Will Heaven Help ?

Maisnam Bomcha *

Indian Rupee
Pic Courtesy : wikipedia/Jovianeye

"Even if the rupee tumbles further or price of onions soar more in the opposite direction, heaven is not going to fall. But for the Congress and the UPA, only heaven may help, come 2014"

Starting from the sleepily stony face and a boringly tired repetition of a speech of the PM from the ramparts of the Red Fort; nothing was fresh and of interest on the 67th Independence Day. It was just another 'holiday' with the usual rush of official functions till I attended the yearly semi-official perfunctory luncheon. The gathering never expected that a humble vegetable will steal show (or lack of it) and be the favourite topic of most of the gossips in every corner.

When lunch was served, suddenly the dull drawl of the bored monosyllables turned into an excited cacophony. There was no onion in the Salad among the fare offered. For a palate for which Salad means onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and the seasonal Gajar or Muli added; absence of the omnipresent onion was unthinkable.

To some inflated ego, it was a nearly blasphemous insult. The explanation given by a much harried looking 'organiser' was the very absence of the exotic underground bulb from the market itself, even at the exorbitant price it is sold all over the country.

Beyond an obviously depleted foreign exchange and soaring inflation, the cause of the crashing rupee is a topic of serious and well informed debate. But one aspect of the thing which marked the Independence Day this year along with the all-time low value of the rupee is apparent and accepted as true.

The cause of the sky-rocketing price of the onion is man-made; caused for profit. Hoarding and controlled released of stock from the godowns are the main reasons of the soaring price. The ever dipping value of the rupee and the rise in onion price did not take place suddenly. The triggering factors were known in advance.

Inaction of the UPA government and unchecked economic trends resulted in the present mess. Remember, Dr Manmohan Singh promised to eradicate such economic ills during his first speech as PM on the same occasion. Another sad fallout of an honest captain not having sufficient time to govern while cleaning a mess created by dishonest and inefficient lackeys. Collateral damage of a political compulsion of the times called coalition politics?

Coming back to our dear and humble onion; why it is considered 'impious' despite many known qualities? I can't think of another vegetable commoner than the onion and potatoes, in utility and usage both, even leaving aside the nutritional quotient. Onion is known to prevent many diseases, including even plague, because of its capability to absorb germs present in the air.

Maybe because of its believed value to increase sexual urge and prowess, onions are banned from the dishes of unmarried maidens during the Durga Puja in Bengal. But then you don't hit it off with the first person on the street; howsoever strong the libido is. Is banning night outings a better option, if there is to be a ban at all?

Long before Hollywood found a way to blame socially unacceptable passion on a place (Rio), we invented to do so on an innocent vegetable. In Gujarat, parents blame the festivity and gaiety of the Garba dances during the Navratra season for the nocturnal misadventure of the youth. People conveniently forget that the Garba dance floor is hardly a place for furthering carnal liaisons and couples go to much quieter places with little or no festive environs. And why, pray, should onions and garlic be totally absent while terming dishes as pure vegetarian?

Onions are also known to repel reptiles. People keep onion peels under the gaps of doors in snake infested places. I too did so at many places of call of duty reposing my faith on it for a peaceful night's sleep before the belief was rudely shattered. While stationed at a place in the higher reaches of the Himalayas, I was woken up one early morning by a commotion outside.

When I went out to investigate, I saw a large dead snake near one of the bunkers. A story was being repeated excitedly by a bemused fellow. Troops usually keep onions and garlic privately to occasionally refry the daily issue Dal and for consumption as Salad. This man kept his personal supply of onions and garlic inside a cloth bag which he placed next to his bunk.

That day when disturbed very early in the morning by some sound, he woke up to find out. And he found the snake moving inside the same bag. From that day, except for its gastronomic delights, the whole post buried the notion of the perceived enmity between snakes and onions and that they are strange bedfellows (pun intended).

A few days back I saw a TV commercial. The content and timing of the advertisement reduced an otherwise work of clever entrepreneurship into a comical farce or at best fishing in troubled waters. A certain chain of shops was offering a kg of onions for every purchase of cloths worth two thousand rupees. Contemplated coldly, it is a clear case of exploitation of a scenario created with a purpose by some businessmen and further by another group of their ilk, with the government turning a blind eye.

As I grapple with meeting the dateline of this piece, the rupee has hit an all-time low of 64 and the introduction of the Food Security Bill in parliament postponed for Thursday; stuck over the Coalgate, the opposition sticking to their guns that the PM speak on the missing coal ministry files.

Even if the rupee tumbles further or price of onions soar more in the opposite direction, heaven is not going to fall. But for the Congress and the UPA, only heaven may help, come 2014.

* Maisnam Bomcha wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao as part of 'Different People,Different Places,Different Times'
This article was posted on August 22, 2013

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