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Burning the Old Man

Burning the Old Man

Little Srivatsan called me loudly, “Mummy Aunty.” I was returning home after buying the afternoon milk bottle from the milk booth.
I turned towards the boy and asked, “Hare Krishna. Well, my Krishna where are you going with all these bags?”
His mother was with him and she smiled, while replying, “To purchase Christmas gifts for children. This year he has been selected by our building to be Santa Claus. So, we thought we will give the kids some gifts.”
Now, I turned to the boy, “Hey Naughty boy, why did you call me?”
His mother replied, “As usual, he has another silly question, which I cannot answer. So I told him, when you meet Mummy Aunty, ask her.”
She thought I could handle today’s kids’ naughty but intelligent questions. So, we went to Dr. Qureshi’s Clinic, near which there was a large seat, which could accommodate 6 people. They had installed a drinking water pot as well for the people passing by. I appreciate the humanitarian service by the doctor.
Then, I asked Srivatsan about his doubt.
As usual, he patted my shoulder with his little hands and asked, “Mummy Aunty, Mummy Aunty, Santa Claus is a man. But, why do people put up an old man during New Year ’s Eve? Then, why do they burn the old man everywhere at 12 PM on the 31st December? They are like my grandfathers – Dada and Nana. I feel bad. And they also step on it, while it is burning. Would we do that to our grandfathers?”
I was shocked. I kept staring at him for some time and then replied, “People think the old man is the past year…”
Before I even completed my reply, he asked, “Why do they keep an old man? Why not burn anything else?”
I was speechless again. His mother requested, “Please help me. He has been pestering me with these questions for the last 2 days. I am so tired.”
I placed my hand on his shoulder and informed him, “I decorate a doll as an old man as a symbol of the past year. I store it and use it again the next year.”
He asked me, “Why the others don’t do that?”
I replied, “The world is waiting for an intelligent child to ask the question and find solutions to the same.”
He was not satisfied with the reply. What could I do? His mother was worried. I thought I must really help her. So I told the boy, “Let us discuss what can be done.”
He asked, “Why not use the same doll every year?”
I said that it worked in our home. But it may not work in a group because there will be storage issues. We continued our discussion. Several suggestions were exchanged. Finally we decided that we should plant a tree in the premises of the building we live in every year in the name of the New Year. Then at the end of the year, the tree can be transplanted, where trees are required, in the process saying bye to it.
I said, “This way, our cities which are becoming concrete jungles, will be able to breathe fresh air from the trees. This way the depleting jungles can also be replanted. In these places, birds can breed peacefully. You keep thinking about it while you grow. Form a group of youngsters yourself to promote this.”
This boy must be 19 or 20 today. But I heard that this family left India 7 years ago to settle in Australia. My suggestion is still there. Any takers?

Burning the Old Man
Burning the Old Man

About Vidhyalakshmi Rao

Vidhyalakshmi Rao is a veteran writer and has written several articles in English, Hindi and Tamil.

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