Telegraph Calcutta

Round Your Neck With Love, A Noose

You recognise the scene of crime, don’t you? No? But of course you do. It is a scene of recent crime, an audacity most foul whose after-effects are still eddying about. But such it is, this scene of crime, it lends itself. To violations of all manner. It has been wrung. It has been choked. It has been tied. It has been twisted. It has been lassoed. It has been stabbed. It has been slit. It has been chopped off. In the native parts, in my beloved Beehar, the charming euphemism they sometimes use when they declare intent to decapitate someone is chhau inch chhota kar denge… will reduce your height by six inches.

But others in far and other parts of this planet of ours too are aware of the perils that lurk about this space. Croat mercenaries and their protective practices, remember? We’ve exchanged thoughts recently on this. Such are also the resorts we take to while time away while Mahadeb remains gone – the unusual quirks and customs of removed peoples. Croat mercenaries would wrap silk round their necks when they stepped out to work. Then one among them, a clotheshorse or a sauceboat or both, decided to put a knot on that piece of silk. And thence it became a statement and began to be called the cravat – what the killer Croat wears round his neck.

A critical place, this neck, ground zero of many manners of threat; this is where you reduce the intended person’s height by six inches from: the neck. It’s what you might see in the illustration below. A versatile part of the anatomy. Crafted by whoever crafts such things for many and contrary purposes. Imagine. If a goat did not have a neck, where would you cut it for meat? In the hind legs? Or if a swan did not have a neck how would Pablo Neruda – the same Neruda, you are right, first cousin to Derrida and Feluda and Prada – have discovered that swans do not sing just before they die? (Not that they sing at other times, those raucous, fierce birds.) If a giraffe didn’t have a neck, would we even call it a giraffe? Poor thing would look as pathetic as a frumpily dressed jenny ass on a bad hair day whose face had gone all pear-shaped. Frogs don’t have necks and look how they look. They have to be redeemed by princesses having to kiss them. And we all know the blunt truth about that one – princesses only kiss frogs in fairy tales, and fairy tales are what they are. Wonder where princesses kiss frogs, though, even in them fairy tales, frogs have no lips either.

Lo! Yeh kahan aa gaye hum? But this is what happens in Mahadeb’s absence. It is so distracting – this no being there of Mahadeb – that we begin to digress. We were on the neck and we have seamlessly travelled to the lips. Not done, although it is a certain kind of practice, travelling from the neck to the lips. Some folks do that and think nothing of it. Some folks think it’s bad enough you got to the neck in the first place. God knows what you may have done next.

I mean do you not know when the Chhatrapati went to make his assignation with the Khan all those years ago somewhere in the plateaux? It was meant to be a hug – a galey milna – but the Chhatrapati wore knuckles tipped with blades and when he stepped up took the Khan in embrace, he dug those concealed blades into the Khan’s back and bled him so deep he fell dead. Iconic treachery. Some even call that brilliant tactics. But anyhow. Whatever. Alarming things can happen with this galey milna custom.

No wonder people are often wary, and afraid. Even those who have made galey milna the leit motif of their manner are sometimes wary and afraid. They’d hug at the drop of a hat or whatever else it is that can drop. But they will not be hugged. And when the hug drops on them, they recoil, like birdshit had taken them unawares. They complain. They begin to step back at the sight of a human approaching, they make barricades of extended hands. Beware! HugBug alert!! Run!!! Kahin galey naa pad jaaye! And what if in the process of necking me, he gets the real measure of the proclaimed size of my chest? God forbid. So you see, the neck and the sheer fright of getting necked. What is it that they say when you get it really bad? Do they not say you got it in the neck?

I am applying in triplicate what the heck

It’s before you for your perusal

What I want is only and no more than your neck

On which lies tattooed No Refusal.

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