Home Who Moved My Tamarind

Who Moved My Tamarind

by Bunkumbee
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I am Bankim Biswas. What I write is a lot of bunkum and wishwash. Maybe, I should have been an economist.  This economy shiconomy business can use my talent. I was born in 1960 and amongst the 17% of the human race that has lived through the sixties. Maybe it’s not 17%. Who knows? Who knows through all this bunkum, wishwash, and economy?

Back then in the sixties, it rained much like it rains now. Back then, water flowed through the open land and ditches and we sang and danced and made paper boats that we raced through puddles and streams and we dreamt that we had just crossed the English Channel.

In the sixties, we lived in India in houses that were built amidst open unkempt lands that sprouted boulders, tamarind trees, ditches and urchins from the neighboring slum. We all lived in harmony and an equilibrium that told us that we all had two legs, one head and a passion for throwing stones at the tamarind tree to get some tamarinds to fall in our kitty. We shared tamarinds, gilli-danda, and bonhomie. This bonhomie did not recognize that some of us were fully clothed, some were half clothed, and the rest were non-clothed. Fortunately, we did not know about average incomes and per capita consumptions that were not yet invented by a future generation of guys who did know how to pass their time,  by rascals who invented an OBC quota to fend for guys who were not in any class, much less a backward one.

Heck! Had they asked us, we could have told them that they would have had loads of fun chasing Bhalla aunty’s car when her driver Krishna drove into the colony. It was fun running alongside her car, waving her “tata” and throwing sand and stones at the car and scratching her fender with a wire. What joy we experienced when she stopped the car, got out to shout “Fool! Nonsense! Idiot!” at us. We all ran away, giggling with a fear that tickled us. For sure, there was poverty and hunger back then. Fortunately, we did not hear much of these words and hence, we all smiled. And smiled equally. Equally loud and clear.  Unlike major Bhalla who stopped smiling and started frowning ever since he bought the car. Because he had to buy Mansion polish wax to keep it shiny and gleaming. He had to buy petrol at prices which were determined by an OPEC that we mercifully did not know about. He had to open the bonnet everyday and fill water in a radiator. He had to pull the starter every morning until the car choked, spluttered, and shuddered to a start. And when it started and started running, we ran alongside it, threw sand and stones, and scratched its fender with a wire and ran away giggling with ticklish fear.

Aha! These were enchanted times, these sixties. You went to Mehta uncle’s photo studio, got yourself clicked on his Agfa Cilck-III and after endless fussing in dark rooms, negatives and paint strokes, you got your black and white mugshot painted by a camel hair brush into a painting that looked approximately like you. Today, your kids…and even your servant’s kids photograph you on a 12 megapixel cam in full colour glory and then Adobe you into a black and white that looks better than Mehta Uncle’s colour and sepia.

Today, we watch with smiles when we see Bhalla’s grandson shouting “Fool! Nonsense! Idiot!” at taxi drivers and neo-rich middle class aspirants who scratch his fender while driving alongside him with a brashness that spells economic liberalization.  Back then in the sixties, it rained much like it rains now. Back then, water flowed through the open land and ditches and we sang and danced and made paper boats that we raced through puddles and streams and we dreamt that we had just crossed the English Channel.  This was before the future inventors created a website that allowed you to print 16 pages. 15 were for instructions about how you can create a paper boat on the 16th sheet, complete with dotted lines, “fold here” instructions and all.Now, you need to drive your car to find a stream that will let your paper boat float across 12 feet of water. You can drive in a car that has suffered excise duty to pay salaries for a breed of people known as economists. And you then have to pay for fuel, fuel surcharge, fuel subsidy, education cess, secondary education sub-cess, and all other things that were not necessary when paper was cheap, did not bleed forests and allowed you to smile. Origami is a dying art? No Sir, it is a dead art. (Please to note: We said Origami, not orgasm, though that is a dying art too when we last heard). Killed by something called GDP and indices. Just try racing your paper boat today in an endless stream. For starters, there is no endless stream. They all start and finish soon after they have started. And while you shout “C’mon Boat King! Beat that Bluebird and INS Vikrant”, you’ll get interrupted by a call on your mobile whose bad signal you’ll cuss and swear at till you learn that the Gowri aunty you lusted for all these years still smiles because she knows not what a Nokia is.

Aha! These were enchanted times, these sixties. You went to Mehta uncle’s photo studio, got yourself clicked on his Agfa Cilck-III and after endless fussing in dark rooms, negatives and paint strokes, you got your black and white mugshot painted by a camel hair brush into a painting that looked approximately like you. Today, your kids…and even your servant’s kids photograph you on a 12 megapixel cam in full colour glory and then Adobe you into a black and white that looks better than Mehta Uncle’s colour and sepia.

Back then, we all breathed air that was rich in Oxygen amidst trees that were green and fertile and fruity and our smiles were robust and natural. Only thing we measured then was our height, Asha Parekh’s “depth” and Marylin Monroe’s buoyancy.  Today, we measure everything. Annual rainfall at Cherrapunji. Carbon Monoxide in the air that Amethi constituency breathes. FDI, GDP, Prime lending rates, CPI, GPA, EMI, QSS world rankings, SENSEX, Shoaib Akhtar’s bowling speed, number of hits on junglee.com,  swings against Narendra Modi, TRP ratings of channels, HDI and now, even price of onions.  We even measure a dollar that we laughed at in the sixties because Patel told us then that he bought a paper dosa in New York at 1 dollar. We measure quotients that make us weep. Ignorance was indeed bliss when we dealt with shopkeepers, tailors, mechanics, and camel ride merchants before the credit card merchants and internet gurus confused us about how to measure smiles and happiness.  They now tell us that tamarinds have a nutritional value that cannot be measured by the stones that make them fall into our lap.

They tell us that fuel and electricity have a surcharge that can be exchanged with a promise of free power, provided there is no power cut caused by the self same powerless freebie. They tell us that if you earn Rs. 29 per day, you are as rich as you were in the sixties. You can gorge and pig and glutton at Rs. 10 per day that Raj Babbar’s 10K plastic surgery mouth delivered.

Blood flowed through our veins then. It now flows with BP and cholesterol that gave birth to insurance companies and the services sector.  We called it hospital then and call it healthcare infrastructure now.  Roads and buildings, they all built it. Ashoka the Great, Akbar the Great, and Chandrababu Naidu the Great. They also built rest houses and planted trees for the wayward traveller who would re-incarnate himself into a venture capitalist who would be advised by consultants and investors to listen to a mantra that Kabir sang with his signature “Kahat Kabir suno bhai sadho” tune. They all said the same thing… be a good human being, eat mangoes in summer and grapes in winter and above all, trim your moustache and be polite to your elders who masquerade themselves as economists. Be kind to them because they know not how tasty a tamarind chutney is. They look for VAT and Excise and income tax and cess and whirlpools in a joy that is but a stone throw away.

Voters of India! Unite! You have nothing to lose but your taxes and a fallen dynasty that did not learn economics at Harrow and Cambridge. You can still order an Onion Utthapam at a restaurant without surrendering your PAN card as a deposit. Salvation from an onion is just one tamarind away. We need a deluxe savior plan, not an economy plan. You demand and I will supply. One tamarind at a time.

Jai economy.

– Bunkum Bee

5 comments

Dilip G. Banhatti November 18, 2013 - 9:53 pm

Nice piece! Thanx Bunkumbee!!

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Bunkumbee November 19, 2013 - 12:46 am

Thanks Dilip for your appreciation.

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A fan November 21, 2013 - 11:20 am

My favourite ‘fenku’ of all

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G Krishna Mohan December 9, 2013 - 6:32 pm

I missed this article when I first read this magazine for PG Murthy’s Blithe Spirits. Today same PG (not PG Wodehouse) recommended me to read your article. I enjoyed it, Bunkumbee
G Krishna Mohan

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chau April 26, 2015 - 2:59 pm

+1

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