Qissa Khawani Bazaar

Our friend bulleyah is fighting the good fight in Delhi. He emailed earlier in the week that Delhi’s Sunday Book Bazaar faces closure by those municipal goons. Surrounded as I am by city-block sized Border’s and B&N’s, I forget the pleasures, the sights and the sounds of a book bazaar. Imagine, if you will, a sunday farmer’s market [make them organic farmers for further frisson]. Now substitute all the vegetables and fruits, piled on canvases, stacked on the ground, with books and magazines. And the barter and weighing of literature [that emily brontÎ is so yellowed, you gotta bring the price down].

My favorite bazaar, of course, is in Old Anarkali, Lahore. But, I did spend some time in Hyderabad and Peshawar’s book bazaars. The Peshawar one, especially. Qissa Khawani Bazaar or the Storytellers Market is one of those places that look terribly ordinary unless you peek behind the layers of paper and dust to the history. The standard version of its history is that it was founded by Paolo Avitable, the Italian governor of Peshawar under Raja Ranjit Singh, sometime around 1840. It quickly got the reputation for a place where travelers and traders sat, sipped green tea, ate chapli kababs and told stories. The romance of the bazaar grew as various European narratives begin to circulate [Kipling’s Mahbub Ali sat in the Qissa Khawani bazaar].

I visited it for the first time in ’88. By then, there were no storytellers left in the bazaar. Qissa Khawani was a big, wide sreet with merchants and traffic galore. You could still find the stories, though, if you knew. Right off the main thoroughfare, were quiet alleys and backways that took to shops and merchants who peddled stories. In cassettes by Pashto folk singers, accompanied usually with a rebab, were the stories called badalas. The titles were usually accessible to those who knew Persian or Urdu epics – Shirin wa Farhad or Yusuf wa Zulaikha – or who were well-versed in the Pashto epics of resistance [to the British and the Soviets]. One could also buy little pulp books with the stories. The original storytellers may have disappeared but these cassettes [and the texts] are an amazing primary source for this oral tradition. I think the Lok Virsa people have collected these stories.

On my most recent visit, two years ago, the place had changed considerably. Textile and other merchandise dominates the market. At first, I was disheartened, thinking that the old book stalls had disappeared. But, right when I got my first pinch on the ass, I saw that the stalls had morphed yet survived. The stories are still available in the storytellers market. They have even graduated from cassettes to VCDs and, strangely, skirts. And that just made me happy. Mahbub Ali would be at home.

Go fight the good fight with bulleyah, O ahl-delhi.

later: Har points to harneet who took some nice fotos of the delhi sunday bazaar.

Tap Tap

Pakistan has lost the internets due to “a serious fault in the undersea cable carrying data between Pakistan and the outside world”.

In unrelated news, USS Jimmy Carter is a fine looking submarine. Ahem.

In related news, some of your comments recently may have been blocked due to “questionable content”. My apologies. I accidently added the text string “hi” to my blacklist file. Yikes.

Full Court Press

Speaking of courts, we should probably try to get our noggins round SCOTUS, which has apparently lost its damn mind.

Earlier in CMís history, I wrote a little jeremiad on America getting the Supreme Court it deserved as punishment for allowing its legislature to punt all significant decisions sideways, to the ununelectable Supremes. I expected the nonsense to start later, and have more of an international flavor, perhaps like Korematsu v. United States, but aimed at folk like Sepoy; but it has begun sooner.

In the past few years, the Court has done some good things for hideous reasons (which is the very nut of bad law) and some hideous things for hideous reasons (which make me think theyíre Ringwraith parodies). The Rehnquist Court legacy is one of judicial activism par excellence: progressives should be girding for war, and small-c conservatives should be ashamed of what has become of their movement.

The problem is two-fold: First, the court is mired in academic positivism that requires it snuggle up to the jurisprudence of them who came before; second, the court has begun to resemble the institution its worst critics already thought it wasóa despotic, unelected group of knuckleheads who deliver holy writ to wee mortals from on high.

The courtís tendency to wrap policy within established theory is one of the reasons we get locked into generation-long skirmishes over dumb shitóconsider abortion, for instance, and its basis in an old substantive due process ìright to privacy,î or OíConnorís majority opinion on affirmative action, which holds that diversity is an important value that will not, however, be important 20 years from now. Would it be so hard to say, for once, why youíre doing what youíre doing, and just own up to the fact that youíre acting like an ad hoc, to the matter, legislature? I can deal with tyranny. Itís the condescending dishonesty that gets me red.

The courtís seeming obsession with the apostolic succession of constitutional principles gives us gun laws from the 18th century, and social policy (until we got the unmitigated right to sodomy, based infuriatingly, in part, on international precedent, and mostly on the fear that the rest of the world was laughing at us, instead of addressing and explicitly rejecting Americaís puritanical concern over whose peckers were in what orifices) from long before.

As a lefty who was a righty and retains his libertarian bent, I am most concerned with the courtís willingness to assume the bailiwicks abandoned by our jellyfish Congress, and worse yet, to let its wanderings in uncharted legislative territory lead it to places where Courts ought not go. Itís this binge into nonsense, this judicial freelancing, that presents a great threat to our system of government.

The recent Kelo decision is an attack on private property from the Right. For two centuries, America has retained the socialistic concept of the governmentís eminent domain (the right to seize) over private property for the public goodóa fine example being the Eisenhower Interstate System; now, the Rehnquist court has given the Right its theoretical corollaryótax revenue generated by private business as public good.

This much is very, very clear: your city, county, state or country can now take your house and give it to Wal-Mart; this right is Wal-Martís for the asking. For some time, the idea of the market as deity has been gaining groundóand though not necessarily at the heights of Olympus, it contends that the market has finally attained parity with the idea of the public good, and this reflects one of the final bricks in the wall surrounding an erstwhile North American gulag.

The court, in its madness, has spun so far out of control, that its rulings no longer follow any measure of predictabilityóimagine, if you will, the fucking whopper of a case that gets Scalia, Thomas, the ACLU and the NAACP fighting mad, and on the same side. Is there any constant that we can follow? Is there anything tying all this together?

I think soóanything that causes the Justices international chagrin (that is to say, American provinciality regarding lifestyle issues) will get dinged. Otherwise, the Court is moving back firmly toward a laissez faire, pre New-Deal model of economic theory. States are becoming more powerful, with some exceptions; the Federal apparatus is weakening, save for its defense, intelligence; and law enforcement branches, and corporate interests, via campaign donations and lobbyists, have so firm a grip on the reins of power through the hands of their bough and paid for congresspeople that settled issues like the constitutional right to discharge in bankruptcy, or the ability of an individual to hold property without fear of having it stripped from him by a big-box-store lusting city council, that we can no longer expect any government to stand between us and the designs of the salivating, cigar-chomping capitalist caricatures Iíd taught myself not to believe in back in the 90ís, when we were all getting rich. Property is deadóyou hold your Fee at the pleasure of Wall Street. Thatís where we sit, yíall. Fascism wears a blue vest and a smiley face.

Grade A

Just a public notice and congratulations to my younger brother who received 10/13 [A!] in his Masters of Science [in Sand, Dirt, Oil and Rock?] exam at Aalborg Univerity! He is now certified to find oil in the North Sea and be richer than this academic pauper. We are all very proud.

My one question is whether he can do something like dowsing for oil?