The earthquake today in Delhi reminded of the happenings in Japan a few months ago. And as I write I am reminded of others in Latur, Bhuj, Haiti and many decades back in Quetta (of which I have only heard).
Time of the earthquake today: a few minutes ago at 11: 24 pm
As I drove up the twisting roads to Shimla in the foothills of the Himalayas on 11th March I learnt of the severe earthquake and the tsunami in Japan. I also learnt of a relative who was in Japan to attend business meetings. It was two hours to sunset and my aim was to reach the Shimla before darkness fell. I didn’t want to drive uphill on the mountain roads in the dark. I drove with only a 5 minute break for a Limca and reached the hotel as the sun slipped behind the hills.
Over breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant the next morning I watched the news on BBC World. I learnt of a rumoured nuclear leak from a power plant about 150 km from Tokyo. I SMSed my relative stuck in Tokyo so he’d redouble his efforts to get out. Unaware of the electricity situation and to help conserve the battery of his cell phone I didn’t call. The delivery report of the SMS was enough.
On the Ridge in Shimla children enjoyed joyrides on horses, people licked ice-cream and had their photos clicked with the Church in the background.
As I climbed up the steep slope to Jakhu temple, in faraway Japan, the threat of a nuclear disaster loomed big upon the small nation struck by the earthquake-tsunami. I looked at the scenic Himalayas and wondered if they were rumbling inside. The Himalayas are in a highly seismic zone being one of the youngest mountain ranges. The thought refused to bother me.
I climbed up the steep slope calmly huffing and puffing while the monkeys pranced lightly on the trees. I felt tranquil and the monkeys didn’t appear to be threatened by the Himalayas, either. I wondered how the situation could change in a flash and devastation engulf us. Yet, I just enjoyed the invigorating mountain air which brushed my cheeks, ruffled my hair and rustled in my ears.
Meanwhile, thousands of kilometres away in the Fukushima nuclear plant 200 operators stayed behind to mitigate the effect of the nuclear disaster. With clothes probably seethed with radiation their last ditch frantic efforts are for the benefit of not one person but for all the people who might be affected by the nuclear radiation. Maybe they hum, under their breath, Everything I do, I do it for you.
The ‘Fukushima 50‘ are the living embodiment of the Bryan Adams’ song, Everything I do, I do it for you. The answer to the question, Who’d be affected by radiation, is blowin’ in the wind. The direction in which the wind blows would decide that. As BobDylan sang, ‘the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.’
There are others like the ‘Fukushima 50.’ Here is what my relative told us upon his return.
The earthquake struck while the visitng team from India was in a meeting with a Japanese firm. Initially taken lightly, the smiles turned to fear and then to resignation when the earth didn’t stop shaking for a few minutes. The meeting resumed 45 minutes after the earthquake and ended sooner than planned. The drive to the hotel took 3 hours instead of the usual 35 minutes because of the heavy traffic. They were driven by a senior official of the Japanese firm they’d been meeting. Even though he had no information about the whereabouts of his wife and daughter the Japanese official felt it his duty to first drop the visitors safely at the hotel before looking for his family. The night in the hotel was spent in the lobby. Nobody wanted to sleep in rooms many floors above the ground. The hotel staff provided blankets, tea, coffee and dinner. The next task was to get to the airport. An Indian, a business associate, who’d been in Japan for 40 years, took it upon himself to see them off safely. He arranged taxis and didn’t leave till the boarding passes were in their hands.
Last Tuesday my cellphone rang late at night. My nephew had just exited the concert by Bryan Adams in Bangalore and wanted to tell me all about it.As I listened to him I was transported back to the Bruce Springsteen concert in Delhi in 1988. My friend, his little brother and I had gone to the JLN stadium in New Delhi for that concert. His father had driven us in his old car that we had parked in a side lane some way from the stadium. There were many performers. Tracy Chapman, Peter Gabriel, Sting and Bruce Springsteen at the end.
My friend had fallen asleep by the time Bruce Springsteen came on stage. I had to wake him up. We stood up, sang out loud and clapped to the rhythm along with all the songs.
23 years later my nephew went hoarse singing along with Bryan Adams. He stood only 30 feet from the singer. On his way back he picked up a souvenir for me. A guitar pick that the lead guitarist Keith Scott had dropped after the concert.
Here is a pic of that pick. Looking at it I can hear the music flow out merging songs by Bryan Adams and the Beatles.
Everything I do, I do it for you (while my guitar gently weeps)
Today the colt had been brought to a bigger pasture. The owner hadn’t brought it here earlier. The colt was silent and wondered about the reason. There were other colts there too. From time to time each would steal a glance at its owner. None knew it was there for the race.
Then the owner told the colt to perform. It dug in its heel. These were things the colt usually did easily. In the presence of so many people and the new environment the colt didn’t. The cajoling and the threats didn’t make the colt perform.
The owner berated it on the way back. It had let the owner down. How would the owner now walk with the head held high? What would other people say?
Neither the colt nor the owner realised this was the beginning of a life of races.
The colts are little children in the age group of 3+. The owners are the parents. The race is for admission to a ‘good’ school. It happens every year. With no clear and ever changing admission guidelines the parents run the rounds of the schools. They seek the the ‘best’ education for their children. Many school agree to admit the child for a sum euphemistically called a ‘dontation.’
This is the first race. Others would follow. Perform in sports. Perform in arts. Perform in class X board exams. Beat others in Class XII exams. Make the list in the engineering or medical entrance exams. Get an MBA. Clear the civil services entrance. Get a high paying job. Move up the ladder. A bigger car, a house in a posh location, the list is endless.
The results of the race were announced. Joy, despondency, excitement and anger followed. Some jockeys were happy, some were sad, and some were satisfied with the performance of their steed. A few jockeys cursed their horses angrily.
The competition had been intense. It was known in advance that the horses were being put through special programmes to train for this race. The programmes were conducted by specialised centres which charged high fees. They offered weekly programmes, weekend programmes, day programmes and evening programmes so that all the jockeys could bring their horses in.
In addition, the jockeys had arranged special coaches who provided services at the doorstep. The demand for the services of these coaches was very high. Many coaches had to work overtime till late in the night to cater to the requests they received. They were paid highly for their services.
A horse had little choice in the matter. Willy-nilly it had to through it all. The jockeys were determined to win. The widespread belief was that the horse that won the race would lead a great life thereafter. Money, fame and power would all flow to that horse. A few jockeys never mentioned the race in the presence of their horses. They were afraid it would cause stress to the horses. Nevertheless, the horses sensed the apprehension of the jockeys. A horse could never gallop freely in the open fields.
The jockeys are the parents and the horses are the children who prepare for competitive exams.
A long time back I had gone to watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade at Chanakya Cinema. Those were the days when Chanakya cinema hall was at its prime. It was customary for the movie goers to have a bite at the Nirula’s restaurant next to the movie hall after the show. The other day I was watching an Indiana Jones series movie on Star Movies. I had missed the title of the movie at the beginning the way I always do. It reminded me of my trip to Chanakya all those years ago, the bus trip from college to the cinema, the burger and ice-cream at the Nirula’s, the bus trip back home late in the night, and on reaching home catching the end of the World this Week on TV. By the way, the world has stubbornly continued turning round and has refused to end inspite of the innumrable doomsday predictions between that movie and this post. Anyways, let me come back to the recent movie. There was an ad break, many advertisements jingled, I got to know what next I’d watch on Star Movies and finally the screen read, Now Showing, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!! I had forgotten the storyline of the movie but had remembered the things that surrounded it.
I wish there were some way I could easily digitise my cassettes. There is none. It will require playing each cassette and recording it on a computer. Time consuming. I have an ace up my sleeve. An old Walkman. No not a Walkman, it is a Sanyo portable stereo that plays audio cassettes. Quite nice with auto reverse, radio AM/FM and recording facility with a built-in microphone. It lacks a belt-clip and is bulky in the jacket pocket but is sturdy.
In the years gone by people who’d walk with headphones clamped on their heads were oddities. They attracted stares. Joggers with headphones were still accepted. Maybe the bystanders thought the joggers’ hardwork justified some entertainment in the form of music.
The hands-free kits of cellphones have changed this. Car drivers, bus drivers, auto drivers, rickshaw pullers, bike/scooter drivers, the elephant’s mahout, the horse rider, the bullock cart-walla, the crowd in the metro, the young and the old, the vegetable vendor, the kabadiwalla, the painter perched on the ladder while painting the roof, the plumber fixing the drain under the sink, the electrician repairing the door bell, who doesn’t have earphones plugged in the ears?