Srinagar, 1933: Kamla goes to Bombay…girls out of school…

I am not sure how Loch Ness came about. But such things do catch interest and become a part of folklore. This one did too.

Grandmother often (when irritated) blames Kamla. ‘Yi nay Kamlayi aasihey payimach trath” [ If only, Kamla hadn’t been struck…].

In circa 1933, in Srinagar, Kamla was amongst the first few girls to get a “B.A.” degree. Her father was a famous doctor and possibly due to the influence of strong leaders (a la Nehru) had gone ahead and given his daughter the education, she deserved, in times when it was rather rare in the valley.

Post her B.A. , Kamla decided she was in love with Vaikunth. Vaikunth was also a doctor, however, he was also her cousin (maasi’s-mother’s sister’s- son). Now in a Hindu family getting married to cousins is not allowed. She soon realised given the times, falling in love & girls selecting their own grooms was unusual and to top him being a cousin was most unnatural, she would not get any leeway, even with her forward-looking father.

So, with Vaikunth she ran away to Bombay.

Meanwhile, it’s unknown whether it was her own plan, or the face saving by her family in Srinagar, her red haired plait was found near the restroom and the family proclaimed she was dead. People didn’t buy into it, and her father, Goonda Vaishav was taken around town on a donkey, held responsible for his daughter’s irresponsible behaviour which would leave a bad impression on all the girls around.

The women and songsters (typically more catty) made songs poking fun at the situation. Grandmother immediately quips: “Tumbaknaeri peth, bagwaan karin parda” [set on the Tumbaknaer (Kashmiri drum), God protect us]

Kamli  deech bombayi pyeth maelis taar [Kamla sent a telegram to her father from Bombay]
Chayas chor ser madrer khaar [ 4 ser of Tea and a Khaar of Sugar]*
Kum school ta kam kalez karin awaara [ She made many school and colleges go barren]
Saarni koryan karin laar [ She made sure all girls were driven away]
hatsa koryan parnas chu na vyavhaar [ Sir, girls and education doesn’t lead to acceptable behaviour]
saari koryi karik varaftaar [ She made all girls go varaftaar]

Goonda Vishanavy khorukh kharach dinchihas laar [ Goonda Vaishnav was given a donkey ride]

Vaikunth ta Kamlay kary kam kam kaar [ Vaikuntha and Kamla were into many a shameless deeds]

Vaikunthan kar maasaji panay taar [ Vaikuntha sent his uncle a telegram on his own]

Kehnay chuna parvay ye hay chi myon yaar [ Don’t worry, she is my beloved]
Vaikunthan dich maasi panniy taar [Vaikuntha made his relatives cross the river (Vaitarni) on his own]

Education had ruined Kamla and all elders (men) decided it was dangerous for girls to study in schools. Some girls (like grandmother) were educated at homes, most were bereft of it.

Till one day, Kamla’s ghost died away. It was never known whether Bombay was kind to Vaikunth and Kamla.

Here’s the weird part though, these were the stories people had “heard”, not sure if any of these were true. No fact based news on what she went to Bombay for, was she really in love with Vaikunth? Though, later she did come back and Kamla got married (don’t know to whom) and raised children. Her daughter turned out to be a doctor as well. Famous one hears.

The truth however was that the impact was real and detrimental. Very.

*Ser and Khaar are measurements with a Kg conversion which I will have to look up

  1. Vishal- Please realise I wrote this post *only for you* I mean I knew you would be most interested in details 🙂

    Vinayak- Wow! I didn’t know that about bombay tea, and damn! how wicked indeed 🙂

    Anon- Yes, please read it as- I love Bombay 🙂

  2. Really interesting story. And nothing like Grandma’s tale. I found the Chayas chor ser madrer khaar line intriguing. Certain type of Chai in Kashmir was called Bombay Tea as the leaves came from Bombay. Kashmiris always had a wicked sense of humor.

  3. Listen, theres gotta be a way of finding out what happened to Kamla is Bombay. Its important to know what happened there? How can we?

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