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An ethno-history of Ladakh, 1st Edition
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Telegram stamps show that the Kashmir State Telegraph office used both dating systems, as seen in Figure 0. Jammu and Kashmir North India had similar notations to show other calendars, as evident in a publication that lists the Vikrami dates for officers working in Delhi and the Punjab Jacob Stamps from the British colo- nial Punjab simply used Gregorian dates during this time period.

While traders in early twentieth-century Chinese Central Asia also some- times used the Vikram Samvat calendar when writing correspondence, perhaps due to the volume of trade with Northern India, most of the time they used the Hijri dating system. Translation of these documents was a group project due to the vari- ety of languages and specialized jargon.

A majority of the archival papers were written in Urdu; some documents were also partially or wholly in Bodyig,5 English, Uighur, and Persian. Thus individuals who were highly literate in Urdu had trouble reading these papers. In one interview an older man explained that he felt this was due to changes in the education and use of Urdu in modern Ladakh. Very different. Even the writing of sentences is different. Now if arzinaviz write. We can see, look at the old cards of Bahauddin, how clearly [they] wrote in a few words. This man made a few particular points about Urdu language use in Ladakh.

When the informant says that modern Ladakhi Urdu speakers speak Urdu like the army, he is saying that they speak it as a second language, or perhaps a foreign tongue. This common perception is due to the large number of military personnel stationed in Ladakh who are not native Urdu speakers or have different accents.

The same man then went on to explain how, in his opinion, these changes had occurred: Changes came into Urdu because now in education all the know- ledge comes from every place. At that time there was not this much, very limited, was limited. There was Farsi, there was Urdu, or some other. Hindi was very limited.


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Now there is all the knowledge. So it is. So [Urdu] remains [behind]. People were using only Urdu?

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Everywhere, in court Urdu was used in all the departments, Urdu was used everywhere. Judges gave judgments in Urdu, everything was in Urdu. There was Urdu and at that time Farsi also, and they were good. There are letters from other countries which are also in Urdu. They were also using Urdu there? Mostly was Urdu.

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In India the environment was Urdu and everything was done in Urdu. All the officers that came here, the Wazir-i- wazarat [minister of the state] was coming, [those officers] higher than him were coming, their decisions were in Urdu, otherwise they could write in English. The popularity of other languages in education and the modern use of English in business and government settings are often referred to by Ladakhi individuals as proof that education in Urdu had declined since the establishment of an independent India.

The moti- vation for this discursive pattern will become clearer later in this book, through analysis of trade legacies in present day Ladakhi social life. Another common problem for modern readers of these trade docu- ments is with the vocabulary of trade; specific words, such as the names of goods, are not familiar to contemporary readers. While examining these terms with individuals who had been involved in historical trade, we found that many were either words from another language or brand names.


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In an effort to efficiently communicate large amounts of details, often on a small receipt and sometimes through costly telegrams, the traders also used codes. Here they would refer to numbers associ- ated with numbered letters or receipts. Piecing together sequential correspondence and cross-referencing numbered letters were the only ways to make sense of these types of references. Translating the documents thus became a process of searching in Ladakh, literally from house to house at times, for individuals who had the ability, knowledge, and willingness to read these documents.

In this process I was aided by Abdul Nasir Khan, who worked as my research assistant for over two years on this project. Our ideal document reader was one who had some type of training in Urdu before partition, had used Urdu in government contexts, and had participated in trade to a certain degree so that they were familiar with trade jargon. There were a few people in Leh with these abilities, including Mohammed Amma-Nulha Tak of Leh, an ex-patawari who could read classical Urdu and explain the trade words used during those times.

He was born in approximately and attended school up to the eighth standard in Leh Government Middle School. After school, he briefly became a teacher and then a policeman, before settling into a successful career as a patawari. He worked for thirty years as a patawari before retiring. After retirement Mr. Amma-Nulha Tak has kept busy working as a storekeeper in a government co-operative shop. When contemplating the value of this translation work, his message to readers who want to learn from these documents was: I found in these [documents] that before I was born this [trade] was there.

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One letter was more than a hundred years old. Now in this time there are only sixty, seventy year-old [people]. From these [documents] it is known what was in those times. How it was. How the trade was being done. How it was working, while people were informing each other how they were doing. If something happened, what they did. This is known from [the papers]. From this we can know properly what the old people were doing. Methods and sources: Ethnographic interviews, family histories, and surveys In addition to general participant-observation work in Ladakh, my ethno- graphic research in Ladakh utilized formal interviewing, genealogical research, and survey data collection techniques.

After read- ing the historical documents, I would note the names and addresses of individuals involved with trade in the early twentieth century. Sometimes addresses were enough to follow to find and interview the descendents of the traders, as many families in Ladakh have lived in their houses for multiple generations. Other times, when the address was incomplete or there was no address, this meant reading the names of the individuals from the documents to other past traders, who were able to identify descendents of those traders. I began this work with Nasir Khan in Leh, and as more documents were translated we began to travel for interviews throughout Ladakh, and then to areas in the Punjab such as Amritsar and Hoshiarpur.

Many of the chapters in this book begin with brief accounts of these ethnographic encounters. Unfortunately I was not able to follow any of the connections between Ladakh and Calcutta, or those with international destinations such as China, Turkey, or Pakistan; tracing of these trade networks was limited solely to North India.

Travel yielded its own surprises and new perspectives on this pro- ject. As described in the beginning of Chapter Six, upon arriving in Amritsar I discovered that all of the Muslim traders who had lived in that city before the s and traded with Ladakh had immigrated to Pakistan during the partition of India. Amritsar was the first, and only, place where I was not able to find most contacts from the documents. I found the discontinuity with the past a disturbing reminder of the upheaval of the Partition era as I walked along large, bustling bazaars of Amritsar that contained few traces of the old businesses, although building architecture hinted of another era.

The missing traders of Amritsar were a startling reminder of the disproportionate experiences of Partition between Ladakh and the Punjab. Interviews with traders and their descendents yielded many types of data. I would always bring the historical document that brought me to the address, so that the informant could read it for themselves. Nostalgia about the past often then led effortlessly into reflection on the social relations that supported the historical trade system. In addition, I was able to chart genealogies of trade families to under- stand relationships between people involved in the system.

Family histories are a way of following strands, or markers through time. I am not trying to rebuild the past through these narratives, but rather understand how the past is interpreted today. Collecting enough of these stories, and comparing them with other types of data, I started to understand the popular ideas surrounding trade networks. Interviewing multiple generations in families has helped me to follow stories about trade through time, threads of the complete story of trading networks in Ladakh. In the spring of I decided to conduct a comprehensive survey of Leh town.

I was curious how many families in Ladakh actually had participated in inter-regional trade networks in the past, and wanted the chance to ask more open-ended questions about perceptions of his- tory and social relations to Leh residents.

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I did not know, however, if there were other clusters in other neighborhoods. If you have previously obtained access with your personal account, Please log in. If you previously purchased this article, Log in to Readcube. Log out of Readcube.

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