General ravings, Potshots

Dreadlock Visions during Lockdown

[or, Hair Today…Gone Tomorrow]

When the Union Government announced extension of the Covid-19 lockdown till 17th May, I felt a sharp prickling sensation in the back of my neck.

The prickling sensation wasn’t because of fear. It was a familiar and increasingly irritating reminder that my haircut is long overdue— and that now I’ll have to wait at least two weeks more to have one.  It’s a hair-raising prospect; especially because for the last 40 years, I have with clockwork regularity gone to the barber every 45 days for a “double fauji bina kanghee wale” job.

I do believe short hair lightens the pressure on the brain. Deliberately shorn hair also helps when my hairline is receding just about as fast as my intelligence and memory.

Anyway: with every passing lockdown day, what remains of my hair grows in about thirty-seven different directions at varying rates in five distinct shades of grey and white. I can’t do a damned thing about it, because barber shops have all been closed,  and ‘social distancing’ prevents me from seeking the amateur assistance of a friend who has volunteered to do the job with garden shears.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t mind enduring this minor discomfort—after all, overgrown hair is such a trivial issue when millions are undergoing such hardship  in these difficult times.

But I am chagrined that even as my hair runs riot and my face increasingly resembles that of a depressed and slightly deranged hedgehog, I see a large number of public personalities—political leaders, celebrity journalists and the like—appear with perfectly coiffured hair on TV and online screens every day.  In fact, these women and men look exactly as well-groomed as they did in December 2019!

Me
(L) Me; (R) Hedgehog (image courtesy medicine.net). Note: I apologize for any unintended hurt feelings, injured egos or ruffled quills that I may cause to hedgehogs by drawing this comparison.

It is obvious to me that these well-groomed public personalities are flouting social distancing norms! Their haircuts are just too good; they can’t be lawnmower jobs done by family or friends. I am convinced that these women and men are covertly availing the services of professional hairdressers, so that they can look suave and well-trimmed while the rest of us watch our own faces disappear under the overgrown undergrowth on our scalps.

Unfair?

Perhaps…but  I don’t grudge these fine women and men the privilege of getting their hair groomed while the rest of us can’t. After all,  they are respected and popular figures who are doing all they can to boost the morale of the Indian public in these trying times. Naturally, they must look their best.

Still, it’s tempting to know what these public figures might have actually looked like today, if they had not availed the services of hairdressers during the lockdown.

And so,  I’ve created projected images – crude, but hopefully indicative – of what a select few politicians and journalists would have looked like today WITHOUT their haircuts.  To create these projected images I’ve used the beta version of an Algorithmic Profile Projection software, code-named ‘Tonsure 101’, that is being developed for the Intelligence Bureau by the internationally derided Prof. Iqbal Taklu and his team under a shadowy India-USA security cooperation  project that is so secret that it does not find mention in any public or private records, and indeed may not even exist.

I plan to crowd-source bail bond funds in my next post.

Actual look                                               Projected image
Union Home Minister Amit Shah
Amit Shah, BJP M.P; Union Minister, Home

 

Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi, Congress M.P
Mamata Bannerjee
Mamata Bannerjee, West Bengal Chief Minister
Pinarayi Vijayan
Pinarayi Vijayan, CPI(M); Kerala Chief Minister
Uddhav Thackeray
Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena; Maharashtra Chief Minister
Shekhar Gupta
Shekhar Gupta; Editor-in-Chief, The Print
Arnab Goswami
Arnab Goswami; Editor-in-Chief, Republic TV

Jai Hind!

General ravings, Musings

Jhadoo-Pocha reflections

Jhadoo-Pocha Reflections

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

[Omar Khayyam]

I’ve always enjoyed doing jhadoo-pocha ; for the same reason I enjoy washing dishes, and scrubbing the bathrooms, and watering plants, and chopping vegetables and cooking and so on.

Jhadoo pocha helps me relax; reflect on things. Today, it helped me remember Omar’s lines.

Sure, jhadoo-pocha can be tough; especially when doing the two flights of stairs, 15 steps each (I live in a duplex). But even as the cervical and lumbar vertebrae perform painful calisthenics in counter-rhythm with the swishing jhadoo, even as the knees buckle and thigh muscles catch fire with every swipe of the pocha-cloth, I remind myself that during ‘normal’ (pre-lockdown) times, my help the incredible Meera does this task cheerfully and uncomplainingly seven days a week. Not just that: Meera dusts the entire flat, and sweeps and washes the terrace too thrice a week, and then she goes and does daily jhadoo- pocha and dusting in a friend’s flat as well, before returning to her own home where she, with her eldest daughter’s help, does jhadoo-pocha and dusting and also cooks and washes dishes and clothes and goes out shopping for supplies and generally does all that it takes to take care of a family of five including two school-going children.

Jhadoo-pocha teaches me humility. Like Covid-19 does.

It reminds me to count my blessings. It reminds me to look on the brighter side of things, and I do believe there’s always a brighter side to things. Even to this Covid-19 pandemic that’s keeping half the world indoors, 24/7, for a month and more.

Like: Covid-19 has at one stroke (or two coughs if you like) solved the climate change crisis. It has achieved what hasn’t been achieved by thirty years of global bickering and conferencing on how to combat climate change by cutting down on CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels like petrol, diesel, furnace oil and gas. Thanks to Covid-19, almost all transport and industry throughout the world has come to a standstill for a month or more. So, across the world, we’re burning much less fossil fuels than usual (as the IEA graphic shows).

IEA impact of Covid19

And so, even while contemplating the possible extinction of a sizeable proportion of humanity because of Covid-19, I offer a respectful namaskaaram to the little virus for saving all Life on Earth from the devastation that might have been caused by human-induced climate change.

Of course, solving the climate change crisis will bring its own consequences. Like possible job losses to all those whose careers depend on the climate change crisis continuing to remain a crisis because of human stupidity and arrogance, so that they can research and reason and advise and argue and advocate and ideate and implement innovative ideas to avert the energy and climate change and resources crises on an ongoing basis.

People like me!

horror

I write part-time for a research institute that’s working on things like technologies to improve energy efficiency in industry, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve natural resources. This writing earns me enough so that I can spend time writing what I really like most to write—crap like this—which earns me nothing at all.

So what does the future hold for me, and others like me, if climate change is suddenly no longer a big issue?

What will wildlife conservationists do if threatened species suddenly emerge from where they’ve been hiding fearfully all these decades, and frolic and cavort and thrive as they’ve started to do, thanks to Covid-19 locking up humans indoors and thereby cleansing the air and the land and forests and lakes and rivers and seas of noise and foul emissions and toxic effluents?

What will economists do if there are no discernible economies left to misdirect? What will teachers do if all kids learn what they want to learn online? How will advertisers and marketers avert starvation when no-one’s buying anything anymore because no-one’s making anything anymore and no-one’s got the money anyway?

What will become of the politicians, the religious kooks, the war-mongers, the committed journalists, and all the countless others who survive and prosper by turning human against fellow human by sowing seeds of deceit and suspicion and envy and hatred, watch the ensuing chaos, carnage and mayhem… and then, when the bloodlust is temporarily sated and the mobs vanish into guilt-ridden silence and the raging fires settle, move out cautiously to peck over the remains like buzzards over battlefield carrion, seeking glowing embers of anger and grief that they can use as seed for future anarchy? How will all these men and women survive when the common people realize – as they already are – that we are all united and equally frail, equally vulnerable before Covid-19 the Great Leveller?

Thoughts like these fill me with foreboding…and also a mad exultation.

For 5000 years, we humans in our vanity have believed that the Great Universal Creator (peace be upon the many piece-meal names we have given It) created humans to rule Earth.

Well…Covid-19 reminds us we’ve been a tad arrogant. Viruses don’t have grandiose pretensions like we do. From a virus’ point of view, the Great Universal Creator created humans only to enable the virus to make more little viruses.

That’s all that the virus wants to do. Procreate.

From our myopic viewpoint, the virus’ way of procreating may not seem anywhere close to as much fun as our way of procreating can be for us. But then, who are WE to judge? For all we know, those little viruses are in realms of absolute ecstasy as they take control of our cells and multiply.

And what of the future?

As far as we can tell, viruses don’t think too much about the future. Indeed, the only goal of a virus seems to be to simply BE.

Curiously, learning to simply BE is also the ultimate goal of spiritual seekers among humankind.

Perhaps there’s a lesson hiding in there…

General ravings, Potshots

Lamps of Thanksgiving

Last night I had a terrible dream.

I dreamed that India was facing a pandemic from the Covid-19 virus—which was bad enough—but instead of the Modi-led NDA government, India was governed by the Congress/Communist-led UPA government.

In my dream I was at a press briefing by Mr Shashi Tharoor, Union Minister for Health, Information & Broadcasting.  Mr Tharoor was replying, in his characteristic cultured and mellifluous tones, to a question on the role of Tabhligi Jamaat in increasing the spread of the virus across India:

“May I, in the simplest possible words, categorically defenestrate the diabolical diatribes of disinformation, the extraordinarily elliptical propositions, indeed the abominable and abhorrent agglomeration of synchronized ad hominem assaults by a regrettably vociferous section of our public who hilariously profess that they alone represent the descendants of those doubtful ancestors who built the great cities of Harappa and Lothal on the Western Plains, that a certain esoteric ecumenical congregation in the Nizamuddin area of the Capital known as Tabhligi Jamaat have, in furtherance of what is after all only their honest and benign desideration to practice and observe their faith, sown and spread far the seed of the pestilence that we know as Covid-19; I say fie on these craven, communal and cavilling critics, these illiberal worthies of inchoate intellect; to them do I murmur: Factum fieri infectum non potest”.

It took a large pot of strong, haldi-laced tea and a filter-load of black coffee to replace the feverish trembling of my limbs with calming, caffeine-induced tremors of my whole body.

I don’t know about you, O most worthy Reader, but tonight I shall respond to Prime Minister Modi’s call and light two lamps on my balcony at precisely 9 p.m. I’m a little flexible on letting them blaze for precisely 9 minutes; because my lamps are LED lamps made in China, so by leaving them on for an hour I’m neither going to cause any problems to the power grid not add any additional environmental impact to that already caused by the manufacture of these lamps.

I bought my Chinese lamps from a kid at a traffic signal; his smile was a blessing that no amount of fervent prayers at any shrine, religious or political, can bring.

I’m lighting these lamps as a Pratinandana or ‘Thanksgiving’.  Like on the evening of March 22nd , when I stood – well, strode up and down – on the balcony beating away at a metal pan and a Turkish drum.

Like on that day, tonight my Pratinandana will be for nurses, doctors, ward boys, municipal sweepers, drain cleaners, garbage collectors, micro vendors of fruit and vegetables, rickshaw-wallahs, thela-wallahs, head-load workers, truck drivers, police constables, watchmen…. for little kids forced to sell Chinese lamps at traffic signals…for all the countless, forgotten millions whom we see but do not recognize, encounter but do not meet, who live their invisible lives and slave at endless, thankless jobs that ensure that you and I are healthy and secure and  well-fed and sheltered and strong enough so that we can all make careers out of criticizing the Politicians, the Government, the System, the Establishment, the Bureaucracy,  and a thousand other ‘Others’ and ‘Thems’ for not making our beloved India a better place to live in for these very countless millions.

But I shall also offer a fervent thanksgiving prayer to all Gods and Prophets  –  secular, communal and communist – for saving us from  what I believe would have been a fate even worse than a Covid-19 pneumonia: namely, if instead of the Modi-led NDA, India had been governed by the Congress/Communist-led UPA government.

Oh, just to clarify:  I’m not making any political statement by lighting made-in-China lamps. Unlike a large section of our populace (unhappily, most of them highly-educated urban illiterates), I neither believe that China has created Covid-19 to murder off most of the world’s people, nor do I believe that Covid-19 and other viruses are created wearing little molecular-sized kufi caps or vibhuti marks on their heads, or for that matter waving tiny nano-sized red flags and yelling revolutionary slogans.

Sure, lighting these lamps is symbolic. I think symbolism is good.

I believe symbolism is one of the things that distinguish the human from the bacteria and the virus.

Jai Hind.

 

 

Musings

Coronas – Stellar and Earthly

This was meant to be about the significance of corona viruses in our scheme of things and the insignificance of us in the Universe’s scheme of things.

Well, maybe the next time…

Right now I’m still a little high from viewing the skies at sunset three evenings in a row from my terrace. Here are a few photos: all I can think of now are the words of Georges Lemaitre (1894–1966): Catholic priest, mathematician, physicist, the cosmologist who first proposed the theory of an expanding Universe which has come to be called ‘Big Bang’ …

The evolution of the world can be compared to a display of fireworks that has just ended: some few red wisps, ashes and smoke. Standing on a wellchilled cinder, we see the slow fading of the suns, and we try to recall the vanished brilliance of the origin of worlds…

1a23a546

General ravings, Musings, Potshots

Corona Virus, Evolution and Revolution

However much we dread the Corona Virus, we cannot mask ourselves against the truth that the virus reflects the spirit of true Indian Secularism in the way it infects all people irrespective of their race, religious belief, caste or class.

Covid-19 might not be good for one’s constitution, but in its own humble way it respects the Indian Constitution. It shows us that we are all truly One.

Which, for no apparent reason, brings us to the question: how can one teach Evolution to Indian schoolchildren?

Now, you might think the answer’s simple. You might answer as follows:

“Just write up – or better still and in true Indian tradition, plagiarize—a simple summary of Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’; enrich Darwin’s ideas with Gregor Mendel’s insights into inheritance of characteristics; lead on to Erwin Schrodinger’s insights into the molecules that must make up life, and explain how his ideas and the work of Oswald Avery, Linus Pauling and others inspired the discovery of DNA’s structure by Rosalind Franklin, Francis Crick and James Watson…sparking off a vast amount of research and expansion in our knowledge of how all life on Earth is linked, so that we know today that all humans are descended from the same ancestral mother who lived somewhere in the African continent.”

Of course your answer is correct, O learned reader. Alas, translating your answer into action is not simple, because nothing’s simple in India. It’s especially hard to introduce the flavours of Truth and Rationality, seasoned with Scientific Temper and Honesty and laced with a few dashes of Fun and Adventure, into the horrifying tasteless khichdi that masquerades as our Education Policy.

Consider, gentle reader, two of the simple statements just made up there somewhere:

  1. All life on Earth is linked.
  2. All humans are descended from the same ancestral mother who lived somewhere in the African continent.

Now, imagine that we propose to set out these statements as the Learning Outcomes of the chapter on ‘Evolution’ in the NCERT textbook for, say, Class 10. Assuming further that we are not lynched on the spot by an all-party delegation of MPs and MLAs, these are the kinds of responses we might expect from two of our political parties, the BJP and the CPI(M):

BJP: It is quite correct to state that all life on Earth is linked. But our textbooks must also emphasize that these so-called discoveries of Evolution by these Darwins and Sharwins, Watsons and Whatnots, were actually made 11000 years ago by our Vedic ancestors who summarized their insights into the concept of ‘vasudaiva kutumbakam’ – One Great Family. We must also mention that Indians ruled the entire Earth in ancient times, for which evidence is everywhere to see, in our ancient epics as well as in today’s world. For example, Argentina derives its name from Arjun-Sthaan, clearly evidencing that Arjuna, the great warrior of Mahabharata, had visited this South American region in his search for divine weapons…

CPI(M): In very simple words, we see this attempt to introduce Evolution into our school curriculum as nothing but another manifestation of Brahmanical Hegemony masquerading as pseudo-rationalism to preserve and strengthen the existing class-hierarchical model of social exploitation ; a diabolic and communal attempt by bigoted Hindutva-worshipping self-styled scholars to saffronize our school curriculum and brainwash young and innocent minds into believing the despicable lie that all Indians are equal—thereby denying the hundreds of millions of underprivileged Backward Castes, Minorities, Dalits, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women and other oppressed communities their just rights for reservation of jobs, educational quotas, subsidies and other forms of affirmative action under the various reservation policies. We will oppose this Hindutva proposal tooth and nail; we shall leave no stone unturned or Molotov cocktail unflung in our peaceful street marches calling for Revolution against Evolution…