Cherry blossoms are quite beautiful to look at. No wonder the Meghalaya Government readily gravitated towards these little flowers in their bid to distract people from their ineptitude and mismanagement! I am referring, of course, to the recently concluded India International Cherry Blossom Festival which ran from the 8th to the 11th of November 2017. It is quite interesting to note how the state government has sought to make this “international” by suggesting associations with Japan where the cherry blossoms have become an important part of Japanese culture, poetry and painting. In Japan this cherry blossom culture is “natural”, it has been celebrated, in some form or the other, over hundreds of years. It didn’t grow out of a need to impress tourists or to be an “international” PR event. “International” is the new buzz word which hurts my ears! And then I have to ask, why cherry blossoms? Why not ‘sohphoh’ blossoms? (a member of the apple family found widely in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills) Those blossoms are quite beautiful as well. At least the hardy and indigenous ‘sohphoh’ gives you fruits as well. Many locals use it to make jams, preserves and ciders as well so I am for the ‘non-international sohphoh’. Additionally the last fruits of the season make for a durable weapon in self-defense. Yet another benefit.
In Japan, the sakura or cherry blossom has a mottled history. It has been the favourite symbol of choice for ultra-nationalists and militant right-wingers (are you listening, government?) for quite some time. The Sakurakai were one such group of hard-liners who, in the 1930s, wanted to establish a complete dictatorial monarchy in the country and throw out ‘outsider inventions’ like parliamentary elections. In World War II, Japanese pilots painted sakura onto their kamikaze warplanes before embarking on suicide missions to “die like beautiful falling cherry petals for the emperor”. So the soft, delicate, pink (dare I say effeminate) flower has curried favour with tough soldiers and rough warriors. Quite an irony.
But again perhaps the male-female/tough-weak dichotomy is only a modern lens of bias. This rather strange non-polar veneration is probably something that’s come down from the age of the feudal despotic samurai, a tradition many still long for if we are to go by a sizable portion of Japanese media. If you look at a number of “tough guys” in anime, for instance, you will find an “unusual” blend of male AND female features within them. Flowers often feature prominently alongside these characters. Byakuya Kuchiki from Bleach, for example, is a stoic, serious (also beautiful) soul-reaper (a sort of spirit samurai) who seems to have a very “girly” obsession with cherry blossoms. Another “beautiful” tough-guy who likes flowers (roses in this case) is Kurama from Yu Yu Hakusho. Similarly the “beautiful” titular warrior in Nurarihyon no Mago – Nurarihyon – is also associated with cherry blossoms. The list goes on. This then is another dimension to the humble little angiosperm.
Maybe because they are so transient and wilt rapidly, the cherry blossom flowers lend themselves to a lot of poetic meanings related to the temporary nature of human existence. It makes sense then that men facing death would latch onto them as a symbol of hope and purpose. Well now that the serene image is completely ruined for you I would like to conclude by saying that it would all be fine if these sorts of stunts by the Meghalaya government didn’t cost the Public money but sadly they do. The MUA II government is basically just a glorified event-management firm anyway. They are probably doomed in the upcoming 2018 elections but it won’t bother them much. They have been saving up for such a situation the past five years. Now that they are plump, they can go into hibernation. Much like the cherry blossoms they can disappear and re-appear when the storms have abated and the warm sun has deadened peoples’ wrath.
The India-Bharat divide
Salil Gewali must be congratulated for his letter, “Illusion of Paradise” (ST, Nov 15, 2017). The growth in GDP cannot improve the common man’s lot in a country where inequality is widening day by day. It is indeed horrifying that rich India is climbing in the ladder of inequality leaving poor Bharat far behind. Inequality is measured in Gini index where higher index value indicates greater inequality. India has got the dubious distinction of getting very high marks in widespread inequality.
This India – Bharat divide has also come out in two international reports. While in the New World Wealth Report, India is ranked 7th in the list of top wealthiest countries in the world, the World Bank’s Report, ‘Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016’ shows that close to 30 per cent of the world’s poor live in our country. Our growth shows a sign of malignancy as the richest 10 per cent of our population has whooping 76.3 per cent of nation’s wealth, on the other hand more than half of our population is reeling with a meagre 4.1 per cent.
The irony is that some rich people are still getting on using, so to speak, from one long unscrupulous spoon to another larger one, namely ~ Panama, Non Performing Assets, Paradise etc. to gulp down almost the entire cake and thus forcing 194.6 million Indians go to bed on an empty stomach day in, day out!
This glaring inequality must immediately be bridged by inclusive growth, developing social sectors, adopting labour intensive technology and ensuring social security for the needy. Otherwise, such barbaric inequality will force us to live in a dog-eat-dog environment where equality and fraternity are absolute no-no.
Greed at the root of environmental catastrophe
The Annual Catholic Eucharistic Procession under the Archdiocese of Shillong that was significant because the Archbishop of Shillong, Rt Rev Dominic Jala spoke about human greed and selfishness that has almost finished off Mother Earth (Mei Ramew). That the Catholic Church has taken a path which Pope Francis has often emphasized, which is that human greed, hostility and intolerance will gradually destroy what the Almighty has given, is encouraging. The truth is surely out with climate change happening all around. The biological clock is going against nature and God’s plan. This is the beginning of man’s destruction. If only governments and societies take initiative to arrest this catastrophe in the making.
Dominic S. Wankhar