On the day of retirement, the retired person often receives some gifts from friends and relatives. I received a digital weighing machine on my retirement day from a relative. I was given it to check my weight, which needed to be kept under control, with regular walks and diet control, for good health post retirement.
This digital machine, I could not help thinking, had replaced the old manual weighing scales of olden days, called “Tarazoo”. The tarazoo was a balance with two equidistant pans hung from a beam with a fulcrum in the middle. The material to be weighed was placed in one pan and the weights were placed in the other pan. The beam was held at the centre by hand and the weights added till the weighing pointer stood straight.
The units of weight used were interesting. The main unit was called a kharwar. Khar means an ass in Kashmiri and a kharwar was equal to the weight which an ass could carry on its back; this load was thus called an ass’s load. The kharwar was then abbreviated to Khar in Kashmiri, which was the standard reference weight in Kashmir till the metric system was adopted. The trak, seer, manwat, paw, chatang and sirsai were the other units commonly used in Kashmir. With the coming of mechanical and digital balances in the market, the old manual tarazoo became outdated.
The tarazoo was generally kept by grocers and galla daars who sold food grains and cereals. A tarazdar weighed the commodities by holding the beam in one hand and putting the commodities and the weights in the two pans separately till the beam became steady in vertical direction.
Doubts were often raised on the integrity of the tarazdar who was blamed of under weighing and cheating the customers. It was alleged that he skipped the numerical count of weights in between while saying one one, two two, etc. The other allegation was that he would divert the attention of the custromer from the tarazoo by narrating interesting stories and jokes which made the customer burst into laughter and in the meanwhile the tarazdar would press the beam with the palm of his hand to force it to look straight. This was called “dandi marna”. This reduced the quantity of grains given to the customer. Once, when a customer asked the tarazdar to continue with more jokes and stories, the tarazdar declined, saying that if he did so, the customer would have to go home with very less quantity due to his “dandi marna” trick.
A balance is not only a weighing machine but is very much a part of our life. Besides being used in laboratories and industries, balances or scales have found their way in almost every activity of our life, including kitchens. It is also an indicator of our progress and development. Digital balances of various models are now extensively used for a variety of reasons, replacing the old tarazoo.
By its very construction and make, a balance represents evenness, equality, steadiness and the quality of standing upright. It has, as such, an honourable place and symbolism in society. We often say that the scales of justice must be even, so the balance has come to be a symbol of our justice delivery system and an emblem of justice.
The balance and the weights can’t be separated. Weight is generally known as the gravitational force of attraction and is, therefore, different on different planets. Once when I checked my body weight at the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium in Bengaluru, I was surprised to find that I had weighed myself on 9 planets of the solar system and had nine 9 different weights. Later I came to know that the weight of an object on any planet can be obtained by multiplying its weight on earth with a multiplying factor as given below:
1. Earth = 1
2. Mercury = 0.38
3. Venus = 0.91
4. Mars = 0.38
5. Jupiter = 2.34
6. Saturn = 1.06
7. Uranus = 0.92
8. Neptune = 1.19
9. Plato = 0.06
Balance has different connotations in a host of subjects. The balance of power is the best guarantor of world peace. This concept of balancing of power has given rise to armaments race between nations also.
In financial parlance, balancing of accounts is the primary task of bankers, chartered accountants, and in all sorts of cash transactions. All the depositors must know their cash balance in the bank and there has to be check and balance in all our dealings in life. Balance shows stability and the lack of it means instability. We also must have balancing of load in our power grid stations. Then there is the ecological balance so necessary for our very survival on earth. Our solar system depends on the balancing of forces of different planets and their movement.
However, balance of power ensures lasting peace in the world. Imbalance of power is the root cause of conflicts between nations. When two nations are equally matched, they will avoid attacking each other. If the scales of power are tilted in favour of one of them, that nation will be tempted to attack the less powerful nation. Otherwise also, it is generally known that in this world it is only the fittest that survive.
The hegemony of the haves over the have-nots, of the majority over the minority, and developed over the underdeveloped, results in mass exploitation. This gave rise to the colonial system and continues in the violation of human rights across the world. Let us hope for a balanced world order based on justice, equality, friendly relations, peace and progress.
Albert Einstein has rightly said: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
—The writer is a retired telecom engineer