After months of assidiously avoiding any and all references to Aishwarya Rai on the blogosphere, I was finally tricked into reading the latest about the Rai Bacchanalia by this post over at Amardeep's (is nowhere safe). Apparently, Ms. Rai, demonstrating a marked inability to tell wood from the trees has been going around betrothing herself to the local flora . The Ent in me is horrified. Inflicting cruelty on movie star's sons is one thing, torturing genuine life forms is something else. Trees may not be able to talk, but they aren't dumb, you know .
Resisting the urge to make jokes about how trees are peepul too, or to conjure up visions of Ms. Rai and a tree running around Mr. Bacchan, or to point out that with her thespian talents and his personality the happy couple will probably be breeding dining tables before they've been married a year ("Darling, I think it's time we talked about having a second sofa, don't you?"), let me say only that I'm intrigued by the particularly unflattering view of the Fates that this bizarre practice (which I, obviously, had never heard of before) seems to imply. I mean think about it. There's this dread and awesome force that governs the universe, turns the planets in their courses, scatters the stars like so many pistachio shells, and yet apparently it can't tell the difference between a man and a tree. Here's the fate that governs all things and not only does it fall for the first trick in the book, but (given that this is apparently a traditional rite) continues to do so time and time again, for centuries. Not very bright, this evil fate.
It makes you wonder how gullible the forces of the supernatural really are. Will they believe just about anything? Can you fob Death off by telling him "My soul's in the mail". Can you avert the watery grave by saying "Don't call me - I'll call you". If disaster stares you in the face, does it help to shout "Look! Behind you!" Is dodging misfortune as simple as giving it a fake e-mail address?
Is this why the Gods get happy when you offer them prasaad, and don't notice that two minutes later you're snacking away on it yourself? Is this why one tiny black mark, easily washed away with diluted soap solution is enough to ensure that malign forces don't notice how beautiful the baby is? Who would have thought it? The Evil Eye - with perspicacity of Lois Lane.
Personally, I think we don't use trees as proxies anywhere near enough. Think about the possibilities. Don't want your son to wreck your car when he's learning to drive? Get him to practice on a tree instead (oh wait, is that why traffic in Delhi is the way it is?). Hate having to break in a new secretary? Install a shy little cedar outside your office and bawl it out when it doesn't take dictation properly. Want to invade a country but are worried what people will say when thousands of your soldiers get killed and there's no end in sight? Just plant a bunch of trees in the desert and when they wither away for lack of water describe it as an "intelligence failure". And why bother with stem cell research when you can make path breaking medical discoveries with saplings?
Me, I'm off to ask that thornless honey locust outside the library if he's willing to be my advisor.
 Okay, okay, I realise I'm probably the last person on the planet to learn of this.
 I have to say that being married to a family of trees would probably be fascinating:
"No, no, this box really is a family heirloom. That's no ordinary sandalwood, it's Shankar Mama"
"Packed? Why, of course my trunk is packed."
"That's my cousin Percy. He's, you know, that way. I mean, he's into wood peckers."
"Don't be silly, Marge, of course she's not a natural blonde"
"So he says to me, 'Take a bough' and I say..."
"The trouble with this younger generation is that they've lost touch with their roots"
"I don't like that Harold much. Nasty, sly, deciduous kind of creature he is."
"No, no, I've put that all behind me now. I'm turning over 12,689 new leaves."
"Yes, that's right. We're all so proud. It's a real feather in his nest"
"'You're my prisoner now, Captain' said Long John Silver Tree, 'and begads you'll be planking the walk before the day is through'".