Am I wrong in believing that we Indians who pride ourselves in being spiritual and indifferent to worldly matters have begun to talk more about money than ever before' We want to know who is the richest man in the world, who the richest Indian, and how many have made it to the Forbes list. It is not how they made it: it may be haraam kee kamaayee. It is not how much they give away to the needy, but how much they hoard in banks, shares and property. We feel impressed with their styles of living: have they private aircraft' Their own yachts' Do their women go to London, Paris or Singapore to do their weekend shopping' Do they go to Phuket, Hawaii on holidays or on cruises in luxury liners' How much do they blow up at their sons or daughters weddings' And that sort of thing. Without sounding sanctimonious, I find their obsession with other peoples wealth somewhat sickening and un-Indian.
Take a look at our newspapers and magazines. More and more space is devoted to business, commerce, banking, finance, corporations and profits. The Sensex has become a gauge of our life-support system. In reality, our main pre-occupation in life is making money. The more the better. Our national motto has become sab say badaa rupaiyaa so let us sing in praise of the almighty rupee. Consequently, our newspapers and magazines are becoming less and less readable; they devote a sizeable part to the doings of filmstars, fashion designers and their scantily-clad models, recipes, cocktail parties and that sort of trivia. The little readable material they publish is taken from American or English journals. It is not journalism; it is whoring in the name of journalism.
I also take a look at my past. I have been a journalist of some kind or the other most of my long life free-lancer, whole-timer, editor and now a syndicated columnist. I never bargained about my salary or fringe benefits because I was well-paid, was given a chauffeur-driven car (I never employed a driver), got a handsome entertainment allowance which I rarely spent. I am dazzled by the earnings of men in my profession today: some editors get upwards of Rs 3 lakh a month: one lakh a month is considered below par. What do they do with all this money' I have a few suggestions: first they should attend coaching classes and learn to write correct, readable English. And second, try and think of something that is worth writing about. Also, bear in mind that making big money is not all there is to life.
Butterflies are free
| Not bitten, only smitten
This May, I saw more butterflies in my small garden in Kasauli than I have ever seen. Though they were occasionally blue, brown or yellow, most of them were white, and of two sizes. I noticed that the larger variety preferred sitting on flowers, while the smaller preferred leaves of scrub growing out of masonry. Their habits were also different: the larger variety were often in flocks of a dozen or more, spiralling skywards, and then descending to scatter away in pairs or threes into the foliage. I know next to nothing about butterflies besides the fact that they are a species of insects known as lepidoptera which includes moths. They are born out of eggs, grow into caterpillars, chrysalides, and then emerge with colourful wings. I was under the impression that their life-span was very short about a day or so. I was wrong. Most live for about a fortnight in their butterfly form, some as long as a year.
After searching my bookshelves, I found an old book on the subject, published by the Bombay Natural History Society in 1957: Butterflies of the Indian Region by M. A. Synter-Blyth. Apparently, there are thousands of varieties of butterflies, divided into species and sub-species, known largely by their shapes and colours.
After much turning around of pages and colour plates, I came to the conclusion that two species of whites that fluttered about my garden were Hill Jezebels, commonly seen in the lower Himalayas from Kashmir to Assam. Why were they named Jezebels, which stands for nasty, vicious women, when my butterflies were a friendly lot who harmed nobody' Perhaps like some other species, they have poisonous substances in their bodies. That is why birds do not eat them.
Much ado about nothing, again
The controversy raked up over the Richard Gere-Shilpa Shetty issue shows the extent of the perversion in the minds of the pseudo-moralists in our country. I happen to be invited to various Page 3 parties, where all kinds of kissing air-kissing, pecks or even lip-locking (only in fashion parties) are generously practised, by the young and middle-aged alike. Print and electronic media give these wide coverage. Nobody takes it as vulgarity or as assault on Indian culture simply because it is a way of expressing affection. I am reminded of a poem written by a Punjabi poet, Isher Singh Bhaiya, who was known for his humour and public satire. The title of his poem was Mazhab Tey Mohabbat, and I quote a few lines: Kidre vaji taarhi taan Mazhab noon khatra,/ Kissey banhi darhee taan mazhab noon khatra/ Kisey banhi Saree taan mazhab noon khatra/ Ai Mazhab na yoya Tey hoi Mombatti/ Pighar gai zaraa lagi dhup tattee. (If somebody claps, our religion is in danger/ If somebody ties his beard, our religion is in danger/ If somebody wears a Saree, our religion is in peril,/ Is our Religion made of wax'/ Which melts the moment it is exposed to the sun')
Then there is no dearth of idlers in our country. One of them filed a criminal complaint against a man devoted to a noble cause like the prevention of Aids. Our moral policemen/women are not interested in the end but only in the means.
(Contributed by Paramjit S. Kochar, New Delhi)