|Saturday, August 18, 2001||
AMONG the scores of Pakistani mediapersons who came over to cover the Agra Summit was an unmarried girl in her twenties. She was more starry-eyed about everything she saw and the people she met in India than her elder companions. Like them she indulged in a lot of shopping: sarees, silver and gold jewellery, shoes, herbal cosmetics, etc. Among her many purchases were some raakhis and a mangalsutra. "I think this tying of raakhis round wrists of brothers and getting money or presents in return is a wonderful custom: I have lots of brothers and male cousins. I also like the idea of wearing a mangalsutra to signify you are married. When I have my nikaah, I’ll ask my husband to put it round my neck."
"What will your mullahs have to say about raakhis and mangalsutra? They will denounce them and pronounce a fatwa against you," I said.
"Mullahs can mind
their own business," she replied emphatically.
I am confused about the need for wearing emblems to signify marital status. Most married women (and some men) wear wedding rings. Mangalsutras are commonly wore by married women in South India. Then there is sindhoor in the parting of the hair. Not all women wear it. Some have a tiny red dot. But there is Sushma Swaraj whose sindhoor runs like a swathe of vermillion right across the parting. On top of that she wears a huge bindi (in her case binda would be closer to the mark). She is a good-looking woman. Why has she to disfigure her face simply to proclaim to males of the world that she is a happily married woman?
What happened to vanamahotsavas?
One doesn’t hear so much of vanamahotsavas, a regular feature of the summer monsoons, as one used to in the past. I had almost forgotten about this being the best time to plant trees till the Secretary of the Delhi Golf Club told me that he had got 10 saplings of Sandalwood trees from Mysore to plant along fairways and would I agree to plant one of them. Sandalwood is considered an exotic tree in northern India but it does take root and flourish. I have one in the tiny patch behind my flat. It has been there over 20 years. It is over 12 feet tall. But it has no fragrance. Sandalwood is a parasite: its roots suck juices from roots of neighbouring trees and convert them into aromatic stuff. My poor fellow has only bougainvillaea bushes near it and probably its roots do not relish the taste of roots whose flowers have no smell.
Three years ago I wrote with great enthusiasm about gurdwaras which were giving saplings as parshad instead of the traditional halwa. I do not know if the practice continues. I also learn that Tirupati Temple has also started giving saplings as prasadam. If all places of worship made this a regular practice, we might reverse the deadly pace of deforestation, and make our country green once again. My pleas to ban cremations of the dead by wood has fallen on deaf ears. We have no option but to plant more trees than we cut down to use as fuel, and for making furniture and disposing of dead humans.
There is also callous lack of concern about the health of trees that we have. Pushpa Bhatia drew my attention to trees planted along roads. Very often on the ground road the boles of trees are covered by bricks, stones or tarmac. This deprives roots of sustenance they derive from rain-water and earth warmed by the sun. Such trees become sickly, their leaves turn pale before their time, their flowers and fruit also do not flourish. Pushpa ascribes the noticeable decline in our bird life to the poor health of trees in urban areas. She may have a point.
1. An anti-smoking slogan at a barber’s shop in Juhu, Mumbai — "Smoking helps you lose weight — one lung at a time!"
2. Discovered written on the door of a maternity ward in Aurangabad — "Push! Push!! Push!!!"
3. Seen written behind a Santro in Mumbai — "Make love not war — see driver for details."
4. A sticker on a Yamaha mobike — "If practise makes perfect, and nobody’s perfect, then why practise!!"
5. A graffito on a wall of a New Mumbai college — "Sex appeal: please donate generously!"
6. An ad for a guitar in a Mumbai eveninger — "Guitar for sale, cheap — no strings attached."
(Courtesy: Shashank Shekhar, Mumbai)
Cheer up my chum, dance around the tree.
Now, all of us are absolutely free!
Dacoits do not commit the crime at night
They loot a bank in broad daylight!
MLAs don’t hold the governor in reverence
They go on shouting in his august presence!
Employees have no regard for the boss
Him, in the sky, they hurl and toss!
Students do not obey or respect their teacher
They treat him like a funny creature!
Children are not scared of their father
What he says they do not bother!
Policemen are so reckless and sinister
They can manhandle a Chief Minister!
Life is so safe that it can be said
"In a protected area, you can shoot an MP dead!"
(Contributed by G.C. Bhandari, Meerut)