The Goat-Spy Diaries


A Spy called Jassasa

Being the private papers of Jassasa, the goat-spy of the true False Messiah, the End-of-Times Deceiver, the One-Eyed Antichrist aka Dajjal

Page the 1stIn which is revealed how Dajjal and Jassasa were alerted to the approach of the End of Time

OKAY, SO NOW it’s confirmed: Evil’s really risen in the world.

This morning as I lay supine at the cave entrance, my Master returned from his walk by the seashore and tossed me a tin can. It was the kind in which one finds stuffed toys. They come to me by hazardthe same process by which other inedible items of value found washed up on our island have entered my collection. Already in possession of the stuffed moose and kangaroo in this particular series, I was hoping this time the bounty of the sea had capsized a boat to send me a stuffed elephant.

As I eagerly pulled at the tab with my teeth, Master came close to share in my joy. But the popping of the can was the knock-knocking of evil. When he saw what the can contained, Master let out an Arrrgh! and rushed out of the cave. It was not a stuffed animal that had fallen out of the can but a familiar piece of cardboard covered with pictograms depicting Master and me in attitudes that offered slanderous sexual comment on our Platonic relationship. When the first such message was received in a clear glass bottle about a month back, Master had reluctantly and haltingly explained to me what these reprehensible motifs signified. Seeing how upset he had become upon its receipt, I had quietly put the paper back into the bottle, sealed it as before and thrown it back into the sea. I did the same with the next few bottled messages. I read all of them and must admit that some of them were funny.

Once, when Master was out walking, with me following grazing lazily at a distance, I looked up and caught him hurling a bottle into the sea. I felt glad that he had learned to ignore those dirty messages. I did not realize that before returning the bottle to the sea, my impulsive Master had put in it a paper scrawled with a pictogram message, for the sender, after his own heart.

That was a big mistake. The person or persons sending those bottled messages, perhaps in the hope of finding some confirmation of Master’s presence in those aquatic environs, had finally received it in his own hand.

From the next day we daily found multiple bottles on our shores. Sometimes there were two, sometimes as many as four. I once also saw a fifth bottle floating in the waves but for some reason it did not make it to the island. The fecundity of a dirty mind is a phenomenon deserving close study. No two pictograms were alike, but there was clearly more than one party involved in the drawing of them. I had become an amateur of the genre from daily study and could see manifested in one particular style the mechanical thrashings of a caustic wit.

Master let me handle the gathering and disposal of the bottles. He had learned his lesson.

The present canned message, however, is a provocation addressed to me. Whoever sent it knows not only about our presence on the island, he also knows I like stuffed toys out of cans. To malign the innocent relationship between a man and his goat friend is one thing; to make a document of it and secret it away in an innocent can of promised toy something else altogether. It is the sign of malignant evil uncoiling itself and now in a slimy, slithering fashion fully afoot in the world.

It means of course that the time has come to set in motion the plans for Master’s foretold advent. I have to gently break it to him. He has more than once made it clear to me where he stands on that whole creating-rumpus-at-the-End-of-Time thing. He has done what he was required to do, imparting to me a training in disguise and such, but he has often told me of his absolute happiness in his life on the isle in my companionship, and that he would much rather spend his days there to the End of Time making gentle rumpus with his hairy paws splashing in the waves.

But alas, destiny is not for our own making as frequently as we would like it to be. Moreover, I have been poked cruelly in my soft emotions by the canned message received today, and I am full eager that the person or persons who have sent the unsigned pictograms should speedily encounter their just deserts.

I think I will tell the Master to prepare for his advent after he has had his supper. As soon as he finishes his sea-urchin torte I will spring him with a melodious “Hear, hear! Da End of Time’s here.”

Page 2 



Dic Lit

I. A Terribly Attractive Man

I probably first heard the name Qaddafi on the radio, from NPR, an always present background noise in my childhood. But the name only acquired meaning when I heard it uttered by my Great Aunt in a stage whisper to my mother: “That Mr. Qaddafi is terribly attractive!” She hissed, more than once. The A’s in Mr. Qaddafi’s name were flattened as with Sir John Gielgud intoning, “Mr. Gandhi.” My Great Aunt was well over six feet tall, a raven-haired beauty in her day, and a force to be reckoned with at all times. I imagine her commenting on the physical loveliness of Mr. Qaddafi while running her hand along her pearls, her dark eyes flashing naughtily, her lower jaw jutting out to make an emphatic point in her native lockjaw. I must have been around ten years old, and she in her lower seventies. The fact that such whispered pronouncements were not meant for my ears, though fully audible, was brought home to me by the many unsuitable stories she liked to tell my mother at that same volume. Most memorable of these was a lengthy narrative from her youth about being greeted by a surly abortionist clad in a bloodstained apron after climbing a narrow tenement staircase in New York when she sought to terminate an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Sitting a few feet away with a book opened in my lap, I always pretended to read as she stage-whispered one startling story after the next on winter’s evenings when we went to dine at her house.

Over the years I paid little attention to Qaddafi though his name gained additional accretions of meaning in my mental inventory. He was not just terribly attractive, but was also the insane dictator who harbors terrorists, sleeps in a tent, and wraps himself in flamboyant robes. It was not until the current uprising began that I began to pay closer attention– already an Egyptian revolution addict, I was sprawled on my voyeur’s divan hoping for another drama to unfold that would be just as thrilling and edifying as Egypt. As things began to go poorly, and as the situation became more confusing and our Peacemaker-in-Chief began to play drone video games with the Qaddafis, I started to look for more information about Libya. The tweets and articles of Libyan author Hisham Matar were compelling, and I ordered his 2006 novel In the Country of Men.

Thence began one of the most difficult reading experiences I have undertaken in a long time. In the Country of Men is beautifully written, spare and precise, and it does the novel a great disservice to speak of it as merely a source text for insight into the Qaddafi regime and the history undergirding the current situation in Libya. But the portrait painted of the pervasive and chilling influence of a powerful dictator is disturbing beyond belief and does much to dispel the opera buffa caricatures of Qaddafi in the Western media. This is, indirectly, and through the eyes of a narrator looking back on his childhood, a portrait of how a shrewd and powerful man managed to effectively infiltrate the homes, families and consciousnesses of his people so effectively that he was capable of shattering family units, neighborhoods, communities.

Two scenes stand out. One, in which the narrator, a child, watches the interrogation of a family friend and neighbor that is being televised. As with most transmissions on Libyan state TV, this program is bracketed by static images of pink flowers. Brutality nests in a soothing field of blossoms. It is said, the narrator observes, that the Guide has his own controls of the broadcasting system, and can switch on and off the images that his people see in their living rooms. The other scene features a phone call. There are more often than not, it seems, people listening in on phone conversations. But they are not merely mutely recording calls. They sometimes interfere, speak up, persuade. During one conversation between the narrator and a comrade of his father’s, a third voice insinuates itself into the conversation making remarks about the beauty of the narrator’s mother and asking questions about her alcoholism. These are just two of many examples of how the regime tampers with the lives and mental health of its citizens. This psychological control seems almost more devastating than the aggressive brutality of the state. Almost, but not quite. State TV also broadcasts executions of ‘traitors’ of the regime. Haplessly sitting in one’s living room, one can suddenly be subjected to the sight of a physically tortured human hanging to death while a stadium-full of people cheers its support.

It took me months to read this short novel because I could not bear the narrative tension. The way in which the story unfurled, the family unit disintegrated, and the state became more powerful than ever felt inevitable but worth avoiding as a reader. The palpable psychological control of Qaddafi’s regime makes one experience the suffocation and dismantling of the characters in a most uncomfortable fashion. This is the man that NATO is ineffectually attempting to take out, that rebels have shown great bravery in attacking. He is not a clown in a tent, he is a military mastermind in a bunker. There’s no doubt that he planned for, even expected the current turn of events. After reading In the Country of Men, it’s hard not to wish for his annihilation. And yet.

II. A Missed Opportunity

As a child, I was often seated at dinner parties next to an elderly gentleman with whom most other guests did not wish to converse. It was clear that he, a bit dull, and I, a child, were being pushed off into corner dead spaces so as not to ruin the flow of conversation. This gentleman was married to a younger woman whose sparkling wit and snappy repartee were a must at any smart dinner table. And thus her husband had to be tolerated. In anticipation of this recurring arrangement, my mother began to coach me in the car rides to dinner: “He enjoys history. Ask him what his favorite historical event was.” “He likes to play golf, ask him how is day on the course went.” I don’t remember his responses, or even if I got up the courage to ask him any of these questions. Last month, on the death of his wife (he had died years before), I learned from her obituary that he had been a prosecutor at the Nuremburg Trials. This fact would have meant nothing to me at the time, but now I felt confronted with an enormous missed opportunity. I have so many questions for him now.

When recently reading Mohammed Hanif’s A Case of Exploding Mangoes, I could not help but wonder if guests at the American Embassy’s terrible barbecue that the author imagines so vividly now sigh over the opportunities they missed by avoiding chatting with that crashing bore Osama bin Laden. In Hanif’s telling, bin Laden is a maladroit guest who lists about unsuccessfully trying to strike up conversations with important people. He is a teetotaling version of Peter Sellers in The Party, with the dénouement of his role in this particular party occurring many years later and extra-textually.

History is rife with Frankensteinian examples of the United States going to spectacular lengths to destroy the monsters it has gone to spectacular lengths to create. While bin Laden was one such monster, General Zia, the central focus of Mangoes, appears not to have been, to the discredit of our government. Zia, the planter of many ghastly seeds that continue to bear fruit to this day (among these fruits, the system which was able so handily to harbor Mr. bin Laden in his twilight years), Hanif weaves a Murder on the Orient Express-like web of motivations for the assassination of Zia, wherein the actual crashing of the aircraft that carried him was merely one of many knife-thrusts to his by then barely beating heart. None of his would-be assassins is American, however, and Very Important Americans go down with him when his plane crashes. Indeed, Zia is even infested by an internal army of tapeworms that could conceivably have taken him down. The godly stature of dictators lends them a very real air of immortality it seems, and their Rasputinish ability to escape death adds to the mythos that surrounds their persons. General Pervez Musharraf, for example, happily trots out story after story of his own nine lives in his memoir.

In Maria Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat, it takes a carload of assassins, each of whom harbors a hair-raising revenge motive, to gun down General Trujillo as he drives to an evening’s assignation. The assassins are backed not only by the United States and the Catholic church but also by members of Trujillo’s own inner circle. The car, the driver, and the General are riddled with bullets, but Vargas Llosa has also imagined Trujillo as afflicted with prostate problems and impotence, conditions which are destroying his ability to satisfy his legendary libido. The truly awful dénouement, which is not his assassination, is a rape and deflowering by the impotent dictator of a young girl, offered up to him by an out-of-favor vassal. Vargas Llosa seems to imagine this moment as both a tribute to Trujillo’s numerous sexual victims and a metaphor for the way in which the old man was able to continue to screw over his people long after his real power was gone.

III. A Brand New Kind of Poetry

It is the peculiar challenge faced by the artist that he must continually come up with ideas that are wholly new and original. Yet once he is successful, he must also conform to expectations of his distinctive imprimatur. One of the dangers of fame, my father always likes to say, is that you can end up ‘doing yourself,’ by which he means that artists cursed with fame and renown run the risk of feeding public expectations by producing art that is imitative of their own most successful works. With fame, the works of Joe Smith become Joe Smithesque, pastiches of that Joe Smith style we’ve all come to know and love.

A similar challenge is faced by torturers. How to be creative enough to extract new information from detainees? To truly break a person’s spirit? What if the victim is jaded? Has seen and heard it all? What if he is even desensitized to torture? And furthermore, to combine these two propositions, how does a novelist write about torture in a manner that is uniquely horrifying but not the stuff of horror films? How does a creative writer create a creative torturer that shakes his complacent reader to the core but does not cause that reader to drop the book in revulsion? There will be humiliation, physical pain, rows of instruments, dark fetid chambers covered with disturbing stains. Some regimes will have particular trademark features to their torture regimens: ‘the chair,’ ‘the clamps,’ etc. As with the release of the Abu Ghraib photos, one’s initial horrified reaction can become dulled and desensitized. It’s natural to push our reaction to a psychologically acceptable position where we will not be in a position to feel tormented by disturbing information.

In succession I read A Case of Exploding Mangoes, In the Country of Men, The Feast of the Goat. Each one featured at least a modicum of torture. The Feast of the Goat featured a whole lot of torture. Just about enough torture to make it tortuous to read about the torture. I recall reading somewhere (Wikipedia, perhaps?) that Vargas Llosa included a great deal of realistic torture in his novel about Trujillo as an antidote to the tendency among Latin American fabulists to use magical realism to discuss the excesses of dictatorial regimes. Vargas Llosa chose instead to use regular realism to discuss these things. The result is both disturbing and strangely dull; there’s just a touch of Human Rights Watch report about the pacing of the narrative. Virtually every assassin and conspirator implicated in the murder of Trujillo is hunted down, incarcerated and tortured. Each torture is documented, as is each death. The narrative is part fiction and part accounting. It eventually wears thin, though the novel clearly serves a particular purpose that has nothing to do with creative work.

I later, on the advice of a friend who learned I was reading lots of novels about torture, read a slim novel by Naguib Mahfouz called Karnak Café. The novel concerns the habitués of a cafe in Cairo under the regime of Nasser. The narrator observes the slow crumbling of a social circle of young students as they are imprisoned, tortured and released in several rounds of purges of ‘enemies’ of the revolution. Eventually the social circle, reduced in its numbers, is reconstituted, the bonds between its members badly damaged. One day the man who has tortured them all, their direct torturer, appears in the cafe himself. In the interim, he too has been arrested and tortured. He is no longer part of the regime; through experience, he has become one of them. They are jaded, all of them, and they accept him with a strange equanimity. An encounter that one might imagine to be fraught and horrifying feels almost flat.

The strange flatness of affect in parts of The Feast of the Goat and Karnak Café make the not magical realism but certainly not conventional realism of Roberto Bolaño an excellent antidote. In Bolaño’s short novel Distant Star set during the beginning of the Pinochet regime in Chile, a character appears in a group of young poets who promises that he will totally change the nature of Chilean poetry. [Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD] The character turns out to be a bright young regime apparatchik and torturer whose wholly original poetic interventions include arresting most of the poets, murdering the most attractive women poets, sky-writing portions of Genesis in Latin for admiring crowds of fascist regime supporters, and creating an installation of photographs and poems documenting his torture and murder of women poets. Bolaño’s off-the-wall imagining of a revolutionary poet who uses torture and death as his art perfectly captures the torturer’s conundrum by marrying it to the conundrum of the writer or artist. How to create a signature style that is utterly new yet clearly one’s own? It’s classic Bolaño.

The Middle Man

I was asked, by Murtaza Vali, to write for a “Manual of Treason” which dealt with the notion of treason and affiliation in the colonial and postcolonial settings. I offered to write on the case of Seth Naomul Hotchand (1804-1878) and the annexation of Sindh in 1843 by the East India Company. The essay was translated into Urdu by Aftab Ahmed. Two fine artists, Lapata and Rajkamal Kahlon provided original art for the essay. A version of that piece was produced as a cover story for Dawn’s “Books & Authors” as A Nation’s Fugue State. The full essay is reproduced below.

The Traitor of Sindh

A Brief History of Afghanistan by Rajkamal Kahlon

“Seth Nao Mull’s history would in itself have furnished the materials for an Oriental romance. His father had been a compulsory convert to Mohamedanism, and the son had long wished for an opportunity to assist the English, to whom he looked for the chance of avenging the wrongs of the Hindoos upon their Mahomedan oppressors.”1

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?
Because, they will betray your trust, just as they betrayed the Muslims, again and again, during colonial times. Class, what is the “Two Nation Theory?” Hindus and Muslims are two, separate civilizations who existed side-by-side without any cultural, religious or economic overlap. Muslims, As a minority, Muslims were persecuted by the Hindus who often joined forces with the British colonial powers. Our leaders Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Muhammad Iqbal created this nation to give Muslims a safe haven. Let me give you an example. The British had conquered all of India but Pakistan was unconquerable—Sindh, Punjab, NWFP and Baluchistan were independent for a hundred years after Plassey! The first to fall was Sindh—the British conquered it in 1843—when a Hindu traitor Seth Naomul Hotchand betrayed his Talpur lords and sold his people to the British. Soon after they had Punjab, they had everything. Let us not forget (I remember his voice rising dramatically) that the Hindus raped and murdered (another shudder through the class as he said izzat looti).

I kept quiet.

Many years later, I was engaged in archival research on the Muslim military expeditions to al-Hind w’al-Sind (as the Arab geographers termed the sub-continent) in the 8th and 9th centuries. Seeking a particular manuscript in Hyderabad, Sindh, I trudged from dusty archives to pulp-paper resellers (the chances of encountering rare manuscripts are grimly equal between those two sites). There, I was introduced, once again, to the traitorous Seth. In a series of conversations with Sindhi nationalists—those who believed that the region of Sindh as a political entity pre-dated Pakistan and could not be subsumed under the rubric of that nation-state—I heard mention the name of Seth Naomul Hotchand. He was a traitor, they proclaimed loudly, one who betrayed the natural rulers of Sindh, the Mirs of Talpur, by siding with the British. His memory is tainted; he is a cause for shame.

Among these closely quartered, beleaguered freedom fighters it wasn’t his Hinduness upon which the charge of treachery was pegged, but his lack of fealty to a political regime.

Two eminent historians of Sindh, Hamida Khuhro and Mubarak Ali, have written brief assessments of Hotchand. Khuhro found him “an opportunist” who “judged against the principles of patriotism … will remain the unrepentant traitor.” Ali was more forgiving and sought to contextualize his actions as one among a community of responses. After all, there is little wiggle room in the binaries inscribed onto nationalism or colonialism by current historiography: one resists or perishes; one is either a hero or a traitor.

Such binaries are, however, historically inept and socio-culturally corrosive. Hotchand was a node in a vast network, which operated in conjunction the colonial and the princely networks – of khatib, munshi and vakil who made possible the legal and diplomatic work of daily governance. In Sindh alone, he was only one among a vast array of Persian and Anglophone knowledge brokers (both Hindu and Muslim) who received distinctions for their services to the Company. Mirza Ali Akbar was in the employ of General Charles Napier, who annexed Sindh for the East India Company in 1843. Akbar also received many laurels and honors for his service to the Company – which included translating key documents and acting as an interpreter. Mirza Lutfullah was an employee of Political Agent Major Eastwick, who was given the task to negotiate major treaties with Sindh by the Company. There were many others – some who left behind memoirs and notes and others whose names linger only in Company registers and in official documents. Yet, the fact is that from among his peers, Hotchand is the only one whose memory lingers as a “traitor” in present day Pakistan.

The construction of nationalist identity in Pakistan, since 1971, has relied exclusively on a communal reading of South Asian histories – positing Hindu and Muslims as inchoate categories. Such reductive narratives may suit the purpose of nationalist discourses but they do not represent history. I have decided to tell the story of Seth Naomul Hotchand as a story of a broker between regimes of power, as a local negotiator of globally written politics. In my telling, Hotchand is a symbol—not of treason or collaboration but—of the fugue state that cripples the modern nation-state, which forgets pasts just as easily as it invents new ones to fill the gaps.

An Oriental Romance

The “Orient” is a fiction, and a romance. The fiction espoused by the British officer in the opening quote frames our colonial and postcolonial stories – a Hindu son’s revenge for a Muslim injustice wrought upon his father. This romantic story swivels on its axis in postcolonial Pakistan – all Hindus are traitors, and can be represented by the money-lending, vengeful Seth Naomal Hotchand, who brought down a princely state. In what follows, I lay out a fuller picture of Hotchand’s life and argue that the real tragedy lies with the collective memory to which his history has been ascribed.

Seth Naomul Hotchand, C.S.I. (1804-1878) dictated his memoirs, titled Memoirs of Seth Naomul Hotchand of Karachi, in 1872, to his grandson. In 1915, after being translated from Sindhi into English, it was published with a strange proviso by its editor, Sir Evan M. James, which stated that, the publication be restricted to “Seth Naomul’s own descendants and relations, to officers connected with Sind, and to personal friends.” A text meant only for some is now one of our primary sources on a pivotal series of events in South Asian history—the 1843 annexation of Sindh by the East India Company.

The memoirs details Hotchand’s various activities—as a supplier of assets or merchandise, or information and intelligence, from Afghanistan to Persia and beyond. As the head of one of the most successful merchant houses of Sindh, he had direct access to a vast personal and familial network among the class of knowledge brokers (munshi, amil and vakeel) who served the various courts as scribes, financiers, advocates, and accountants. This was a network through which both information and materials flowed. The British relied in some parts on him and his connections for dispatches to and from the ruling Mirs as well as the neighboring principalities in Punjab, Kalat and Afghanistan. And, in 1867, he was given the Companion of the Star of India [C.S.I] for services provided during the 1857 uprising.

Hotchand was “a man of middle stature, spare habit, and brilliant keen eyes.” His ancestors, part of the vibrant finance network that connected the littoral Indian Ocean ports to cities scattered across continents, settled in the port village of Karachi in the late 18th century, just as it was changing hands from the Khan of Kalat to the Mirs of Talpur. According to the Memoir, it was their particular role in facilitating a bloodless transfer of power that gave them an early access to the newly assertive Mirs. The Hotchands were rewarded with various lands and grants and special rights to business transactions. Their privileged status is reflected in Hotchand’s description of the family house in Karachi, which had a stable for 40 horses, a household expenditure of 40,000 rupees per annum, and controlled business firms in over 500 locations.

In 1821, after the death of Hotchand’s great-grandfather, Seth Bhojoomal, the property and business was divided equally among four brothers. Only Hotchand’s grandfather, Seth Lalmandas, took to the trade while the others “gave themselves up to pleasure and luxury, leaving their affairs to be managed by their agents.” After having squandered their fortune, the brothers decided to contest the division of property with Seth Lalmandas, claiming he had kept three extra pitchers filled with gold and silver. This dispute was ultimately referred to the royal Mirs in person and Seth Lalmandas and his retinue set out for Hyderabad with “six camel loads of daftars (account papers).” The suit took many years and was resolved only after Hotchand paid his cousins a rich sum for the rights. He seems to have felt that the Mirs were not as helpful as they could have been.

It was soon after, in 1832, that a distressed Hindu child sought shelter from his parents at a mosque in Nasarpur. From this innocuous act erupted a religious maelstrom that consumed most of lower Sindh—resulting in the kidnapping (for ransom or for conversion) of Hotchand’s father. He was eventually freed after ten days in captivity but rumors circulated that he had been forced to convert to Islam. Hotchand does not comment directly on the matter of conversion – though he notes that his father immediately left on a pilgrimage to specific temples, and that the Mirs of Talpur had not done enough to rescue his father. Both the colonial commentators and the Pakistani nationalist narratives read this event as a pivot on which Hotchand switched his allegiance. Though there is no evidence, in the memoir, that this was the case.

The direct correlation between the abduction of Hotchand’s father and Hotchand’s collaboration with the East India Company comes to us from the records of the Company itself (such as James Burnes, Richard Burton, James Evans or, the infamous Charles Napier, speaking about the “evil” practices of the Mirs of Talpur) which carefully delineate a strict division between the Muslim rulers and the Hindu population in Sindh—caused entirely by the ruling Mirs of Talpur.

Since 1830, the East India Company had sought to build up British influence in Central Asia, keep the Russians and the French at bay, and monopolize the opium-cotton trade triangle between the United States, China and Britain. The imagined Russian danger precipitated the first Anglo-Afghan war from 1838-42.

Harried by their Great Game, the Company ratified a new treaty with the Mirs of Sindh in 1839. This placed some English troops in the region, abrogated all of the Mirs’ foreign affairs in favor of British, put an annual subsidy on the Mirs and gave the British the authority to mint coins in Sindh. In the meantime, Admiral Maitland captured the port of Karachi on the pretense that someone had fired a cannon shot at a British frigate in the harbor. The capture of Karachi was a severe blow to the Mirs as it was a major port of commerce. The Company desperately needed to control the point of egress for Malwa and Bengal opium to China, both for the purposes of tax revenue but also for supply.

Seth Naomul Hotchand cannot be a traitor, largely because on his shoulders did not rest the fate of any great conflict. He was a merchant, a trader, a broker, a participant in the “information order,” and as such, while his life intertwines with events that loom large as sites of colonial or local power, he did not determine their outcome.

Mirza Ali Akbar’s name, however, is not written in school textbooks as a traitor to the Muslim cause. Where Hotchand is vilified, Mirza Ali Akbar is simply forgotten. Where Charles Napier is honored with an arterial Napier Road in Karachi, Seth Hotchand Road is renamed Shah Waliullah Road. Where Hindus can exist only as caricatured boogey-men, reducing Seth Naomul Hotchand’s memory to that of a traitor is a violence doubly rendered.

  1. Fredric J. Goldsmid, James Outram: A Biography (London: Smith, Elder, Co., 1881), pp. 393-4. []

American Democracy was a form of self-murder, always. Or of murdering somebody else.

Studies in Classic American Literature (1923) by D. H. Lawrence

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN had a specious little equation in providential mathematics:

Rum + Savage = 0.

Awfully nice! You might add up the universe to nought, if you kept on.
Rum plus Savage may equal a dead savage. But is a dead savage nought? Can you make a land virgin by killing off its aborigines ?

The Aztec is gone, and the Incas. The Red lndian, the Esquimo, the Patagonian are reduced to negligible numbers.

Ou sont les neiges d’antan?

My dear, wherever they are, they will come down again next winter, sure as houses.

Not that the Red Indian will ever possess the broad lands of America. At least I presume not. But his ghost will.

The Red Man died hating the white man. What remnant of him lives, lives hating the white man. Go near the Indians, and you just feel it. As far as we are concerned, the Red Man is subtly and unremittingly diabolic. Even when he doesn’t know it. He is dispossessed in life, and unforgiving. He doesn’t believe in us and our civilization, and so is our mystic enemy, for we push him off the face of the earth.

Belief is a mysterious thing. It is the only healer of the soul’s wounds. There is no belief in the world.

The Red Man is dead, disbelieving in us. He is dead and unappeased. Do not imagine him happy in his Happy Hunting Ground. No. Only those that die in belief die happy. Those that are pushed out of life in chagrin come back unappeased, for revenge.

A curious thing about the Spirit of Place is the fact that no place exerts its full influence upon a new-comer until the old inhabitant is dead or absorbed. So America. While the Red Indian existed in fairly large numbers, the new colonials were in a great measure immune from the daimon, or demon, of America. The moment the last nuclei of Red life break up in America, then the white men will have to reckon with the full force of the demon of the continent. At present the demon of the place and the unappeased ghosts of the dead Indians act within the unconscious or under-conscious soul of the white American, causing the great American grouch, the Orestes-like frenzy of restlessness in the Yankee soul, the inner malaise which amounts almost to madness, sometimes. The Mexican is macabre and disintegrated in his own way. Up till now, the unexpressed spirit of America has worked covertly in the American, the white American soul. But within the present generation the surviving Red Indians are due to merge in the great white swamp. Then the Daimon of America will work overtly, and we shall see real changes.

There has been all the time, in the white American soul, a dual feeling about the Indian. First was Franklin’s feeling, that a wise Providence no doubt intended the extirpation of these savages. Then came Crevecoeur’s contradictory feeling about the noble Red Man and the innocent life of the wig-wam. Now we hate to subscribe to Benjamin’s belief in a Providence that wisely extirpates the Indian to make room for ‘cultivators of the soil’. In Crevecoeur we meet a sentimental desire for the glorification of the savages. Absolutely sentimental. Hector pops over to Paris to enthuse about the wigwam.
The desire to extirpate the Indian. And the contradictory desire to glorify him. Both are rampant still, today.

The bulk of the white people who live in contact with the Indian today would like to see this Red brother exterminated; not only for the sake of grabbing his land, but because of the silent, invisible, but deadly hostility between the spirit of the two races. The minority of whites intellectualize the Red Man and laud him to the skies. But this minority of whites is mostly a high-brow minority with a big grouch against its own whiteness. So there you are.


When you are actually in America, America hurts, because it has a powerful disintegrative influence upon the white psyche. It is full of grinning, unappeased aboriginal demons, too, ghosts, and it persecutes the white men, like some Eumenides, until the white men give up their absolute whiteness. America is tense with latent violence and resistance. The very common sense of white Americans has a tinge of helplessness in it, and deep fear of what might be if they were not common-sensical.

Yet one day the demons of America must be placated, the ghosts must be appeased, the Spirit of Place atoned for. Then the true passionate love for American Soil will appear. As yet, there is too much menace in the landscape.
But probably, one day America will be as beautiful in actuality as it is in Cooper. Not yet, however. When the factories have fallen down again.