|Saturday, August 16, 2003||
OLD habits die hard. I could say this about my liking for cold drinks. I have vivid memories of my Ammaji (grandmother) preparing for the approaching summer well in advance. Come April and she would get busy with the soaking and grinding of almonds, khas and preparation of sattu and kanji. We would all hover around her impatiently, pestering her to allow us to taste them. My mother, who would be extending a helping hand, would try to shoo us away. However, Ammaji would frown at our mother and say, "These nectars are for them alone, let them taste."
By May end, the juice of
the unripe mangoes would be prepared and bottled as panna. A few
days later the ripe litchi would arrive in huge tokras. The
sparkling maroon-red litchi would tempt us no end. And surely our greed
in this case would severely test Ammaji’s patience. She was
never allowed to crush these in peace. Nevertheless, the delicious
litchi juice with its natural flavour devoid of anything synthetic would
be filled in bottles. All of us were made to sit in a row and served
either thandai or sattu or panna or litchi or bel
juice or shikanjavi, thrice a day.
When synthetic cold drinks arrived on the scene and became a craze with everyone around us, I remained the odd one out with repulsion writ large on my face. I could never take to them. Often, I have had to apologise for not having tasted any of the colas or other synthetic drinks.
But today, I am so thankful to my grandmother and mother for introducing us to the best ‘nectars of nature’. I passed on the same tastes to my children. Both my children have no liking for any cold drink. In fact, they too are the odd ones out in their circle of friends. As a mother I was so relieved that my children had not been consuming the pesticides which have been discovered in these synthetic drinks.
Another reason why my children did not prefer synthetic drinks was that they had read about the slow but damaging effect of these drinks on the intestines.
I have always felt disgusted seeing tiny tots with huge cola bottles. My disapproval may have many a time made me appear to be a senile old woman, passing judgment on others. But I cannot help rejecting anything that is not natural.
I am not sure whether this controversy over cold drinks will reach a logical conclusion, for in this country the powerful and moneyed people are often successful in covering up even the most obvious and confirmed cases of crime. I would not be surprised if tomorrow some report or some committee or some other laboratory test tries to convince us that there is nothing wrong with these synthetic colas. A few MPs who have already gone on record saying that they do not believe anything is amiss with cold drinks.
I was very amused to see a youngster saying on one of the TV programmes, "So what if these cold drinks have pesticides? Our vegetables, fruits, milk, etc, also have pesticides. Most of our food products are adulterated." Yes, that is true. But it cannot justify the presence of pesticides in cold drinks. We have to educate ourselves on adulteration of foodstuff. As responsible citizens, we should expose the sale of such foodstuff. But we can do this only if we are armed with knowledge. For instance, we should make the effort to get milk tested. Besides, we should boycott artificially ripened fruits. Once the seller realises that he cannot sell adulterated products, he will be forced to sell pure products. We need a mass movement for such results. And mass movements begin with awareness and knowledge.
The unassuming bank employee behind the teller counter of the State Bank of India in the PGI often surprised me with his warm smile and swiftness. He would always deal with everyone in the queue with humility. I could never catch him eating something or talking to someone or missing from his seat.
I have seen him behind this counter for over 10 years now, and often felt that he looked like some monument of the SBI. The other day, both he and I were surprised when he visited my home with a common friend. When my friend said, "Meet Mahesh Janib, who writes poetry in Urdu," I instantly understood why he could deal with people in such a pleasant manner. It was his sensitive mind serving the people from behind the teller counter.
Mahesh Janib is a man of few words and extremely shy by nature. But his book of poems Mein agar`85speaks volumes about his sensitivity and observation of society around us. The book has been published both in Hindi as well as in Urdu. All 56 poems display his maturity and understanding of human beings with all their constructive as well as destructive traits. It is a rhythmic commentary on life without any traces of pessimism. In fact, it actually motivates the reader to have faith in fellow human beings and be optimistic about life.
I could not resist
asking Mahesh Janib as to how he maintained such a friendly equation
with all his customers and never showed any signs of fatigue or
boredom. Flashing his familiar smile, he said: "For me performing
my duty is like worshipping. I earn my bread from the bank. Besides,
in my country where millions sleep hungry and lakhs much more
qualified than me remain unemployed, I have to thank God for providing
me a respectable place in society. Every customer who comes is a
messenger sent by God to test my gratitude and how can I fail my