The following text came to me in the form of a computer print-out, dated 7.7.97, from New Delhi, and signed by one G.S. Chauhan (Gabar Singh Chauhan). Delivered to me at this past July's meeting of the Himalayan Languages Symposium held in Santa Barbara, it was handed over without further explanation in an envelope with my name on it and a return address of the South Asia Institute, 3 Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi. Since it has to do with the controversy surrounding the "Bangani Enigma", I have retyped it here (with a few minor grammatical and spelling corrections made silently).
The page numbers given in parentheses seem to be references to passages in the recent article on Bangani that appeared in "Indogermanische Forschungen"; and the names "Von Driem" and "Sonu Sharma" (spelled in various ways), to its authors.
Peter E. Hook
Ann Arbor, MI
6 August 1997
It was on the 18th of December, 1994, around 9:30 am, when I with my friend, Balbir arrived at Mori on our way to Delhi from my village, Kiroli. By chance I saw Mr. Harpal Singh (the son of Roshan Bhai) and asked the driver to stop the car (because Harpal Singh is my distant relative. Seeing us Harpal Singh quickly came over and said, "Uncle, your friends from Delhi have come." Harpal Singh wanted to show us our "friends" as the two had wormed their way into the confidence of Roshan Bhai by introducing themselves to him as our "friends". I was somewhat surprised but also curious to meet the "friends" and made a quick move to Roshan Bhai's house with my friend. It is a lie when they claim that the word "barg)" had very quickly become a subject of ridicule and banter amongst the Banganis (page 134) because there were no Banganis in the room when we entered. It is also not true that Harpal Singh had already discussed this word with me and that I myself had begun talking in an apologetic way about those words (page 135), as there was no discussion of those words at that moment. Reaching Roshan Bhai's house, Harpal Singh introduced us to Mr. Sonu Sharma who was standing near the house. One Nepali was also sitting there whom we just passed by. As soon as we made our entry into the house we saw a person wrapped up in a blanket and sitting all alone in the corner of the room. He was being bashful as if he were a newly wedded "Indian" bride. This man later on was discovered to be Dr. Von Driem from Holland, a "good Hindi speaker" (page 108). I cannot believe that Von Driem knows how to speak either Hindi or Pahari, because during our half an hour stay at Roshan Bhai's he did not share even a single word with me. He never introduced himself nor did he say good-bye when we left, thus appearing like an uncouth bloke to me and the other Banganis. To us he appeared like a mysterious and taciturn character.
Soon Sharma started to explain how he got my address in Delhi and how they arrived in Mori. On my asking about the purpose of their visit, Sharma replied that they are interested in doing the same work as Dr. Zoller has been doing. But when I asked Roshan Bhai and Harpal Singh about the purpose of their visit, both Harpal Singh and Roshan Bhai said that they (Von Driem and Sharma) have promised them a big project involving a lot of money from the Government of Holland provided they are "satisfied" with the answers given by them. It bears mention that, in contrast to their approach, we never made big monetary promises to Roshan Bhai and we never made wrong statements about our identities. We rather regularly confronted him in intensive discussions with earlier statements of his and with competing statements of other Banganis.
In our first round of introductory discussions we were only five persons in the room; Mr. Sharma, Von Driem, Balbir, Harpal and myself. Roshan Bhai, who was in the kitchen at that time, joined us after around 10 minutes. So the word "barg)" was not discussed by me with Roshan Bhai in the beginning as claimed by them (page 135).
I invited them to my village Kiroli and Sharma readily accepted my invitation. He even desired to visit one more Bangani village "Jakta", and necessary arrangements were made but finally they did not go. I never invited them to my office in Delhi as claimed by them (page 136). On the contrary, it was Mr. Sharma who requested a meeting with me in Delhi, on their way back from Bangan to Pune. I certainly agreed to this idea of Mr. Sharma, saying that I would like to know their general impression and discuss their research findings on Bangan. But they never turned up.
While I was discussing these things with Sharma, Roshan Bhai came from the kitchen. Even before making his full entry into the room he wasnted to know from me, "Who is this Zoller they are asking me about?" So it is abundantly clear that even after two days these gentlemen were unable to find the local name of Dr. Zoller. Second question Roshan Bhai asked me was, "Why they are connecting the tail of sheep with the meadows of 'GoriE-nauni'? What do they mean? And why are they confusing me?" (page 133). The last word discussed with Roshan Bhai was "p)rk)" and it was the only occasion when Von Driem opened his mouth and started reading from a piece of paper in his hand "khunde sianE tini p))rk)..." (page 132). I stopped him in between and corrected the sentence to "khunde s)anE tini p)rk)..." and this quickly solved Roshan Bhai's problem, who was earlier translating the word "p))rk)" according to its pronunciation as 'of last year'. But it was not fitting in the lines of the song. However, it was at this moment when I cautioned Sharma to be careful about the correct pronunciation of the words.
During our talks I gave a short reference of Dr. Zoller's work on Bangan, where I mentioned some of the words with the examples, their forms, and the occasions when they are used. Assuming that this will be a comparative study on Bangani, I thought the source of their information should not be the same as of Dr. Zoller. My emphasis was therefore more on giving them general information and keeping myself neutral. In Mori, which is the gate to Bangan, they had the possibility to elicit information from hundreds of other Banganis. I tried to explain to them that the word "l)kt)" is also used in the situation of "lit)-kisl)" = 'milk ghee' and "m)nt)" in "m)ntorian)" = 'to slap'. I never told them that "the form had been incorrectly recorded by Dr. Zoller" (page 135).
I wanted to be a polite Bangani, and offered them all possible assistance in a very short time. This was their third day in Mori, sitting in the lonely house of Roshan Bhai. They could muster courage to visit "Motar" only after they met me (page 109). So it was obvious that they lacked even the basic knowledge of the area and language. Thus, if the two call this "apologetic" (page 135), this reminds me of a goat in the famous European tale which always refesed to eat grass during the day time, saying, "I am full." But when asked by its owner in the evening, it used to say, "They did not provide me any food."
The claim of the two that they visited Bangan is pure fiction. They have never been there. They have tried to obtain by devious means the confidence of some Banganis. They have distroted the sentences. On page 139, they have used the Hindi word "balaatkaar" 'rape' of the language. Any word with the meaning of 'rape' does not exist in the history and culture of Bangan. Only the people having literal knowledge of Hindi can understand and make use of this word. So when I asked Roshan Bhai, he could not believe that the word has this meaning. Because in Bangan the word "balaatkaar" stands for '(is) not my concern', (I) give a damn'. Roshan Bhai clarified that when the two gentlemen were confusing him with the pronunciations of the words then he used "balaatkaar" as used in Bangan. ,p. Their contempt for the Banganis not only got expressed through their impolite behaviour but also through their inability to give a correct description of their whereabouts and their host: they not only changed our sentences into structures which no Bangani can understand, they also did not hesitate to freely invent informants with whom they claim to have talked, and they also did not hesitate to freely claim to have visited places which they never did. And their attempts to convince the readers of the existence of male milch-cows (page 140) may perhaps be influenced by the idea of the existence of (F)lying Dutchmen.
Thanks to Suhnu Sharma's mischief, the whole Von Driem affair in Bangan became a grand exercise in deception and cofidence-trickstering. This explains why the Banganis have already started calling him "Shakuni" Sharma - a shady character in the Indian epic "Mahabharata". Thus, the so-called instructive encounter was nothinbg but a fake encounter that only spawned confusion and distortion.
New Delhi; 07.07.97
(Signed) G. S. Chauhan
Gabar Singh Chauhan
E-22, Rouse Avenue
New Delhi - 110 002
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