Anarkali At My Window

BFCA646E-31A4-47A9-AB75-B961DD704B3ELockdown has certainly make us more observant and has given us new ways of looking at things. There is a pomegranate tree whose top I can see from my window—and considering I spend eight or nine hours working in that room, it is very central to my vision! It is currently flowering, abuzz with bees, and fruits have started forming.

I have always wondered why Anarkali*, the beauty who stole the to-be Emperor Jahangir’s heart and brought him to loggerheads with his father Emperor Akbar, was called so. Was the flower so beautiful that our most famous beauty was named for it? I never did think so.

Well, my recent close encounters with the tree and flowers have given me a greater appreciation of the beauty of the flower. Bright waxy orange blossoms which stand out against the green of the leaves, and a nice shape. And bees drawn to them by the dozens, as maybe men, young and old, were drawn to Anarkali (one version is that she was part of Akbar’s harem, and that rivalry between father and son for her favours was at the heart of the dispute).

But maybe more than just the beauty of the flowers, it is the associations that the ancient fruit has, that makes the pomegranate so much part of the imagination. It is one of the few fruits which is mentioned in the texts of many religions.

Starting from ancient Greek mythology–in the story of Persephone’s abduction by Hades, lord of the underworld, the pomegranate represents life, regeneration, and the permanence of marriage.The story is that one day while out gathering flowers, Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken down to his kingdom. By eating a few pomegranate seeds, Persephone tied herself to Hades.

Pomegranate is mentioned in the Vedas and is an important part of Ayurveda. It is a symbol of fertility and abundance, and one of the nine fruits offered to Goddess Durga.

In Buddhism too, it is significant. The Buddha received many valuable gifts from wealthy disciples. But it is said that a poor old woman’s gift of a small pomegranate was the one that delighted him most. It is also said that he once offered a pomegranate to the demon Hariti, which cured her of her alarming habit of eating children.

It finds a place in Zoroastrianism too. In Persian mythology, Isfandiyar eats a pomegranate and becomes invincible.

In Islam, the fruit is considered a symbol of harvests, wealth, and wellness. Legend has it that each pomegranate contains one seed that has come down from paradise. Along with olive, dates and figs, it is one of the four sacred fruits in Islam.

In Judaism, it is believed that each pomegranate has 613 seeds—one for each of the Bible’s Commandments. The Song of Solomon compares the veiled cheeks of a bride to the two halves of a pomegranate.

1A6133BD-4C41-49AA-BA38-4EED5DB8E6ADThe pomegranate is a symbol of resurrection and life everlasting in Christian art, and the pomegranate is often found in devotional statues and paintings of the Virgin and Child, as in Bottecelli’s ‘Madonna of the Pomegranate’ shown here.

I shall delight in the beauty of the pomegranate flowers for now. I shall try to get a few fruits before the parakeets get them all. And I shall let thoughts of all the health and prosperity they will bring me help me through the Lockdown!

–Meena

*Anar= Pomegranate. Kali= Flower

 

The Seven Signs of Aging. Or Learning from Unexpected Places

 

We aged when we aged. And our skin aged along with us. Thank God I was already in my fifties when ads started talking of the ‘seven signs of aging’, which they assured us had to be taken care of in our twenties! Scary if invaluable information! Whoever knew, before these ads?

In spite (or because?) of such life-changing information, ads are not a place where I look to learn from or improve my vocabulary. But a few weeks ago, I saw these large ads for a company which seems to focus on pomegranate-related products (that seems a pretty narrow specialization!). And I saw the word ‘aril’ splashed around. Truthfully, I had never heard this word before. Since the ads talked about jams and syrups and squashes, I thought ‘aril’ was some kind of a product made from the fruit, maybe an exotic kind of pastry.

When I looked up Merriam Webster, I found it defines aril as: ‘an exterior covering or appendage of some seeds (as of the yew) that develops after fertilization as an outgrowth from the ovule stalk.’ In other words, in the context of pomegranates, it seems it means those red pearls I have always called the seeds.

I decided then not to be so cynical, and to try to think of other things I had learnt or should learn from ads.

The business of KDM is surely one of those! Akshaya Tritiya (actually, this festival itself is one I learnt of from ads!!!) seems an appropriate day to share this learning!

In the thousands of jewellery ads we see around us, I have for a few years now, come across the term ‘KDM’ as a major boast and differentiator. Now, as a good Tam, I know about carats—basically that South Indian jewellery is more noble in that our gold is of higher carat! But that is where my knowledge stopped.

After the ‘aril’ experience, I tried to look up KDM (on the web of course). Most sites are very confusing, but at last I think I have it figured out with the help of this site: https://artofgold.in/what-do-hallmark-916-kdm-jewellery-mean/2015/5199, and I quote:

‘The basic process in jewellery crafting is soldering a myriad of intricate gold parts. Without soldering, there is hardly any jewel that can be done. Needless to say this solder should have a melting temperature lower than that of gold, so just the solder melts and joins gold pieces without affecting the gold parts. Earlier this solder was a combination of Gold & Copper. Though there was no particular ratio for this solder, generally it was about 60% gold + 40% copper. Since this alloy was very strong and also easy to make, it was widely used in jewellery making for a long time. But the downside to this solder is that, purity of the solder is only 60%. So when this jewel is melted, quality will be less than 22 carat. This is the reason your old jewels may carry a seal of 22/20 (20 carat represents the melting purity).

To overcome this problem and maintain a high standard of gold purity, cadmium began to be used in place of copper. The advantage being that unlike the traditional gold & copper solder, gold and cadmium can be mixed in a ratio of 92% + 8%. In other words the solder itself has a purity of 92%. This ensured the finesse of jewel remains constant regardless of the amount of solder used. Such jewellery using cadmium began to be widely known as KDM jewellery.

But shortly after the introduction of cadmium, it was banned by BIS as it was found to cause health issues for artisans working with it. After the ban, cadmium was replaced by advanced solders with Zinc and other metals. But the term “KDM” hung on and is still commonly used. So a KDM jewellery means it will have the same purity even when it is melted, as the solder itself has a purity of 92%.’

With my long forgotten Chemistry education, I could make sense of this! And truly educational it is.

Well, one lives and one learns. And most of all I learnt that one can learn unexpected things from unexpected places.

–Meena