Unusual Events, Unusual Times

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 27 May 2019

Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

Every person has experienced unusual events at different times–some interesting, some puzzling and some unpleasant. These events are sketched in the person’s memory. One tries to ignore the unpleasant events but occasionally reverts to the others and enjoys recounting them to friends or writing about them. Here I am recounting a few such incidents, which I remember and feel would be interesting to others. They are all related to my family – daughter, wife, father, myself and some other close relatives and friends.

  1. In Frankfurt over Dinner

I had a German friend Klaus who had invited me and my wife for dinner to his home when we were visiting Germany a few years back.

I had met Klaus when we were learning French in University of Montpelier in South of France more than three decades back. We had continued with our friendship over the years by means of internet and occasional telephone conversations. I had visited his home earlier also when neither he nor I were married.

At the dinner table there were five of us — Klaus, his wife Lorraine, their ten year old son Hans, my wife Indu and myself.

Can you imagine how many languages were being simultaneously spoken at the dinner table?

Five, yes I repeat, five between five persons. How?

Klaus and I were speaking in French; his knowledge of English was weak. He was speaking with his wife in Spanish because Lorraine was earlier a person of Spanish origin. They had met each other in Montpelier. With his son Klaus spoke obviously in the German language. That made three languages. I exchanged a few words with the ten year old Hans in English which he was learning in school. He was not too fluent but spoke haltingly in English language. With my wife Indu, of course we spoke in Hindi, the language most spoken in India.

So five persons and five languages.

  1. Religions and Cultures of My Daughter’s Family

My daughter Amba was married to Roshan about fifteen years ago. The two had studied together in school and remained friends for several years before they decided to marry with their parents’ consents. Roshan’s father was a Sikh gentleman with the customary beard and turban of Sikhs. Roshan himself was clean shaven and did not appear as a Sikh. Roshan’s mother, however, was a Tamilian woman and a practicing Christian. How they had met each other and had married is a long story that I will not go into at this time.

The marriage ceremony of Amba and Roshan was solemnized as per regular Hindu rites. But after the ceremony was over the newlyweds went to a Sikh Gurudwara (Temple) along with the parents of Roshan the next day to seek the blessings of the Sikh temple. This over, the newly married couple and Roshan’s parents went over to a nearby church in Delhi to pay respects to Christ and seek benediction.

The marriage party where many people were invited had a lot of delicious food belonging to the different cultures and cuisines of the two families. Many people said that the food was finger licking delicious.

  1. Student from Nigeria

This episode is again of my daughter Amba when she was in grade 4 or 5 in school.

Her skin was dark like that of a colored person of Africa. The resemblance to an African child was even more pronounced because Amba’s hair was short and curly.

Since she looked so different from the other kids of her school, many students made fun of her. She used to sometimes run away from these taunts, sometimes would begin to weep.

One day when she was being taught about some countries of Africa, she got an idea. When her classmates teased her again and asked, where she came from, she confidently replied, “I have come from Nigeria. Do you have any objection?”

Was it her unusual answer, was it her confidence, or was it some other factor, the two students who were teasing her, just remained speechless and from that day onward, Amba did not have to hear taunts about her looks.

Schools must teach confidence also.

  1. Story of the Baaz – Eagle

This story that I am recounting is one that my father had related a few times several decades back. At that time there were no clear boundaries between different nations and one did not need to have a visa to travel from one country to the other.

The story is about a Nobleman who lived in the region that is part of Afghanistan/Iran today. My father had visited this region a few times. Although a nobleman, he was now a pauper and had no wealth or servants as earlier, except one old man who cooked and did odd jobs for his master. He survived with the help of his Baaz – a type of large eagle with keen eyesight and ability to capture smaller birds with its claws as it flew high up in the sky. The nobleman – call him Aalam was popular despite his poverty and many a visitor would come to his large decrepit home for gossip and food. Whenever such a visitor arrived, Aalam would send a signal to the baaz to catch some bird and bring it in its claws for it to be cooked and offered to his friend.

This would happen regularly except on a day when the Baaz was unable to catch any bird that could be offered to the visitor. What to do now? Despite his poverty Aalam had a certain pride and ego and this was being threatened by the Baaz’s inability on that day. Aalam tried to signal again but the Baaz just stayed perched on its stand.

“Do you know what Aalam did?” my father asked almost weeping with sympathy with the decrepit nobleman. He repeated the question — my father’s eyes were wet now. The nobleman picked up Baaz, killed it and gave it to his servant to be offered as food to the visitor. The visitor had a delicious meal and thanked Aalam as he departed.

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Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 27 May 2019.

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