Festivals and filth


She had lived most her life in Delhi and the Yamuna was as sacred to us as the Ganga. So my son and daughter took her ashes to Majnu-Ka-Teela Gurudwara on the banks of the river. They found it very filthy and decided to look for a cleaner patch to deposit their mother’s remains. As they went down the river bank to Nigambodh Ghat and further to the railway bridge, the river got filthier and filthier. They decided to bring the ashes back home. Then took them to Kasauli and scattered them in the garden in which she used to spend her summer months.

A scene which has never left my mind is the Yamuna flowing past the Taj Mahal at Agra. I was gazing at the river when I saw two pariah dogs swimming towards what looked like a red shroud. It was a human corpse. The dogs dragged it across to the other bank and started eating it. It brought vomit to my throat.

Why are we such a filthy nation? We take great pains to further foul our rivers on religious festivals. We immerse idols coated with poisonous paints in rivers, lakes and the sea. Millions of fish die of food poisoning. We throw all our debris in rivers; we empty our sewers carrying human excreta in rivers.

Is it not surprising that the very rivers which are our life-lines have became breeders of disease and death. Are our preachers of religious rituals unaware of what is going on under their noses, but refrain from saying anything on the subject for fear of losing their following? shame on them!

While touching the topic of polluted rivers, I thought of pollution in cities during religious festivals because the festival season is on us. I refer to the practice of taking out huge processions through the most crowded parts of the city and bringing life to a halt. Shops en-route are forced to close; vehicular traffic brought to a stand-still. Hindus and Sikhs are prone to the disease I call processionitis. I complimented my Muslim friends for not indulging in this wasteful exercise as a religious duty.

I withdraw my compliments. Last Eid-ul-Fitr the Delhi-Gurgaon highway was blocked for many hours because thousands of Muslims were offering namaz on the road. The same thing happens in many of our cities which have a sizeable population of Muslims.

Jain’s recipe for eternal youth
I first met J K Jain in 1980 and continued meeting him on semi-regular basis for the next six years. Both of us were Members of the Rajya Sabha: he, elected by the Congress, I a nominated one. As an elected member he had a lot more to say than I. He was voluble on every issue that came up for debate.

J K Jain’s repartees with Piloo Modi often roused laughter in the House. Once he kept interrupting Modi and made him lose his cool. “Stop barking,” shouted Modi. Jain protested to Speaker Hidayatullah: “Sir, he is calling me a dog.” Hidayatullah ruled out the word bark, “that will not go on record,” he ordered. Not to be outdone, Modi yelled, “then stop braying.” Neither Jain nor Hidayatullah took objection to it and it was recorded in the Rajya Sabha proceedings.

J K Jain did not get Congress support to get another innings in parliament but he continued to work for the party. He told me how he had canvassed in losing constituencies and turned the tide in favour of the Congress. He is obviously very pleased with himself. He has published a massive tome ‘J K Jain: A Golden Heart’, containing compliments paid to him by people who matter.

He showed me pictures of himself with six Presidents of the Republic and another with six Prime Ministers of India. Also, chief ministers, senior politicians, industrialists and everyone else who matters. Each copy must have cost him over Rs 2,000. He is evidently a man of considerable wealth. He had forgotten that he had a copy sent to me earlier through my son, so I have two extolling the greatness of J K Jain.

“What are you doing now?” I asked him.

“As before working for the Congress. But now things are different.” He confided: “Now only those people close to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi matter. People like you and me no longer count.”

“I was never counted amongst men who matter and I am not close to anyone who matters,” said I. “I am too old to harbour worldly ambitions.”
“Never!” he assured me. “I give you the surest way to regain your youth and remain the chief topic of society. Have yourself photographed with four or five of the prettiest girls who come to see you and publish it in your column. Then see the miracle.”
I could keep his advice in record.

Knowing cricket
The first testicular guard was used in cricket in 1874; the first helmet was used in 1974. It took cricketers a hundred years to discover that the brain was as important as their private parts.
(Contributed by Amarinder Bajaj, Delhi)

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