No, I haven’t conveniently forgotten about this one. But before one wanders off into insignificant incidents from one’s childhood, let us jump into the topic at hand.
Jackfruit fell, Rabbit died
Meaning – Definition of the word ‘fluke’. Equates the unlikelihood of a happened event happening again to the rarity of a jackfruit falling on a rabbit, and it dying in the process. This one is fundamentally a life lesson.
Usage (as taught by the grandfather) – When you score a spectacular goal in school, dribbling the ball past 4 defenders before chipping it over the goalkeeper with the left foot, well, its likely to be a classic case of a jackfruit murdering a rabbit by falling on it. Never to happen again.
Origins – We have to examine, re-examine and counter-examine the proverb to realize its true significance. So a jackfruit fell on a rabbit and it died (instantaneously, one presumes). What’s the big deal about that, I hear the gentlemen in the back row asking. Patience, gentlemen in the back row! I pose 3 questions back at you.
1. Why a jackfruit? Why not a coconut?
A coconut is infinitely more accessible to the Mallu man. When the author of this proverb, let us call him Ramakrishnan, sat down after a hearty lunch in the easy chair outside his house and considered coining a random proverb to perplex the coming generations, odds are that he was looking directly at a coconut and not at a jackfruit. So why make the plump, comfy fruit the protagonist?
2. Why a rabbit? Why not a hen?
On a similar note, from his vantage location in the easy chair, Ramakrishnan was likely to have seen several clucking hens running about in the afternoon sunlight. And it was extremely unlikely that a rabbit was in the vicinity at all. So why kill the harmless herbivore with his proverbial jackfruit, instead of squashing one of those irritating cluckers?
3. Why death? Why not a concussion?
The most crucial question of them all. Proverbs are meant to tickle and to provoke thought. It often involves silly accidents and minor injuries, but death? Quite uncharacteristic and interesting.
Much thought has been put to these questions by generations of linguists, bored officeworkers and veteran artificial inseminators (Why them you ask? Quite elementary. These gentlemen would much rather think of anything other than artificial insemination, while they perform that arduous task. Which means veteran artificial inseminators have thought of everything under the sun. Which means they have thought of this as well. And no, I’m not a veteran artificial inseminator).
Even after all this thought, a solution which provides satisfactory replies to all 3 questions have not been discovered. Which is why we have to turn to the master himself, to Sherlock Holmes.
I posed these questions to the aforementioned Holmes and he replied with those famous words, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Profound! And thus I thought about the improbable and yes, that had to be the solution. Ramakrishnan, from his easy chair, must have actually seen a jackfruit fall on a rabbit and the subsequent death of the poor fellow.
Holmes’ words give us a very strong platform from which to analyze proverbs – The verbatim is often the truth. The same treatment when meted out to a few other juicy words of wisdom, gives us quite satisfactory results. Let us proceed.
Flower Garland in a monkey’s hand
Meaning – A monkey is as likely to inspect a garland of flowers and return it in the original, virginal condition as Andrew Symonds is to get on the wagon and drink only milk for the rest of his life.
Usage (as taught by the girlfriend) – When you go with a clumsy oaf to a fancy store to buy gifts for a common friend, do not allow the said oaf to handle expensive (but highly fragile) items from the display cases with his clumsy oafy hands. A shattering noise and an empty purse would be the certain result of this monkey-hand-flower-garland business.
Origins – Before we holmesify this proverb, one has to state the very probable fact that this one was coined by a girl. This is the case since a girl is infinitely more likely to be found in proximity to fragile, flimsy substances like garlands. But where does the monkey come in? One has to stretch the factual nature of this proverb a bit I suppose, since the ‘monkey’ in question might not be the animal at all, but a person whom the girl happened to call a monkey.
Imagine the hero of a Malayalam (any South Indian, for that matter) movie. He’ll be Big (political correctness lures me away from the 3 letter word starting with ‘F’), with a thick moustache and strong arms. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the image of the man every girl wanted to hook up with, in ancient South India. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case nowadays as 83% of Chennai women (a sample of South Indian women, if you will) have said they prefer kissing clean-shaven men!
Right ladies, let us continue on without our brothers who have gone off to shave. When our heroine who coined the proverb and her strong boyfriend went to the temple in the early hours of the morning (favourite hang-out spot in those days), and she gave him the garland to hold while she undid the complex clasp of her slipper, he most definitely and unintentionally squeezed those poor flowers to an early death, with his thick, muscular hands. The poor man’s moustache must have drooped significantly at the verbal barrage that followed which surely had our proverb nestled inside.
The rabbit I caught had 3 horns
Meaning – One is always inclined to give some extra points to one’s own arguments. So my rabbit is always going to be more important to me in the grander scheme of the Universe, than your rabbit. Even though they are essentially the same rabbits and the Universe would hardly bat an eyelid at either of them. Even if they had horns.
Usage (as taught by the b-school) – We all catch more or less similar rabbits. But if you present your rabbit as a rabbit with 3 horns to an eager professor and a sleepy TA (teaching assistant), your rabbit will be recognized as special. This is known as differentiation.
Origins – Totally bizarre, as rabbits have ears and not horns to begin with. Or do they? Those abnormally long contraptions could well be horns after all – it is rather daft having such long ears don’t you think? They don’t serve any purpose. In any case, this is almost certainly a proverb coined by a drunk moustachioed fellow after he caught hold of a rabbit skulking in a bush.
He must have shouted, “Look, this rabbit has 3 horns!”, and passersby must have wondered at the phenomenon, not moving any closer to inspect (the only person who moves closer to inspect a drunk moustachioed fellow in a lungi would be the drunk moustachioed fellow’s wife). Naturally, the rumour must have spread like wildfire that there was indeed a rabbit with 3 horns! While in reality, what our drunk friend must have found in the bush (why was he in the bush, incidentally? Never mind, it is not within our purview to justify the behaviour of drunk, moustachioed men) was probably a coconut with its husk on and three narrow horny appendages on top (WOW! Possible new religion idea? Like his noodly appendages?). Something like this maybe –
Which brings us to…
Coconut fell on the crying dog’s head
Meaning – If you ever feel that life has bowled you a wrong ‘un and that there’s no hope left, chances are that life will immediately proceed to bowl a doosra and catch you offguard.
Usage (as taught by the Airtel woman) – The day you realize that your credit card bill is 5 days overdue and well into the interest-ing zone is always the day when the Airtel woman calls up and tells you about the fascinating credit options on your unpaid mobile bill with guilt-edged interest payments. The dog and the coconut are quite obvious in the example.
Origins – Let us begin with your friendly neighbourhood coconut tree climber, Johnykutty. When Johnykutty climbs a tree at mid-day with the sun beating down on his head, he has no other thought but to finish the job as soon as possible and rush to the nearby toddy shop for a couple of glasses of the finest followed by an afternoon siesta by the roadside. Thus, it is perfectly justified that Johnykutty does not look down to check for passing dogs when he drops down those heavy coconut bunches. Clearly a dog, let us call him Isaac, had had a tiff with his canine companion that day (the day of the proverb) and was in a bad mood. Isaac, when bawling his heart out under the coconut tree had no way of knowing that Johnykutty was about to drop a coconut right on top of his head. Fate and gravity often works in mysterious ways.
Four proverbs holmesified is enough for a lifetime. Here’s wishing that these proverbs would guide our lives with their substantial wisdom and shall live forever, passed down from generation to generation!