|Saturday, June 22, 2002||
anywhere in India from North to South, East to West and see peasants at
work in their fields. The pattern is the same: the men plough the land
— you will never see a woman driving a pair of bullocks with a plough
or driving a tractor. Both men and women sow the seeds. Thereafter women
do most of the transplanting, tending the crops, harvesting, winnowing
and carrying the harvest to their homes. Men waste many hours in chaupals,
smoking hookahs and gossiping. They come into their own when it
comes to taking fruits of their labour (mostly women’s labour) to mandies
to sell. To celebrate the occasion they go to thekas and
consume vast quantities of hard liquor, return home, drink late into the
night, beat up their wives because by then their daal-roti is
cold. After giving them a sound thrashing they impregnate them no matter
how many children they already have.
All that the dust jacket of the book reveals of the author is that she is a sociologist working as a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies. Her name reveals she is a Brahmin, Tiwari, married to a Sikh, Jassal, currently India’s Ambassador to Israel.
It begins in spring when young people’s thoughts turn to love. Nature renews itself. Withered leaves fall, new ones take their place. Animals and birds pair up to mate. Their metabolism specifies when females come into heat and become receptive to advances of the male of their species. The only exceptions are humans. They remain on heat round the year: for them all seasons are mating seasons.
By the time spring turns to summer, birds have prepared their nests to lay eggs. Females of the animal species are pregnant and ready to deliver as soon as nature is ready to provide them sustenance. Come the monsoon and the parched land turns green. Trees bear fruit. Insects multiply by the millions to assure adequate food for birds and their hatchlings. Rains renew life by providing food for all living creatures.
I see this process of regeneration round my little apartment. Some years ago my neighbours drove away dozens of cats that had made my home their own. They said cats spread disease. This was at the height of bubonic plague in Surat. My cats were removed to a cats’ home. They never came back. A couple of months ago two strays decided to move into my backyard. They refused to befriend me. Then one of them had a litter of three kittens behind a bush. I tried to make friends with the kittens. Every time I saw them playing on the patch of green, I approached them with friendly noises. They simply glowered at me with their large questioning eyes. If I took a step forward, they disappeared behind the bushes.
But there was my granddaughter’s cat Billo who spent a lot of her time purring in my lap when no one else was around. We looked forward to her having a litter because she was often missing from the home and evidently cohabiting with a Tom who prowled around in the backyard. At times Billo’s belly looked swollen. We surmised she was pregnant. Then equally suddenly the swelling disappeared. It was probably a false pregnancy — or just surplus gas.
However, I did notice that she frequently visited the linen cupboard at the farthest end of my flat. It was in the lowest shelf of this cupboard that most cats I had, had given birth to their litter. Then one day without warning Billo hid itself in the linen cupboard and emerged after an hour or so mewing incessantly. She wanted to draw my attention to something. She led me to the linen cupboard. I peered inside. I could not see anything but distinctly heard a tiny mew. We celebrated the arrival of Billo’s progeny. I still do not know if it is just one, or as is usual with cats, two or three. I look forward to having them play in my lap. There are few other things as endearing as kittens at play.
During the mating season in the animal world, sex is compulsive. That poses a problem for humans who are particular about the pedigrees of their pets. They take great pains to keep their pedigreed bitches from mating with aira-ghaira animals till they have found an equally high-pedigreed mate for them.
One such person is my friend Claire Dutt who keeps three Labradors. Two are now past breeding: only one, Zoe, is still of the age to breed and Claire is on the lookout for a suitable match for her. She sends her dogs out for an airing in the park with her servant. Apparently she sensed that while her servant was enjoying his bidi, Zoe had been up to no good with some stray dog. She was understandably upset and questioned her servant about it. His reply was charmingly naive: "Mem Sahib, the two old dogs behave very well but this Zoe: is ka chaal challan kharaab ho gayaa hai — whenever she meets a male dog, she says hello, hello, hello to him."
There is the
Bad coins push out
So, there is a
It is the same with people
Good guys are given the
Bad ones rule the roost
(Courtesy: Vishwa Nath, New Delhi)
Power of natural gas
Indian defence ministers are notorious for their lack of familiarity with military weapons and skills.
There was a time when the Army was under attack by the enemy, which was using chemical weapons in the form of gas. The Indian Army was drastically short of gas masks.
The General telephoned the Indian defence minister and said: "I am running drastically short of means to fight the gas attack:"
And the defence minister promptly said: "Try using two tablets of soda bicarb dissolved in a glass of water. That should take care of the gas."
(Contributed by Priya Nath Mehta,