This week I learned several new things, and I guess I have politicians to thank for it. Let’s start with the inspiration for the name of this blog and something my biology teachers failed to bring to my notice. Peacock Tears. It took a High Court judge from Rajasthan to enlighten me about the fact that peacocks remain celibate and that little baby peafowl are the result of peahens swallowing (no pun intended, I assure you!) the tears of the majestic strutting males. Now isn’t that beautiful? Wonderful Brahmachari peacocks! No wonder they’re our national birds. We don’t kiss in our movies, we don’t hold hands in public, we fly into an internet tizzy when an actress meets our Prime Minister with her legs visible. It makes perfect sense then that our national bird doesn’t do the nasty. We, as a people, are far too pure for something as dirty as sex!
Let’s set aside for a moment that ‘the birds and bees’ is losing meaning as a metaphor now that I’ve discovered that, as per our learned judges, not all birds actually do what they are supposed to do. Let’s also set aside the fact that our population now stands at 1.3 billion people (or 18% of the world’s population) and it couldn’t have got to this point without a lot of horizontal action. Let’s take a look at education instead. How messed up is our education system that we produce High Court judges who think this way? But why am I surprised when we have 12th Standard Sociology textbooks that say this:
“If girl is ugly and handicapped, then it becomes very difficult for her to get married. To marry the girls bridegroom and his family demand more dowry. Parents of such girls become helpless and pay dowry.”
And 9th Standard Hindi textbooks say this:
“A donkey is like a housewife. It has to toil all day and, like her, may even have to give up food and water. In fact, the donkey is a shade better, for while the housewife may sometimes complain and walk off to her parents’ home, you’ll never catch the donkey being disloyal to his master.”
How do we react when the Chief Executive of a major IT firm says that 60% of Indian IT graduates are ‘untrainable’? And when a professor who has taught at IIT-Kanpur says this:
“I have always been amazed at the Indian software industry. That it can grow so fast and become so big despite the absolutely abysmal quality of education in our colleges… A lot of people have talked about poor quality curriculum, poor quality faculty, poor infrastructure, poor school education, and so on. I disagree. There is a much simpler explanation for this: Copying in our colleges, besides laziness.”
But let’s set all that aside for now and get our continuing education from politicians.
Because, from across many oceans, Donald Trump contributed to my expanding vocabulary and gave me the word ‘covfefe’. Did Mr. Trump mean to type ‘coverage’? Did his short fingers and even shorter attention span meet autocorrect to contribute to the creation of an unexpectedly delightful new word? Even if no one knows how to pronounce it (cov-feef? Cov-feh-feh? Can I do the ‘vf’ consonant combination after a few glasses of Pinot Noir?). Or was it just code meant to make sense to only the (dwindling) inner circle of trusted White House loyalists as Sean Spicer maintains?
And while we are distracted with peacock tears, are we losing sight of the fact that the Indian government has just made it harder for Indians to access one of the most affordable sources of protein available to them? Or that self appointed ‘cow protectors’ have attacked and killed more than 10 people since 2015? Or that 22 lakh people across the country who work in the cattle slaughter industry and a further 35 lakh in the leather industry might be unemployed soon?
And is ‘covfefe’ distracting us from the imminent American withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change? We do know that searches for ‘covfefe’ are far ahead of searches for ‘Paris Accord’ Google. So, what happens when a country that produces the second highest greenhouse gas emissions on the planet (and the highest per capita) chooses not to care any longer? What will the world look like when we lose our natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef to warming oceans? What will it do to our coastlines when giant icebergs are calved out of Antarctic ice faster than we’ve seen in recorded history?
And while I fight for the right to raise cattle and eat beef in India, am I being a hypocrite when I ignore the fact that cattle farming in the US is a bigger contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than vehicles?
For now I’m not inclined to face my hypocrisy. I’m off to celebrate getting my new blog off the ground with a steak. And some Pinot Noir, of course.