“दान” बनाम “अर्पण”

अभिस्वीकृति

बात अस्सी के दशक की है। टाइम्स आई रिसर्च फाउंडेशन के माध्यम से भारतीय डाक तार विभाग ने नेत्र दान विषय पर डाक टिकिट जारी करने के लिए एक प्रतियोगिता आयोजित की थी। इस तरह के सामाजिक अभियानों में मेरी आस्था ने मुझे इस पहल में शामिल होने के लिए प्रेरित किया। मेरी कल्पना ने एक उड़ान भरी और मैं डाक टिकिट के लिए एक नमूना बनाने जुट गया। जल्दी ही मैंने अपनी प्रविष्टि टाइम्स आई फाउंडेशन को भेज दी।

दो शब्द मेरी प्रविष्टि के बारे में…

नेत्र दान

एक तरफ मैंने एक मानवीय चेहरे का रेखाचित्र बनाया था जिसमें आँख की जगह रिक्त (सफ़ेद) स्थान छोड़ा था जो कि अंधापन दर्शा रहा था। दूसरी तरफ मैंने एक हथेली बनाई थी जिसकी मुद्रा भगवानों की तस्वीरों में आशीर्वाद देते हाथ की होती है। हथेली के मध्य में मैंने एक आँख बनाई थी जिससे निकलती प्रकाश की किरणे अंधे व्यक्ति पर पड़ रही थीं। मेरी कल्पना में हथेली में बनी आँख से निकल कर अंधे चेहरे पर पड़ती प्रकाश की किरणे दृष्टि (नेत्र) दान की द्योतक थीं। मेरे मित्रों ने मेरी कलाकृति की खूब प्रशंसा की थी। निश्चय ही मैं अपने प्रयास से संतुष्ट था। टाइम्स आई रिसर्च फाउंडेशन ने भी मेरी प्रविष्टि को स्वीकार कर लिया था। कुछ ही समय में मैं उस प्रतियोगिता को भूल सा गया था।

एक दिन, अचानक ही मेरी दृष्टि टाइम्स ऑफ़ इंडिया में भारतीय डाक-तार विभाग द्वारा नेत्र दान पर जारी किये गए डाक टिकिट की तस्वीर पर पड़ी। वह तस्वीर मेरी भेजी हुई प्रविष्टि से बहुत मिलती थी। पहली नज़र में तो मुझे वह मेरी ही भेजी हुई कलाकृति लगी। गौर से देखने पर एक छोटी-सी, परन्तु अत्यंत ही अर्थपूर्ण भिन्नता दिखाई दी जिसने जीवन के बारे में मेरे दृष्टिकोण को सदा के लिए बदल दिया।

नेत्रार्पण

डाक टिकिट के लिए चयनित एवं पुरस्कृत चित्र में एक की जगह दो हथेलियां प्रदर्शित की गयीं थीं। दोनों का रुख आसमान की तरफ था। हाथों की मुद्रा ऐसी थी मानो मंदिर में चढ़ावा दिया जा रहा हो। हथेलियों में एक आँख चित्रित थी जिसमें से निकल कर प्रकाश की किरणे अंधे चेहरे पर पड़ रही थीं––मेरे बनाए चित्र की तरह। अंतर केवल इतना था कि तस्वीर से एक भाव छलक रहा था जो मेरे बनाए चित्र से स्पष्ट रूप से नदारद था –– ‘अर्पण’ करने का भाव। उस चित्र में दाता-याचक का समीकरण नहीं था अपितु दृष्टि देने वाले की विनम्रता और दृष्टि पाने वाले की गरिमा छलक रही थी।

यद्यपि वह डाक टिकिट ‘नेत्र दान’ के लिये प्रेरणा देने के लिए था, उस दिन मैंने ‘दान’ और ‘अर्पण’ शब्दों के अर्थ के अंतर को भली-भांति जाना था; ‘दान’ शब्द में निहित अहंकार को समझा था और ‘अर्पण’ की भावना का अनुभव कर पाया था।

सोचता हूँ, क्या नाम बदलने से लोगों की सोच में बदलाव आ सकता है? क्या लोग दान की भावना को छोड़ अर्पण की भावना को अपना सकते हैं? नेत्रार्पण; रक्तार्पण; देहार्पण?

इस विषय पर इतना लिख कर मैं अपनी कलम को अवकाश दे चुका था। परन्तु मेरी प्रिय बहन की एक टिप्पणी ने मुझे कुछ और शब्द लिखने के लिए उत्साहित किया है। मेरा लेख पढ़कर मेरी बहन ने हास्य-पूर्ण तरीके से मेरा ध्यान “कन्यादान” और “कन्यार्पण” की ओर आकर्षित किया है और मेरी प्रतिक्रिया जाननी चाही है। मैं समझता हूँ कि आज के भारत में इन दोनों के लिए कोई स्थान नहीं है। इनके बारे में सोचना भी पाप है। 

नोट: मेरे इस लेख का उद्देश्य केवल और केवल “दान” और “अर्पण” की भावनाओं में जो अंतर मैंने समझा है उसको अपने पाठकों से साझा करना है। इस में प्रदर्शित डाक टिकिट की जो छवियाँ हैं, वे प्रतीकात्मक हैं। वास्तविक डाक टिकिट और मेरे द्वारा भेजी प्रविष्टि इस लेख में दिखाए गए चित्रों से भिन्न थीं। आशा करता हूँ कि भारतीय डाक विभाग और टाइम्स आई रिसर्च फाउंडेशन, दोनों ही इस मामले को कोई तूल न देंगे।

बड़ी सोच!?

सुबह से करीम बारह कारें साफ कर चुका था। यह तेहरवीं गाड़ी थी। हाथ में कपडा लिए, वह डर-डर कर उस चमचमाती लाल फेरारी कार की तरफ बढ़ा और फिर ठिठका और रुक ही गया। वह नोएडा सेक्टर-18 के रेडिसन ब्लू होटल के सामने पार्क की गयी गाड़ियों पर कपड़ा मार कर दो पैसे कमा लेता था। प्रायः महंगी कारों की सफाई करने से ज्यादा पैसे मिल जाया करते थे। उसके मन में पनपते डर का एक कारण था। पिछले हफ्ते ही एक कार मालिक ने उसकी पिटाई कर दी थी। उसका का गुनाह था––कार के मालिक से बिना पूछे गाड़ी को हाथ लगाना। ग्यारह साल के करीम को दो चांटों के लगने से होने वाली शारीरिक पीड़ा का आभास तक नहीं हुआ था परन्तु अपने साथ हुई बदसलूकी से लगी चोट का दर्द वह भुला नहीं पाया था।

उसने उस फेरारी जितनी आलिशान कार पहले कभी नहीं देखी थी। चुम्बकीय आकर्षण था उस कार में; वह उस के नज़दीक जाकर उसे निहारने लगा। उसका लाल रंग, उसके बम्पर, उसके सामने की जाली, उसकी लाइटें, उसका डैशबोर्ड, उसकी साफ-सुथरी सीटें… एक दम नई थी वह कार। अभी तो उसकी सारी सीटों के पॉलिथीन के कवर भी नहीं उतरे थे और बोनट पर सिन्दूर से बना स्वस्तिक का निशान बिलकुल ताज़ा लग रहा था। स्टीयरिंग पर बंधी माता रानी की चमकवाली लाल चुन्नी, और साइलेंसर पर बंधा काले रंग के धागे का लच्छा कार के मालिक की देवी माता में आस्था को दर्शा रहा था। 

करीम अपने आप को रोक नहीं पाया था; ताका-झांकी कर रहा था। अपने चार दिन पुराने अनुभव को भूल सा गया था। तभी उसने लम्बे कदम भरते एक छः फुटे नौजवान को अपनी तरफ आते देखा। वह मोबाइल पर किसी से बात कर रहा था। करीम सहम सा गया। पल भर में उसे फिर से चार दिन पहले मर्सिडीज़ के मालिक से पड़े झापड़ याद आ गए।

“ओके अनु… तो फिर आज शाम हम गोल्डन ड्रैगन जा रहे हैं। मैं तुम्हें छः बजे घर से पिक अप करूंगा। वी विल गो फॉर अ लॉन्ग ड्राइव बिफोर डिनर,…  बाय बाय! लव यू।” कहते हुए युवक ने मोबाइल बंद किया और करीम पर प्रश्न भरी निगाहें डालीं। करीम ने कार को हाथ नहीं लगाया था फिर भी वह डर-सहम सा गया।

अगर नज़रें क़त्ल कर सकतीं तो युवक की नज़रों से करीम की मौत संभावित थी।

“स स स ररर, कार साफ कर दूँ?” करीम हाथ जोड़ कर मिमियाने लगा। “अच्छे से चमका दूंगा। यह देखिये, यहाँ पर धूल बैठ गयी है।”

युवक को सोचता हुआ देख कर करीम ने थोड़ा साहस जुटाया और आगे बोला, “सर, सिर्फ पाँच मिनट लूँगा।” छोटी सी उम्र में करीम ने यह जान लिया था की बड़े लोगों को अच्छा लगता है जब कोई उनके समय की कद्र करे। युवक को ऐसा लगा जैसे कि करीम ने उसे कुछ और फोन कॉल्स करने का मौका दे दिया हो। उसने सिर हिला कर करीम को कार साफ करने की अनुमति दे दी और फिर से मोबाइल पर एक नंबर डायल करने लगा।

“हैलो, मैं अमित कालरा बोल रहा हूँ… यस, यस, मैंने ही कॉल किया था।  जी हाँ, टेबल फॉर टू… कैंडल लाइट… ओके, कनफर्म्ड।”

अमित कालरा कॉल किये जा रहा था। उन कॉल्स के दौरान उसकी नज़र करीम पर टिकी थी।

करीम बड़ी तन्मयता से कार साफ कर रहा था। कपड़े से पोंछ कर वह अलग-अलग कोण से कार को देख कर तस्सली कर रहा था कि चमक में कहीं कमी न रह जाय। करीम की मेहनत से युवक प्रभावित था। करीम के फटे कपडे देख कर उसे बच्चे पर दया भी आने लगी थी। मन ही मन उसे अच्छी टिप देने का निश्चय कर लिया था अमित ने।

“हेलो भैया, व्हाट अ फैबुलस कार? इट रिएली फ्लाईज़… सुपर्ब… आई एम एंजोयिंग ड्राइविंग इट। तुसि ग्रेट हो। आई लव यू, बिग ब्रदर।” अमित ने एक और कॉल किया।

अमित कालरा आज खुश था। और क्यों न होता? उस के मन में अपनी नई फेरारी में पहली बार अनु को सैर कराने की उमंग जो थी। पर वह असमंजस में भी था, “यमुना एक्सप्रेसवे पर जाना ठीक होगा या डीएनडी पर सैर का आनंद आएगा? आज डिनर के वक्त हिम्मत कर के अनु को प्रोपोज़ कर ही दूंगा। उसे फूल कम पसंद हैं, डार्क चॉकलेट्स ठीक रहेगीं…।”

मई की गर्मी में भी अमित कालरा वसंत ऋतु में खिले फूलों की ताज़गी को महसूस कर रहा था।

न जाने कैसे पंद्रह मिनट बीत गए। मन में चल रहे अनेक संवादों में अमित कुछ इस तरह खो गया था कि समय का पता ही नहीं चला। जब विचारों के भंवर से अमित उबरा तो अपने सामने करीम को पाया। अमित उस गरीब की मुस्कुराहट के पीछे छुपी गम्भीरता को महसूस कर रहा था। अमित ने पर्स खोल कर करीम के हाथ में एक पांच सौ रुपये का नया नोट रख दिया।

निस्संदेह आज कुछ खास बात थी; अमित के मन में उदारता उमड़ रही थी। उम्मीद से बहुत अधिक पैसे पाकर करीम की ख़ुशी का कोई ठिकाना न रहा। उसका चेहरा अब एक खुली किताब था जिसे अमित आसानी से पढ़ सकता था। “सर, ये तो मेरे तीन दिन से ज्यादा की कमाई हो गयी,” करीम ख़ुशी से पगला सा गया ।

“क्या करोगे इन पैसों का,” अमित ने वैसे ही गाड़ी में बैठते हुए मुस्कुराते हुए पूछ लिया। करीम के उत्तर में उसकी कोई दिलचस्पी नहीं थी।

“सर, सीधा घर जाऊँगा। अगले कुछ दिन गाड़ियाँ साफ नहीं करूंगा। पढाई करुँगा। अगले हफ्ते परीक्षा है। इन पैसों से घर का काम चल जाएगा।” करीम की बातें सुन कर अमित के मन में अचानक उत्सुकता और दया के भावों की छोटी सी सुनामी आ गयी।

“कहाँ रहते हो?”

“सर, पास ही में; सेक्टर-52 में जो फ्लाईओवर बन रहा है उसके पास की झुग्गिओं में मेरा घर है। अम्मी वहीँ साइट पर काम करती हैं।”

“कालरा कंस्ट्रक्शंस की साइट पर?”

“सर नाम तो नहीं मालूम पर हमारे मालिक ऐसी ही लाल गाड़ी में कभी-कभी आते हैं। ताड़ जैसे ऊँचे हैं, बिलकुल आप जैसे दिखते हैं।”

अमित कालरा के चेहरे पर मुस्कराहट का आना स्वाभाविक था––कालरा कंस्ट्रक्शंस उसके पिता की कंपनी थी जिसे उसका भाई सुमित चलाता था। अमित ने अभी-अभी एमिटी यूनिवर्सिटी से एम बी ए पास किया था। सी.जी.पी.ए.  बहुत कम था––डिग्री तो नाम के लिए चाहिए थी, आगे चल कर तो घर का बिज़नेस ही संभालना था। घर पर सभी बहुत खुश थे।

“आओ में तुम्हें वहाँ छोड़ दूँगा। मैं उधर ही जा रहा हूँ,” अमित के मन में उदारता और दया भाव ने एक और हिलकोरा लिया। उसने मुस्कुराते हुए करीम को कार में बैठने का इशारा किया। अमित सोच रहा था कि उस गरीब की जिंदगी का वह एक बड़ी यादगार वाला दिन होगा। अमित को ख़ुशी थी कि वह उस बच्चे को एक खास ख़ुशी देने जा रहा था। उसे, खुद को होने वाली अनुभूति में कहीं––थोड़ा सा सही––घमंड घुला हुआ था।

करीम सकपकाया। वह सपने में भी ऐसी कार में बैठने की बात नहीं सोच सकता था। वह कार के खुले दरवाजे की ओर बढ़ा और रुक गया। फिर जल्दी से उसने अपनी टूटी चप्पलें––जिनकी सेफ्टी पिन से मरम्मत की गयी थी––उतारी और उनको थपथपा कर उनकी धूल को निकलाकर उन्हें साफ किया। फिर जल्दी से जेब से एक गन्दा सा कपड़ा निकाला और उसे कार की पॉलिथीन से कवर की गयी सीट पर बिछा दिया––”सर, रुमाल फैला देता हूँ, सीट गन्दी नहीं होगी।”

करीम की ख़ुशी का ठिकाना न था।

करीम की ख़ुशी में अमित आनंदित हो रहा था। सेक्टर-18 के गुरूद्वारे के सामने से निकलते हुए अमित के मन में न जाने क्या बात आयी कि सीधे सेक्टर-52 की तरफ जाने के बजाय उसने जी.आई.पी. के सामने यू-टर्न ले लिया और फिल्म सिटी की ओर चल पड़ा। वह चाहता था कि करीम को थोड़ी लम्बी सैर कराए।

खुश लेकिन सहमा सा, करीम कभी कार में तो कभी बाहर देख रहा था। कार के स्टीरियो पर बजते गाने की आवाज़ कम करते हुए अमित ने बोलना शुरू किया, “कैसा लग रहा है?”

“बहुत अच्छा,” पुलकित करीम चहचहाया।  

“जानते हो, मुझे यह कार मेरे भाई ने मेरे बर्थडे पर गिफ्ट में दी है?”

“अच्छा!?” करीम की आँखों में प्रश्न और विस्मय से भरी प्रशंसा थी।

“वे तो मुझे रेंजरोवर देना चाहते थे पर मैं फेरारी के लिए अड़ गया,” अमित खिलखिलाया और फिर जोर देकर बोला, “… … सोच बड़ी होनी चाहिए।”

ये बातें करीम की समझ से बाहर थीं। फिर भी वह जवाब में आँखें बड़ी कर के सिर हिला रहा था।

“और घूमना है?”

“नहीं सर, बस अब मुझे उतार दें।”

“कोई बात नहीं, मैं तुम्हें साइट पर छोड़ दूँगा।”

महामाया फ्लाईओवर की ओर से एक लम्बा चक्कर लगाते हुए अमित ने कार को सेक्टर-52 की झुग्गिओं के सामने ला कर रोक दिया और करीम की और देख कर एक बार फिर मुस्कुराया, “परीक्षा के लिए बेस्ट ऑफ़ लक।”

“थैंक यू, सर,” करीम ने कार का दरवाज़ा खोलने की कोशिश करते हुए कहा। उससे दरवाजा न खुलते देख अमित ने मदद की। कार से उतरते-उतरते करीम रुक गया और अमित की ओर देख कर विनती की, “सर, प्लीज एक मिनट रुक जायें, मैं अभी लौट कर आता हूँ।”

करीम की मेहनत और लगन पर फिदा अमित ने हामीं भर दी और अपना मोबाइल उठा लिया और व्हाट्सएप मैसेजेस देखने लगा।

दो ही मिनट में करीम वापस आ गया। उसकी गोद में एक छोटा सा बच्चा था जिसे वह बड़ी मुश्किल से उठा पा रहा था। कार के पास आकर वह अमित से बोला, “सर, ये मेरा भाई आरिफ है।” फिर आरिफ को ऊँगली से दिखा कर बोला, “आरिफ, पता है, आज इन साब ने मुझे इस मोटर में बिठा कर घुमाया है। ये इनके बड़े भाई ने इनको तोहफे में दी है। एक दिन मैं भी तुझे ऐसी ही गाड़ी तोहफे में दूँगा।”

अमित ने एक मिनट बाद कार आगे बढ़ा दी। फिर देर तक कार के रियर व्यू मिरर में दोनों बच्चों को खिलखिला कर टा-टा करते देखता रहा।

“सोच बड़ी होनी चाहिए।” अमित की अपनी ही आवाज़ उसके कानो में गूँज रही थी।

Dear Mr Kejriwal, are you listening?

Dear Mr Kejriwal,

You began your journey of sweeping the muck in Indian Politics with baby steps alongside Anna Hazare. Soon you outpaced him; the old soldier could not march by your side. You left him behind. Nothing is wrong about that decision of yours because when a mission is still unaccomplished; it is not incorrect, unfair or unethical to leave behind the weak and the wounded. They can be attended to; their wounds nursed, and their contribution to the war effort can always be lauded after the flag has been hoisted on the objective. In some cases, a nicely worded epitaph can make up for everything.

The problem is of shifting goal posts and ever-changing objectives. Selection and Maintenance of Aim is a principle of war. It is difficult; nay impossible to recall a victory wherein this proven principle has been flouted. Needless to say, the journey is long and arduous; you have miles to go. Be sure what you want to aim at: purifying Indian politics or uplifting aam admi or uprooting BJP with the help of others with whom you otherwise don’t see eye to eye. 

I hear you have done remarkable job in some walks of Delhi’s life; your team’s effort to provide quality education and healthcare is, beyond any doubts, unparalleled; it deserves a very special mention and appreciation. May you have the resources, power and support to keep going great guns.

Now, how does one keep going when people are jumping off the bandwagon at regular intervals? Some members of your core team who have left you have compared you with Napoleon. Napoleon––not the French Emperor, but the Napoleon of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. And, Ms Shazia Ilmi thinks she was the Boxer (of the same epic). Others who left you also perhaps thought so, but didn’t say it openly. But, you don’t have to worry on that count. Animal Farm, written nearly three quarters of a century ago as a satire on communism fits Indian politics of today. It fits very well! Rejoice in the fact that you don’t stand alone––every party has Napoleons. When I look at you (people) dark humour amuses me to no end.

That’s just the preface to draw your attention; what follows is more serious. I only hope you have the time, and the inclination too, to read on.

What has struck my imagination recently is your decision to consider granting free travel to women in DTC buses and Delhi Metro. The reason you have extended this proposal is––women’s safety. It baffles me to no end. How can making the ride free for women in public transport enhance their safety? A large number of women can afford public transport and are already availing DTC and Delhi Metro services. The additional number of women who will get attracted to (government) public transport because of the freebie will be miniscule. And, if I am not grossly wrong, in these times of #MeToo, by this very gesture of yours, you might end up offending many a self-respecting woman who seek absolute equality in thoughts and actions.

If you still implement your plan, I fear that you will start a practice, which will nurture yet another breed of people getting used to free lunches with added burden on the state. Mind you Mr Kejriwal, the public are smart. Blame yourself for it; you made them smart. I remember you telling them long ago, to accept whatever freebies (and bribes) other parties were giving, and still vote for AAP. I will not be surprised if, in the next assembly elections women do just that––accept your freebie and still go by their choice.

Freebies

Think of it, there are umpteen ways of making women safer than by just giving them free rides. Directing the resources and energies towards, and focussing them on the source of crime can make people, let alone women in our cities safe.

I have a suggestion, if you care.

We have a large population living in slums all over the city, on footpaths, and under the flyovers. People living in those places work as labourers on construction sites and as servants in bungalows, offices and factories. The stark reality is that Delhi “needs” them. Delhi cannot do without them––Delhi will come to a standstill if they are not there. Their children sell pirated bestsellers, used flowers, hand towels and ballpoint pens on traffic lights. To earn a livelihood, some of them take to crime. And, if one was to go by what our films depict, they are picked up by bigger fish to get their works accomplished.

Such places where survival is a daily chore, people are vulnerable. Those places can easily turn into nurseries for crime.

Convert those slums into double-storey accommodation with the very basic amenities (drinking water, sanitation and electricity). Give them medical facilities and schools. That will demolish some of the nurseries where little ones get to learn their basics of crime. How so ever difficult it might appear, it is achievable. All that is required is a strong will to do it.

A single court decision in the US––to legalise abortion––brought down the crime rate drastically. But that took nearly twenty years. If you give a decent livelihood to the poorest of the poor today, it is just likely that the positive effect might be felt twenty years hence.

Are you ready to wait that long, Mr Kejriwal?

Remember, a lot can be achieved in this world, if one is not bothered about who gets the credit for the achievement or, who reaps the harvest. Are you ready to switchover from the alleged Napoleon’s role to that of Boxer’s in the yet-to-be-conceptualised Animal Farm Revisited? Keep the answer to yourself.

At this juncture, may God bless you with the wisdom to choose the right path.

Yours truly,

Group Captain Ashok K Chordia (Re-attired)

An Indian Air Force Veteran

Cooking the Goose of the Gender

It is important to make sure that one doesn’t offend people by inadvertently using language that might be considered sexist. In these times of #MeToo, it is even more important to mind one’s P’s and Q’s. For several decades now, many words and well-accepted expressions have come to be seen as discriminatory––discriminatory against women, in particular. It could be because of the nature of job being done mainly by men in the bygone days e.g. businessman, postman and fireman etc. Some other words give a distinctly different identity to women than their male equivalent (e.g. actor/actress; mayor/ mayoress, steward/stewardess, heir/ heiress, hero/ heroine, manager/ manageress). Some of these words, while giving the women a different identity have, over a period of time, come to convey a somewhat different status for them.

Feminists and well-meaning people on either side of the gender divide have been trying hard to remove the bias in the language. So now we have words like chairperson or chair (instead of chairman), head teacher (instead of headmaster/ headmistress). Mrs, for a married woman is passé; Ms is the right form to use. It is also customary now to use a term, which was previously used exclusively for men to refer to both men and women. For example, authoress, poetess and actress, have been replaced by author, poet and actor. The more conscious of the English language users have begun using human race or humankind instead of mankind. And until acceptable words/ terms are coined, words like princess, tigress, lioness, abbess, duchess, usherette, seamstress and seductress etc. will remain in use. One is less likely to take offence.

We do not mind using he/ she, him/ her and his/ her any number of times in our correspondence to remain gender neutral. Here are some examples:

  • He/ She (the candidate) must report at the reception by 10 am.
  • The HR department will inform him/ her about the likely dates.
  • A scholar is expected to submit his/ her report in a month.
  • The student can seek advice from his/ her

While the linguists and the feminists have been striving to achieve gender neutrality, people are exercising their right to cook the goose of the gender. I know of a lady from the Hindi heartland of India who prefers to use the male verbs (in Hindi) for herself e.g. करता हूँ, खाता हूँ, जाता हूँ,… etc.

Mrs Indira Gandhi didn’t like to be called ‘Madam’. Legend has it that once when she was on a state visit to the US, the American President wanted to know (through the then Indian Ambassador, Mr BK Nehru) how to call her, “Madam Prime Minister or Prime Minister?” She said, “Tell the President I don’t care what he calls me; he can call me Mr Prime Minister or just Prime Minister. But tell him also that my colleagues call me Sir.”

TOI Gender IMG_9170
Cooking the Goose of the Gender

Are the editorial staff of the Times of India following in the footsteps of Mrs Gandhi’s colleagues?

 

The Red Marble & Thieves

I guess you remember Kanti, the little entrepreneur who wanted to make a fortune by growing lemons on his head.

So, without ado, I bring you here another episode from his eventful childhood. It might evoke different emotions in you––from humour to sympathy to indifference––depending on what strikes your imagination.

But, for Kanti it was a traumatic experience. Read on…

One evening, Kanti came charging into the house and began rummaging the only drawer he was assigned in a chest of drawers to keep his belongings. It was a little beyond his reach even when he stood on the tips of his toes; he had to climb a stool to reach it. That inability to access his drawer was one of the main reasons he wanted to grow tall, really soon. And, that was the reason he accepted everything his mother gave him. “Eat it; it’ll help you grow tall,” she would say.

Kanti grew desperate as he looked for something, which seemed to evade his eyes. In a last ditch effort, he pulled out the full drawer, the weight of which, his tiny frame couldn’t bear. And, lo and behold, he lost balance and fell to the ground with a massive thud. All his toys came tumbling out––three cars, two tennis balls, crayons, pencils, a kaleidoscope, a piece of coloured glass, a top, Ludo and Snakes & Ladders board and a dozen other things.

“Maaa… heelppp!” Kanti yelled as he fell.

“What happened?” Maya, a concerned mother ran out of the kitchen in response to the distress call of her little one. She was aghast at the sight of Kanti lying spread-eagled on the floor facing the roof, a bit dazed; the drawer see-sawing on his little chest and a dozen and more marbles still traversing different paths on the floor in the hope of finding a state of equilibrium.

“Oh my God!” She staggered, “What happened? I hope you aren’t hurt, my child!?” She enquired with great concern even as she stepped on a marble and tripped and tumbled. Only a heavenly intervention enabled her to grasp the arm of a dining chair and avoid a fall. In one quick action she removed the drawer from Kanti’s chest and helped him on his feet.

“I’m fine,” said Kanti. But a face contorted by a spasm of pain, and a clearly visible limp in his gait gave away his actual condition.

“What happened,” was the repeated question, the doting mother asked as she hugged him and looked for signs of injuries.”

“Nothing really!” said Kanti. “I was looking for a red marble.”

“Now Kanti, you could have waited for me, as you always do. I would have helped you with it.”

“But you were in the kitchen and I was in too great a hurry. I couldn’t have waited.”

“Couldn’t have waited…. What do you mean?” Maya distorted her eyebrows to lay stress on the questions.

Unmindful of Maya’s concern, Kanti started picking up the marbles strewn on the floor. He was still looking for the ‘red’ marble.

Maya gave a glass of water to Kanti who still appeared hassled. “Tell me, what is the matter? And, look there. Yes there, under the chair. There’s your ‘red’ marble.” Maya said as she pointed at it.

The Red Marble

Greatly relieved, Kanti picked up the ‘red’ marble and pocketed it. He then hugged her mother tightly (Shashi Tharoor would rather have called the hug, a “kwtch”. A “kwtch” is more than a hug).

“Maa, you have saved me from ending up in prison.” His eyes welled and a tear rolled down his little pink cheek.

Maya’s face wore a big question mark.

“It’s like this… This morning I was playing marbles with Dinesh when he was called by his mother. He quit the game but left his red marble in a hope to re-join soon. But he did not return. So I picked up all the marbles and returned home. I carried his “red” marble too, to hand it over to him later.”

Curiosity was killing Maya: “Ending up in Jail? Red marble? What was going on in Kanti’s mind?”

Kanti continued with the seriousness of a grown up.

“Just a while ago, when I was playing outside with Veena (remember Veena? Kanti’s cousin of his age, and his living encyclopaedia of worldly knowledge) we saw a policeman passing by. In his tow was a handcuffed man. Veena told me that he was a thief being taken to the jail where he would be kept away from his family and friends for many days. She told me that a thief is a person who takes away someone else’s belongings without the owner’s consent. She also told me that…”

“Of course, thieves get punished. So how does that bother you?” Maya was impatient and wouldn’t let Kanti complete his story.

“I have taken Dinesh’s red marble without his consent. I am afraid the police will jail me for being a thief. I don’t want to be away from you and Dad,” sobbed Kanti.

“Oh my dear. You are not a thief. You have taken the marble only to help your friend. Thieves take away things with bad intention; not to return them,” Maya allayed Kanti’s anxiety. “Now go and handover the marble to Dinesh.”

Kanti was panting when he returned from Dinesh’s house. Maya smiled at him. “So that’s the end of it.” She thought.

She couldn’t have been more wrong.

Later, in the evening at the dinner table the three––Kanti, Anil (his father) and Maya––exchanged notes on how each spent the day. That was the family’s way of unwinding every day. Maya was the first one to speak. She had nothing to talk about her day. So she told Anil about the red marble and Kanti’s woe that afternoon. She chuckled as she shared the incident. Anil struggled to hold back the impulse to smile at the story when he saw a quiet Kanti lost in some thoughts.

“So Kanti, did you return the red marble to Dinesh,” Anil asked Kanti to get him involved in the conversation.

“Yes Dad, I did… and Dinesh was happy to get it back.” Kanti still wore a blank look. His discomfiture couldn’t escape Anil’s eyes.

“Is there something still troubling you, Kanti?” Anil poured all the tenderness that a caring father could in that question.

“Dad, Veena told me a lot of things about the thieves and the jail. She told me how they make the inmates clean, sweep and work hard in the jail. The police even shave off their heads.” Anil was all ears, nodding occasionally as he absorbed Kanti’s bits.

Then Kanti paused and looked around as if to make sure that no one else was listening. Once assured of the privacy, he brought his mouth close to his father’s ear and started talking in a hushed tone. “And Dad, do you know…?” He glanced around the room again and spoke in a whisper, “We are surrounded by thieves! Brij Mohan Bhaiya (the milkman), Ramu Bhaiya (the dhobi), and… even Ramesh Uncle (Major Ramesh, a friend of Anil)––all of them have shaven heads. As Veena said, they must have served sentences in the jail.”

Rest of Anil’s evening, and the following weekend was spent in convincing Kanti that all men with shaven heads were not thieves. Anil realised how easy it was to teach a child a new thing rather than erase things from its tender mind.

Of Two ‘Swastika’

For centuries, cultures across the world have used the Swastika as a sacred icon. Literally, the word Swastika is formed of two Sanskrit words ‘सु’ (meaning ‘well’ or ‘good’) and ‘अस्ति’ (meaning ‘to be’). Most Indian scriptures depict it as a symbol of well-being. For a religious-minded in India, it symbolises two Gods. One is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity––Maa Laxmi. And the other is the God of all wisdom––Lord Ganesha. Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and a large number of Eurasians regard and revere the symbol––auspicious ceremonies commence with the worship of the symbol.

For some, Swastika comprises four elements––earth, air, water and fire. It adorns the walls of places of worship. People treat it as a symbol of positive energy and good luck. From divinity and spirituality to auspiciousness and good fortune and from religiousness to mysticism, Swastika evokes many feelings (to say nothing of Hitler’s Swastika which sets afire an entirely different emotion).

A Swastika can be drawn in two ways. One: with the outer elements drawn in a clockwise direction. And two: with them being drawn in the counter clockwise direction. Drawn any which way, a Swastika is a lot more than the simple geometric figure it appears to be. Visit the famous Chintaman Ganesh Temple in Ujjain to feel the power and the magic of the two Swastika.

Chintaman Ganesh Temple, Ujjain

The Chintaman Ganesh Temple is located on the outskirts of the holy city of Ujjain known for its glorious past. King Vikramaditya ruled here and Kalidasa wrote the epic Shakuntalam and Meghdutam in the serene atmosphere on the bank of the Shipra River.

According to the scriptures, Lord Rama stopped here for a while during his fourteen years in exile. Finding things amiss, he established the temple to get the blessings of Lord Ganesha. Laxman, on his part shot an arrow into the ground to create a well to provide water for a thirsty Sita to drink. The well called Laxman Baori is located next to the temple.

Laxman Baori

And now about the magic of the two Swastika

People from far and wide visit the temple with the hope of getting their wishes fulfilled. The faithful believe that if one draws a Swastika (anticlockwise) and makes a wish after praying to Lord Ganesha in the temple, the wish comes true. And then––when the wish is fulfilled––one is expected to re-visit the temple and draw another Swastika (clockwise, this time on). Looking at the hundreds of Swastika drawn on the temple’s walls––both anticlockwise and clockwise––one can gauge the popularity of the Temple.

Swastika and the Sacred Thread

Lately, people have started complementing the Swastika with a sacred thread for the same effect. One ties a thread while making a wish and removes it (or any other thread) when the wish is fulfilled. Thousands of sacred threads tell a tale of belief.

Wishes, unfulfilled and the fulfilled

Some of those whose wishes are fulfilled have a curious way of conveying their gratitude to the God. They weigh themselves in clothes, blankets, sweets or milk or food grain and donate the same to the poor. The poor and the transgender thrive on the generosity and the largesse of the blessed ones. At all times, the temple is thronged by two categories of people––those with wishes to be fulfilled and those, whose wishes have been fulfilled. The first category includes the newly married couples.

Gratitude by weight
To be happily married forever

The next time when there’s an exam to be cracked; a heart to be won; a family feud to be resolved; a lottery to be won; or, peace to be restored in a tumultuous life––think of the two Swastika and the Chintaman Ganesha Temple of Ujjain (sixty kilometres from Indore Airport in Madhya Pradesh).

That, of course, after you’ve done your bit.

Wishes! Wishes! Wishes!

Christchurch Carnage: A Wake-up Call for United Front Against Terrorism

March 15, 2019. Christchurch (New Zealand). Forty-nine people have been confirmed dead after shootings in two mosques. Among the many issues that have surfaced and the many that will keep arising, some deserve immediate attention.

Graphic courtesy The Economist

Terming it as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said that the time had come to review the gun-laws. Now, as it always happens after such incidents, the clamour to implement stricter laws has once again reached a crescendo. Ironically, the last three times the issue came up (under similar circumstances, in New Zealand) it was shelved for a reason or the other. The opinion is divided because in the prevailing environment even the well-meaning people want to own personal weapons for their safety. It is a difficult issue to address because paranoid people with easy access to firearms are also potential threat to freedom and liberty of others. Besides, a small section of the society (some call it The Arms Lobby) has interest in promoting sales.

Yasmin Ali, one of the anguished citizens said, “We are such a suave community. We are so kind and loving… so I don’t understand why someone would hurt us like this and in such a way. Just like an animal. Why would you treat us like that for nothing?” She is so right––for no apparent fault of theirs, forty-nine people have lost their lives and many others are undergoing medical treatment. The incident has left people shocked, angry and indignant. The attack has drawn a wedge between “us, meaning the Muslims of New Zealand” and “you, meaning the rest of the New Zealanders.” The wounds will take an eternity to heal if, at all, they will; but the scars will remain forever.  

Graphic courtesy Independent

By itself the Christchurch attack would possibly have been written off as a dastardly act by some mad persons, but actions of one of the attackers have given a different hue to the incident. Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian man, who claimed responsibility for the attack had posted his manifesto on the social media and had live-streamed the attack. He had let loose his ire against the immigrants. Thus in its goriness, the attack seems to vie with the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. His weapons too bore messages of hatred. As if that was not enough, the man, rather than being repentant, added insult to injury by allegedly making a white power gesture from the dock when produced in the court.

The well meaning New Zealand Prime Minister has expressed her concern thus: “…Many of those affected will be of our migrant communities. New Zealand is their home. They are us.” One only hopes that her words appeal to people more than Brenton Tarrant’s provocative actions and gestures.

On request from the New Zealand Police, different social media platforms have removed the graphic content from the Internet––a belated action. In any case, it couldn’t have been possible to prevent everything going viral. Needless to say, the videos of the carnage and the echoes of the gunshots have travelled far and wide and have spread different messages depending on who the recipients at the other end are.

To conclude, what happened in New Zealand will have obvious implications for New Zealand and Australia; the rest of the world will also not remain unaffected. There are two clear options for the world at large: one, to brace for impact without really knowing where and when would the next attack take place. Or two, unite against the perpetrators and wipe out the source. Today is the day, now is the time to get into a huddle, before the Masood Azhars, the Hafiz Saeeds, the Zawahiris, the Baghdadis and the Bin Ladens join hands to unleash retaliatory strikes.

Recently, China scuttled the effort of major world powers to declare Masood Azhar––a proven perpetrator of terror––as a world terrorist. It is time that China realises that the possibility (now) of the terror outfits in Pakistan luring the extremists from Xinjiang for a greater cause has become ever so strong. In the interest of world peace, and in its own interest, China needs change its stance.

Does this appear to be a motivated call by an Indian? Yes? No? May be?

So be it.

What is more important at this juncture is: Is China prepared to reap the harvest of its approach to global terrorism this far? Is Xi listening?