Mundy Shaheb-er Golpo
1. The Tale of Mundy Sahib
A little English village called Penryn,
In Cornwall, the sea does surround.
This was the land of Mundy’s birth, all water-bound.
Here was Peter Mundy born, in sixteen-hundred - thereabout;
Here was the home of fishermen, daily setting sail
To catch and sell their fish, in towns across the vale.
Then, the homes of fishermen no famines did assail.
Many fish to France they shipped, Mundy’s father’s trade;
By the creek they had a house, and all was well;
To school and college Peter went, in learning to excel.
Suddenly, one fateful day, grim growling clouds arrived,
Hailing storms across the deep, all the fish, they died.
So Mother Ganges swells, our elders claim,
As Demons she crushes in her fatal game.
In their boats, the fishermen went out to sea again,
Never came back ashore, drowned and tossed upon the main.
Hence the fates of fishermen dearth and famine blight,
Though the gods of plenty on good Cornwall alight.
Peter Mundy, aged fourteen, did sail out to sea,
Observing with his very eyes the dearth of fish that be.
This boded not well, young Peter understood,
Other work he must needs find to make good.
To Denmark, Russia, off he went, to China and Japan.
At last, a journey down to India did he plan.
In the East India Company, Peter seemed to thrive,
And soon to the port of Surat he did arrive.
In sixteen-twenty-eight, to India Mundy came,
Then was Shah Jahan Mughal emperor proclaimed.
With his own eyes Mundy saw the sorry state of things:
On the harvests locusts swarm, the rat ruin brings.
Three million starved to death, it is said;
In the streets people died, in the fields and in the mart,
Everywhere dead bodies lay, on the roads of Gujarat.
Beasts chewed upon the meat, and gnawed at the bones,
Humans, fighting hunger pangs, sold the children in their homes.
Day and night did parents weep, behold their cries and groans.
Demon-like the dealers were, no pity in their hearts,
Fearing death, a million fled, no hope of life in these parts.
From Ahmednagar many escaped as far as they could flee;
Such tales of sorrow Mundy Sahib wrote in his diary.
Cartloads of food Banjaras brought, the starving to relieve.
The emperor’s armies snatched away this means of reprieve.
As Mundy roamed across the land, such sad sights he knew,
Scenes of hunger and injustice, ever in his view.
He met a Persian, Mirza Mahmood, for Burhanpur bound;
On those thief-infested roads, a companion he found.
Peter and Mirza together they went to the imperial seat,
And with other Company men, a meal, at last, they eat.
In trouble and toil together they were, many a day went by,
A lifetime, writing and drawing tales to fill his diary.
With Mundy many Company men from Surat did depart;
But dreadful scenes of misery did drive them apart.
Their eyes brimmed with tears to see this turmoil:
Corruption and torture, disease and toil.
Soon were Mundy’s friends scattered here and there,
Witness to death, and weakened by fear.
Alas, to his country Mundy repaired, forlorn,
In the blink of an eye, his companions had gone.
This tale that Mundy’s diary tells is a gift for all,
Whether ourselves Hindu, Muslim, or Christian call.
In pictures and words, the proof has lived long;
Four hundred years hence, Dukhu sings Mundy’s song.