Showing posts from January, 2010

The Dak Harkara

These days, we have a plethora of mail delivery services, be it snail mail or electronic mail. We have video mail, voice mail, email, secure couriers and so on all vying for their place next to the old monopoly of the Indian government, the lowly placed postal mail. One may choose to callously call it snail mail or what ever, but there was a time, when it was the only mail system available. And before that, well, all we had were the Dak runner’s or the Harkara. The Harkara literally ran with the mail, not necessarily from point A to point B, but as part of a relay system. In the Moghul days, they ran 8-10 miles in each direction and back (i.e. 20 miles a day), but in later EIC times, they ran 5-6 miles per direction, before they handed it over to the next Harkara. The harkara was not only a delivery man of letters, but also a person who conveyed news to both ends, officially and unofficially, publicly or surreptitiously. They were sometimes purveyors of intelligence to authorities of …

Soliman the Elefant

Suleiman in Europe – A sad story

Several months ago, I wrote about the imperial gift of a giraffe by an Indian King to the Ming emperor and the awe the Chinese had about it when Zheng he took it to Nanjing imperial palace in the 1415 time frame. Later I wrote about the elephant Murugan in Amsterdam a story that is one of my favorites.

If one has to juxtapose something in between, he needs something of equal grandeur. So I choose the story of Suleiman from Malabar in Europe. It is a very charming but at the same time sad story of a man’s indulgence and pompousness. If I were to tell you that this magnificent creature (presumably from the Nilambur forests, but I must admit that one source indicates it could have been from Sri Lanka – nevertheless my love for the elephant does make me tell this story) died of loneliness and poor diet while in a rich king’s stable, you may be surprised. I will get to it by and by, for when I delved into the story, it proved to have a life of its own, the …