THE STONE AGES
(From the archives of 2003 when such practices were rampant)
Caution: Please don’t feel remorseful after reading. Take heart, most of us are probably guilty of similar transgressions.
Scientists believe and mythology propagates that a number of phenomenon repeat themselves at preordained intervals of time. One such epoch making happening or era in the evolution of man was the Stone ages or the Palaeolithic age. In that age, apart from the fairer sex, the stone was the centrepiece of a man’s attraction. Whether it was tools, weapons or ornaments, everything had its genesis and end in stone. Men fought for and fought with the best possible stones. Life was simple and indeed ‘stone worthy’.
As ordained, the wheel had to turn full circle. The stone in its new avatar made its glorious reappearance. The transition from the megalith stones to the Rosetta stone and further to the Rolling Stones has certainly been interesting. Men still fight for stones, albeit of the Sharon Stone variety. Rubies, emeralds and various other stones still help to make our pockets lighter and our partners apparently more beautiful. But one usage that the stone man never imagined was its use as a ‘foundation stone’ or an ‘inauguration stone’. The ultimate tool of the aspirers who do not want to leave any stone unturned in their pursuit of ascent.
Foundation stones by definition should rest in peace down under. But no, in this stone loving era, they must stick out like sore thumbs. Stark reminders of projects, which never saw the light of the day and ultimate symbols of an aspirer’s ambitious handiwork. The concept that was the privilege and preserve of Khadi clad politicians has slowly but surely found its way in all departments, services and domains.
Small stones, big stones, black stones, white stones, etched stones, painted stones, inauguration stones, demolition stones–You name it, we have it. How can a visit by a so-called VIP or his legally wedded spouse pass off without a ribbon cutting / stone unveiling ceremony? What a fantastic way to gain immortality! Move over Shahjahan, here we come.
In this game, there are some bosses who don’t even wait for the VIP to arrive. These fast track champions are in a great hurry. They set about cutting ribbons and unveiling stones in their own domain for every possible insignificant activity. Mind you, I have seen one for sewage water recycling plant also. So we have a stone for the ‘foundation’ of a canteen, another for the inauguration of the same and yet another one for the inauguration of the canteen ‘annexe’! As the annexes keep increasing, so do the stones, much akin to the annexures of a flight testing report. Of course, we have the smart aleck as well. I personally know of a particular garden being inaugurated by the outgoing wife of the boss, oops sorry, wife of the outgoing boss and the incoming incumbent within a span of one month. It is still not known whether the stone had been etched on both sides in view of the economy drive. Hats off to the guy’s ingenuity!
The scene is all too common. A captive gathering. A dainty curtain being pulled aside. The administrative officer praying that the curtain string should not get stuck. Lots of clapping, smiles and photographs! Everyone wanting to be in the camera frame which the widest wide angle lens can’t accommodate. More Clapping! Heavy tea and disposable cups and plates strewn around. At the end of the day, everyone is happy. The boss’s boss’s ego has certainly been tickled, the host believes that he has moved up a step or two in the snakes & ladder game and the contractor has washed off all his sins in one go.
At the same time, one has the satisfaction of having contributed towards alleviating the employment problem of the nation and conservation of a national heritage by preventing the breed of chisellers from disappearing altogether. Current trends indicate a handsome growth rate of 10% of this race. Only the Project Engineer is a nervous wreck by the time the activity is done with. He has burnt quite a few calories with innumerable visits to the ‘hard to find’ chiseller who has to be kept in good humour. The chiseller is not familiar with the Queen’s English let alone being capable of distinguishing between a Ms Reeta and a Mrs Rita. Experience has taught that the final name be etched only a couple of hours before the ceremony.
Not that the stone culture is without futuristic thinking and growth potential. Vaastu Shastra experts are being consulted to decide the appropriate place and direction of the stone. Mahurtam pundits are being co-opted. Stones can now be ordered through the Internet. Designer stones are becoming the order of the day. KBC type quiz competitions are being organized to choose fancy names for stadiums, gardens, nurseries and other sites. So, there is a virtual ‘stone-fall’ in this direction.
Another offshoot of the stone culture is the planting of tender shoots or saplings. All goes well till such time the VIP who ‘once upon a time’ planted the sapling decides to make yet another visit after a span of couple of years. The original sapling has ceased to exist long time back. Now a suitable replacement like a lost cricket ball, must be found in a jiffy.
The only drawback that I can see in this culture is that today if you throw a stone in any city, it will certainly land on an inauguration stone or within stone’s throw distance from it. Very soon these Shahjahan reincarnates will make the place look like a cemetery full of tombstones.
Is anyone listening or have we gone stone-deaf? I for one don’t want to get stonewashed! Do you?
Absolutely stoned for now,
P.S Got onto the wrong side of my boss by sharing this piece with him, not knowing he had just come back from an inauguration ceremony. Explains a lot about my performance reviews but the stony look on his face………….priceless!
Published at seekmediation.com on 21/05/21