Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Of Cats and Dogs

When we talk of pets , perhaps cats and dogs top the list and between these two, dogs win hands down. The reason being that dog is the most faithful friend of man. Some years back a nationalized bank had the face of a dog as its logo with the caption “faithful & friendly”. There was a movie “ Teri Meharbaniyan” with the title song dedicated to a faithful dog.Further a gramophone recording company has the name HMV -His Master's Voice- and has the logo of a dog facing a gramophone. In my school days , I came across a book in the school library titled “Drishti Daatri”, about the dogs in Europe and America specially trained to help blind people. We have dog squads in Police and Military to do the assigned jobs. And yet , we do not treat this friendly animal the way we should. We have idioms and proverbs like “Every dog has his day” and “to die a dog's death” , always used in a negative sense. Dog is often a metaphor for a mean ,wicked and a crooked person as used in Bollywood film dialogues. A married couple , not having the best of terms is said to be living a cat and dog life. It is said to be raining cats and dogs during the monsoons. And a cat , though devoid of the qualities that a dog has ,on the other hand is blessed with nine lives.
My mother , as a child had had a dog as a pet and would tell us that it was a vegetarian dog, always fed on milk and bread that would turn its head away if anything non-veg was offered to it. She would always say that a dog wishes that there are more members in a family so that it could survive on food left over by each one of them : while a cat , selfish and self-seeking , as always , wished that there should be a lone person around that too blind so that it could willfully eat or drink anything available without any hindrance- no one checking or stopping it. It is natural that I have a liking for dogs and prefer them over cats, when it comes to having pets. For some having a dog as a pet is a status symbol and walking the dog , the best pastime. Now a days , only the well to do in urban areas can afford to have a pet.
A dog recognizes its true master and owner and would not do any mistake on this account. Years ago, it so happened that our landlord brought a pup , an Alsatian and we children showered more love , care and affection on it than him and even named it Tiger. It would always live with us and even sleep in the verandah attached to our accommodation , so much so that people thought we were the owners.
After some years when we were to shift to a Govt. accommodation allotted to my father, every one thought , it would accompany us. For all the love affection and care showered on it by us, Tiger did not move with us and lived there till death.But this however does not mean that Tiger forgot us or that its affection for us diminished to any degree. The few occasions, when we visited the place , it would come running to us, wagging its tail and expecting a loving caress or a pat on the back. What can be a better example of dog's faithfulness !

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Honesty, still the best Policy !

The title may appear to denote some skepticism by insertion of the word 'still ' , but I have reasons for this. In modern times,the story of the wood cutter who was rewarded by God Mercury with gold and silver axes besides restoring to him the iron one that actually was his , will be scoffed at. People can be heard saying -Imandari ka zamana nahin, samajhdari ka zamana hai- as if to be honest is an aberration and a sort of naivette and not the accepted thing.
My daughter since childhood has an insatiable craving for shoes and whenever and wherever she saw shoes on display in a show room , she would throw tantrums for having a new pair. Most of the time , we gave in , she being our darling first born .
She was about seven year old when I was posted at Palampur , the picturesque town in Kangra district.
As is the case with all salaried people, shopping is done mostly in the first week of the month after salary has been brought home. It was planned to have shoes for our two kids . The shoes were purchased and as is the case with the children her age my daughter insisted on wearing new shoes there and then . As a result the old ones were packed in the box.
On reaching home when the box supposed to be containing old shoes was opened, a brand new pair of 'action' shoes was found in it - obviously the shopkeeper had put the wrong box in the carry bag. . On an impulse my wife said , “yeh toh mere number aur size ke hain.” I said , “ Fine , keep them, we'll pay for them tomorrow.” Since my wife did not need a new pair right then , next day , on way to my office I went to the shop to return the shoes. Naturally, the shopkeeper was happy and grateful for this honesty on our part , and handed over the box containing old shoes of my daughter. We did visit his shop on a few occasions afterwards . Needless to say , he charged us less without our asking for any concession. In retrospect , I find this incident quite satisfying as a temporary "gain" of Rs. 565/- or so - if it was chosen to kill conscience for this - would have cost much more in terms of burden of a guilt that would have to be carried for a lifetime.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Of Words and Meanings

“In the beginning was the word and the word was God ” says the Holy Bible. In Hinduism, “Om” has a special significance and is believed to be the first original sound produced at the time of the making of universe and the planet Earth. With the advent of civilization , sign-language was invented to communicate , but after the evolution of various languages all over the world , it is the spoken and the written words that have revolutionized the world. To be lost for words is considered a virtual handicap when we are not able to express our feelings of extreme joy , sorrow or surprise. Not only the words but their meanings assume an important place in our day to day life.
Shimla , where I was born and grew up was a part of Punjab and in school , we were taught Punjabi as a second language. Our neighbourhood was a Punjabi- dominated one . The concept of family planning or family welfare was not born and each family had a brood of three and more on an average. Needless to say , bringing up three and more kids at a time required a lot of grit and patience and it was very common to hear swear-words or gaalis being hurled upon pranksters or otherwise erring children. Some of these were – moya , rud jaaneya , khasman nu khaneyan etc. etc. Particularly a lady who was a cleanliness buff was more liberal in showering these expletives on her four sons. Occasionally heard was also a word “auntra” the meaning of which , we never tried to find out .
I was in seventh or eighth class when in a terminal examination we were required to substitute one word for an issue-less man. The entire class scratched heads to think and find out but could nor get beyond niputta or bey-aulad both of these unacceptable . It was only after the exams when we were to receive our marked answer sheets that Gyaniji , our Punjabi teacher told us that none of us had got the answer correct and added that the correct answer was “auntra” which we had heard countless of times or ad nauseum .
Another instance that comes to mind , relates to the Hindi word pratishthit . The Hindi teacher did not spare the rod and the entire class got a spanking for not getting the meaning right. The glossary given at the end of the text book showed the meaning as “ jiski sthaapana ki gayi ho" which though not completely incorrect was utterly out of context ,and rightly so , the teacher would not have it for an answer which he told was “reputed” or “renowned ”..
These two instances inculcated in me the habit of looking up dictionary every now and then to know the exact meaning of words . Needless to say now we have words like “avatar ” adopted in English and used liberally for manifestation or shape or form of any thing or substance and not in the narrow religious sense. Again we have words like Moolah being frequently used for money or lucre.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Magic of Poetry

Many many years ago , I came across the following lines from “ A Psalm of Life “ by H.W.Longfellow in a translation book :

"Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers
And things are not what they seem. "

translated in Hindi thus
" न सुनाओ दुःख भरे गीतों में मुझे
जीवन है एक स्वप्न ख़ाली
मुर्दा है वह जो बुदबुदाये
स्वप्नों में दिखती है कुछ और ही लाली "
I wonder if the magic of the following beautiful lines
" धरा पर झुकी प्रार्थना सदृश
मधुर मुरली सी फिर भी मौन
किसी अज्ञात विश्व की विकल
वेदना दूती सी तुम कौन ! "
by the poet Jai Shankar  Prasad  can be kept intact, if someone attempts a translation in English. !

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Cruellest Months

T.S.Eliot had his own reasons to call April the cruellest month and I tend to agree with him , though for a different reason. Only I would include May as well. I speak for myself and thousands of Government employees like me , who have transferable jobs. April and May constitute the transfer season , awaited by some and dreaded by others. For some, it is time to pull the strings to get postings in more comfortable places after a tenure in the hard area or otherwise an inconvenient place , who consider themselves lucky if the efforts prove fruitful. For those already in the comfort zone, it is the fear of getting disturbed due to likely transfer during the season. The fear though is not unfounded, due to personal and domestic circumstances .Especially if you have school/college going children it involves getting fresh admission, and in most of the cases a hunt for suitable residential accommodation at affordable rent. Even otherwise if there are no personal or domestic problems staring in the face, there are adjustments to be made in the new environment with new colleagues and altogether different nature of job as well. In a sense , this is similar to a girl leaving for in laws' house , where she is expected to make all adjustments and contribute to bring happiness and comfort to all in her new home.
Everyone who has a transferable job has had bitter-sweet experiences . “ Ring out the old and ring in the new " seems to be the 'in' thing . You may come across mixed reactions – for this you have to be an expert in face reading- some may think of your transfer as good riddance , while some - even though for a short while - may not take your going out easy . Well , depends on kind of rapport you have had with the permanent members of the clan ! Invariably , people are forced to tell some lies while making farewell speeches. It is not difficult to judge where the catch is. After all , you are the best judge as far as you are concerned. . In new office , you are seemingly always welcome . Rest assured , the guys have already inquired as to what type of person you are , and have sufficient feedback and information about you from the sources, unknown to you. Little wonder if your attention is drawn to the list of your predecessors displayed on the board -for whatever reason called 'Honour Board' -in front of you suggesting you are the ..th incumbent and thus making you mindful of the transient nature of things and also the fact that after sometime you get reduced to a number and a name !