Sunday, 28 November 2010

Homework assignment in Indglish Ars dictaminis- the case of the buggered goat

In 1922, a trooper of the Bengal lancers sodomized a goat in Waziristan.  To avoid a vendetta, the Colonel of the regiment authorized a sizable cash payment to the clan whose pet had suffered the indignity and then indented for reimbursement from the Dept. of Military Accounts in Calcutta under the rubric of 'livestock- sundries'.


Clearly this was very wrong of him. It was more a case of 'livestock- sundaris" as Assistant Head Clerk Harish Babu joked. 'Do not joke,'  Head Clerk Mukherjee admonished him, 'the goat was of masculine gender- not a beautiful sundari as you maintain- in any case the point at issue here is just a goat- at most it can be treated as sheep and reimbursed at that rate- however, what is happening here is that the sum demanded is more than that for a camel! There is an important precedent involved.'
'But what can we do?" Harish Babu asked, 'Colonel Sahib has already spent the money. God knows, those Afridis on the Frontier are quick to anger.  It's a cheap price to pay for peace. The Director is sure to pass the file if we attach a note.'
'Oho? We are just to pass all the indents of these military Johnnies are we?' Mukherjee was a slight man, but he had fighting spirit, 'We are simply eunuchs sitting here, are we? Tell you what, call Niradh Babu- M.A (fail) Calcutta University- he will know how to deal with the Colonel."

Director of Military Accounts, Cedric Cubbon ordered a pink gin but the bearer continued to hover at his elbow. 'Pink Gin- fut a fut!' Cedric said starting to get annoyed. 'Huzoor, me bring just now only- but, one thing to present for attention?'
'What?' 
'Sahib, one Colonel Sahib is here. Drinking all day. Shouting your name. Saying 'buggered goat, buggered goat, I'll give that damn competition wallah buggered goat!' Sahib, better you should know.'
Cedric stiffened. He was a small man and wore thick glasses. He'd gotten into Military Accounts after failing to make the cut for H.M Customs & Excise. He had spent ten years in Aden- a punishment posting- before finally getting this promotion. Though he looked unimpressive, he was a brave man. Had it not been for a large family back home in Liverpool, who depended on his remittances, he'd have volunteered for the Irish Guard in 1914.

Still, it wouldn't do to confront the drunken Colonel right now. Cedric returned to his office, called for the relevant file and prepared to send a note over to the Colonel- perhaps with an invitation to luncheon at Flury's, or something of that sort.

But, any notion of offering hospitality to the Colonel was swiftly banished from his mind once he started reading the file.
The new Babu on his staff- what was his name?- Aradh? Niradh?- weedy little chap- had written a very cogent memo. The rules, for Military Accounts, governing compensation for sodomized animals were pretty clear. Precedents stretched back to Agincourt.
As Niradh pointed out- buggered goats are classed as 'deodand' everywhere east of Adelaide-  they are considered as having caused death or mortal sin and thus are confiscated to the Crown. No question of compensation arises.
The Colonel's response, if one filtered out the flippancy and ill tempered sarcasm, amounted to the bald unsubstantiated assertion that the goat had wandered over the Durand line and thus the law of deodand did not not apply to it because, in the Islamic Emirate, a buggered animal might be eaten by anyone other than its violator.
There were two grave objections to the Colonel's memorandum. First, it amounted to a topographically conservative interpretation of the Durand line which undermined Imperial security. Secondly, it conceded the very point it sought to dispute- viz. that compensation could only be paid on the per pound weight mutton scale- not the much larger sum actually indented for.

Your homework assignment for today is
1) Write a note from Niradh Babu, observing all the conventions of Indglish ars dictaminis, addressed to the goat (assume it is a British subject for the purposes of this exercise).
2) Write an open letter from the goat (in the style of Zaid Hamid) to Niradh Chaudhri for publication in the Dawn newspaper.
For higher marks you may also
3) Write a poem, in the style of J.H. Prynne, capturing Cedric Cubbon's stream of consciousness as he resolves to fight the Colonel himself rather than permit him to sodomize the equestrian statute of Sir Mark Cubbon as an act of vengeance upon his namesake.
For lower marks
4) rewrite 'the Critique of Post-Colonial reason' using only such vocables as might issue from the throat of a buggered goat.






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2 comments:

sanjay said...

So it's goats now is it?
Should have seen it coming really.
Still, your Mom will be pleased.
All these years thinking you'd never bring home a bahu..

windwheel said...

Sanjay, I think you're missing the point. Indglish is under threat. Young people- old in infamy though you doubtless are- don't understand that Globalization is destroying the good old fashioned Indglish as written by Head Clerks back in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century.

Read Niradh Chaudhri's 'thy hand great Anarch'- the episode of the buggered goat features prominently. It was by close engagement with precisely this sort of bureaucratic contretemps that the Indglish sensibility has evolved and, in the marginalia of Pranab Mukherjee achieved a lapidary apotheosis.

BTW what is a bahu?