Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mohenjo-daro or “Old Spice”

For those uninitiated to the Indian History, or pre-history should I say, Mohenjo-daro (lit: Mound of the dead) is a four and half thousand year old city, unearthed during the third decade of twentieth century, along with a few such other sites like Harappa, Lothal, Kalibangan etc. The fact, that fascinates me, about this city (and its sisters as well) is how the archaeologists made the buildings and the streets, the granaries and the public bath sites, the religious figurines and toys, the coins and seals, speak about the “time they had”. The people of Mohenjo-daro were short, as their doors speak. They didn’t know the use of iron, as their copper-headed arrows speak. They were animists, as their idols speak. They knew music and dance, as their figurines speak. Their town planning was flawless, as the streets and buildings speak.

Well, the other day, I was visiting a few plant nurseries for procuring saplings for one of my landscaping assignments, when one of the gardeners presented me with a tiny sapling, which I heard him say, “Old Spice”. “Old Spice?” I asked for confirming. “No, we call it ‘All spice’ as the leaf has the combined scent of bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, and clove. Grow this in your garden and you’ll never need to buy garam masala.”

Back home, I had no garden. So, I decided to plant Mr. Old Spice in a pot. Now, beside our entrance there were half a dozen pots with the plants long dead. The soil in them had caked hard. They’ve been lying there for, umm... may be six years; could be eight too. Anyway, I took out one of those pots and started loosening the soil with a makeshift trowel. My task at hand was to dig the soil, bring it out, break it into small pieces, mix it with some fresh soil from the yard and get things going for li’l Mr. Old Spice, all the while trying to swat the bold Ms. Mosquitoes swarming around my delicious elbows and ankles. But, never had it occurred to me that I will be unearthing relics; relics that would make me think about my own little Mohenjo-daro, just six years old.

Digging up, digging up, digging up... what’s this? A neat round shape that sent out a protesting clang on my trowel. Taking it between my forefinger and thumb, I rubbed it off the soil cover and... sparkle! Wow! A glass marble. A toy, I had spent much time with, like the other boys (and a few girls too) of my age. Archaeology at work; well, this could have been relegated to the unused lot long back and then probably swept out during an autumn cleaning. The pot, sitting right below the drain spout, must have gathered it along with the sweep-dust.

Breaking clods, breaking clods, breaking clods... what’s this? A twisted aluminium clamp. Eight years back, we had a new wiring done. The electrician had planted a cable along the wall of the reading room, nailing down a strip of wooden baton, and then attaching these little clamps to hold the cable along the baton. Nowadays we don’t use wooden batons anymore for wiring jobs. Electric wiring nowadays is called “concealed”, as the wires are drawn through conduits placed inside the wall.

Digging up, digging up, digging up... and what’s this? A shrivelled foil pack, colours tarnished to grey making the prints illegible. Six years ago, most of our tablets used to come in these strips. Now, we have blister packs for the majority. Pretty soon, all our pills will start coming in blister packs, and foil packs will be handed over to archaeology.

Sitting hunched, sitting hunched, sitting hunched... and Ouch! A sharp pain running up through the shin from the right ankle. Five years back, I had a bad fall during a hike and it had torn an ankle ligament. Crepe bandages, walking stick, walking slow... and gradually I had come back to normal gait. I had also ran about now and then, all the while thinking the pain had died. Now I realized, I hadn’t sat like this in the last four years, I hadn’t turned the soil in the plant pots, I hadn’t planted a sapling. Now call this the pain of Mohenjo-daro, or call it “Old Spice”!

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