Honey, we’ve shrunk the kids but our stat­ues are taller

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - SUNDAY SPECIAL -

I am mak­ing in­sec­ti­cide by mix­ing sugar pow­der with boric acid when my nani calls, ‘Biren Bhai is ar­riv­ing from Su­rat to­day. Send the driver to fetch your un­cle from the sta­tion.’

‘Nani, my driver is on leave to­day and I can’t go ei­ther! There is a nasty ant in­fes­ta­tion at home that I am try­ing to get rid of.’ She replies, ‘You should not kill ants, they are very lucky.’

‘Yes Nani,’ I mut­ter, ‘Ants are lucky, it’s just peo­ple like me cov­ered in bites who are un­lucky.’

My protests are pushed aside, and as usual Nani man­ages to get me to do her bid­ding.

Biren Bhai and his dabba of pre­cious faf­das are safely en­sconced in the car, he be­gins rat­tling away in great ex­cite­ment. ‘When are you com­ing to Gu­jarat? You have to come to see the Statue of Unity, not very ex­pen­sive, only Rs 350.’

I re­ply, ‘I thought it was 3,000 crore, no?’

‘Dikri, that is for the full and fi­nal statue, this I am telling you is ticket price for ob­ser­va­tion deck view.’

I re­ply, ‘Have you heard about the con­tro­versy over the statue? There was an ar­ti­cle in the Daily Mail filled with British out­rage about the UK giv­ing 1.17 bil­lion pounds as aid to In­dia and us spend­ing around a third of that on erect­ing stat­ues.’

My un­cle gets an­noyed, ‘ Amtha, amtha sawal nai puch. British peo­ple are all salo chors! They took bil­lions from us and tucked it nicely in their khisu, now what they are giv­ing is in­ter­est on our cap­i­tal only.’ Fi­nally though, the four-anda-half hours on Paschim Ex­press take their toll and he nods off.

out weeds in my gar­den, I look out at the tran­quil Ara­bian Sea. If things go ac­cord­ing to plan, soon enough I will be able to spot a 212m Shivaji statue ris­ing from the waves.

I re­call read­ing a story about a phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor who filled an empty jar with rocks, and then asked his stu­dents if the jar was full. When the stu­dents nod­ded, he dropped peb­bles in­side which rolled in be­tween the rocks. The pro­fes­sor then poured sand and filled up the re­main­ing ar­eas of the jar. Us­ing it as an anal­ogy for well-be­ing, he said, ‘This jar rep­re­sents your life. The rocks are the im­por­tant things — your fam­ily and your health. The peb­bles are other things that mat­ter like your job, your house. The sand is ev­ery­thing else, all the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first then there is no room for the peb­bles or the rocks.’

But I won­der if we as a na­tion are fo­cus­ing more on build­ing sand cas­tles in our jars. The Global Hunger In­dex 2018 ranks In­dia at a poor 103 out of 119 coun­tries, with one out of ev­ery five chil­dren un­der the age of five suf­fer­ing from acute un­der-nu­tri­tion. The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion re­ports that 14 of the world’s most pol­luted cities are in our coun­try, with Kan­pur top­ping the list. Our fo­cus though seems to be on re­nam­ing cities and build­ing tow­er­ing stat­ues. But I sup­pose, if play­ing statue-statue is the name of the game then we may as well spend an­other few hun­dred crore to en­sure that the world’s tallest stat­ues are made a tad more rel­e­vant by hav­ing the world’s big­gest anti-pol­lu­tion masks sit­ting jaun­tily on their noses.

only do I have ants run­ning around my house look­ing for edi­ble items but I also have rel­a­tives who are do­ing the same. My mother ar­rives with Nani and Biren Bhai, while my mother-in-law has in­vited all her five broth­ers.

While Mother is nag­ging me about how the hot snacks are ap­par­ently not hot enough, Biren Bhai has been dis­cussing his new busi­ness ven­ture with the ma­mas. On hear­ing snatches of their con­ver­sa­tion, I am al­most tempted to ask my un­cle if the tallest statue in the world has in­spired him to in­vest in a prod­uct called Dr Ayurveda Height In­creaser. Vi­nay mama turns to my mother-in-law and reels off prod­uct de­tails from Biren Bhai’s phone: “This prod­uct in­creases height in hu­mans. It has no side-ef­fects and is ap­proved by Med­i­cal Coun­cil of In­dia.” He then adds with a laugh, “Arre Biren Bhai, this is a fool­ish busi­ness idea! How can this work on adults?

Photo imag­ing: TOI

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