Saturday, February 3, 2007
A Welsh psychologist, Cliff Arnall, has come to the conclusion that January 24 is the saddest day of the year. I read about it in an article by C.J. Moore in the International Herald Tribune. The reasons listed by Arnall for arriving at a precise date for the depth of gloom sound specious and only apply to regions lying above the Tropic of Cancer where the winters are long and harsh.
The period begins with the winter solstice (December 21-22) when we in the northern hemisphere have the longest night and the shortest day. This is not so in the southern hemisphere, comprising South America, most of Africa, Australia, New Zealand and many islands. There it is the other way round — it is the longest day and the shortest night. No provocation to take a gloomy view of life.
Long, cold winter months do, indeed, dampen human spirits. This can effect humans and been named Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). More old people kick the bucket during this time than others. People try to keep their spirits high by lighting log fires in their homes, celebrating Christmas and New Year by partying, extra drinking, exchanging presents, singing and dancing.
Then comes the hangover. Heavy consumption of liquor money thrown away in buying presents, and after-party fatigue takes its toll. Everyone is in the dumps; it’s the Celtic gloom, in Irish it is said tha mi bron ach (the sadness is upon me).
Arnall may be near the mark in fixing January 24 as being the saddest day of the year. To me it sounds nonsensical. In any case it does not apply to India. We too have a spell of biting cold after the winter solstice. But with us it is also the wedding season; so there is lot of jollity.
It also coincides with rehearsals for the Republic Day Parade. Bands start practice at 6 am and go on till sunrise. Schoolchildren and soldiers march down Rajpath. Thousands gather along the route to watch and cheer them. At nights, public buildings are lit up: it looks like one mammoth national wedding.
If there is the saddest day of the year, it stands to reason there should also be a happiest day of the year. In Europe and North America, I expect it would be some time in the month of May when woods are green, flowers bloom, thrushes, black birds and nightingales are in full-throated song. With us the happiest day of the year was fixed since time immemorial: it is Holi. Neither too cold nor too warm and the flame of forest (palas or tesu) is in its blazing glory.
Sampurna Chatterji is a celebrated Bengali poet and short-story writer who specialises in writing and translating nonsense verse. She translated Sukumar Ray’s Abol Tabol (Puffin). She is a major contributor in collection of nonsense verse — The Tenth Rasa, edited by Michael Heyman, Sumanyu Satpathy and Anushka Ravishankar, and published recently by Penguin Books. One of her originals is entitled Idli-Pom:
Idli lost its fiddli
Dosa lost its crown
Wada lost its wiolin
And let the whole band down.
A Marathi parallel is from the pen of Mangesh Padgavkar:
The Madrasi tossed in a line
And sang, sa re ga pa dha sa,
When he pulled upon the line
Up came an idli and a dosa
Sumanyu Satpathy of Orissa has his own unique recipe:
Taught to say ku-ku-du-koo, ku-ku-du-koo
He only said ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’
Such a vain cock —
You’re in for a shock:
Not tandoori, you’ll only be stew.
And a more contemporary problem confronted by Oriya babus:
He, of Sarankul, Sadanand Satpathy
Went off riding his band new phat-phati
The red traffic light
He crossed with delight
And thus did the babu attain sadgati.
Nirupama Dutt specialises in Punjabi folklore, both Pakistani and Indian. In her selection she has a delightful example of bawdy verse sung by the bride’s girlfriends to rile the groom and his male companions called Sithni :
So you have come
Yes you have come
But where have you
Left your mum?
She will come
She will come
She’s just busy
Shaking her bum.
What’s the matter, dear mister?
What’s the matter, dear mister?
Where have you left
Your little sister?
She’ll be here soon
So don’t you titter :
She’s just effing
For some reason she has left out the most popular nonsense rhyme which even I remember by heart:
Keeklee Kaleev dee
Pug Meyrey Veer dee
Dopatta meyree Mai da
Phitey moonh javaaee da
(Keeklee Kaleev dee;
turban of my elder brother
My mother’s dopatta
blacken face of the son-in-law.)
The anthology will keep you smiling from page one to the finish.
Teji to Ash
Harivansh Rai Bachchan was a widower
When Teji relivened his gloomy life
She fell for the Madhushala, a poet
And became his loving, devoted wife
The poet’s son, Amitabh Bachchan
A talented actor, played the role of angry man
Though himself very tall, he took Tiny Jaya
As his bride and enlarged his clan.
Now, Junior Bachchan Abhishek
A prince of the silver screen,
Is engaged to Ash, heart-throb of millions,
A Bollywood star and a beauty queen
Senior Bachchan says Abhishek proposed to Ash
In New York where the weather was fine
How come, the pair prayed together in Kashi
Much earlier at the Vishwa Nath Shrine?
G.C. Bhandari, Meerut)