A little mixing & we’ve an anagram

Ratna Raman

FROM the Greek, ana (anew) gramma (letter), the Latin ‘anagramma’ and the French ‘anagramme’, anagram has formed part of the English language since the late 16th century. Any word whose letters can be rearranged to produce a different meaning is an anagram. Acrobats among words, anagrams often provide brilliant displays of ‘dexterity’ (nimbleness).

The letters in ‘read’ can be rearranged to speak of someone very ‘dear’. This is a simple anagram wherein the arrangement of letters is simply reversed. Anagrams do not have to follow this pattern as in ‘satin’, like statecraft, is difficult to maintain, because each and every ‘stain’ shows up on the absorbent fabric.

Whenever wrong ‘steps’are taken, they become the aadhaar for really annoying ‘pests’. It is possible to ‘spar’ (to box) with words and make them ‘rasp’ (grating sound).However, any ‘spat’
(quarrel)carrying over from an obscure ‘past’ must be discarded if we wish to build a happy future. Meanwhile, ‘taps’ should remain tightly closed to prevent water wastage, but friendly ‘pats’are usually welcome.

Although anagrams can provide new meanings, they often become examples of inaccurate spellings, as in ‘bare’ and ‘bear’. Bear is a word with many meanings: to tolerate, or to produce flowers, fruit or offspring. When the letters are turned around, we get ‘bare’ which means minimal or empty. Old Mother Hubbard in the nursery rhyme was poor and her cupboard was bare. However, whena student writes that he met a ‘bare’ in the jungle or that the trees on farms ‘bare’ fruit, this is evidence of a rather poor acquaintance with language, since the correct usage requires bears to live in the jungle and trees to bear fruit.

Baloo the bear from The Jungle Book sings the delightful song, ‘Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities’, and as the words bounce off the bear’s tongue, they make for a memorable anagram pun. The word ‘angle’ is often pushed out of geometry into mystical experience when divine winged messengers are incorrectly described as ‘angles’ instead of ‘angels’.

Another word that works as both anagram and incorrect spelling is the word ‘rescue’. As a teacher, I have often seen it incorrectly spelled as ‘recuse’. Very often, answers that detail the ‘recuse’ of a shipwrecked passenger, or the ‘recuse’ of kidnapped children by alert policemen are marked as incorrect since the appropriate word is ‘rescue’— both a measure and a word that aids those in difficult situations, and saves them.

It is only as we grow out of adventure stories that we discover that recuse is not merely a misspelling,but a powerful word in its own right. ‘Recuse’ (Latin ‘recusare’; to refuse) describes the action of judges or jurors who recuse (excuse) themselves from legal proceedings to uphold impartiality and prevent conflict of interests. Politically elected leaders, however, cannot recuse themselves from volatile situations, because their brief is to ‘rescue’ the hapless and defuse divisive conflagrations.

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The need to be free

Sumant Sharma

GRANDMOTHER’S freckled face was a graphic description of her whole life. She had seen the worst and best of it all. From a well-to-do household of western Punjab (now in Pakistan), she suffered the pains of the Partition. At the fag end of her life, she developed a peculiar eccentricity — she began smoking, a taboo for Indian women.

This habit, I thought at that time, reflected her desire to ‘equal’ her husband, a chain-smoker. Women in my family have been rebels. Nothing wrong with the environment; none of the men have been chauvinists — at least not openly. Still the women felt the need to revolt at the mildest stimulus.

My grandfather brought a caged parrot for his three grandchildren. ‘They will learn to love and care, first hand,’ he told my father.

I loved to feed Mithu. And though it had a red-ringed neck, it never learned to speak. With time, as my bond with Mithu grew stronger, adverse effects of old age started taking over grandma. She was becoming increasingly irritable, coughed up foul-smelling sputum and was often breathless. Still, she smoked.

My father couldn’t stand her; couldn’t tolerate her telling him even to eat, to the extent that I thought that she was now a burden. A liability which my parents’ patience could no more tolerate as a worthy responsibility. My father was in a continuous state of self-hatred and repentance after her death.

One day, she had a severe bout of cough and started expectorating blood. She fainted. I’d just returned from school and was near her bed. I called my father and she was hospitalised. She was diagnosed with throat cancer.

During it all, my mother had been very patient. She would serve grandma with dedication, and also perform her duties as a working woman. Still, most of my grandma’s anger was directed verbally at her. One day, grandma struggled to get to the window. What she spoke left me in shock. After that day, I never came to her room. She had shouted: ‘No need to spend money on me. Just let it end. I don’t want to be a slave anymore. Let me be free now… of all of you!’ She fainted again after that.

Most of it was incomprehensible to me, as was my mother’s behaviour immediately afterwards. For the next few weeks, my mother became passive. She would rarely smile. One day, after cleaning grandma’s mess, she stood near Mithu’s cage. I rushed to the courtyard and saw Mithu sitting on a branch of our malta tree — out of his cage, freed by my mother who watched mutely.

I was dumbstruck and ran to catch it, but it flew away. I remained sad for days, and angry too with my mother. She never spoke about it. As time went by, I forgot Mithu.

Today, 25 years later, I think I know the gaps in my understanding of my grandma’s words and my mother’s eventual freeing of my pet. Human soul is meant to be free. Relationships become its cage when they are based on conditions.

Her smoking is irrelevant in the whole story and may be a sign of revolt. But my mother understood her agony — the pathos of a half-burnt candle — and expressed herself symbolically by setting Mithu free. Real love knows how to give freedom!

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The frail thread of humanity

Som Dutt Vasudeva

IT is difficult to erase the memory of events that happened in Amritsar on the night of August 15, 1947. I was then a student of third year in the local Hindu College and was living with my grandfather in a sub-urban village, Sultanwind.

There was tension in the city following the arrival of trains from west Pakistan containing bodies of Hindus and Sikhs. The local administration had clamped curfew in the city and the adjoining areas to avoid any untoward incident. However, it was difficult to assuage the feelings of the residents of the city to the gruesome killings of innocent people.

A Baloch regiment of the army was drafted to control the situation, but instead of the tasked duty, it made Hindus and Sikhs a target of brutality. This army unit killed people with a vengeance. Even grenades were used to create fear in the minds of local residents. During the day, most Muslims had left the city for Lahore by omni-buses. There was an atmosphere of fear all around.

During this period, Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaqat Ali Khan toured the areas affected by communal riots. But the tour was just a formality as they were not made aware of the ground realities. I personally saw heaps of bodies lying in the vicinity of the mortuary of the local civil hospital before the visit of the leaders, but these were cleared before their arrival.

Standing on the roof of my house, I could see flames of fire engulf various parts of the city, especially Nimak Mandi, Shariff Pura, Hussain Pura and Katra Sher Singh. It appeared as if the entire city had become a hot furnace.

Despite this holocaust, one could witness bonhomie among most people. Hindus and Sikhs ensured that no harm was done to their Muslim friends and neighbours. There was a sizeable Muslim population in my village comprising washerman, arians (vegetable labour), blacksmiths, etc. They were escorted safely and there was almost no casualty.

I had a number of Muslim friends in the village and in the city who were critical of the division of the country on the basis of religion and openly assailed the Muslim League and its leadership. In fact, Punjabi Muslims were against the divisive politics of Jinnah.

I visited my Muslims friends in Lahore after the Partition. They said it was because of the divisive politics of leaders that thousands of innocent people lost their lives. This was not the concept of freedom that they had envisioned. Many of them are still wedded to their roots and want to return to their birthplace.

It is believed that people-to-people contact and removal of strict visa restrictions can solve many problems between the two countries since they have a common ancestry. If two Germanys can unite in national interest, why can’t India and Pakistan live in peace? Instead of resorting to firing at the border, they should make an earnest attempt to end poverty and raise the living standards of their people.

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Hang if noose fits, UIDAI style!

Rajbir Deswal

THREE days into The Tribune’s Aadhaar expose, I was contemplative and on January 8, when I grabbed my copy in the morning, I burst out laughing — ‘UIDAI files FIR against The Tribune, reporter’! My wife, who was sipping tea, asked if I had gone nuts early on today! ‘Not me, darling, but certainly some nerds have.’

She chipped in, a tad historically, ‘Don’t you remember the blank columns during the Emergency?’ ‘But that was Emergency!’ I ventured, and she retorted, ‘As if it was justified then!’ The argument continued and we switched on to the reaction on social sites about the issue.

I was reminded of a story. There was a king who used to sit in court every six months. He was informed that there were many people who were found indulging in various crimes. ‘They all must hang!’ he ordered. ‘Shall we set the innocent free, Your Majesty?’ asked the presenter. ‘No, they too shall be hanged!’ Having counted the noose, the presenter asked, ‘What do we do with the remaining nooses?’ ‘Put them around the neck of those who fit in them!’ dispensed the king.

There is a Haryanvi anecdote in a similar vein. A thief entered a house, whose doors weren’t closed at night. A man noticed the trespass and caught the thief. Before the panchayat of elders, the thief pleaded not-guilty, saying that the doors weren’t closed and it was an open invitation to anyone to break in. The panchayat ordered that the house-owner, the thief and also the informer should be punished! A poor yokel was impressed and started crying. ‘When you all would be gone, who would dispense justice with such equity!’

Having spent nearly 34 years in the police, I haven’t come across a single FIR that finds culpability, ab initio or prima facie, as against that being inculpatory to the attribution of the accused, for his, or their, acts of omission and commission. Of course, an FIR is just the beginning of investigation, but such a tactic — as the present one — is nothing short of arm-twisting and is detrimental to the freedom of expression in our country.

By the way, is it not time to prosecute those reporters too, who go to terrorist camps, braving all the dangers involved, and objectively report information to be made available to the rest of the world? There have been courageous reporters who ducked themselves in Kargil bunkers, and some who ventured, being thoroughly professional, into natural disasters, like the one that struck Uttarakhand.

Very recently some whispers were heard about the ‘need’ to prosecute a senior television journalist who managed to ‘trace out’ Honeypreet, an associate of dera chief Ram Rahim, when the police and security agencies drew flak. That was a mob in Julius Caesar which killed Cinna, the poet, ‘for his bad verses’ and not Cinna, the conspirator; and now, we have a brainy system to take care of the likes of Cinna — poet and conspirator, both!

Source Link: http://www.tribuneindia.com

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‘Hindu, but not mandir type’

Wg Cdr SS Randhawa (Retd)

ONCE, it is said, someone asked Jawaharlal Nehru if he was a Hindu. He replied, ‘Yes, I am Hindu, but not mandir type.’ This response touched my heart, because I am a Sikh, but not gurdwara type. On May 27, 1964, I was listening to the transistor, when suddenly the transmission stopped and the demise of Panditji was announced. A good soul gone. I switched off the transistor and rushed to the washroom to dry my eyes, lest my wife fuss over the reason… Sometimes, it is the ‘type’ that attaches a person to a person and the bond is more durable than any other relation. Here is an example:

I was working on a project when a new worker named Rehman joined our team. As reputation travels faster than a person, Rehman joined us because of his unbecoming behaviour toward his boss. Very soon, I found out that he was a good soul and my ‘type’. He knew Urdu as good as I did; did not believe in religious rituals; did his work well; was a good sportsman and tolerated no nonsense. He impressed me with this Urdu couplet — Ilahi kaise hote hain, jinhein hai bandagi ki khwahish/ Hamein toh sharam damangir hoti hai Khuda kehte (Oh God, how are those who desire to worship you; we feel shy even to utter your name).

We became good friends. We worked together, played together and together cycled down to town for evening engineering classes. We had friends who were not ‘godly’. Two were Hindus, the non-mandir types; a Jain who relished Hyderabadi biryani and did not mind a couple of drinks — if offered free. There was one named Vishnu. He was good at studies, good in sports and a sound professional hand. He was the darling of the group. Religion, caste, creed and colour did not matter in our small social setup. I think it was the IAF culture, or perhaps our awareness of Jannat ki haqikat that we were not religious.

It is common knowledge that Rahul Gandhi, like his great grandfather, is Hindu, but not mandir type. His recent religious ‘appeasement’ was for a cause, not for a change. This reminded me of an incident. To beat the examination heat, we thought of an evening party with chicken and chilled beer — Jain’s favourite. Rehman opted out giving a lame excuse. He was close to me and I asked him the reason. ‘Abu is with us and if he asks me, I will not be able to tell a lie.’ The next meeting was for fixing responsibilities for the preparations and I opted to make the chicken dish.

On the appointed day, I purchased two fowls from the market and delivered them to Rehman for dressing, as I had no experience in that. The party went off well. The following day I enquired from Rehman how it went and what was Abu’s reaction. ‘He did not appreciate it, saying Islam does not allow such cheating.’

I feel that a majority of Indians are religious, but not ‘place-bound’. They are more God fearing than the ‘licence-holders’. Let us be frank — cheating is allowed in religion. We all do it; Rahul Gandhi is no exception.

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How hope crawled out of Pandora’s box

Ratna Raman

PANDORA, one of the earliest humans created by Hephaestus, was blessed with all manner of gifts by the gods. She was also given a jar that contained all the troubles and evils that could afflict humankind.

Hesiod, the Greek poet, wrote in 700 BCE about Pandora’s jar ‘pithos,’ in his version of the myth. Erasmus translated this Greek story into Latin in 1600 CE and changed the word ‘pithos’ (jar) into ‘pyxis’ (box). Pandora’s jar was subsequently referred to as a box in translations into English.

What did Pandora’s box contain? The myth says that the opening of the box unleashed untold misery, suffering, troubles and unhappiness into an ideal world.

We have no way of determining whether the world was ever an ideal place. However, myths ‘generically’ (as a group) narrate powerful stories that enable humans to gain insights into the complex nature of their world.

Despite the absence of corroborating evidence, Pandora’s story works very powerfully upon our imagination and metaphorically describes the world we inhabit. The contents of Pandora’s box are a useful way to explain the random nature of misery and inequity that exists in our world. Why was Pandora given this dangerous jar or box? The myth informs that that the contents of the jar or box were meant to punish humans for using fire that Prometheus originally stole from the gods for use by mortals.

“Opening a Pandora’s box” is an expression in popular use, which warns of the dangers of starting discussions on troublesome issues that can exacerbate (worsen) situations. In the manner of her later counterpart, Eve, who was warned about eating the apple, Pandora was apparently forbidden by Zeus to open the box. Therefore, opening a Pandora’s box in routine parlance is the equivalent of stirring up trouble.

In today’s world, a veritable Pandora’s box is opened every morning in our homes, when we unfold and read the newspapers. Containing accounts of all manner of natural and manmade catastrophes from every direction in the world, these stories explode all around us, giving us glimpses of a bruised and unhappy world. Stories of evil, pain, suffering and grief pursue us relentlessly.

Pandora and Prometheus, the earliest human inhabitants in Greek mythology also represent prototypes of human possibility. Diurnally, hundreds of curious Pandoras and Prometheuses reading the papers remain shocked and distraught at the news that engulfs them. They wonder what the world is coming to and why such horrible things continue to happen everywhere around them.

The composers and compilers of news place terrible details before us. They do try and provide distractions through the comic pages, the crossword puzzles, pithy sayings and colourful photographs as well as news of things to buy, discount sales and details of places to eat, sometimes recipes of foods that we eat. This diverts and entertains us, but does not really sustain.

In the original myth, when Pandora shuts the lid, shocked at what she had unleashed, a small voice cried out from within the jar, asking to be let out. Hope crawls out of the jar, feeble and frail, but her presence calmed and healed. Hope resides now, inside our hearts. Only hope urges us, day after day, to muster up the courage to live through it all and pray for things to become better.

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Walking down the other track

Shiv Sethi

IN Robert Frost’s famous poem ‘The Road Not Taken’, the interlocutor is confronted with two roads leading to different directions and he is to make a choice of traversing on one of them. After some cogitation, he decides to take the road less travelled. His decision to take the unbeaten track makes all the difference. Like the interlocutor in the poem, all of us find ourselves placed in a situation where we have to choose a particular course of life and bid adieu to the other. I too was confronted with the scenario after completing my bachelors degree in humanities.

After taking some expert advice, I took a path that I liked and as a result of that, my entire life changed. Repudiating the suggestions of my parents and friends, I decided to take a course in English literature because I was enamoured with the job of a college professor.

My dream is today a reality, but the world of literature took me by storm and made me a social misfit, a renegade and a complete iconoclast in the worldly sense.

The world of Dr Faustus shattered my religious belief followed by the damage done by Thomas Hardy. I was born and brought up in a hardcore religious family, but Hardy’s pessimism which is basically couched in realism turned a conformed theist into a branded atheist. I had begun to challenge dogmas and the practice of frequenting temples halted altogether. Engrossed in books, I could no more see the world with the same glasses. It was a lifelong transition that made me a social misfit. Intellectuals like Kafka and Camus replaced Shiva and Rama. TS Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ had become my Bible and I was convinced of the fact that we are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men.

William Golding’s ‘The Lord of the Flies’ reformatted my old belief system. Now I could better see the inherent evil in human beings. Philosophers like Hobbes, Lock and Rousseau gave credence to my new belief system; my opinions about human nature were loud and clear. The raison de etre of my life was no more the cushy job of a college professor. But this is a world where you have to rustle up means for your survival.

But my social life was no more the same, neither was I. My parents wanted me to walk down the aisle with a girl of their choice and settle in life. Literature had actually unsettled me within. I was not ready to follow the beaten track.

Once again, the same situation sprang up and I was confronted by two drastically divergent roads. Having rejected parental pressure, I took the unbeaten track and said a strict no to all matrimonial proposals. Today, almost 15 years have rolled by but I am not back on the track, the worldly track. Leading the life of a confirmed bachelor, who has now advanced in so many years that there are almost no matrimonial calls, I am spending my time these days with Saddat Hassan Manto (an icon of Urdu literature). It is the life of a kind you will definitely not aspire for your child. But I am fully settled with this unsettled style of life.

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