‘Elementary’ knowledge

The other day I got a call from a person known to me and the very first sentence he blurted out was: “Doctor saheb,aag lag gaya”. I was totally confused as I did not have a clue as to what he was referring to. Is he talking about real fire somewhere,or about the booming Stock market,or about 20-20 cricket where some batsmen were really on fire or price of gold or some other commodity. It took me a while to understand that he was referring to the dramatic increase in price of a certain chemical I was interested in and made enquiries about only the previous day!

Come to think of it,don’t we often bring in the 5 elements of nature into our daily conversations? Elements of nature have all along dominated our lives and our thoughts too. There are numerous examples of colorful speech utilizing the powerful imagery of the elements. Here are a few examples that come to my mind readily: Fire is perhaps the most powerful symbol used in our speech for conveying many of our thoughts. It is used in the form of an adjective,noun as well as a verb. Like in ‘Fiery personality’, Fiery speech, ‘Fire-power’, ‘Fire-like character’ (in tamil we say,’avan neruuppattum’), ‘do not play with fire’, ‘markets on fire’, ‘getting fired from one’s job’, ‘Being fired by someone’ etc.
‘Water’ is also employed in our languages with very good effect – like in ‘watering down one’s efforts’, ‘pouring cold water into one’s enthusiasm’ or as in ‘do not throw the baby with the bath water’ etc.
Earth & sky of course are quite popular too, with all too familiar expressions like ‘what is the earthly use’ ‘coming down to earth’ , ‘Sky is the limit’, ‘Sky scrappers’ etc . The fifth element ‘Air’ is equally popular in common parlance. We often put on ‘airs’ and ‘air’ our views even as someone’s hopes are vanishing into thin ‘air’.
We refer to a person as being ‘in his elements’ when he stands out in his speech or behaviour. We also talk of knowledge being ‘elementary’ which is supposed to be very simple and most fundamental.
Is all this a reflection of our Hindu belief that human beings are after all a product of the 5 basic elements of nature?

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Published in: on June 30, 2009 at 4:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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