Columns, In Black & White


April 14, 2018

This election, garlands, which are offered to a person as a mark of reverence and affection, have turned into a show of strength among politicians and their supporters. And the competition has gotten ‘fruity and furious.’

It all started when Energy Minister D.K. Shivakumar visited Srirangapatna where his supporters welcomed him with an apple garland weighing 250 kg! Then former CM H.D. Kumaraswamy’s supporters, not to be left behind, adorned their leader with an apple garland weighing 500 kg. This inspired Siddharamaiah’s supporters to welcome the CM with a 750 kg apple garland! At this rate, party workers, while adorning their leaders, might as well try getting into the Guinness Book of World Records.

They say some of our leaders are hard-headed and lead-hearted but they surely are not iron- necked to carry such heavy garlands. So cranes were brought in to lift the garlands and the leaders drove to the centre of the garland for a photo session.

Now, a kilo of apple is Rs.120, which means Shivakumar’s garland cost Rs.30,000, HDK’s 60,000 and CM’s 90,000. If this continues we are sure the Election Commission is going to keep an eye on garland spending also.

Garlands in India symbolise respect and reverence but it is also used to drive home a point. Rahul Gandhi was recently offered a beedi garland (which he however declined) to draw his attention to the problems of tobacco farmers. Then, we have a chappal garland to express our anger. For intellectuals, there is the sandalwood-scented garland and money garland for some politicians. Thanks to demonetisation, the repulsive craze for currency garland has disappeared even though black money hasn’t.

But flower garlands have a presence in every aspect of Indian culture, be it any religion. So also flowers, especially in pujas. In fact, it is stated that the word ‘puja’ has many interpretations and its etymology is unclear but one interpretation says it’s “pū” flower (pushpam) and  “ja” means japa or japam (recitation) and so we offer flowers while uttering prayers as we worship God — Puja.

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Interestingly, this tells us that we humans have always indulged in portmanteau — blending words — for thousands of years. Back then it was Pushpam + Japa = Puja, today it’s Breakfast + Lunch = Brunch and Virat+Anushka = Virushka.

In Hinduism, specific flowers are used for specific deities, so also our voters. Last election I had gone with some party workers to rural Mysuru, when we came across a group of voters. After the party workers had sought their votes, one among the voters asked “Yenu? kanakambara elva?” (Why? no kanakambara?) I was wondering why he was asking for kanakambare flowers.

It turned out it was his way of asking for Rs.1,000 note for his vote. Many may remember the pinkish-orange coloured demonetised note, the colour of the kanakambara flower. These rural voters had a colour code for a specific bribe amount! Or more like flower code. Corrupt voters elect corrupt leaders. No wonder, we are where we are.

Flowers have a ubiquitous presence in our life, from birth to death and every event in between. That reminds me of my roommate from college who got married to an American girl. They had their wedding in Mysuru. On the wedding day he requested me to arrange a room for him at Windflower Resorts for his first night and added, “Can you also ask them to decorate my bed with flowers and keep a glass of badam milk by the bed side? I want to give              Jennifer the complete desi experience.”

I conveyed the requirement to the Resort and in the evening when I went to check, the bed was layered with jasmine and rose petals formed a heart shape in the middle. The room had a very romantic and sexual aura about it. If that bed were to be sold as a branded mattress, one could call it ‘Karlo… on and on and on.’ It was that enticing.

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The next day he called to thank me. I asked him if he enjoyed his night and he said, “Not really. Half the time we kept pulling flowers stuck in our crevices. We were also spitting mallige, which was all over our pillows. So I was too distracted to perform well.”

Yes, flowers are enticing but you should be selective in how you use them. A good lesson on the first day of one’s married life.

Now as far as the apple garlands, once the cranes lowered the garlands the apples were crushed and wasted in the melee of supporters [see pic]. We wish these leaders told their supporters to deliver the apples to government hospitals and schools. Or even better, spend that money on the needy.

While apples are in high demand, so are owls! It seems many politicians see owls as lucky charms so there has been a demand for owls as pets which is illegal. Also owls are used in black magic; so  during election season many leaders turn into Snape the dark magician from Harry Potter and want owl for sacrifices.

It is disheartening that while gangs of political supporters are wasting fruits and flowers, their leaders are hunting owls. Ironically, a group of aggressive monkeys is called a gang and a group of owls is called a Parliament… Guess, in the end the honest voter is the fool… a real “Ullu ka patta.”

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  1. Raju says:

    I don’t have any objections if that entire weight of that Apple garland is supported by just neck only, not touching the ground or any other object to share that weight!


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