Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The jharoo saga:

The jharoo saga: For the sake of the environment it's time to bid farewell to this domestic aide
By Chitra Narain | Nov 14, 2012, 12.00 AM IST

There have been four distinct stages in my 75-year association with the jharoo. First, the girlish impulse to emulate our sexy cleaning woman (i won't use the derogatory word "jamadar" commonly used in the Raj days). I thought then, that this was a most exciting profession, as she stooped low, jharoo in hand, casting come-hither glances at our platoon of servants and chaprasis, who would hover around her while she executed her task with the grace of a dancer.

Later, this fascination gave way to despair and anger, when married and a young householder, i would find dust and scraps in every nook and cranny. A favourite stow away place was under the only Mirzapuri carpet we owned, the pride of our railway colony bungalow. Needless to say, i was left to complete her work, since our cook made it clear that this was not his job. This was stage two of my jharoo story.

This lasted till i was well past middle age, lest you think that senior bureaucrat's wives reign in their households. By now our kids were married, and one son was living abroad. You can imagine my surprise when my daughter-in-law, in response to my query about what she would like me to bring for her, asked for a couple of jharoos! I protested, more out of the embarrassment of carrying jharoos alongside our fashionable strolleys. What would the Air India staff think of me - a senior official of Doordarshan!! As with kids, i had to yield to her insistence that she just couldn't do without them. "Thank you Ma, you're such a pet." That did it! On every trip thereafter, went these Indian brooms, across continents - to Moscow, to London, to...And even in the bleakest years, when every package of ours was turned upside down by customs sleuths searching for any and everything resembling a weapon, the jharoo sailed through majestically! End of stage three.

Begin stage four. The era of Copenhagen; the dawn of realisation of the impending death of our planet; the buzz words 'global warming'. Our beautiful earth cover being systematically wiped out, the desertification of the greens, the drying up of water springs, choking cities, the slow poisoning of all life. Now you may well ask, where does our humble jharoo fit into all this? Well, just ask your personal physician. Mine told me years ago to leave Delhi. Since it was not possible for me to comply, he has warned me that if i want to save whatever little is left of my lungs, i should get rid of the jharoo and just vacuum everything - floors, carpets, curtains et al. Henceforth no sweeping, no dusting, and that's final. So i get rid of my teary-eyed cleaning woman and hug my good old stack of jharoos goodbye. But what do i do on my morning walks? Regiments of safai karamcharis, armed with huge jharoos, like soldiers on the battlefield, attacking terra firma, throw up enormous gusts of dust in order to catch the odd bits of paper and harmless dry leaves, and in the process, sound the death knell to the lungs of aged morning walkers out to inhale some fresh CO2.

It's time for some radical thinking. How about the potentates of big cities - municipalities, urban development and environment planners - putting their heads to this vital problem, and looking for a less dangerous weapon of mass destruction than the jharoo. For a starter, i could suggest the rake. No, i do not mean the dissolute profligate, but the sturdy pole with a toothed bar like a huge comb, at the end, which easily combs out leaves and garbage without disturbing mother earth. It is both earth- and human-friendly. If this is acceptable, one can plan a farewell for our lovable faithful jharoo, who can tell us the 'inside story' of her life.

PS: It is learnt that at the next environment summit, jharoo and rake were sitting side by side. Jharoo was to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Jharoo's impassioned plea was given a standing ovation and was widely reported in the world press. She bemoaned the fact that she had unwittingly become a tool in man's inhumanity to earth and to fellow humans. And here she broke down for unknowingly contributing to wrecking the health of the kind and gentle lady who had so lovingly given her a home she could call her own.
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