Wednesday, November 27, 2019











Possibly in 1983 or 1984, I saw Prof Peter Raina at his Shivpora house in Srinagar city. His father had died and he had come to Kashmir. He was closely related to Justice M L Kilam, a respected Judge from Kashmir. Peter Raina's sister was married to Justice M L Kilam. And Justice Kilam told me many facets of Peter Raina's interesting personality.


Peter Raina or Predimen Krishen Raina is the son of Pandit Jia Lal Raina ( Taarivol ). Pandit Jia Lal Raina was a very senior official during the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh and at the time of the partition of the country, he held the post of Registrar Co-operative Societies in J&K . Predimen Krishen Raina had his initial schooling in Srinagar's National School where artist Bansi Parimu and noted playwright  Padamashri Moti Lal Kemu were his close friends. Later, he studied in New York, Germany and Oxford and finally did his doctorate in history from Warsaw University in Poland. He taught history at Warsaw University.


 In a feature published in the magazine Cosmopolitan Review’ on March 14, 2010, Chicago-based journalist Justine Jablonska writes this:-

“Peter left Kashmir as a teenager to attend schools in Geneva, New York, London, and Berlin. His father groomed him for a political career. Peter says that he was supposed to become the next premier of India. That didn’t happen because he became fascinated with history. Before leaving Kashmir, he found a book about [Polish scientist] Marie Sklodowska-Curie in his father’s library. Later, when World War II broke out, his father asked, ‘Do you know how the war began? It began in Poland.’ And so Poland was locked into Peter’s mind from a young age.

After university, he decided to study history at Oxford, where he was encouraged to write his doctorate in Poland on Polish-German relations in the 1930s.In 1962, he arrived in Poland with seven suitcases filled with outfits for every occasion. Polish customs officers asked if he was planning on selling the clothes in Poland. In his Warsaw dorm, he soon realized there was no room for the suitcases – or their contents – so he gave away most of his clothes. Warsaw in the 1960s was a different world than today. The University of Warsaw had 2,300 students and almost everyone knew each other. Raina joined student opposition groups. He met with many writers – Mieczyslaw Jastrun, Pawel Jasienic.”

At present, Peter Raina is an internationally acclaimed writer on history having authored more than 25 books on Polish history, the anti-communist movement, the Polish church and politics in Polish, a language that he mastered. He speaks fluent Polish and German. These books stand translated into various European languages. Apart from books, he has written innumerable scholarly articles that stand published in various journals and magazines in the US and many European countries. Some very popular books of Prof Peter Raina could be listed as under:-


1 George Macaulay-Trevelyan: A Portrait in Letters by George Macaulay Trevelyan and Peter Raina.

2  House of Lords Reform Series) by Peter Raina.

3 George 'Dadie' Rylands: Shakespearean Scholar and Cambridge Legend by Peter Raina.

4 Heinrich Von Kleist Poems: Introduced and Translated Into English Rhyming Verse by Peter Raina.

5 Independent Social Movements in Poland by Peter Raina.

Political Opposition in Poland 1954-77  by  Peter Raina.

7 Jaruzelski 19231968 - Polish Edition by  Peter Raina.

8 Droga do Okraglego Stolu Zakulisowe rozmowy przygotowawcze - Polish Edition

 by  Peter Raina.

9 Bishop George Bell-the Greatest Churchman by Peter Raina.

10 Heinrich Von Kleist Poems: Introduced And Translated Into English Rhyming Verse by Peter Raina.

11  John Sparrow: Warden of All Souls College, Oxford: «I Loathe All Common Things by Peter Raina.

12 A Daring Venture: Rudolf Hess and the Ill-Fated Peace Mission of 1941  By Peter Raina.

13 Doris Lessing - A Life Behind The Scenes: The Files Of The British Intelligence Service Mi5 By Peter Raina.

14  Zur Entstehung des polnischen Reformkommunismus Oktober 1953 - Juli Peter Raina.

15 Internationale Politik in den siebziger Jahren by Peter Raina .

16 Gomulka: Polit. Biographie. [Aus d. Ms Dt. von Doris Essing] by Peter Raina.

 17 Poland 1981 by Peter Raina. 


18   Ardynal Wyszynski  by Peter  Raina. 



In Poland, his close friends included reputed writers like Mieczyslaw Jastrun and Pawel Jasienic and the national icon of the Polish church, Bishop Wyszynski. While In Poland, he joined a group of free thinkers who were opposed to the curbs and restrictions imposed during communist rule. And for that, he paid a heavy price. Like other polish intellectuals who opposed the communist dictatorship in Poland, he was banished from Poland where he had been permanently living since 1962. I was told that Peter Raina was invited to the now-famous meeting of 1967 at the university at which Leszek Kołakowski criticized the Communist Party of Poland. Raina also spoke at this gathering. He is reported to have criticised Polish rulers for snatching the democratic rights of the people and imp[osing a rule of suppression. After that meeting, Raina was repeatedly interrogated by the Polish Secret Police who asked him to leave the country immediately. Finally, he moved to Germany as an exile and taught at Berlin University. He is truly cosmopolitan. He feels at home in America, Oxford, Poland and Germany. And like many, he searched for his place in the world.


While in Poland, he fell in love with a Polish girl Barbara Wyreszczynska, a pretty, blonde student at Warsaw University and married her in 1968. They were a wonderful couple. This marriage had a tragic end. A recent documentary on Peter Raina by the Polish director Bozena Garus-Hockuba explored the loves, work and life of Peter Raina in her film, “They took his love away.” The film makes us believe that his wife was possibly killed by Służba Bezpieczeństwa, the Secret Police of the then-communist government of Poland. In an interview, the director of the film, “They took his love away” told this to the Chicago-based journalist, Justine Jablonska:-


“A scene at the end, when Raina is standing by his wife’s gravesite. He’s very emotional and says that even though she spied on him, she nevertheless loved him and he loved her. He says he’s happy that the name “Raina” will remain in Poland. The scene then concludes with one of his friends saying that taking away someone’s love is the worst crime of all.”


Peter Raina has been a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London, and an Associate Member of Nuffield College, Oxford. He has also been a Visiting Research Scholar, at the Faculty of History, Oxford University. Peter Raina's contribution to Polish life and the restoration of democracy will go long in the annals of Polish history.




(Avtar Mota)

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Monday, November 25, 2019




So says poet Rahi Masoom Raza too.I quote him:_

'Kal kuchh aissa huva me bahut thak gaya
Iss liye sun ke bhi an-suni kar gaya
Kitani yaadon ke bhatake huve kaarawaan
Dil ke zakhmon ke dar khat-khataate rahe..'

(Avtar Mota)

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Sunday, November 24, 2019




In Kashmir I have heard people saying :

‘ Kya sa zsong ma hovnuss ’
‘ What happened ? Has he shown him the burning lamp ?’
“ Kya sa Koduva ?”
‘ Have you turned bankrupt? ’

Apart from the usual satire, the lines convey something serious. Showing a burning lamp meant a declaration of inability to repay. The burning lamp meant that the debtor had declared himself bankrupt and unable to repay his creditors. Where from did this strange practice of burning a lamp even during day time at the business premises originate? Prakash Tandon in his book ‘ Punjabi Century’ writes :

“In a shop, completely empty of goods, there sat a man in a rigid pose of silent meditation in front of a tall brass lamp with a single wick in a bowl of oil. The man was dressed in plain white clothes and the lamp cast his shadow on the bare wall behind.”

My friend Ravi Dhar informs :

“ My father was a dry and  fresh fruit contractor and used to supply dry fruits to Lala Bal Krishen and  fresh fruits to Amarnath Bros who had their establishments in and  around Maisuma area of Lal Chowk in Srinagar. In the late sixties of the last century, i  have heard my father informing the household elders that the Khatris (as he would call them) have shown the burning lamp.” 

This is how a businessman would declare himself bankrupt. My grandfather has told me that he had seen the burning lamp scene at a Maharaj Ganj shop in Srinagar city before 1947. There are many such references in storybooks that relate to traders of Lahore and Amritsar of 1947 period. Traders going bankrupt and then burning a big brass lamp at the business premises 24 by 7 till everyone more particularly the creditors knew what had happened.

 Only a panchayat type of gathering did some reasonable settlement as legal suits were not brought in by creditors after they saw the burning lamp. Sometimes a person who had to receive ten thousand got just two hundred rupees. The panchayat or trading committee members were considerate towards the bankrupt.

This practice was quite popular in colonial India. There was no need to run away or abscond. The trader needed to be present to show his shame. As per gazetteer of 1815 ( East India Company), the bankrupt would not wear the tail of his waistcloth hanging down but tucks it up. A bankrupt was supposed to act in time so that the business interests of his creditors were not jeopardized. The swift action of early declaration of his bankruptcy earned him sympathy.

Diwalia as it was known all over the country, had many social issues. A marriage proposal in a family where some person had declared himself Diwalia was not a normal affair. The family carried the stigma for some generations. A common refrain would be expressed like this :

‘ Are you marrying your son/daughter in that family? I am told that the bride’s / bridegroom’s great grandfather had kept the burning lamp outside their business premises and put many innocent traders to trouble. Take care .’ 

Romans were the first to bring a law for bankruptcies. Roman laws provided a fairly persuasive method for dealing with individuals who did not appear to be able to pay their debts when they fell due. First, the debtor was given 30 days time to pay or find someone else to pay for him. If payment was not made, the creditor could : 

"Fasten him in stocks or fetters. He shall fasten him with not less than fifteen pounds of weight or, if he chooses, with more. If the prisoner desires, he may furnish his own food. If he does not, the creditor must give him a pound of meal daily; if he choose he may give him more."

This practice has died down as the business creditors have shifted from individuals to banks and financial institutions. Business morality has also undergone a sea change.

( Avtar Mota )

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