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The Straight Dope: why is prostitution called the oldest profession?

February 27, 2012 5 comments

Worlds’s oldest profession is a little over 100 years old.

Prostitution - A Smart Career Choice  |  Source - Internet; Category - T-Shirt Humour - Funny Prostitution

Prostitution - A Smart Career Choice | Source - Internet; Category - T-Shirt Humour - Funny Prostitution

for the details I turned to Barry Popik, chairman of the Straight Dope philology department. He responded with a new post to his word-origins blog, at barrypopik.com. Based on this we construct the following account:

1. The originator of the notion of prostitution as the oldest profession was Rudyard Kipling. His 1888 short story “On the City Wall” begins: “Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world. … In the West, people say rude things of Lalun’s profession, and write lectures about it and distribute the lectures to young persons in order that Morality may be preserved.” Lalun is, of course, a hooker.

2. Kipling, as is the wont of authors, wasn’t offering a learned insight into the labor markets of antiquity but rather making a quip.

3. It was, however, a quip with legs. Previously the oldest profession was generally considered to be farming. For example, Popik notes, in 1883 the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald proclaimed, “In fact agriculture is the first and best as well as the oldest profession.” (via The Straight Dope: Is excess American body fat a potential energy resource? Plus: why is prostitution called the oldest profession?).

Going USA

Kipling’s biggest successes were his books on India.

Strangely, after Kipling emigrated to the US, he worked hard to completely erase his Indian Connection. He tried his hand at ‘white’ themes like Captains Courageous (1897). But, what became famous were his ‘Indian’ books like Kim and The Light That Failed (1890).

Probably, more a reflection on American society, than on Kipling.

Drop of tar

A few decades after Kipling went to America, came the story of Merle Oberon.

A part-Indian actress in Hollywood, Merle Oberon’s biggest struggle was to overcome the ‘drop of tar’ in her blood. Merle Oberon’s nephew, Micahel Korda, used her story to get a book commission, Queenie, that was also made into a movie. There is more in Michael Korda’s insipid novel, Queenie. Her great niece, Shelley Conn, is being cast by Spielberg – whose ET was ‘co-incidentally’ similar to a Satyajit Rai script.).

Wondering

Coming back to the world’s oldest profession. After giving all possible benefit of doubt to Kipling, still, it does not stop me from wondering.

Was Kipling’s ‘Lalun’ character from the world’s oldest profession, based on Kipling’s lack of respect for India.


Light that Failed

How excited would Harper Collins be, to publish a book about a British woman who fell in love with an Indian ….

What if it was a English woman and an Indian soldier?  |  Click for larger image.

What if it was a English woman and an Indian soldier? | Click for larger image.

Kohima was the scene of an Allied victory in the World War II that changed the contours of the war in Asia. The Japanese who had been advancing steadily into Asia after the success of their Burma campaign in 1941-42 were beaten back…

The “Battle of Kohima”, was a bloody affair. It lasted for three months, from April to June 1944, and left over 10,000 dead on both sides.

Easterine Kire’s Mari – a story of love in the time of war … lovers here are Mari, short for Khrielievu Mari, the 17-year-old daughter of a treasury officer in the district commissioner’s office in Kohima, and Staff Sargeant Victor (Vic), a British soldier in the India army. The novel is in the first person, a semi-fictional autobiography written from the stories that Mari told Kire, her niece, about those momentous years of her life, and from a diary that she kept in those years. (via War and love in Kohima.).

Anglo-woman and Indian soldier

How excited would Harper Collins be, to publish a book about a British woman who fell in love with an Indian …

A White Man going ‘native’ was a marked man. Joseph Conrad’s writings exposed the barbarity and depravity of Colonial Europe – only to finally blame the ‘native’ for ‘reducing’ the White Man to barbarity.

Rudyard Kipling tried to erase all his prior ‘connections’ with India, after emigrating to America. He tried has hand at ‘White’ themes like Captains Courageous(1897). What became famous were books like Kim and The Light That Failed (1890).

The story of Merle Oberon, a part-Indian actress in Hollywood, is a good instance (more in the insipid story Queenie by Michael Korda, her nephew). Merle Oberon’s biggest struggle was to overcome the ‘drop of tar’ in her blood. Her nephew, Micahel Korda, used her story to get a book commission, that was also made into a movie. Her great niece, Shelley Conn. is being cast by Spielberg, (whose ET was ‘co-incidentally’ similar to Satyajit Rai script.).

For Indians to find allurement in such themes, is incorrect, at least politically.



Facelift for Orwell’s birthplace in Bihar

July 18, 2010 12 comments

An egregious example of colonial architecture in India - the Mumbai Municipal Corporation building

An egregious example of colonial architecture in India - the Mumbai Municipal Corporation building.

Located in Bihar’s Motihari town, the room in which Orwell’s mother Ida Mabel Blair gave birth to him on June 3, 1903, would be restored to its original condition. Orwell’s father Richard W Blair, who worked for the then opium department, was posted at Motihari at the time of his son’s birth. “A sum of Rs 4 lakh has been earmarked from the district plan fund for the repair and restoration work,” East Champaran district planning officer R K Mishra told TOI. As this amount is not sufficient to renovate the house, he said, it has been decided to undertake the restoration work of one room only. The district administration, however, is willing to do more and is trying to get more funds. “We have sent a Rs 2.5-crore proposal to the state art and culture department for developing the birthplace of Orwell,” Mishra said. The proposal includes the construction of a boundary wall around the house and an open auditorium on the premises.

Art and culture department officials said they are yet to pore over the proposal. But they are more than willing to extend help for such a move. “An experts’ team would be drafted to Motihari to assess the ground reality,” art and culture department secretary Vivek Singh said over phone from Delhi. (via Facelift for Orwell’s birthplace in Bihar).

Lal, Bal, Pal - the men who put the Empire on retreat!
Lal, Bal, Pal – the men who put the Empire on retreat!

The British Raj, in a short 150 years, milked the world’s richest nation into the poorest.

To cover-up this historic embezzlement, the British built more monuments in 150 years, than all other rulers of India, over the previous 5000 years.

Conserving the colonial past

In Mumbai this has created a conservation industry. Of Colonial buildings!

Rudyard Kipling’s bungalow is more important that Lokmanya Tilak’s! India obtained funding for ‘saving’ the gargoyle-infested colonial railway structures from UNESCO. Supported by  breast beating activists who worked hard to increase awareness of structures funded by colonial loot and drug trade (of opium).

The liberal establishment in India is worried about all the colonial ‘heritage’ and structures. Old Mumbai mills are included – but not the even more ancient Buddhist structures. Don’t even mention the Chaphekar Brothers! May Mumbai’s Buddhist caves go to ruination.

The Mumbai Municipal Commissioner, while decrying the attempts by the Indian neo-Colonial Rulers, to ‘save’ Mumbai’s colonial past, makes no mention of these Buddhist caves. While Kipling’s bungalow is a ‘hallowed’ institution, Mumbai’s Buddhist caves are dying of ‘active neglect’

The Empire strikes back

I wonder what has happened to Balgangadhar Tilak’s house. Very little is known or done about Lala Lajpat Rai’s last residence. People have completely forgotten who Bipin Chandra Pal was. India has definitely ‘progressed’.

Among India’s chatterati, glitterati, the papparazzi, there is barely concealed longing for a return of the Raj. This hides a deeper malaise. The need for an Asuric Raj, which will build gleaming towers, glass and chrome plazas, shopping malls for the rich.

Colonial heroes

Wonder what Bihar’s Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar has to say on this. Has he considered a memorial to Bagha Jatin, whose anti-colonial exploits in the neighbouring area made him a living hero. Or a memorial to the son-of-soil, Jaya Prakash Narayan, who organized the colonial police force to strike work – and exposed the soft underbelly of the Raj. I am confident that Nalanda conservation must be suffering for lack of funding. But conserving George Orwell’s birthplace is presumably more important.

Indian affection for Rudyard Kipling is misplaced. Kipling  was ashamed and embarrassed of his Indian connections. He tried to cover up every iota of his Indian connection after reaching the West. Orwell was the more cynical retreating colonialist. To the British, evacuating from India, Orwell interestingly reminded that “those who control the past, control the future.”

After more than 60 years, Indian history is still held hostage by the British!

Historian on a mission to save little-known caves – Mumbai – City – NEWS – The Times of India

July 12, 2009 16 comments
Magathane Caves

Magathane Caves

Two years ago, a historian, while researching traditional Indian methods of water harvesting, stumbled upon a series of ancient Buddhist caves in Borivli, which its custodians scarcely knew or cared about.

Initially, she was scared that the historical caves would crumble under the weight of the slum colonies that encroached upon them, but now she fears that the construction works being conducted on an adjacent plot might bring the structures down. (via Historian on a mission to save little-known caves – The Times of India).

Old Mumbai mills are valuable - but not the Buddhist caves

Old Mumbai mills are valuable - but not the Buddhist caves

While India has managed to obtain funding for ‘saving’ the gargoyle-infested colonial railway structures from UNESCO, breast beating activists have managed to increase awareness of structures funded by colonial loot and drug trade (of opium).

In all this, two things are forgotten.

One – Colonial versions show the start of Mumbai’s history when the Portuguese gave Mumbai as dowry to the British in 1661 – including a Government of Maharashtra website.

If there was no Mumbai before the British, where did these Buddhist caves (at Magathane, Kanheri, etc.) come from? Or did I miss the ‘fact’ that British first came to India in the 2nd century, made these Buddhist caves – and came back again to India in the 17th century, built these Gothic Victorian structures, and went away – which we ‘uncultured’ Indians are trying to save?

Did the British come in the 1st century and make these caves?

Did the British come in the 1st century and make these caves?

Two – The liberal establishment in India is worried about all the colonial ‘heritage’ and structures. Old Mumbai mills are included – but not the even more ancient Buddhist structures.

The Mumbai Municipal Commissioner, while decrying the attempts by the Indian neo-Colonial Rulers, to ‘save’ Mumbai’s colonial past, makes no mention of these Buddhist caves. While Kipling’s bungalow is a ‘hallowed’ institution, these Buddhist caves are dying of ‘active neglect’.

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