Monday, November 6, 2006

Bloody motifs

Idiots, knaves and bloody lucky thieves! There are appellations aplenty that the fawning masses dedicate to their beloved leaders who are either corrupt gluttons or muddled morons, and often both. And not only do they display prodigious levels of daftness but have the audacity to assume that their constituents wouldn’t know any better, attempting to manipulate social consciousness with nothing but shallow and empty rhetoric.
Mehbooba Mufti, my friends in Kashmir tell me, is quite a committed politician – apparently an all out welfare worker. But her recent call to lift the ban on Shahtoosh makes one question her powers of comprehension and discernment if not her intelligence and integrity. Maybe the problem lies with the fact that our politicians have only learnt how to win elections, not how to govern a country.

The unbearable beauty of the Shahtoosh shawl is woven with a fabric of unbearable pain. ‘Down’ hair plucked from the bloodied body of a chiru, a rare antelope found above the snow-line, along the Tibetan plateau was, until deemed illegal, the ‘golden fleece’ of fashion street, worth more than its weight in gold. Each shawl draped across an elegant shoulder was a testament to the grisly residue of at least three chiru carcasses strewn across the frozen plains, making the harsh, bleak landscape bleaker still. Now, since just a handful of them remain, both the Chinese and the Indian governments banned the hunting and trade in Shahtoosh. With the ban, most Kashmiri weavers, exquisite craftsmen all, now practised their craft on the equally exquisite Pashmina wool, sheared off or shed by a species of Himalayan goat. Even with protection, poaching for the illegal Shahtoosh trade is rampant and numbers on the Indian side stand at a dismal hundred odd antelopes.

Admittedly, a few of the Shahtoosh weavers are still looking for options, but Mehbooba Mufti’s half baked rhetoric would take the weavers no further than disaster. Mehbooba’s call for lifting the ban comes in light of the fact that there aren’t enough chiru left to weave even a hundred shawls. There’ve been other voices in support of Ms. Mufti’s, voices whose combined IQ scores, based on whatever they tried to pass of as logic, would definitely be less than the number of chiru left in India. If the chiru becomes extinct, not only would the state and its people lose a part of their heritage and future tourism opportunities but also the possibility of weaving Shahtoosh from shed down hair as used to be the custom in the early days, once the population has stabilised.

Every politician who tries to win popular support and votes through quick fix rhetoric or policy, by painting hapless environmental lobbies as the villains who’ve locked away a region’s resources in the name of conservation (thus keeping its people, the rightful beneficiaries of the said resources from prosperity) needs to be pulled up by the ear and given a basic lesson in comparative economics.

If availability and exploitation of natural resources was to be the all important one way cheque to the health, wealth and prosperity bank, then pray why aren’t Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo many times richer than Singapore, Formosa and Japan, and how could Punjab or Haryana enjoy such prosperity while Orissa and Jharkhand languish far behind. Collective prosperity has very little to do with available natural resources and a whole lot more to do with collective innovation and industry, and most states unfortunately falter at the very first hurdle – that of developing a collective consciousness. So, would any of the beautiful people from the beautiful valley please tap Ms. Mufti (who, I maintain, has been a conscientious leader thus far) on the shoulder and urge her to get on with real developmental issues instead of pottering around with idea of lopping off the few remaining loping ‘lopes.

The devil wears fur

At least De Vil in 101 Dalmatians preferred to wear only that. She’d look at a litter of adorable Dalmatian pups and exclaim, ““Such perfectly beautiful coats!” There must have hardly been a heart that didn’t warm as the little bundles of joy walked free from the clutches of the cruel couturier to be restored to the dappled doggies, Pongo and Perdita.

Amazingly, and ironically, many a high-society fashionista comes across as a less-animated Cruella De Vil with a lot-less feverish fetish, but far from disgusting anyone, it hardly ever warrants anything more than curious second glance.

For one’s skin to become another’s second skin, the practice of the use of fur and scents derived from animals to accessorise the ensemble of, particularly, the female finery has been one of inane insensitivity. After all, for the mink and chiru to be bestowed with the coat of soft hair must imply that nature must have considered them more needful of the same, than us! Imagine hunting down the numbered musk deer for the kind of ‘sensual gratification’ as ephemeral as smell?! There are enough alternatives available; besides it’s dirty to denude the other to clothe oneself...


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