In Financial Staits
Catcher who Entertained
Lesson to Learn
Equivalent of “Saghi”
Think it Through
Though unable as yet to understand the secrets of aging, I’m deeply interested in gerontology. What role does parentage – they call it genes these days – play in determining how long we live is still a mystery. Though my great-grand father and a grand uncle lived till their late 90’s, both my grandfather and my father passed away in their late 50’s. Baffling indeed is the secret of how long we live.
I thought of all this reading about Yasutaro Koide, a 112-year-old Japanese who has been recognized by Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest man.
Though I finished my Biblical quota of three score and ten years ago, I don’t want to carry on to be a centenarian if the price to pay is accepting Yasutaro Koide’s prescription: “no smoking, no drinking and no overdoing in anything.” Won’t it be a dreadfully dreary existence without a couple of evening sundowners and smoking one’s favorite pipe and awaiting the call of your latest girlfriend late afternoon?
Yasutaro Koide said his favorite food is bread. My favorite all my life has been:
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread-and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness
Don’t you remember the famous ruba’i of Omar Khayyam?
In Financial Strait
My heart sank – I haven’t recovered yet – and I was deeply saddened by the news that a stage has come in the otherwise glorious history of the Congress Party that its chief had to send an SOS. I’m not an alarmist. Yes, Soniaji was constrained to send an urgent request to all the Congress MPs – 44 in the Lok Sabha and 86 in the Rajya Sabha – for financial help by donating a month’s salary to the party to overcome its worst-ever financial crunch. Former MPs have also been sent requests for donations.
I understand the culprit for this financial crisis are the god-damned fair weather friends i.e., the corporate houses that had hitherto been liberally supporting the humanitarian activities of the Grand Old Party. They just switched off their helpline the moment they sensed that the Party won’t make it in 2014. And now they have opened their purse-strings to Modi and his men.
Reports of the financial crisis prompted political circles to question the role of fund managers as to what happened to all the money collected during the glorious decade of 2004 to 2014. I’m told they were politely but firmly told not to ask questions about the past and, instead, think of the future, and for the present readily endorse the proposal to make it mandatory for each member to contribute Rs 250 per year to the party funds. I understand the funds so collected would be split with 75% going to the AICC and the remaining 25% to the state units.
If you are far-sighted enough, Rs 250 per month is a pittance to ensure a seat in the next UPA government.
You have read about Svetlana Alexievich, the 67-year-old dissident writer who was born in Soviet Ukraine and grew up in Belarus, becoming the first female Russian-language writer to win the literature Nobel this year. The choice was very clearly a political one, as it often happens when a Soviet writer is selected.
The Swedish Academy is convinced that the Cold War is back and to make Alexievich’s voice loud and effective enough to rival Putin’s Nobel is the answer. Remember Alexievich denounced Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, calling it an “occupation” and a “foreign invasion.”
Unlike most Nobel laureates in literature, Alexievich writes non-fiction. Her chief technique is collage. She combines the voices of many ordinary to give us a new vision of historical events: World War II and its aftermath, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Chernobyl et al.
Catcher Who Entertained
Yogi Berra, considered one of the best catchers in major league history, died at 90 of natural causes as they add when no malign hand is involved. The Yankees legend will be remembered by posterity for the way he creatively butchered the English language, with what became known as Yogi-isms. Long live his impromptu pithy comments, haunting malapropisms and often unintentional witticisms.
Here is my tribute to the man – courtesy Oscar Hammerstein’s Sound of Music lyric – to one who became a legend in his life time:
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When you’re feeling bad
Just remember what Yogi said
And you won’t feel that bad….
“It ain’t over till it’s over.”
“I usually take a two-hour nap from 1 to 4.”
“Never answer an anonymous letter.”
“We made too many wrong mistakes.”
“You can observe a lot by watching.”
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
“Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”
“Pair up in threes.”
“Why buy good luggage, you only use it when you travel.”
“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
“He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.”
“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”
“Take it with a grain of salt.”
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Did you attend his funeral? Even if you missed, remember for the future his sane advice: “You should always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”
NASA has announced the unraveling of a major Mars mystery. “Now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold desert planet,” Michael Meyer, the Mars Exploration Program’s lead scientist, said. The announcement therefore raised another persistent question: Does this mean there’s life on Mars?
Just hours after NASA revealed the discovery of water on the surface of Mars, a spokesman for Koch Industries said that the company would spend billions to become the red planet’s first major industrial polluter.
“At Koch Industries, we are well aware that our practice of spewing over six million pounds of toxins a year into Earth’s water is not sustainable,” said the Koch brothers’ corporate spokesman, “That’s why this discovery of water on Mars is so exciting.”
Lesson to Learn
It is universally accepted that cockroaches are the ultimate survivors, with enough evolutionary tricks up their sleeves. (Don’t ask: do they actually have them?) In any case they have thrived for as much as 350 million years and are likely to survive even a nuclear holocaust. Most importantly, they have completely adapted to the dreaded human species. The nature of the adaptation that researchers in North Carolina described in the journal Science is impressive even for such an ancient, ineradicable lineage.
Some populations of cockroaches evolved a simple, highly effective defense against sweet-tasting poison baits that we tend to use to trap them. They seem to have switched their internal chemistry around so that glucose, a form of sugar that is inviting to us, tastes bitter to them.
I who have a sweet tooth wish I could somehow learn this evolutionary trick from the great survivors.
The more things change in Uttar Pradesh, the more they remain the same. In 2012, when Akhilesh Yadav took over as the new Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, there were many who thought that the ‘youngster’ might actually change the system. After all, he changed the image of the Samajwadi Party, making it more technology savvy – giving it a Facebook page, a Twitter account and even a website.
His first press conference after assuming the coveted office as the state’s youngest chief minister also focused on how he wanted to change things. “Law and order is our priority and from today it’s our responsibility. Till now we have been levelling allegations on others,” he had said. “We will take utmost care to keep corrupt officials out of our scheme of things, as we have a definite agenda to implement in accordance with our election manifesto.”
But his moves after that haven’t exactly matched up to his lofty words. Of late, a senior Police officer filed a complaint with the police requesting to lodge an FIR against Netaji himself, alleging that the Samajwadi Party supremo threatened him with dire consequences if he does not mend his ways.
Equivalent of “Saghi”
Farsi and Urdu (which claims Farsi as one of its ancestors) are languages the Almighty blessed the world with to write poetry in. In wise defiance of the Quarnic injunction both derive their inspiration for writing poetry from wine.
The Persian word Saqi – also spelled as Saghi – is someone who pours wine and hands it over to friends who get together to have a drink. In Persia, my friends tell me, the ritual of having a drink in the evening is something to this effect. Friends gather together for a drink, and one of them (with a rather higher social status among them) pours wine into a glass and first drinks it himself, then pours another one (into the same glass) and hands it to the next person. Then the third person drinks and so on ... until all persons in the circle have their turns, so at the end of the first round, all have taken a gulp of wine. Then, the Saghi takes over distributing wine until they are all done. Sometimes saghi is not one of the friends in the circle. In these cases, it may be a male or female servant who serves others.
This tradition has been in place for more than one thousand years and there has been poetry praising saghi (for his/her beauty or magnanimity or ....).
I have looked up this word Saghi in google translator and it suggests butler that, to me, seems incorrect. Other equivalents are bartender, barman, and barmaid, aabdar that do not seem to be correct either.
Bachhan Sr – I’m referring to Amitabh Bachhan’s father – was a poet of some standing in Hindi. I hear he himself never had a sip – what a pity! – but wrote beautiful poetry on drinking. He used the words Madhushala for the tavern and Madhubala for Saqi. He wisely chose Saqi in feminine gender which the original Persian use implied.
I don’t know what image the word conjures up in your mind. For me, it’s good-looking professional female wine-server: deeply uninvolved, of kindly disposition always ready to pour you a drink as Ghalib described:
Saqi gari ki sharm karo aj warna ham
Har shab piya hi karte hain mai jis qadar mile
(For sake of your professional standing pour me another drink
Otherwise, I’m used to drinking every night whatever I get.)
Think it Through
The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself – the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us - that’s where it’s at. – Jesse Owens, four-time Olympic gold medalist. (1913-1980)