An Idiot's Tale

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An Idiot's Tale

Cacography of a madcap story teller, JAYEETA GHORAI

In 1970, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. brought out The Young Children’s Encyclopaedia. As per their website description, “Prepared specifically for children just learning to read and not yet in elementary school, it consisted of 16 volumes, in which all the illustrations were in colour and the accompanying informative text brief.”

‘Dandelion’ was in Volume 4, after the story on Dairy, which was one of my favourites, and not just because I was fond of this dietary item. Presented in a comic illustration format – ‘graphic novel’ was a term still not coined - with speech bubbles and line drawings encased in frames, it stood out from all the other entries. At the end of the tour through a working dairy farm, the little girl got her coveted glass of milk.

The page turned, we came upon a watercolour of a boy and girl sitting in a meadow, the girl looking in raptures at the dandelion held in her hand. After the interesting layout of the previous story, this one didn’t hold me. I cannot remember if I ever read it through, except, in the right hand corner was a globe, half its tufts blown away, which is all I learnt about this weed till recently.

I learnt to touch a dandelion on Saturday. Tenderly. Preciously.

Spring my fingers back when I saw one hairy spike wilting inward.

It was peeping from a clump of daisies in the dirt patch behind the garbage wheelies, I couldn’t resist walking up to have a closer look.

By the time we returned from the chore, a five minute mizzle had left the stalk standing, bald but proudly upright.

Cherry blossom appeared in Volume 8, in a seemingly bizarre alphabetic twist.  But cherries need wait, deserving their own undivided attention in a separate corner. Where a cherry blooms, if one has had the fortune to see this, all others plain cease to exist.

Daffodils entered my life in the 80s, in a chapter titled Paraphrasing near the last pages of a Wren & Martin someone left behind in an empty compartment at Howrah Station, among a pile of other paperbacks,.

Twenty nine years after Wordsworth banged open my “mind’s eye”, I saw my life’s first daffo.

And that is why, my friends, I travel.

As frenetically as my limited pocket will allow. As often as my time schedule permits, which is why I will never again work in the corporate sector and continue to remain poor, because my greed to know with my own mortal senses a teeny portion of this infinitely mysterious Earth I was planted on cannot be met on begged for weekend leaves.

To a highly paid corporate professional who was lamenting the other day of not having travelled enough, my only spontaneous response was – it doesn’t take money to travel, all it takes is the guts to remain a pauper.

(I label the pay scale in the context of the country’s high unemployment ratio, where sustenance is a daily struggle and a smartphone is dream.)

Some of us count our greens in the bank account. Some of us count them on branches.

Every hue of the rainbow.

Blame my father, who breathed wanderlust in my genes; who, to make up for his initial opposition against admitting his daughter in an ‘English medium’ school on his then income, went along to do it right, brought me world encompassing books in a world language. My education was a do-it-yourself model, none of the molly coddling, spoon feeding, parents doing homework, father writing notes, mother embroidering the sampler, twenty tutors for ten subjects variety so many of my admirable sisterhood passed through on their way to the marriage market.

Pride speaking? Hope so.

My opinion on my culture’s style of imparting ‘education’ – as against learning – is pretty lengthy and nasty. Better leave it for another day. For now, let Spring speak.

Being a passable photographer, it is often what the camera sensors fail to imprint that I find more fascinating.  With time, some of the enchanted moments slip, they are lost forever. Memory becomes the mouse-nibbled quilt through which sunlight begins to pass, at first in tiny pin pricks, then in large, blinding gaps stitching the translucent edges to their places.

The initial reaction to wonderment is usually a struggle to replicate, to process the diaphanous thought, to scramble at sharing. “Look! This is what I found! Aint’t the planet one big magic factory?”

Through wordsmithy, brush and pastel, dance, drums, camera lens, we try to make permanent that fleeting glimpse of marvel, our joy at discovering beauty and grace. In nature. In life. Gradually, the frenzy to click the shutter begins to still. The mad need to imitate an imitation, as Aristotle calls all Art, begins to cool.

Wonder strikes you numb, if you have a soul that sponge-like relentlessly soaks at it.

Too much, too many, this is a flood that will not be staunched.

The Earth will continue to sprout dandelions in your dirt heap, till your senses either daze your capacity to register them or like an over exposed film, dull with excess.

And the feathery fringes will fly, before your eye, in your short absence, because nature doesn’t care for your objectification. Or adulation. Its heart is forever singing whether your heart hears that tune or not. A self absorbed child, playing at its games quietly alone.

While ones journey into this thrilling heartland may well begin within some colourful printed pages, or reels, it is completed outside of this trap. No book can define for you, no art imitate, the sensual authenticity of dandelions and daffodils. No time-lapse photo technique captures the worth of branches coming out of hibernation and sparrows building nests, one miniscule straw at a time.

So I must travel. So I must stay poor.

I will never own an iPhone – what need have I for a phone that is smarter than my limited intelligence, any basic technology qualifies to outwit me, and some would say, my constant garble wants no aid – but Mr Jobs, I promise you, I will stay foolish. Stay (very) hungry.

For that silly dandelion.

All my mortal Springs.




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