A Cossack folktale for Aamir Khan – Kanchan Gupta

Aamir Khan

Kanchan GuptaWhat is most enduring about folktales is that they are neither culture nor society specific. The wisdom contained in folktales is not limited to national borders or linguistic identities, and transcends cultural barriers. – Kanchan Gupta

My mother was fond of reading books. Or maybe I should say she was fond of reading. Till the last day of her life (she died all of a sudden, giving no sign of failing health) she would read newspapers and magazines and books cover to cover. I guess it was her love for the printed word that made her take up, for a short while, the job of an assistant librarian at Miranda House. This was in the early 1960s.

My early memories of Ma are about all the books she bought me as a child. Books were replaced by LPs, but that was much later. Those days Soviet books were a rage. They would be lavishly illustrated and come in bright covers. I had a sizeable collection of them, mostly books of folktales from various regions of the USSR. That’s how I developed my abiding love for folktales.

Those books are long gone, tattered, torn and dumped as we shifted homes, changed cities and relocated in foreign shores, and then packed up to return to India. But my love for folktales remains as strong as ever. For, there’s something eternal about folktales. No matter how old they are or how often they are retold, they still remain as relevant as they were when they were first told.

What is most enduring about folktales is that they are neither culture nor society specific. The stories of Panchatantra are an example of how the wisdom contained in folktales is not limited to national borders or linguistic identities, and transcends cultural barriers.

We may believe that folktales belong to the past and are irrelevant for our times. But it’s amazing how they reflect contemporary mores irrespective of their vintage. For instance, there’s a Cossack folktale I have often recounted Cossackbecause it helps explain attitudes and concerns of our times. It is as relevant today as it was when first told. So here’s the story, marginally garnished, told all over again.

A young Cossack, who was a gifted horseman, dreamed of owning the best stallion in the village where he lived. So he toiled and saved money to buy his dream horse, and eagerly waited for the annual animal fair that was held in a nearby village. At last, the big day came and our young Cossack set off for the fair, dressed in his Sunday best.

He inspected all the horses on sale and finally found a stallion with a flowing mane, flaring nostrils, rippling muscles and glistening white coat. This was the horse he had dreamt of and toiled for! The owner asked for a huge sum, our young Cossack paid the money without even bothering to haggle over the price. It was worth every rouble that was demanded and paid.

Horse bought, the proud new owner mounted his steed and cantered home. He rode straight to the village square where his fellow Cossacks would gather every Sunday evening for raucous drunken revelry, dismounted and called them over to show off his new horse. A collective gasp was heard as the Cossacks gathered around: None had seen a more handsome stallion than this.

One of them patted the horse and praised his strength; another counted his teeth and declared he couldn’t be more than a year old; a third ran his fingers through the mane and sighed. Women, young and old, clasped their hands and giggled; many eyed the young Cossack as a potential son-in-law or husband. A horse like that had made our man more than dashing.

The ThinkerThe village elder was so impressed that he declared the stallion the official stud of the village horse collective and ordered a fresh round of vodka for everybody. A resounding cheer went up.

Then along came the village cynic, who was also the local correspondent of Pravda and the designated Cossack ‘intellectual’. He walked around the horse, went back to where he had been sitting sipping vodka, struck a pose similar to Rodin’s Thinker, got up after a while, walked back to the horse, lifted its tail, sniffed and declared, in a stentorian voice similar to that in which judges give their final verdict, in a scathing tone similar to that in which pompous opeds are written, “The horse stinks.”

Thank you Mr Aamir Khan for your view of India. It’s a free country and you are entitled to it. – Mid-Day, 28 November 2015

The writer is a senior journalist based in the National Capital Region. His Twitter handle is @KanchanGupta

Aamir Khan vs. Col Mahadik's Wife & Children

4 Responses

  1. The fact is overall its not going to make any difference to him with his many millions made out of foolish Hindus who dont even have the courage to stand up for themselves .He’ll be back again making his millions .Can you imagine anyone Hindu saying such things in Pakistan and Bangladesh along with movies bashing Islam ? its hard to even imagine let alone ever happening ..

    The guy should have been living in fear for his life but no because present day hindus are perceived as ‘weak and cowardly ‘ to do anything.


  2. Lovely Kanchan. Having ridden the horse,
    Won many trophies by the sheer power of the elegant animal, enticed and ensnared the youth just by the Grace of the vehicle,
    Having reached a thousand goals and targets due to the speed of the Divine stallion, Having tested the glory of success and celebrity status
    Finally Amir Khan has set his nose on the


  3. Venkaiah Naidu

    Govt ready to discuss ‘intolerance’ issue in Parliament: Venkaiah Naidu – PTI – Live Mint – 29 November 2015

    At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has struck a conciliatory note with the opposition, Union minister Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday said the centre was ready to discuss the issue of intolerance in the ongoing session of Parliament if the opposition allows the House to function. Naidu also alleged that opposition parties and some “pseudo-intellectuals” are “exaggerating” stray incidents that happened in states being “ruled by the Congress and their friends” with an aim to “tarnish” India’s image amid efforts to secure a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

    “The BJP government is ready to discuss (the issue of) intolerance if the opposition shows tolerance and allows the House to function. Some of the so-called intelligentsia are worried that they are losing their grip over cultural and literary organisations,” the parliamentary affairs minister said, adding the protests on the issue are being “manufactured”.

    “Entire campaign on intolerance is nothing but part of a campaign to slander the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Those who could not defeat Modi in polls have launched the disinformation campaign for political reasons,” he said. Naidu said the opposition and so-called intelligentsia are hurting the interests of the country by “blowing the issue out of proportion”. “They are thinking that they are hurting the Prime Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but they are hurting the interests of the country and they should understand that. They are using stray incidents of intolerance to portray it as a general condition…such incidents have been occurring in all countries,” Naidu told reporters.

    He also dismissed protests by various celebrities who have returned their awards citing “growing intolerance” in the country. “Out of 1100-odd award winners, some 42 people have returned their awards and these people are trying to say that every awardee has returned the award, which is untrue. Where were these award winners when Emergency was imposed, when Sikhs were massacred and when lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits were shunted out of Kashmir…why they didn’t return their awards then?” Naidu asked. Amid a raging debate over “intolerance”, Modi had asserted in Parliament during the ongoing winter session that the religion of government was “India first” and the Constitution its “holy book”.

    The PM had also reached out to the opposition by meeting his predecessor Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi at his residence to end the impasse on the controversial goods and services tax bill.


  4. Taslima Nasrin

    Taslima Nasreen: I like Aamir Khan and his work, but if I was in his place, I wouldn’t dream of leaving India – Vinita Chaturvedi – The Times of India – TNN – Nov 29, 2015

    Controversy’s favourite child, Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen’s alleged take on Aamir Khan recently generated a lot of heat. In a candid telechat, she clarifies her stand and speaks about India, intolerance and more.

    You have allegedly made some strong remarks against Aamir Khan that ‘India is not intolerant’ and if ‘He had mocked the God in Pakistan or Bangladesh, he would have been hanged’.

    Some fundamentalists use my name to fire guns in whichever direction they deem fit. They publish my pictures with any remark that is actually their own view. In Aamir’s case too, this is exactly what happened. People didn’t even bother to go through my social networking accounts to check the authenticity of my so-called remarks. I had merely said ‘You would find intolerance everywhere in the world. I think India should be the safest place for Bollywood celebrities like Aamir Khan.’

    I really like him and his work. Right from Lagaan to Taare Zameen Par and PK, I have seen many of his films. Moreover, I respect him as a human being, actor and filmmaker who is committed to women’s rights.

    As a person who has lived in India for so long, do you really think the situation is this bad here that people should start thinking of leaving the country?

    If I was in Aamir’s place, I wouldn’t dream of leaving India. He is loved by so many people. In comparison, I haven’t really been liked by too many people here. There have been fatwas issued against me and all kinds of death threats too. But still, I don’t think India is intolerant; yes some people are. So, we have to fight them and not leave the country.

    Do you also support the award wapasi movement?

    As individuals, it is people’s right to protest and you can’t criticise those who want to register their protest by returning the awards. Having said that, I wouldn’t think of returning an award, because firstly I haven’t received any award from the government and secondly, I would rather protest through articles and books.

    READ: ​Anupam Kher questions Aamir Khan’s statement on ‘intolerance’


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