Sweep of history

A hilarious article by the master columnist Jug Suraiya(who writes for TOI as we all(or almost all)know).


Economists keep telling us that we are currently in a phase of negative inflation. Which in economese (the language that only economists speak, and only economists understand) means that prices of things are coming down. This proves that economists don’t eat daal, the price of which far from coming down has shot up like one of those space rockets ISRO keeps launching, and is now Rs 90-plus a kg (daal that is, not ISRO rockets). This also proves that economists don’t eat onions, which are Rs 20 a kg. Moreover and most significantly this proves that economists don’t use a jhaaru, that indispensable item of daily use in every Indian household.

The other day, Bunny informed me that Sudha, our domestic help, had indented for a new jhaaru, the old one having given up the ghost, after yeoman service sweeping up the doggy hairs that Brindle deposits on the carpets and furniture every day. OK, i said, fishing out a crumpled tenner from the dusty recesses of my wallet. This won’t do, said Bunny. Sudha says a jhaaru now costs 38 rupees. Thirty-eight bucks? For a lowly jhaaru? Does Sudha think jhaarus grow on trees? i demanded. Which, come to think of it, they probably do. I’d never thought of where jhaarus come from, but with their feathery, frond-like appearance they probably do come from trees. Maybe Sudha enterprising soul was proposing to invest in a whole jhaaru tree, or even an entire plantation of jhaaru trees, and was planning to use my 38 rupees as venture capital for the project.

But it turned out that i was mistaken. It seemed that Sudha was not in fact thinking of cornering the jhaaru market, becoming the Mukesh Ambani of the jhaaru trade, so to speak, and having Anil take out snide public interest ads about monopolists and cartels and what-have-yous, or rather what-have-you-nots, the monopolist having glommed all available supplies of the commodity in question. Which in this case was jhaarus. A single one of which, i discovered, now cost 38 smackers. So much or should that be so little? for negative inflation. And for non-jhaaru-wielding economists.

The jhaaru India’s low-cost (till now), eco-friendly answer to the western world’s vacuum cleaner is much more than a humble instrument of domestic sanitary engineering. It is an emblem and a daily memento of the cyclical sweep of our ancient history, and of our even more ancient mythology that lies beyond the horizon of time. Did Sita do jhaaru when she and Ram and Lakshman were in vanvaas? Of course she did, must have. Forests are full of dust, and like any proud homemaker or vanmaker, which would be more accurate in her case Sita must have wielded a jhaaru along with the best of them, keeping their patch of forest spick and span for Ram to come home to of an evening after a hard day of doing whatever it is that exiled god-kings do in the wilderness. In fact, so assiduous was Sita in her jhaaruing that she overstepped the protective line that brother-in-law Lakshman had drawn for her and got herself abducted by Ravana, but that’s another story.

Ever since Sita, Indian households and forestholds have witnessed the daily ritual of not the removal but the re-allocation of dust with the use of the jhaaru: every day the ancient, abiding dust the same patient dust swept through the ages by Sita, and the Maurya dynasty, and the Mughals, and the British, and now us is swept out through the door and relocated outside, from where the wind will blow it back in again, in an endless circle of ebb and flow. Thirty-eight bucks? A small price to pay for an eternal tidal flow of which, part and parcel, is that half a handful of dust called me. Bring on the jhaaru. And inflation be damned. Together with the economists.

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