The medicine men of yore, and the elderly had an interesting way of bringing home the importance of flora and fauna that affected our lives. Here is one that talks (read, “boasts”) about the medicinal value of Harad, the dried fruit of a medicinal plant.
Translated into English, this quote boasts that Harichika (the Sansktit name for Harad) is the mother of anyone who doesn’t have one. Boastfulness apart, Harad in its powdered form finds extensive use in Ayurveda. Here are two of its popular uses.
Cough: With the winter setting in and the air quality deteriorating, soreness and irritation of throat will be a common complaint. Harad powder mixed with an equal quantity of bee’s honey is said to relieve such condition. It is to be licked from a spoon several times a day to relieve throat irritation and soreness. A concoction of Harad and honey can be prepared and kept, and licked whenever there is irritation. For those, who do not take honey, Harad (a level teaspoonful) can be consumed with food (rice and chapatti etc.).
Constipation: Two grams Harad consumed with lukewarm water at night (before sleeping) is said to relieve constipation.
What is Harad? Harad is the common name of the fruit of a plant known by the botanical name, Terminalia Chebula. The other names are: Harichika (Sanskrit), Kadukkai (Malayalam and Tamil), Shilikha (Assamese) and Myrobalan/ Chebulic Myrobalan (English). It is found aplenty in the forests surrounding Pachhmari (MP) and elsewhere in India. It is commonly available (as dark coloured wrinkled dried fruit) in Ayurvedic Medicine Shops and at Attar (typical shops run by the Bohra community in many towns and cities). It is also readily available in powdered form. Incidentally, Harad is one of the three ingredients of the magic potion, Triphala.
Preparing Harad Powder is easy: Take a handful of Harad (in dried fruit form) and roast for about ten minutes. There will be practically no change in the looks of the fruit. Add 5 grams of butter oil (Ghee) and continue roasting. Each fruit will start bloating and will acquire a smooth and bright appearance. In five minutes of adding butter oil (Ghee) all the fruits will turn into brightly coloured smooth looking nuggets. At that point stop roasting and let the contents of the pan cool to the room temperature. Grind the contents to a powder in a mixer/grinder. The powder will be chrome yellow/ light brown. Use the powder as per requirement.
(Note: The above facts about Harad are courtesy my parents who have been strong proponents of the use of home remedies. Botanical information on Harad is courtesy Mrs Rita Jain, a former Professor of Botany).
I have a question, and the one suggested by the title of this post, is not it. Dear readers, please bear the necessary preamble. With prudence bestowed by hindsight, let alone what the US did in World War II, everything done in the past, could have been done better, much better, indeed. The answer to that rhetorical question about the US and WW II therefore, is obviously: “Yes.”
There are many answers to that one-word question. For now, let’s focus on just one, to get a point––by setting aside its prejudice against its blacks. In the America of the 1940s––even after 75 years of enactment of the Civil Rights Act, which gave the blacks the right to American citizenship––the blacks were still less-among-equals. Even the patriotic fervour of the day could not bring the two Americas together.
Among others, Jim Crow Laws and racial discrimination were the hurdles that delayed the contribution of blacks to a national cause that needed the support of every able-bodied individual, man or woman, direly. The Red Cross segregated the blood supplies to allay fears that infusion of negro blood would result in development of undesirable characteristics among those infused with it. As a result of the race riots in Texas and Michigan, black workers left the cities temporarily, causing a loss of work hours adversely affecting defence production. As per War Production Board estimates, two million hours of work were lost in the first two days of rioting alone. In the summer of 1943, when the War in Europe and the Asia-Pacific was peaking, there were 242 major race fights in forty-seven cities across the US. There was definite setback to the war effort.
That much for my preamble.
Fast forward to TODAY and NOW. Wars are on in different parts of the world; countries are involved directly or are fighting proxies. Many countries are under sanctions either by the US or coalitions of like-minded countries. The affected countries are retaliating. India, and many other countries are caught in the crossfire. Each warring side is conveying in its own way: “Either you are with us or against us.” Even if India is not on one side, for it to manage affairs in a fragmented world is becoming increasingly difficult.
Escalation of crude oil price in the international market is one of the obvious fallouts affecting India. In the prevailing world order, to be able to buy Rafale from France, S-400 from Russia, Chinook from the US, oil from Iran and surveillance equipment from Israel requires statesmanship and diplomacy of a superior order. In addition, attending to the war being waged by the insurgents and terrorists inside the country and on the borders, requires sustained effort, undisturbed by domestic worries.
India is faced with many wars. And then, we have Sabrimala Crisis, the Bihari Exodus (from Gujrat) and the many agitations, which bring the country to standstills on regular basis.
And now about the question that I sought to ask right in the beginning: Can we Indians do better in these on-going wars, and possibly, win them too?
With that one hindsight from the American experience in WW II, my military sense suggests: “Of course, we can definitely fair better.”
Again, there are many answers. But a simple one is: By involving everyone regardless of which part of the country one comes from; each one doing his bit (and a little more) and letting others do theirs (and a little more). Since it is “WAR” we are talking about, a little bit of self-imposed military discipline is the need of the day.
Think it over: Most protest marches are a loss of invaluable man-hours. All candlelight vigils are a senseless waste of petroleum resources leading to depletion of ozone layer.
A lot of water has gone past the bridge since I met Banwarilal last. Today, I met him after more than eight months. I saw him sitting at the place where I used to drop him whenever I happened to give him a lift in the past. I pulled up by his side to say, “Hi!”
“Hello Banwarilal, how are you doing? Tired today? Relaxing here before you resume your walk home?”
“I am doing fine, Sir. Not really tired but barely able to walk,” he said with a diminishing smile.
“Life has been difficult since we met last. A vehicle ran over my foot, crushing it almost. I was bedridden for several months. In the meanwhile I lost my job. Now, I am working for a contractor––more work, and less pay. Earlier I used to get Rs 9000/-, now it is a mere 7,500/-.”
“I feel sorry for you. I hope your son is doing well enough to take care of the family?”
“He has also suffered much setback. He can barely support himself and his wife. Our lives are in a mess.” He massaged his foot as he spoke to me. A chill ran down my spine when I saw the scar marks on his foot.
I had no doubt that he had gone through hell.
“Uhmm,” I encouraged him to continue, hoping that it would make him feel lighter.
“Now, I have only one desire––to be able to repay a loan of Rs 40,000/- before I die. If I don’t pay it,” he looked at the sky and continued, “I’ll have to settle the score up there.”
I stood speechless for a period that felt like an eternity. He had refused monetary help last time I had offered him cash. Would he accept it this time on?
I re-mustered my thoughts and offered to give him some money to repay part of his debt. I thought his hardship might have changed his outlook to such unconditional assistance.
Smile returned to his face, “Thank you Sir, for that generous offer, but I don’t want to be in debt of a kind person like you. God willing, I shall be able to settle all my debts before I knock at His door.”
I didn’t want to leave it at that so I continued talking with him for some more time, clicked a picture (something that will inspire me in the times to come). He told me that he takes a break everyday at that spot between 5:00 pm and 5:30 pm before resuming his walk back home.
I bade him goodbye, hoping to meet him again. Soon.
On my agenda now, is to work up an offer that he cannot decline when we meet next. I owe it to him for teaching me some of the good things in life.
It was in Kanpur, some time in the early 1990s. Two of my men approached me to preside over and settle their dispute. Warrant Officer Mishra alleged, “Warrant Officer Tiwari (both names changed) is jealous of me because my son has graduated as a commissioned officer of the Indian Air Force.”
“So what?” I wondered.
I didn’t have to wait long for an answer. “Sir, he says that officers are characterless people. During their mess parties they go around hugging each other’s wives and even dance with them. It offends me because (now) my son is an officer.” Mishra added.
A little scratching of the surface was enough to reveal what was in Tiwari’s mind. Years ago, when Tiwari was a corporal, he used to be deputed to install and operate the PA and the music systems for formal parties in the Officers’ Mess. Because he came from a modest rural background, where women stayed indoors and performed household chores, he found the behaviour of the officers and the ladies inappropriate.
It wasn’t his fault.
It being a stricture against the officer-community, I felt ineligible to preside over the dispute. I brushed aside the case saying, “I expect you warrant officers to be mature. Now, get going and mind your personal businesses.” I felt educating Tiwari at that point in time could be counter-productive. Such an action would not guarantee success in moulding his concretised perception.
All through my service since that day, I have consciously devoted time and effort to educating my men on gender issues.
The #MeToo movement and the issues of gender equality that have inundated the media (social media included) have served as a recall of the Mishra-Tiwari dispute for me. Here is a peep into officer-lady relations in the armed forces.
An officer, and a gentleman, stands up to greet a lady on her arrival. He does not address her by her first name unless she approves of it. A gentle hug or a peck on the cheek is purely a personal matter between two individuals. The ladies––young and very young, girls and even children) have a sixth sense. They know when a touch is inappropriate––they can distinguish well between a friendly gesture and a predatory move. This sixth sense is not unique to the ladies in the Armed Forces. That sense is universal. Besides, a lady is not obliged to display uniform level of familiarity with everyone she meets. The officers respect the freedom of the ladies to draw lines selectively for different people depending on their level of comfort.
Don’t go by the optics. There’s a lot more to how men must carry themselves in the presence of ladies than mere opening the door, leading the way and talking softly in a their presence. Chivalrous is one word that summarises an officer’s behaviour in the presence of a lady. It is not the fear of punishment, which is severe for offences against women but the upbringing in the Armed Forces that spells the difference.
If the prevailing noise and din in the country confuses the youth, perhaps flipping the pages of the Customs and Traditions of the Armed Forces or meeting a gentleman and an officer will help.
I have hardly known Mr MJ Akbar who is making news for the wrong reasons lately. I spoke to him once on the telephone, in the late nineties. He was with The Asian Age then. I gave him ten on ten for his manners and politeness. Then, for over a dozen and more years I have feasted on his articles in the print media––his analysis of the current national and international affairs is remarkable. I find his diction good, better than most others. Then, on two occasions, I have heard him live and found him to be a very eloquent speaker. My cognition has created a certain image of him––that of an intellectual. Period.
I think I still don’t know Mr Akbar. Do I need to know him? Well, I don’t think, I do. But what I am interested in is a discourse, which leads to improvement in the prevailing environment for women in the country in general, and the workplaces, in particular. I owe that approach to many I care for.
Something that started as a ripple a few days ago is metamorphosing into a tsunami of sorts. In its spate it has taken many big names, the likes of Nana Patekar, Alok Nath and of course, Mr MJ Akbar. Trial by the media has begun; verdicts on the basis of loud debates are already being splashed on the walls.
The lifestyles and work ethos of the people who are making the headlines are like closed books of Greek literature to many in the stands. The impression is that people involved, either do not understand the meaning of a clear ‘NO’, or blatantly exploit their power and position. One can only be a spectator until a designated court pronounces a verdict. Not really! Media reports of the last few days raise a valid question: “There is smoke; where is the fire?”
Beyond applause for daring to speak up against the treatment meted out to them in their workplaces these courageous women deserve the support due to them; a cheer less, for those who jumped on the bandwagon as an after thought. At the moment, some of the people who are speaking up appear to have axes to grind. Many others, who can, or must speak, and more importantly, whose voices matter, are silent. Are there skeletons that might tumble out of the cupboards if they broke their silence?
It is time for well-meaning people, people who are in the know of the working in those domains, to speak up. Dante has said, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” That said, there is no reason to speak in favour or against an individual. People can speak on the issue of harassment in workplaces and how it needs to be addressed.
One last thought: Some in the media are using the epithet––Battle of the Sexes––while discussing these issues, which incite passions. Other expressions doing the rounds are picking up cudgels and, in similar context, demolishing the male bastion. People would do well to coin and use terms that bring the people (of the two sexes) to see in the same direction rather than be adversaries working for the same cause. There are enough people on both sides of the imaginary line who think alike. Their solidarity needs to be consolidated for whatever it is worth.
Malé. November 3, 1988. A band of Sri Lanka based Tamil terrorists led by a Maldivian businessman, Abdullah Luthufe, attempted to overthrow President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives. The President went into hiding and flashed SOS messages to rescue him and restore peace in the island nation.
Operation Cactus was India’s gritty response to the Maldivian President’s call for military assistance. It is rated among the most daring military operations of the world––among the likes of Operation Eiche (Rescue of Mussolini by German Paratroopers, 1943) and Operation Jonathan (the rescue of 104 hostages by the Israeli Commandos from Entebbe Airport, 1976). The diplomatic corps also played a significant role in the success of the Operation. The President was rescued and Malé was secured. The Indian Navy chased the fleeing rebels and freed the hostages taken by them for bargaining later.
It is interesting how an event that took place miles away in Australia, 200 years ago, influenced one of the outcomes of Operation Cactus––the rescue of hostages (including a Maldivian Minister and his Swiss wife). Read on….
On January 26, 1788, the first fleet of British ships, carrying convicts from Britain, reached Australia. They were the first settlers of the continent. Their landing at Sydney Harbour was a historical event. The anniversary of that day is celebrated each year with fervour as Australia Day. The Bicentenary of the official National Day of Australia was celebrated with even greater pomp and show through 1988. Indian Navy (IN) was among the navies of the world invited to participate in over a month long celebrations in October 1988. Indian Naval Ship (INS) Godavari was returning to India––the crew were undergoing customs clearance in Port Blair––when the first shots were fired in Malé.
The ship was directed to intercept the rogue ship (the hijacked merchant vessel, Progress Light with the rebels and the hostages on board) on high seas before she could enter the Sri Lankan waters.
Rest is history.
Note: The author was on board the first IL-76 aircraft of the IAF that landed at Hulule on the fateful night of November 3/4, 1988.