Herald: Life is like that!

08 Jan 2023  |   05:32am IST

Life is like that!

Radharao F Gracias

New Year’s Eve sees many young men holding cursory collection boxes standing with old man by the roadsides. So I usually carry some change with me on that day. This yearend I found my kitchen garden under attack from pests and I urgently needed neemicide; the place to get it was Kakoda Farms, Margao. So off I go hurriedly and forget the significance of the day, until I come across a parade of old men along the way. My wallet contains a few notes of rupees five hundred and two thousand which I refuse to part with, no matter how critical the old man is! So window shutters up, we proceed nonstop.

 I buy what I need, but as the lady at the counter returns the change, I request her to give me a few notes of rupees fifty, explaining the reasons. She readily obliges. On my return trip I urge my chauffeur to park the car at the four road junction near Cota Cozinha. A group of young men attending to the old man on a chair, rush over to me with their box. I ignore them as I walk to the old man and check his pulse. Oh, his pulse is weak; he needs urgent treatment. Just dial 108 and call the ambulance, I instruct my chauffeur, aloud. The young ones look at me in disbelief. And then one of them in a blue shirt says the ambulance will reach tomorrow.  I cannot disagree with him and suggest that he help me get the old man into my car, to avoid delay. They find themselves from the frying pan into the fire! After a little hesitation, a bright young man who perhaps thinks I am mad, shouts out can you not see he is a man of straw? I realise he is the modern day little boy, who had shouted all those centuries ago but the king wears no clothes at all! I contribute my fifty rupees. The little ones smile and wave, as we drive away. I have had my fun; they will have theirs, at midnight.

But this is not the only time my sanity has been suspected. A few years ago Natasha, my niece calls me and asks. Were you in Benaulim some days back? Indeed I was. I retort, what happened? And she says; one of my friends called and asked; has your uncle lost it? He was walking crazily in the fields. As I laughed, I told her I was not lost but a little bird seemed lost, I was looking for it. Knowing my ways, she got what I was saying and laughed it out.

It was a cool January day; I was proceeding to Benaulim. Along the way, I saw a bird in the drying scrub, which I thought could be a species of buntings, a rather rare sighting. So I got down to confirm and tried to follow it. And when you are looking for a little bird flying hither and thither, your walk necessarily, looks crazy. As it happened, the bird a bunting or whatever, it was too quick for my legs and eyes. It disappeared without revealing its identity. But I was a bit aghast at being called crazy. How can someone from Benaulim (of all places!) call a person from another village crazy?  Do Goans not know which village produces nuts?

Now back again to the old man. Some two decades ago my then chauffeur from Quirbhat, Nuvem returns the day after New Year celebrations; I can see he has something to say.  “We gave it back to the police he begins. Last year the police came with their jeeps, chased us, picked up our old man and drove away.   I certainly was aware the old man groups had become threatening, abusive and extortionate; hence the police action.  So what did you do this year? I question. This time our old man was weighted with stones. The policemen came but we kept far away. Three-four policemen had to carry the old man in. But that is no big deal, I state matter of fact.

He responds True, but what happened later was hilarious. We had sprayed the old man with ‘haskuli’. By the time the jeep reached the next ‘old man’ the ‘haskuli’ began to act. And the policemen began to dance; and what a dance it turned out to be!

Today, as I write my column, I read a BBC report about discarded marigolds being made into vegan leather in India. My mind travels back to an article I had read in the National Geographic magazine years ago, about vast plantations of marigolds in Mexico. The flowers were dried and mixed with chicken feed. The result was egg yolk, turned rich golden yellow. I do what is the new normal these days; I Google for more information and find:

Marigolds contain powerful antioxidants which help keep the chickens healthy and assist in fighting off any diseases. Marigolds are a great natural immunity booster for your flock. 

Egg yolk depends on the diet fed to hens. If marigolds are included in the diet, they will naturally influence the egg yolk colour to be a deep yellow. But is that all? No.

Marigolds will also benefit the “health” of the egg. According to the Journal of Poultry Science, a study was done to look at the benefits of marigold flower extract on eggs. They found that marigolds will not only produce richer yolks, but they will also drop the cholesterol level as well. This means, healthier hens AND healthier eggs for us humans! 

Marigold garlands draped around items of worship and scattered around after use, are a common sight in Goa. Will someone please collect the discarded marigolds and get them mixed in chicken feed, at least on an experimental basis? Or will someone get them dried to be used as straw to stuff old men?

(Radharao F Gracias is a senior Trial Court Advocate, a former Independent MLA, a political activist, with a reputation for oratory and interests in history and ornithology)