Our national trait
SOME say it is spitting while others swear it is communal rioting. Though the two cannot be ruled out, there are some predominant preferences of the Indian, which place him in a unique category vis-a-vis human counterparts all over the world. Here are some of them:
Forming Committees: Richard Harkness sums up a ‘Committee’ as a “group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary.” “How aptly said! Whether it’s a service club or Government department or educational or social institution, we come across umpteen committees. The members who form these are more interested in the protocol and powers that go with the association and the outcome is hardly important. Committee meets are noted for their ‘sound and fury signifying nothing’ with hours being wasted on ‘minutes’. What one person can decide cannot be done, ten people will ‘deliberate on, for hours’ and conclude.
Holding felicitation functions: Deep down in their hearts, they cry murder, but the guy who has won an award must be felicitated! It’s the done thing. So, there’s a gala- function and the convener of the function will mobilise a reluctant audience, arrange for a chief guest and other paraphernalia. He will line up a few speakers to say nice things about the guy to be felicitated and the function begins. The whole procedure will sound like an obituary column and conducted in great solemnity. In a droning voice, the president will read out the man’s biography, highlighting his achievements and leaving out his darker side. The various speakers come on to the dias and add their flowery tributes to the ‘wreath’ and soon, one gets the feeling that the man should be in heaven and not on earth — what with all his superlative qualities!
Garlanding Guests: Ministers and chief guests are greeted with garlands at the drop of a hat. People vie with each other to get there first and the ADC’s or PA’s stand by to collect the garlands and perhaps, sell them at 50 per cent discount, back to the florist. Not being content with garlanding VIP’s, we scramble atop statues, and travel on cranes to “offer floral tribute” to heroes dead and gone but kept alive year after year. At wedding receptions, guests carry garlands for the already overloaded bride and groom.
Besides flowers, there are garlands made of silk cocoons, sandal shavings, cardamom and other exotica. These are for keeps to collect dust and revive memories in old age and oblivion!
Seating dignitaries on the dais: and making them self-conscious. It is a common sight at meetings to see a galaxy of dignitaries crowding the dias. What their role is, no one knows. They look bored and sleepy each time a speaker addresses all of them before embarking on a lengthy treatise on a subject. They suppress yawns, resist the urge to scratch their neck or blow their nose and try to look intelligent while they are dying to be in the cloak.’
Lighting lamps: Nothing begins without this traditional ritual. A good looking female holds a tray with a ‘diya’ and flowers and kum kum, while ten superfluous characters hang around the large brass lamp and looking very concerned, while the chief guest gingerly lights the flame. There is a deafening round of applause, like a great feat has been achieved and everyone looks relieved. Whether it’s a seminar on computers or contraceptives, this lamp is the common factor.
But of course, the best loved of all these ‘tamashas’, is the ‘shraddanjali’ session held for every national hero who dies. More somber than the felicitation function, but more or less, along the same lines, this is something we Indian’s wallow in — it’s only our love for the morbid that keeps us from laughing!