Quake is a great leveler
The Hindi word bhookump
conveys the violence and horror of what actually takes place better than
the Urdu bhoochaal or zalzalaa (tremor), or the English
earthquake. Recently, we were given a taste of such a bhookump which,
within a few minutes, took a toll of over 40,000 human lives and
destroyed thousands of homes.
What causes earthquake is
disputed between scientists and theologians. Scientists believe they are
caused by movement of subterranean plates to which some regions are more
susceptible than others. What impels them to move, they have not yet
been able to discover. They are doing their best to find out.
On the contrary,
theologians ascribe national disasters to the will of the Almighty. They
do not know what precisely provokes His anger, or refuse to disclose it
to non-believers. However, without meaning to blaspheme, we have a right
to ask them on what basis do they ascribe Allah merciful and
He took so many lives,
almost all of them Muslims, old and young, men, women and children;
pious, god-fearing and good as well as thieves, robbers and rapists —
without distinction. Without being offended by our audacity to question
your beliefs, please tell us in very simple language why Allah punishes
the just and the unjust without discrimination?
occurrence of certain natural disasters to human folly: global warming
has been caused by excessive emission of smoke by coal and gases, which
in turn have melted our polar region as well as icebergs and glaciers.
These, combined with deforestation, cause floods in rivers and a rise in
the ocean levels, which submerge many islands and huge tracts of
inhabited land. These we can prevent if we have the will. Whether or not
we can prevent typhoons and tornados is uncertain.
Even earthquakes for which
we are not responsible or have prior knowledge of when or where they
will occur can be made less destructive. We can erect quake-proof
habitations, and after quakes have done their damage, assure speedy
succour in the form of tents, blankets, medicines, food and drinking
water. Needless to say all this should be done regardless of the
nationality or the religion of the victims. God, if there is one,
manifests Himself in the goodness there is in all human beings.
Till 10 years ago, most
Indian publishers of art books had to send colour photographs and
paintings to Singapore or Hong Kong to be processed. The Chinese knew
how to reproduce them, we did not. Now, just about every other Indian
city has printing presses of the latest kind and craftspersons who can
do as good a job as anyone in the world.
I came to that conclusion
after turning over the pages of Sahyadris: India’s Western Ghats — A
Vanishing Heritage with spectacular pictures of the flora, fauna, and
people inhabiting the Western Ghats. It is produced jointly by two
US-based academics, Sandesh Kudur and Kamal Bawa. The book is printed in
The Sahyadris extend along
our western coast from just below Mumbai down to the southern-most tip
of Kerala. It is a densely forested, mountainous country with a few
peaks rising to 2000 metres. It receives heavy rainfall during the
summer monsoon. This keeps its four principal rivers — Godavari,
Krishna, Cauvery and Tungabhadra — and hundreds of smaller streams
flowing eastwards, and watering the Deccan Plateau before emptying
themselves into the Bay of Bengal.
This mountain range is
home to a baffling variety of animals, snakes, frogs, birds, monkeys,
squirrels, butterflies, elephants, tigers leopards, deer as well as
ferns and fungi, not found elsewhere. Like other nature’s treasure
houses, the Sahyadris are being despoiled by senseless encroachment in
the name of development with roads, dams, mines etc. The book gives
timely warning about the consequences of reckless fouling of the environment.
I am equally devoted to
Indian and European classical music. I have very little understanding of
either. I cannot tell one raga from the other, or tell who were the
composers of western music I hear on my satellite radio: Bach,
Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Sibelius, Rossini or
Vivaldi. Nevertheless, I enjoy listening to all of them.
One day it occurred to me
that we Indians do not have orchestras of the kind Europeans have. And
somehow, our respective musics had echoes of our different national
characteristics. Let me elucidate.
Indian instrumental music
has rarely more than six performers. There is one maestro playing a
sitar, sarod, sarangi, veena, violin or flute. Accompanying him or her
is a tabla player. Often there is the drone of tanpura in the
background. If it is vocal, there will be one or two singers with a
harmonium or violin and a tabalchi. If it is a solo performance, the
singer or instrumentalist, the tabla player keeps pace with them.
Jugalbandi is as much a duet as a duel between them, a kind of friendly
rivalry to get equal or outdo the other.
That is not so in the
western classicals. Although they also have chamber music with a piano,
violin or cello, their orchestras often have up to 50 players, a
baffling variety of instruments, including grand pianos, strings of
violinists, cello players, clarinets, French horns, oboes, drums,
cymbals and other instruments whose names I do not know. They have music
scores in front of them to guide them and a conductor with a baton to
oversee that everyone in the orchestra plays his or her part as a member
of one team. The better the team, the better its performance.
I further noticed that the
only non-White race to excel in performing western classical music are
the Japanese: the Tokyo Philarmonic is acknowledged among the best in
the world. The Japanese know how to submerge their individualities to
better the performance of their team. This is the primary reason of
their success as an industrial nation as well.
Am I right in my surmise
or talking through my turban?
Before and after
Question: What has the UPA
come to mean lately?
Answer: Under pressure of
Banta: I’ll marry a girl
who will behave like a ‘sweetheart’ and ‘wife’.
Santa: "What you need
is a mid-wife."
Papa: Which is farther
away — Nepal or the moon?
Son: Because we can see
the moon from here, but we can’t see Nepal.
Courtesy: J.P. Singh