, 365.
[4]       Manucci, II, 240; also 336-338, 391-93. 467; Lai, The Mughal Harem, 164 and n. 49, 50, 51.
[5]       Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, 464.
[6]       Ibid., 600.
[7]       Hughes, 313-14.
[8]       Ram Swarup, Understanding Islam, through Hadis, 57 and n.
[9]       Burton, Sindh Revisited, I, 340.
[10]      Bary, 81.
[11]       Ain., I, 327. All these three references have been given in Herklot, Islam in India, 85-86.
[12]       Hughes, 464.
[13]       Margoliouth, 177.
[14]       W.Haig in C.H.I.,111, 3; Chachnama Kalichbeg, 82-84.
[15]       H.G.Rawlinson in C.H.I., IV, 424 and n.
[16]       E.D., II. 221.
[17]       Minhaj, 506, 526n.
[18]       Ibid., Reverty in 601n.
[19]       Chachnama, Kalichbeg, 83, 155, l6l, 173-74; E.D., I, 164, 170-71, 203; Al Biladuri, E.D., I, 123. For massacres of Alauddin Khalji, Khazain-ul-Fatuh, Habib trs, 49.
[20]       Al Biladuri, op.cit. 127.
[21]       Ibn Battuta, 123.
[22]       Ibn Battuta, 63; Hindi tras., in Rizvi, Tughlaq Kalin Bharat part I, Aligarh 1956, 189-
[23]       Afif, 119-20, 180, 265.
[24]       Manucci, I, 202; II, 35; III, 179.
[25]       Saksena, B.P., History of Shahjahan, 89, 112-13, for the Portuguese captives of Hughli and female prisoners of the Bundela ruling family of Orcna.
[26]       Barani, 314-15; Bernier, 426.
[27]       Ashraful Hidayah, VIII, 138.
[28]       Ibid., 137.
[29]       Bernier, 258; Manucci, II, 341
[30]       Manucci, II, 336-38.
[31]       Ashraf-ul-Hidayah, Deoband, VIII, 138-39- P. Venkateshwar Rao Jr., in his review of Akbar Ahmed’s, BBC BKs/Penguin, From Samarkand to Stornoway living Islam, in the Indian*Express Sunday Magazine, June 27, 1993, observes: "He (Ahmed) hates Muslim wives whose children have Hindu names.” But that is the legal position. A Musalman is expected to detest the company of a kafir, in spite of the efforts made for acquiring non-Muslim wives in medieval and modern times. But Ahmed’s aim is, as he himself claims, to show “where Muslims are able to live by the ideal and where they are not”.
[32]       Khafi Khan, II, 300, 371.
[33]       Ibid., II, 228, 261 ff, 498 ff.
[34]       Lai, Mughal Harem, 198,199.
[35]        Barani, 396; Afif, 261-62
[36]       Muraqqa-i-Dihli, Persian text and trs. in Urdu by Nurul Hasan Ansari, 129-34, 192-205 respectively.
[37]       Percy Brown, Indian Architecture (Islamic Period) third ed. 28-29; Carr Stephen, Archaeology and Monumental Remains of Delhi, 196-97; Archaeological Survey Report, IV, 67ff; XX, 155-58. Also Lai, Twilight, 230-31 for other references.

(Source: Pragyata)

The Silurian Hypothesis

When I was eleven, we lived in an English Tudor on Bluff Road in Glencoe, Illinois. One day, three strange men (two young, one old) knocked on the door. Their last name was Frank. They said they’d lived in this house before us, not for weeks but decades. For twenty years, this had been their house. They’d grown up here. Though I knew the house was old, it never occurred to me until then that someone else had lived in these rooms, that even my own room was not entirely my own. The youngest of the men, whose room would become mine, showed me the place on a brick wall hidden by ivy where he’d carved his name. “Bobby Frank, 1972.” It had been there all along. And I never even knew it.

That is the condition of the human race: we have woken to life with no idea how we got here, where that is or what happened before. Nor do we think much about it. Not because we are incurious, but because we do not know how much we don’t know.

What is a conspiracy?

It’s a truth that’s been kept from us. It can be a secret but it can also be the answer to a question we’ve not yet asked.

Modern humans have been around for about 200,000 years, but life has existed on this planet for 3.5 billion. That leaves 3,495,888,000 pre-human years unaccounted for—more than enough time for the rise and fall of not one but several pre-human industrial civilizations. Same screen, different show. 

Same field, different team. An alien race with alien technology, alien vehicles, alien folklore, and alien fears, beneath the familiar sky. There’d be no evidence of such bygone civilizations, built objects and industry lasting no more than a few hundred thousand years. After a few million, with plate tectonics at work, what is on the surface, including the earth itself, will be at the bottom of the sea and the bottom will have become the mountain peaks. The oldest place on the earth’s surface—a stretch of Israel’s Negev Desert—is just over a million years old, nothing on a geological clock.

The result of this is one of my favorite conspiracy theories, though it’s not a conspiracy in the conventional sense, a conspiracy usually being a secret kept by a nefarious elite. In this case, the secret, which belongs to the earth itself, has been kept from all of humanity, which believes it has done the only real thinking and the only real building on this planet, as it once believed the earth was at the center of the universe.

Called the Silurian Hypothesis, the theory was written in 2018 by Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at NASA’s Goddard Institute, and Adam Frank, an astrophysicist at the University of Rochester. Schmidt had been studying distant planets for hints of climate change, “hyperthermals,” the sort of quick temperature rises that might indicate the moment a civilization industrialized. 

It would suggest the presence of a species advanced enough to turn on the lights. Such a jump, perhaps resulting from a release of carbon, might be the only evidence that any race, including our own, will leave behind. Not the pyramids, not the skyscrapers, not Styrofoam, not Shakespeare—in the end, we will be known only by a change in the rock that marked the start of the Anthropocene.

It was logical for Schmidt and Frank to turn their attention from the upper to the under, from the cosmos to our own earth. Why look for alien life there when we might find it here, removed not by miles but years. There was indeed a mysterious jump in surface heat; 55 million years ago, global temperatures rose from 9 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Called the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, it left the same sort of geological evidence that will be left by our current carbon binge. 

There may have been other jumps, but we wouldn’t know it, as the geologic record only goes back so far. (We live in a compactor, where all things are crushed, recycled, and returned as new.) A meteor could’ve caused the Thermal Maximum, or it could’ve been the eruption of a monster volcano, the sort that presently smolders beneath the Atlantic. Or it could have been caused by the awakening of an ancient civilization, which rose like we rose, then fell as we will. That could be the fate of all advanced species, a rise and fall that flows as naturally as the change of seasons. Such a universe is ironic, continually creating characters whose technology brings on the very end they’re trying to avoid.

When Schmidt and Frank searched, they found a single forerunner to their idea of deep time. It came not from science, but from science fiction. At this level of conjecture, there’s little difference. It was an episode of Dr. Who, in which the time traveler visits an ancient species of advanced, long-extinct lizard people who’d achieved technological mastery 450 million years before modern man. The lizards were called Silurians, hence the Silurian Hypotheses.

It’s not really a new idea. Ancient mystical texts hint at earlier creation, the life that preceded the Garden, prequels to Genesis. These incarnations are not reported in the Bible because they are none of your goddamn business, but the evidence is everywhere. Some students of conspiracy believe there was a time when lizard people shared the earth with modern men, the older race dying as the younger emerged from the forest. T

he last of the lizards were worshipped as gods; these were the deities of ancient India and Greece. The technology—weapons and machines—created miracles. You can see the lizard kings in carvings from Mesopotamia, the oldest historical records, where humans bow before reptile men. You find them again in the Torah, where they appear as Nephilim, the so-called watchers—“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days and also afterward when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them,” according to Genesis, “they were the heroes of old, men of renown”—which no priest, minister, or rabbi can properly explain. Just ask a clergyman and see for yourself. (I asked my rabbi.) There is some weird shit in the Bible.

According to a kabbalah-besotted friend, this world is God’s seventh creation, which explains dinosaur bones and other fossils. “The evidence is everywhere,” he told me one night. “They can say a meteor wiped out the past, but what is a meteor? God.” Some believe there are still Silurians walking the earth, holdovers who share their technology with a hidden elite—possibly Freemasons, possibly Jews. Some pseudoscientists speak of an atomic blast that took place in India 10,000 years ago. It might’ve been a natural phenomenon, or might’ve been the war that wiped out the Silurians or drove them off the earth. A website called Vedic Knowledge reported evidence “of an atomic blast dating back thousands of years. It destroyed most of the buildings and probably a half-million people in Rajasthan, India. One researcher estimates that the bomb used was about the size of the ones dropped on Japan in 1945.”

This ancient catastrophe, which some take as evidence of an ancient nuclear war, shows up in the Mahabharata, a Sanskrit epic, with the appearance of “a single projectile charged with all the power in the Universe … An incandescent column of smoke and flame as bright as 10,000 suns, rose in all its splendor … it was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death which reduced to ashes an entire race.”

It’s heartbreaking—the fact that, as we face the nightmare of climate change, some of us have read our own perilous present back into the geological past and have come to see even our apocalypse as unremarkable, something that’s been experienced before and was inevitable from the start. It’s thrilling, too, the idea of a pre-human industrial civilization. It means we don’t know anything: who we are, or where, or even the history of our own home.

(Source: The Paris Review)

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Australia fires: Yearly greenhouse gas emissions nearly double due to historic blazes

The Met Office says that the Australian fires could account for 1 to 2 percent of the acceleration in the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2020

The Australia bushfires, which are still burning and claimed an additional three lives this week, have released enough greenhouse gases to double the country's annual greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, new scientific estimates show.

Guido van der Werf, who helps maintain the Global Fire Emissions Database, says the fires in New South Wales and Victoria in particular have emitted around 400 million tons of carbon dioxide so far, “pushing country-level estimates for all of 2019 to a new record in the satellite era” of about 900 million tons of carbon dioxide.
A worker tries to put out a bushfire behind a row of factories near West Queanbeyan (Reuters)

The smoke plumes from the fires have circled the globe, and have coated glaciers brown in New Zealand, led to reddish sunsets in South America, and may have reached Antarctica.

According to the Global Carbon Project, in 2018, Australia emitted 421 million tons of carbon dioxide, making it the 16th-largest emitter worldwide, ranking just above the UK. Typically, fire-related emissions are not included in annual estimates of a country's emissions, since such pollutants tend to be reabsorbed over time.

In a typical fire year in Australia, large amounts of grasslands burn in sparsely populated areas. The carbon emitted by these fires tends to be reabsorbed during the following wet season.

However, this year, vast forest ecosystems that serve as long-term carbon savings accounts, having taken in carbon and stored it in biomass, went up in flames, such as in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. This carbon was released into the atmosphere during the fires, and it could take decades for the forests to recover to the point where they are net absorbers of such quantities of carbon dioxide once again.

In fact, full recovery may never happen, particularly if more fires burn in these forests in rapid succession, Mr van der Werf noted.

In another indication of the climate change implications of the bush fires, the UK Met Office said on Friday that the Australian fires could account for 1 to 2 percent of the acceleration in the growth of the global concentration of carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphere in 2020.

Mr Van der Werf cautioned that the Australia fire emissions estimate comes with “substantial” uncertainties traced mainly to the unprecedented nature of these fires.

Niels Andela, a research scientist at NASA who also works on the fire emissions database, says two independent examinations of greenhouse gas emissions from the 2019-2020 bush fires both reached relatively similar conclusions, bolstering his confidence in the numbers.

In an interview, Mr Andela said the emissions estimates are generated using instruments carried by different satellites that detect the heat signatures of wildfires. The emissions database utilises historical data to locate hot spots as well as the energy released by wildfires, both of which spiked to unprecedented heights in southeastern Australia in recent months.

The historical data and observations is fed into a computer model to determine the likely emissions.

However, more accurate measurements will require information about the ecosystems burnt as well as the precise burnt area, which takes time to generate.

Mr Andela said the uncertainty involved in near-real-time estimates could be as high as 50% due to questions about historic estimates of fire emissions. In the case of the Australia bush fires, he says, the uncertainty is high because no one has ever seen fires burn like this in these ecosystems under such historically hot and dry conditions.

This could throw off assumptions in the model about how much of the forests burned.

Last year was the hottest and driest year on record in Australia, and December saw the country shatter its record for the hottest-ever day nationally.

With climate extremes becoming more severe and common worldwide as the global temperatures increase, real-time wildfire emissions estimates are likely to take on added importance. In 2019, for example, there was a spate of fires throughout the boreal forest in the Arctic, and 2018 was the most damaging and deadly fire year in California's history.

Mr Andela says the carbon cycle implications of the Australian forest loss are hugely important, since it will take decades for these forests to become efficient absorbers of greenhouse gases again. And that will only happen if more bush fires do not disturb these regions during their recovery period and logging does not expand.

In Australia, a debate is taking place over whether to thin out forests to make them less fire-prone, although scientific evidence shows the biggest drivers of fire risk is heat and drought, not forest density. Climate change heightens both of these risk factors.

Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University, said it's possible that by the time the bushfires are finally extinguished, the emissions from this fire season will be close to a billion tons of carbon dioxide. This would be below the fires that burned in Indonesian peatlands in 1997-1998, but roughly on par with the peat fires there of 2015-2016.

Jackson said even a half billion tons of carbon emissions is important, since, “It's the extra [carbon] that keeps adding up in the atmosphere.”

“If fire emissions increase in Australia and Western North America, they will make our job harder,” Jackson said, referring to efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. “More importantly,” he said, “They'll change lives. We'll have to rethink firefighting, controlled burns, where we live, that's happening in California too.”

“Is this a transformation of Australia's ecosystems?” he said.

Noting that many national parks saw the most severe fires, Jackson said such fires have been “devastating” from a carbon storage perspective as well as species conservation.

“They're having catastrophic fires in the parks. And the parks have in many places the biggest biomass, the richest systems,” he said. “It's more than just acreage. It's what acres are being burned.”

(Source: Independent)

Rajinikanth in Bandipur Tiger Reserve, to feature in ‘Man vs Wild’ with Bear Grylls

Speaking to The New Indian Express, a senior forest department official said permission for the shooting has been given for six hours in a day for January 28 and 30 with a special guest each day.

Popular movie star Rajinikanth is now busy and so is Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The actor and a team of documentary makers from the popular international series Man Vs Wild are in the tiger reserve to shoot the documentary since Monday evening. The shooting is scheduled for six hours on Tuesday and again on Thursday.
After PM Modi, Rajinikanth to shoot ‘Man vs Wild’ with Bear Grylls. (Photo | PTI)

The series caught Indian attention after Prime Minister Narendra Modi shot for the series in the forests of northern India with British adventurer Bear Grylls.

Speaking to The New Indian Express, a senior forest department official said permission for the shooting has been given for six hours in a day for January 28 and 30 with a special guest each day. On Tuesday it is with Rajanikanth and on 30th noted Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar is also expected.

"Permission for the shooting has been given for Sultan Batteri highway and ranges of Mulleholle, Maddur and Kalkere ranges. They will be shooting in the non-tourism zones. If permission to was given to Wild Karnataka shooting, then this is also permitted and besides chief wildlife warden has given permission. Also, no tourism or regular forest patrolling and fire line creation activities will be affected. The shooting Wil be done under special forest protection and no one will be aware of the locations," the official said.

The permission for the shooting of films and documentaries inside forest areas of Karnataka is only increasing, the department must exercise caution, this will only lead to more man-animal conflict, said, conservationists. 

(Source: TNIE)

I miscarried a child 20 years ago, and I know the language we use really matters

Women’s traumatic experiences are made light of with weird, evasive language. No wonder so many end up with PTSD

It was the day before my nephew’s barmitzvah, almost 20 years ago, when family and friends would gather to celebrate my sister’s son’s coming of age. 

After nine years, my parents had just accepted my wife into the family: this was going to be an important moment for us as a couple. But it wasn’t the happy event I’d hoped for.

My wife and I had already told my parents – and others – that we were pregnant. I wanted a boy, and we knew his name: Eli. That day before the barmitzvah, I was due to have the all-important first scan where a heartbeat would be detected – but when I woke that morning I knew something was wrong.
‘Society has much to answer for on this. To be a family is seen by many as having children.’ Photograph: Alamy

Our friends enjoyed our good news and grieved with us in our sad news. Who do we protect if we remain silent?

At the hospital a scan showed the sac but no heartbeat. I was to return to the hospital on Monday but first had to go through an entire weekend of family celebration. I’d alerted my parents, telling my dad not to ask me to dance as I probably wouldn’t want to, so he danced with my wife instead – something I never thought I would see.

On Monday I was given medication to start the miscarriage. From hospital bed to my own bed, I was in the most excruciating pain, unable to get any relief. A day later I had a D&C procedure to remove anything that was left from my uterus, and that was it. Eli was gone. We were heartbroken. That was to be my only pregnancy.

Friends came to the rescue. Those who had miscarried were sympathetic and kind. Those who had given birth were very much aware of their luck. I am glad we previously shared our excitement about the pregnancy with those friends, regardless of any supposed 12-week rule – it meant they were there for us right from the start through to the end. Our friends enjoyed our good news and grieved with us in our sad news. Whom do we protect if we remain silent? We need to talk about miscarriage more – we need to talk to the professionals but also to each other.

Prior to treatment, because we were a same-sex couple, we had to undergo counselling to ensure we would be “good” parents. When I miscarried there was no counselling offered. Maybe this has changed now, but given my miscarriage and the experience of other people I know, it’s clear we need greater care and support. This is vital for our mental and physical wellbeing. 

Our bodies and minds have suffered a great trauma. We have been filled with pregnancy hormones, readying us to carry a child, to nourish it, watch it flourish and enter the world. To lose that causes tremendous distress. It’s not surprising then to read a study this week that suggests “one in six women who lose a baby in early pregnancy experience long-term symptoms of post-traumatic stress”. We need help.

After I miscarried, a friend who did have a child said to me, “Oh well, nothing’s changed for you, your life is the same as it was before.” We are no longer friends. Everything had changed.

Society has much to answer for on this. To be a family is seen by many as having children. Women are expected to procreate. The number of miscarriages some women go through before a live birth is shattering. Is this because as women we do not want to be seen as failures? The very formulation of the word miscarriage can denote a mistake, an error, a failure to meet the intended result. But it is not a mistake or a failure, it is just unlucky. It is simply an ending.

All of us – including the medical professionals – need to rethink our language around miscarriage. We should not camouflage what has happened and pretend it is something else in case we cause upset. We are already upset. 

Those cells and tissue are part of us, not some alien matter. Miscarriage is tough. Whether we miscarry at six weeks or 12 weeks or 23 weeks, the result is heartbreaking. Our minds and bodies are deeply distressed. We are grieving. We need proper care from those who are trained to give it, acknowledging our loss and offering space to heal.

My miscarriage was almost 20 years ago, but my wife and I still relive it. We still wonder who Eli would have grown into, how we would have raised him. We note his would-have-been birthdays every year. The pain never goes away completely. We cried for a very long time. We still cry. And we still talk about it. Because dialogue matters. It really matters. The right words matter.

(Source: The Guardian)