There was a verbal volley with a definitive purpose that the ear was used to. When the marks didn’t turn up as well as they perhaps should have. When they were a marathon of a distance away from the swagger with which an extra hour with TinTin was devoured claiming that the math exam had gone off ‘beyond expectations’ .
This verbal tranche of insults and such else, were delivered all ofcourse, with the intention of somehow getting me more focused and ‘into’ the subject !
The assortment of words that made the sentence was remarkable for the sentence could masquerade as sarcasm, retort, insult, insinuation, motivation, display of anger. An extravagant paraphernalia of diverse meanings that I don’t have the patience to recount.
For that wide an array of interpretations, the sentence and its constituents were ( and still are ) remarkably pithy : “I’ll get you a few cows”
It was supposed to be the ultimate insult to an average young mind. It meant, that the new depths the maths marks touched could fit the grand occupation of herding cows and goats. It was a singularly frightening thought. Completely inappropriate by a grotesque proportion to what caused this : the math paper !
For the math question paper would have had a question like ‘ A has five apples. Of which he gave one-fifth to B and another one-third to C……’ . Finally ending with some vague question like ‘So how many apples was A left with’ or something to that effect.
For the record, I have always believed that the impact of apples are best felt on the tongue. The teeth biting into fresh fruit, and the tongue swarming with tasty juice was all that mattered.
If you had five apples, you ate five apples. Obviously, Mr.B and Mr.C were non-entities once the apples were sighted. Even if the apples happened to be theirs.
To me, people featured in the question paper like Mr.A, were beyond comprehension. To subject something as tasty as a simple apple, to such a fractious assault was downright unnecessary, completely impractical and cruel to an imaginative test taking kid!
These and such thoughts would play in the mind. Before I knew, test would be over and the mark statement would have touched a new nadir.
Oftentimes holding the report card in hand with the math marks settling in a new marina trench, would send me on a imagination frenzy to see myself herding an assortment of cows and goats. Which obviously lead to serious palpitations to form on my forehead. And other parts too, but that’s besides the point.
No no. Dont get me wrong. Not for me the insult. Not for me the insinuation. At that age, I didn’t give goats horn about what people would think of me being a cowherd. Nor do I care much now. It was not that. The problem was something else.
It was keeping count of those goats and cows.
Beads of sweat transformed into enormous water streams just thinking of the proposition of losing two goats for no fault of mine. As a matter of addition and subtraction we were taught to ‘borrow’ ‘from the next digit’. Or in case of addition, ‘carry over’ to the next column was important.
After dutifully ‘carrying over’ or ‘borrowing from’ I would ofcourse gloriously forget that act of generosity and move on with life and other numbers. Until such a time, the math teacher made me write such ‘carry overs’ and ‘borrowing froms’ in such gigantic font size to enable recall.
If that was the case with random numbers, to keep track of cows and goats was a different ask, to my fertile imagination. To keep counting them and finding I was two short ( or three short, for that matter) would have had some serious explanation, I figured.
I fretted that I would lose count for no fault of mine. It would be comprehensively unfair if, say, the goats wanted to scratch themselves against a specific tree, or stayed back at the local pond, or sighted a far attractive mate and decide to have a good time!
I would be reduced to taking the blame on myself and my math skills.
Grotesquely unfair. Isnt it ?
Ofcourse this attempt at fear laced motivation, stopped getting uttered one day. One fine day, one of those ‘uncles’ was home to launch into moms cooking. Such genial uncles back then ( and these days too) have a set of questions which were simple to figure out.
Usually starting with ‘Which school do you go to and somewhere along the line leading to ‘what do you want to become when you grow up’. ( At a younger age, ‘what is your teacher name’ used to be one persistent such, which in hindsight, rises an eyebrow. Actually both my eyebrows. )
Just as he was finishing the question of ‘what do you want to become’, in a flash, my mind streamed an image of a proud me, managing an array of goats and cows without losing count of any.
Without losing a breath, I announced with a singular flourish that I wanted to become a ‘Cowherd’. Much to the blasphemous horror of all around, evidenced by the stellar silence that followed an intemperate bout of laughter from the genial uncle.
After that, the subject of ‘grazing cows’ as a default occupational choice, in case the math marks didn’t move north, made a quiet exit. I must say, the cows and goats haven’t been ever so thankful as then.
Do you have such recollections of your childhood ? Or were you the Mr.A type ?
So have you been taken for a ride ? On an Elephant ? On the roads !?!
The resounding bells that used to hang by the sides used to announce the arrival of elephant and the mahout into the neigbhourhood. For a small fee, one could get a ride. And for a smaller fee, the elephant would touch your head with its trunk, as you bowed in deference and devotion. and the world around you would say that you were now blessed !
And then came National Geographic and the likes. Where the rest of the world saw elephants as exotic species. In safaris and through the lens of some of the best photographers of the world. And all you could hear was a groan escaping your lips.
It didn’t strike you as big deal ! You grew up seeing the elephant. He was your God ! You saw him every other day at a temple. Or the next street. Or at a wedding reception! Touching human heads with the huge trunk and collecting that small fee !
“We have been seen as a land of elephants” , lamented a young software friend. Fresh with an accent and a whiff of perfume and scent of drying ink on his passport. And quiet obviously there was some discussion.
“New age imagery of India may be something, but please’, i told him, ‘please find a way of including the elephants into your scheme of things. Perhaps name a piece of software in its honour. I mean, look at Java and Maya !!’ The elephant is a large majestic being and you cant wish it away ! With all your might !
White Elephant, they scream at something that cant be put to use. A heavy person is affixed a tag : Elephant. Of course ! And as much as these are cruel to people, well, i want to say, spare a thought for the elephant as well !
With the power of quick wishes that have super quick freeze into inaction, i want to start a movement to bring back the majestic elephant to the forefront ! ‘Majesticity’ doing a disappearing act before metaphors of expense and weight….well, that’s not done !
The streets of Mumbai and other big metros don’t see the elephant. As much. Perhaps that’s why, i thought !
And then, i spotted one. In the traffic bustle of Powai’s main road. Striding majestically. Amidst commuters waiting for a bus. And those big German engineered cars with three pointed stars or three alphabets for a name, and the puny efficient cars of the Japs & Koreans , the Indian wannabe cars and the rest of those that are fighting bankruptcy, all keep a respectful distance.
Almost seeming to bow in deference to this big one. Each stride, majestic. Each wave of the trunk an artistic beauty. This was not bumper to bumper traffic. This perhaps was trunk to trunk traffic. Nobody cared. Size matters. I realised. Always.
And then one day, i saw that same software friend at a temple. Bowing in deference. As an elephant ‘blessed’ him with his trunk.
Perhaps that ink on the passport was drying. I thought. The elephant didn’t seem to care. These thoughts were for small minds like mine.
My understanding of Hindi is as smattering inconsistent as predicting a branch on which a lunatic monkey would land. But this one i could follow. Something to the effect of
‘Enjoy. Nuts for monkeys available here. Throw nuts, click a snap, do a good / worthy deed. One packet : Rs. 5/-)
This is as close as it can get to ‘single feature – multiple benefit’ lessons taught in sales training programs ! Human ingenuity can sound psychologically pre-pubescent. But hey, it can get the job done !
The next time you find yourself with a pack of nuts, find a place next to the monkeys. And you know what to do ! Holler from the roof. In the name of photography, art, good cause, place in heaven, price et al. And of course,monkeys !
My diatribe continued, and just as it was falling in familiar ears of the wife and a few other friends, the monkeys decided to take matters (each other) into their own hands! A couple scratched, stretched, rolled over, squeaked, and just went about their business with a special zeal, as though the Pope was in the audience.
Have you noticed that a monkey elicits a longer stare than most other animals that one is used to see often. Perhaps the close ancestral lineage causes us humans to stand and stare at a lost connection. This couple was no exception.
A crowd gathered to watch. And in no time, a hundred clicks followed. And a few were mine. For a moment they stopped. Looked around. Perhaps wondering what all the commotion was about.
And then, nonchalantly, went after a banana that a young girl held in her hand. Shrieks followed. In a few moments, the monkey first couple got a new perch. Right atop the board which stated the multiple benefits of buying a pack of nuts for Rs.5/- !!
Marketing’s woes in recessionary times seem to have been scented by the monkeys too ! And oh yes, the first couple had a banana in hand. That banana that was held till very recently held by the girl with the shrill shriek !
And now a question for you : Can this i call this a free show !?! So much for good deed and good thoughts, for all of Rs.5/- !
Or for that matter, those boys who ply these majestic animals for prosaic tasks. Like a ride across a litter laden beach. Or a worse litter laden hill station. The setting hasn’t mattered. A horse always catches my attention.
I guess it started with an English lesson, i think it was in Class II, called ‘Black Beauty’. A tale of a black horse with a white patch on his forehead. I know i can never come to owning one. Nor would i want to.
But that doesn’t stop me from staring and looking at how majestic they are. This team intrigued me. They stood in all colour. Steady. And still. At a family deity’s temple close to Madurai. They stood in majestic style ooze. Even though one among them was headless. A hopeless vandal or a mischievous child would have done his or her bit to shape the landscape (sic) ! T
he steady white and the riot of colour on them, seem to give them a character. A character that,i thought gave these lifeless forms a strange double life ! After all, these were celestial horses. Meant for the Gods !
This was clicked outside a mall in Bangalore. The ‘false legged horse’ (Poi Kal Kudhirai) is a dance form that amazes me no end. An inanimate horse brought to life by a human being, who animatedly rides the inanimate horse, to synchronised music and a colour riot !
How better can it get ?Well, for starters this can still continue to be a ‘performance’ and not compete with a marketing ‘offer’ or a sales promotion effort ! This demeans a dance form.
And oh, yes, demeans horses too !