“What?! Dancing in the kitchen?!”, said the son smiling his dignified smile of indulgence. “I haven’t seen you this happy for a long, long time!”
“Yes! I am dancing young man! You dance in the kitchen when you have a dignified President! You dance when a woman’s ambition is finally rewarded. You dance in the kitchen, you dance in the streets, you dance in the woods, you just dance !” I said kicking my feet up in the air.
The men smiled at each other exchanging significant glances.
“We are going to throw the drishti pumpkin out! Oooh yeah! ”
“Well!” I said, catching my breath after the dance routine and proceeded to talk about pumpkins, evil eyes and the evil eyes of the pumpkin.
It isn’t uncommon to see a pumpkin out on the street: During Halloween, , in the United States, but anytime on the streets in India.
I remember being shocked the first time I saw a pumpkin being flung out on the streets as a young girl. I was less than a decade old, and had wrestled my little brother, and then out-debated him in a secret language to get to the window seat as we travelled from the Nilgiris to my grandmother’s village near Trichy. The entire 8 hour journey is a picturesque one. As the bus winds its way down the Nilgiris, and then slowly descends into the plains, the air gets warmer and warmer, and the scenery changes from misty hillsides to lush green plains with the final stretch of road between Karur & Trichy by the river Cauvery. For several hours, the trees on either side of the road tip their branches together and whisper little messages to each other across the road as the buses, trucks, jeeps, cars, motorcycles and cycles rustle by underneath trying to get a wisp of the whispers above. The river flows on murmuring at places, serenely flowing along at others, but always providing a pleasing backdrop to life in these South Indian plains. The little villages along the way, could be Malgudi, and just peeking out is enough to provide a R K Narayan-ish story.
I was daydreaming in the bus looking out and imagining a myriad things when I saw a sizable pumpkin lying squashed outside a house. Coming from a family that frowned upon wasting food of any form, I wondered what they would say about this great waste of a large pumpkin?
It turns out, that certain pumpkins are meant to be thrown out. That particular pumpkin, I was surprised to learn, was there to ward off the evil eye, and needed to be thrown out. The ‘evil eye’ or drishti is one of those things of folklore in India. There are many rules, laws, workarounds and theories at work here – it is dubious, but entertaining nevertheless:
When something bad happens, it may be a good thing, for it offsets the evil eye.
When something good happens, then one must remember to throw out a pumpkin to ward off the evil eye. (#Prevention better than #1?!)
When nothing happens, you squash a lemon or a smaller pumpkin to ward off the evil eye that slowly accumulates – like dental plaque I suppose.
When lots of things happen at once, and one cannot figure out whether it is good or bad, you trash a pumpkin just in case.
Now, many times in the past few years, I have referenced the pumpkin used to ward off the evil eye. If the United States has spent so much time being the world leader, championing climate change, leading scientific research and helping democracy thrive in different parts of the world, it must’ve accumulated oodles of drishti mustn’t it? When the 45th President, Donald Trump won in 2016, I cried. I cried not because I am particularly close to any policies or any such thing. But because such a great country would elect a boorish bumpkin like Donald Trump: a man hellbent on thwarting democracy.
This must be our drishti, I thought. Well, how does one know that? Refer to rule #1.
“The gods grow jealous of too much contentment anywhere, and they show their displeasure all of a sudden.”
― R.K. Narayan, Malgudi Days
Today, it is time to throw the drishti pumpkins, carved with those evil eyes, out.
Today, it is time to dance like no one is watching for the whole world is watching us reclaim our dignity.
I have heard friends rave about Dune by Frank Herbert many times over the past few years. I finally got to read the book, and I feel richer in mind and thought for it. The book was long and at times hard to keep track of (especially in the beginning). This is one of those times when I realize how my mind flutters with attention spans that drive calm butterflies to frenzy. But slowly, steadily, I settled into the book, and there were multiple moments when I felt like I must grab a pen and start writing (but that stern butterfly gave me a look, and kept me at my the task of reading). This, is probably the reason I have forgotten half the things I wanted to write about (This is where I glare back at the butterfly guardian who kept me reading)
One of the many things that appealed to me in the Dune was the fact though there were vague references made to technology and the number of technological devices used by those living at the time, it is not a mainstay.
The book is a multi-layered piece of literature with over-arching themes of ecology, the art of war, religion, philosophy and politics. There is a particular quote that stuck with me in the Prologue written by Brian Herbert, Frank Herbert’s son, about the dangers of hero worship.
As Liet Kynes lay dying in the desert, he remembered the long ago words of his own father: “No more terrible disaster could befall your people than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero.”
Having studied politics carefully, my father believed that heroes made mistakes…mistakes that were simplified by the number of people who followed such leaders slavishly.
In many ways, hero worship is what leads people to choose leaders who then turn into despots and dictators. Adulation affects everyone, and those with fragile egos are the most prone to its lure.
Towards the end of the book, Paul Atreides recognizes that he is being hailed as the Messiah and regardless of his acceptance of the title, there is a holy jihad in his future. He can either lead to the best of his abilities like his able and excellent father, Duke Leto or simply be the mascot of a movement that has already gathered momentum – a force that is much larger than him. This sort of trusting faith in one human being is never a good sign, and is a malady that has affected us for centuries.
I quite agree with how Aristotle describes the nobility required of politicians: he opines that politicians should take an oath, almost as sacred as a Hippocratic oath, to remain fair and mete out justice. From the Nicomachean Ethics – By Aristotle.
There are no initiation courses for politicians. No training. Though, I have a suggestion to have every politician complete the Butter Battle Course, it is unheeded. (The Butter Battle Course is an excellent course consisting of childrens’ books not more than a few pages each, and should only take a few moments of every leader’s time):
When someone asked Carl Sagan after his lecture what we can do when the governments do not act in our best interests, he advised us to have Baloney Detection Kits handy.
“I would say that the first thing to do is realize that governments, all governments, at least on occasion, lie. And some of them do it all the time – some of them do it only every second statement-but, by and large, governments distort the facts in order to remain in office.
And if we are ignorant of what the issues are and can’t even ask the critical questions, then we’re not going to make much of a difference. If we can understand the issues, if we can pose the right questions, if we can point out the contradictions, then we can make some progress. There are many other things that can done, but it seems to me that those two, the baloney detection kit and use of the democratic process where available are at least two things to consider.”
This seems to be age old wisdom: our oldest myths write about flaws in heroes, what brings about the downfall of the most powerful tyrantsetc; and yet, the reminder for our own Baloney Detection Kits is a timely one.
Dune – Frank Herbert
Varieties of Scientific Evidence– Carl Sagan
Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle
36 Books That Changed The World – Lectures on Great Courses
The Yooks and the Zooks live on either side of a long, meandering wall. The Yooks wear blue, the Zooks wear orange.
The Yooks think the Zooks silly for buttering their bread with the butter side down, while the Zooks think the Yooks are somewhat dim-witted for buttering their bread with the butter side facing up. The flags of the Yooks and Zooks represent the belief in buttering bread, and the animosity builds from this bread-butter-theory to which they attach supreme importance.
One day, the Yook patrolman is prowling the place with his Tough-Tufted Prickly Snick-Berry Switch, when a Zook pelts him with a slingshot. This sets in motion an escalating conflict, with both sides coming up with more and more exotic and dangerous arms with which to fight each other.
The Triple Sling Jigger, the Jigger Rock Snatchem, the Blue Goo-er, the Kick-a-poo kid operated by a cocker spaniel – Daniel, the Eight-Nozzled Elephant-Toted Boom Blitz.
The last page has the Yook patrolman sitting atop the wall with a Zook warrior. Both of them have in their hands a Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo – a small bomb that can annihilate life as we know it, signifying the nuclear threat.
I know we ask of no formal training as a politician: there are no politician licenses, no courses one has to complete to take up public office, but I really think there should be a set of children’s books that they all have to read and re-read as refreshers every year in order to stay in office. We could call it the Butter Battle Course.
The Butter Battle Book has of course given rise to great hilarity in the house. “Do you want to be a Yook or a Zook?”, we ask taking out the butter and the bread. We now butter our bread on both sides so we can be Yooky-Zooks, and sometimes Zooky-Yooks.
The next time any two nations start warring, I suggest thrusting bread buttered on both sides to both parties.