Wednesday, May 23, 2012

79. The truth of a lie


In private conversations everyone agrees that lies are essential to humanity while in public discourse the same set of people take a divergent position. This corollary did not apply to George Bush, however. By virtue of having stayed in the White House for little less than a decade, the former US President was fond of 'white lies'. Else, how could he convince the world that there were 'weapons of mass destruction' in Iraq? The most shocking truth is that there has been a history written around that 'lie'. 

Haven't all of us been told at one time or the other in our lives that lying is wrong? And yet, when it comes to avoiding trouble, saving face in front of the boss, or sparing someone's feelings, a majority of us resort to the inevitability of telling a lie. As I understand, telling lie is as important as the pursuit of pleasure and moreover is dictated by that pursuit. Since we all draw pleasure in telling a lie, the love birds do not miss any opportunity in reiterating the world's biggest lie - 'i love you'. Isn't there a grain of 'lie' in what is being perceived as 'truth'?   

Psychologists have inconclusively diagnosed the human trait called 'lie' but the fact of the matter is that while a 'lie' is a 'lie' and nothing else, 'truth' could easily be 'half-truth' or even a 'quarter'. Does it not indicate that while 'lie' is perfect, 'truth' isn't? Isn't it this perfection which has ensured that 'lies' are essential to humanity but not 'truth'? While 'truth' is desirable, 'lie' is inevitable! Otherwise, no parents would wake up their children in the morning by telling a 'lie' - 'get up, it is already 8 in the morning while the clock shows 7'. It is another matter that over breakfast the same parents would talk about the virtue of being truthful in life.     

Friday, May 11, 2012

78. The 'water ball' patriotism


It may have originated in what was known as the Magadh region, present day South Bihar, but its omnipresence across the length and breadth of the country obscures its origin. In fact, it has already gone global. This round, hollow puri, fried crisp and filled with a mixture of flavoured water, tamarind chutney,  chaat masala, chilli, potato, onion, chickpeas is available across continents, and in several cities in USA, UK and Europe. Known by diverse names like phoolki, phuchka, paani puri and gol guppa, the ubiquitous water-ball is the undisputed king of the tangy-hot world of chaat. Need it be said that gol guppa is a secular snack that cuts across caste, class and religious distinctions? Barring few exceptions, it has largely been a female favourite though.      

The hollow of a well-bloomed pani puri filled with salted masala water is more than just a tangy obsession. Neither is it branded nor does it confirm to any standards, yet a gol guppa popped in from the roadside seller holds mass popularity. The sociology of its widespread popularity is worth a doctoral degree. 

Who cares how a speck of dough is ballooned; where from the water to fill it up is sourced; and the often unhygienic surroundings where the cart is stationed by the roadside? Unlike other products in the market, there has been an unwritten faith in the ‘collective responsibility’ of the gol guppa supply chain. And the roadside bhaiyya (brother) must be credited for having stood by it!  

Though upmarket vendors have started using ‘doubtful’ mineral water and ‘dubious’ plastic gloves in the name of so-called ‘hygiene’, rarely does it bother anyone that the dust-laden winds are depositing a thin layer of ‘desh-ki-mitti’ (mother earth) through the day all over the cart. It is the unflinching faith of its consumer base that has added to its unending popularity.

What is intriguing, though, is the fact that those who are otherwise finicky about drinking water from any public source show utmost respect to whatever quality of water that fills the ball. For me, it is no less than an act of ‘water-ball patriotism’ wherein we not only repose our faith in ‘your’ people but on water and dust that inevitably comes along. 
No wonder, consumer courts have yet to hear any complaint on your neighbourhood pani puri wala! Since everyone asks for ‘more water’ even after finishing with his/ her plate of gol guppa – “Bhaiyya, thoda paani aur dena! (Brother, give me some more water) – it is quite unlikely that any complaint would ever get fled. I will keep my fingers crossed though!

This was published in Deccan Herald on Aug 8, 2015.

Friday, May 4, 2012

77. First, too many.....


Over a two and a half course dinner, I was fed with narratives of my hostess' travels across continents. Much before I could taste all that was on offer, she had ferried me across countries in a racy narrative bereft of any punctuation. While I was still working on my bowl of dal, the lady had already dipped herself into the Thermal Springs at Sofia and much before I could lift a morsel of mixed vegetables, my hostess was up narrating the exquisite beauty of the Khomas Highlands at Windhoek. My limited knowledge of geography was surely put on test as I sat wondering why would a middle class woman of average demeanor travel to god-forsaken places?   

Neither was there a windfall of fortune nor any reference to undue favor showered on her, and yet she could accomplish some of the amazing travels across continents that had left me envious of her. And I suspect her husband was no less envious either, ignominious victim of his wife's unending verbal diarrhoea. A couple of days later I had learnt that my generous hostess was then 'the first sister-in-law of the country'. Not an acknowledged expression in the law books of the country but one that describes how such relationships to the 'first citizen' rob public exchequer and make the national carrier become a symbol of 'national shame'. She had apparently accompanied her 'brother-in-law', the then President of India, on many of his foreign junkets. 

The outgoing 'first' woman president of the country has many 'firsts' to her credit. For being pally with the current government a'la rubber stamp, she scored 'first' in the number of countries any president could visit during his tenure. For being a mother, she made several of her close and distant relatives feel the warmth of being closer to 'the first citizen' on many of her overseas travels. True to her contested candidature, she has struck many 'firsts' in her 'first' foray as the 'first citizen' of the country. If number carries any significance then it must not go unnoticed that she has been the 13th President of India!