People of the World

People of the world, with the same count of limbs, rarely missing one or two.

With hearts beating quietly and steadily or loud and violent.

The Earth is full of bodies rested or aching and of hearts hopeful or in despair.

Living in communities, respecting laws; sick of rules.

Quietly bearing situations and rarely rebelling.

Guided by stories, in the news, in the books; forming opinions from that of their parents’.

Singing songs together about God, saints, legends, heroes, battles.

Yoked to community expectations.

Earning, eating, saving. Desires never ending.

People proliferate, they dwell on living space.

Moved by love, disturbed by tragedy. Warlike when community expects and demands it.

Often communities demand people to remove love from their hearts; prepare to go to battle; to kill others who are like themselves.

The will to kill is easily accessible even in people nurtured by love who peacefully lived through struggles.

Quick as a chameleon the colors will change. Friends will prepare the weapons for killing.

People who arranged poetry recitals; now feel insecure and wish to destroy those who were guests at the party with music.

Christian, infidel, kaffir, musulman, drawn by destiny’s noose around their necks, they arise from the same elements and there return. In the interim, they have choice.

Between the breath, out and in, we have choice.

Will China Rule the World?

It would appear so. No other nation appears as efficient, as well coordinated or as resourceful. None comes close to matching its growth rates. Yet those reasons do not suffice. We believe that China may well rule the World in the not very distant future because it shows aggressive intent with that aim.

Perhaps the aggression resulted from the lessons that the rulers of China learnt from history.

Chinese economy has been growing rather quickly for the last three decades, but the transition of that nation, from a seemingly benign power with a long history and ancient culture, into a bully that encroaches on smaller neighbors while challenging the sole superpower on Earth, has happened almost undetected, as if everyone else was sleeping.

Coming to the question in the title, let us make an attempt to find the force that may stop China from ruling the World. But before that, if the reader considers such an idea too far fetched, I remind her of history; of events that led to Great Britain losing the greatest empire ever. I remind the reader of military technologies that the best forces in the World were not ready for; remember the blitzkrieg. Of course, in the 1940s, Britain could seek the aid of the new World; but now, China is the new World.

Today’s sole superpower doesn’t have a very powerful ally to enlist even as it is a power in decline and to some extent, in disarray. In fact the President of the United States has never missed an opportunity to pick on the oldest allies that nation has. The EU has been careful not to blindly follow the US, at least since l’affaire General Soleimani and the subsequent posturing against Iran. Besides, this has pushed Iran into the arms of the Chinese. The United Kingdom has been a more faithful ally to the US, but it is not easy. China has made huge investments there that may make it difficult for Britain to take a tough stance.

Nations in the neighborhood of China; Japan, India, Philippines and Vietnam, Nepal and Myanmar are normally careful in their own actions not to challenge the dragon, even as they desperately desire deliverance from encroachments. India has bravely tried to stand up to the PLA, even at substantial cost. The quad grouping of US, Japan, India and Australia is aimed at the only tormentor in the neighborhood.

But any grouping needs direction and trust. Only a consistent, trustworthy and energetic leadership from the most powerful nation on Earth can unite the World and contain an aggressive China. Otherwise que sera sera.

The Anarchy Celebrated in ‘The Joker’ Reflects Real Aspirations

‘The Joker’ strikes a chord with more of us, than would condone the behavior of the protagonist.

Most times, we like some other ‘Joker’ to do the dirty work which would lead to the results we may subconsciously desire.

Most of us don’t like authority since our time in school. The rest of us choose to go across and aspire to authority. Few of us become authority figures long after school but even in school, there are bullies.

A breakdown of order results from a cathartic release of emotion from people who may have been bullied by authority; by teachers, bosses, cops or others.

It is an unloved and uncared for people who express themselves by looting and burning. They would like to destroy all symbols of authority but also the symbols of progress which justifies all authority.

Overkill

Shall we look at the psychology behind common happenings? While we are at it, can we also list the impact of such occurrences? Possibly we may uncover a few insights into our own mental states. If it is alright, let us look at the very wide variety of events that can be described as overkill.

I feel most of you would agree with me that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki in August -1945 was an overkill in any sense of the word, but definitely in the sense that the destructive power used far exceeded the amount that was necessary. We shall not go into the impact of that one as you are already quite aware of it. So can we try and imagine the kind of thinking that went into the decision to bomb? How it was justified, not to the world at large, because words can be found to justify anything, but to oneself, by the person/s with whom the buck truly stopped?

By the way, I remembered something else, please don’t mind me asking, but do you ever keep multiple copies of the same file? Do some of them become obsolete with time?

This may seem totally unrelated but can you envision what the wandering member of a hunter-gatherer band think when she first saw agriculturists bending down to work?

Finally, let me ask for your opinion about the large earnings some friends are making, by continuing in the same high pressure job, when they don’t really need anything close to survive?

The examples are disparate but the common theme is the desire to ensure an outcome. To make sure of subjugating a very difficult enemy; to guarantee availability of an important file, or food and other stuff.

The desire to ensure an outcome may perhaps exist in an equanimous mind, but more likely, dear friend, it coexists with a fear of the unthinkable. The real or paranoid fear of torture, hurt or slavery may lead us to act violently; the horror of losing ones identity or title to property is unthinkable; a possible move to the slums is dreadful; even a thought of major changes in a lavish lifestyle is inconceivable.

Can we agree that the human society has evolved in the way it has because of a real or paranoid fear of something that may eat or enslave us, while at the same time ensuring to dominate everything on Earth and to go on this path perennially because it may never be safe to pause? Can we also agree that there are reactions, corollaries and aftermaths to all the overkill, be it an extended chokehold or the second amendment?

Dear friend, I ask myself in your presence. Shall I, during my lifetime, continue to rush on the same highway or will I ever chose the alternative, the path of moderation shown long ago, by Siddharth, Gautam?

This Monkey on my back

My shoulders hurt with the dull pain that has been there for awhile. I know it is because of the monkey.

Many of you probably can’t imagine the kind of society that I live in, so a little explanation is in order. You see, I survive in a society that respects people who go around with monkeys on their backs. In order to be a person of substance, you are supposed to wear a serious countenance, and the obligatory monkey either nestling in your lap, draped around your shoulders or perched on top of your head like a crown.

People here flaunt monkeys of different sizes, shapes and colors. Most common are the ordinary rhesus macaques placidly riding on their minders. Often you see a gray langur grimacing as it passes by on top of the strong individual carrying it. There are all varieties, the Gibbons, capuchins and the pygmy marmosets, and in any given week you may come across, if you keep your eyes open, at least three kinds. Only the other day I saw a gorilla in an Audi that went past. The beast had a heavy paw on the shoulder of the poor man who drove the vehicle.

I have a gray langur to look after. It is a rather large animal, which sleeps as I write this scoop for you. It smells faintly of gasoline and everytime I look at it, I am reminded of things to take care of. Sometimes I am just uncomfortable about and fearful of payback for the things that I have already done, right or wrong. It was such a challenge to put it to sleep, it always is and anytime now it will wake up and start talking. When it does wake up and sees me relaxed, it immediately reminds me of something that I am supposed to be doing. Often it shouts very loudly demanding this and that. Trouble is, even after having had the same monkey for all my adult life, nothing about it feels familiar and predictable. There’s very little regular routine with it around. Once the gray bundle of fur smelling of gasoline wakes up and starts moving, I won’t be calm anymore. I will rush about to make calls and to arrange all matters to the satisfaction of the monkey.

All day I carry it about and all the while it keeps pointing its finger showing me where to go next. Even as I am eating, the monkey has its palm holding onto my arm, just to underline my obligation to it. At night when I fall down sleep, it sits on my chest. At least that’s the last thing I remember at night. But when I am asleep, I know the monkey has rolled off my chest.

In the mornings, I want so much to wake up like a child. I want to forget everything and be totally free. Like this friday morning, there was a cool breeze and the smell of wet earth. I had a song on my lips as I sat up in bed. Then without any warning, my dream came down crashing. I mean my langur grabbed my forehead with its cold fingers and then it climbed on my shoulders.

You may well ask as to why we, I mean those of us in my society, chose to live with monkeys. Let me admit to you we don’t like it. We are expected to start carrying monkeys only when we are old enough but once it begins, then that’s the only reality that we know. We are supposed to carry monkeys because of the fruits they bless us with and the heights they help us climb. But I am not convinced.

I am carrying mine around because it’s so unusual not to be carrying one. I might lose respect in the eyes of my own family, were I to take the monkey out in the car and leave it on the side of the road. I know that would be best for both of us. The woods off the road are lovely. I wouldn’t have a single thought about the monkey once I close the car door and return. I can resume my walk, my games and my sleep without the weight on my shoulders and without the smell of gasoline.

I wonder how it is for the others. Do you have to carry anything like that? Then write in and let me know.

The Great Lockdown

The biggest lock-down in the world began in India from 00:00 hours of March 25th 2020. It is expected to last for a full 21 days. The lock-down includes the majority of people staying at home while the most essential workers including doctors, nurses and paramedical personnel; police and paramilitary go to work, all the while taking care to try and keep each other at more than an arm’s length.

On television, there are images of people being assaulted by the police, because they could not give an adequate explanation of why they were outside. I myself thought to go out for some essentials even as the PM spoke. It was 8:30 pm and it appeared a good idea to pick up some milk in tetra paks, the kind that will not go bad for some time.

Going towards the Big Bazaar, I noticed that the ring road was largely deserted except for a police vehicle at the edge of the road. I decided to use the service lane and as I passed I noticed that a group of perhaps 15 people sat down at the side of the road, near where the police vehicle was parked. They had children with them and looked tired as they sat, while the officer spoke on his phone. Further down the road I saw another group sitting all alone on the isolated road.

The Big Bazaar was closed so I decided to look elsewhere. At a small local market, the grocery store was tightly packed with people and I was careful enough not to enter. At an Amul Milk parlor, there was a queue of 20 people that was going very slow. The first time I had seen a queue at that shop. At several other shops that were open, there were people milling about, without any thought of maintaining a social distance.

Someone brushed me as they went past and I turned and realized that it was someone I know. He hadn’t even noticed that he had touched me and quickly went towards the store selling groceries, where I noticed that another acquaintance was picking up a heavy bag as he elbowed his way out of the store. I left immediately without buying milk.

Migrant workers throughout India are suddenly without jobs due to the shut-down to prevent spread of the virus borne disease. Workers are returning from the larger cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and as the public transport including trains are halted, the workers are hitch-hiking their way home to their villages through out rural India, but often UP, Bihar and Rajasthan.

The government has just announced a 1.7 lakh crore stimulus package to help the poor during the tough time.

A positive impact of the lock-down, in terms of preventing the spread of SARS-COV-2 is dependent on us keeping our distance from each other.

Wash It Off

Viruses have weaknesses, so do humans.

Viruses are strands of RNA or DNA enveloped and packaged inside a coat of protein which may be further protected by an envelope of fatty substance. Viruses, by themselves, cannot reproduce or even metabolize food into energy. They can do these things when they are latched onto host cells, like human or animal cells.

When we (a) touch a surface on which virus particles were sitting, these virus particles easily transfer onto the hand. and when we (b) touch our nose or mouth with the same hand, the virus can enter the body. Between steps (a) and (b), if we wash our hands well with soap we can effectively destroy the fatty casing of the virus and destroy the genetic code that the virus hoped to unleash within our bodies.

It may not always be possible to prevent a virus infection. In this case, the antibodies present inside the infected person rush to destroy the virus and possibly rid the body of the virus; though there may be flu like symptoms for a few days. Here is a MedicalNewsToday.com reported case study of a patient who caught SAR-COV-2 in Wuhan, China but recovered soon after returning to Australia. The case study was published in the journal Nature Medicine by researchers from the University of Melbourne at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Australia.

A Time of Crisis

My parents, both of them above eighty, live independently quite far from where I live. They have been healthy and active, mostly with regular medical attention. Last month both of them needed more medical attention than usual. Normally they require help around the house, now the help is indispensable.

But there is a pandemic on, especially where they live. There is no way to make sure that the person who visits to help them with the chores can remain regular. Also, it becomes all the more important that the helper is healthy and isn’t carrying germs, because that would be risky.

I guess lots of people all over the world have similar concerns.

Coups, wars and pandemics lead to a disruption in the status quo. In all these occurrences there is some change in our daily routine. We may miss school or may be excused from our jobs. We may even lose the job, the chance to educate ourselves, or our lives. Uncertainty is the hallmark of these critical periods. We don’t behave in the usual way, following a routine. We may start looking for cues from the unfolding events or guidance from others around us.

One key aspect of a situation of crisis is that it brings to the fore persons who would be leaders. These would be leaders have strong opinions for dealing with the crisis at hand and they are sure that their ideas are the best. Often these leaders are imbued with a very key characteristic which may be called the ‘shepherd syndrome’. They would like sheep who would follow them. They want their flocks to increase in numbers. A crisis is the breeding ground for leaders.

So it is but natural that an emergency, which can have an initial phase of disruption and uncertainty will possibly be handled by the surest of the leaders. This leader will guide the flock and with her confidence take command of the situation. The success of the leader may result in improved discipline while at the same time a curtailment of personal liberties.

The flock is mostly content to follow their leader. The leader may even command devotion which may keep increasing with each success. Also with each bold decision, a leader is putting herself at risk, of criticism, condemnation, even reprisal; as history confirms. The more novel the crisis, the more disruptive are the decisions needed to deal with it and the greater is the risk for the leader and her flock. Better understanding may reduce the risk for the flock and the leaders

The link below is an article by Ed Yong in “The Atlantic”. The article gives much needed perspective on the crisis at hand so that it appears slightly more familiar and just offers hope that perhaps we can deal with it with some patience, discipline and innovation in medicine.

Why The Coronavirus Has Been So Successful?

EMARYS / GETTY

The Newest Virus

“……everbody on earth will soon be starving or suffocating or dying of SARS or Ebola or H5N1, the fact that H5N1 only has to mutate a few more times and we’re all goners, so maybe it was all for nothing, human achievement, but before that happens, we still have to do our taxes,….” (Lucy Ellmann in “Ducks, Newburyport”, Picador)

“Which would you prefer, a silent carrier or an obviously sick person?” (A passenger in queue for being screened at airport)

“But last year you took me to the psychologist for washing hands too frequently” (A housewife to her doctor husband)

The “crude death rate” looks at mortality from all causes in a given time interval for a given population. The CIA has estimated that in 2020, the global crude death rate will be 7.7 deaths per 1000 persons. (Source: Wikipedia article on Mortality Rates). This means that out of a million people, twenty one persons, on an average, will lose their lives every day due to various causes. Will the new coronavirus change this estimate significantly?

Here’s an article in the free press journal looking into conspiracy theories https://www.freepressjournal.in/science/is-coronavirus-a-patented-bio-weapon-looking-into-conspiracy-theories-surrounding-the-virus-outbreak

The article has the following infographic attached that attempts to give perspective to the awe you may hold the new virus in:

If you are serious about the pandemic, go to https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus for updated information, else watch a movie on the television, or play games because soon you will have to sit down and plan your taxes or go mend the garage door.

The US President lands in India

I am at Ahmedabad airport on 24th February 2020. A plane with US markings can be seen parked from the glass windows.

Prime Minister Modi lands in a blue and white Indian Airforce plane and people start gathering against the glass windows in the departure area near gate-4 of terminal-1, trying to catch a glimpse. Modi walks down to a welcome area nearby which is covered under beautiful striped canopy. In a minute or two he disappears from view. I can hear people remark that “Modiji aa gaye” (Mr Modi is here).

People keep gathering near the glass windows. When a line of black vehicles, including what appears to be the famous “beast” slowly drives down to a spot near the striped awning, there is speculation that the President of the United States has arrived already. But others are following live news on their phones and it seems that the vehicles are there in preparation of the impending arrival of airforce-1.

My own flight is delayed as the plane is made to hover while it waits for airforce-1 to arrive and land first. Then everyone is getting up from their seats as the famous plane, also blue and white like the IAF plane that brought the PM but bigger, is taxied in and moves toward the welcome area under the striped awning. Many people now rush towards the glass windows that face the area where the POTUS is going to be welcomed by the PM.

A barrier is broken when generally well behaved people now stand on seats and onto the arms of chairs to get a better view.

From where I am sitting nothing can be seen except the people crowding the windows. I could imagine they were there for a glimpse of Ivanka but am corrected when the crowd start chanting Modi’s name.

Airline crew is also caught up in celeb watching and they are blocking the view of the fans. So the fans start making a racket, banging on the metal grill and waving at the crew to move away. The restraint and discipline with which people normally behave at public places such as airports has totally disappeared.

Soon enough though, things have moved on and I hear the call to board the flight for Delhi.

Later, when landing in Delhi, I see three USAF planes, this time not blue and white, but more like greenish grey.

The President and His Friends

(Made in the USA)

President Trump is the weirdest thing that happened on the Earth since Hitler.

Such events possibly happen only when a bully is convinced of his own greatness, and so are his chums.

In their ignorance, the bully and his cronies set out to destroy old and venerable institutions.

They have been impatient during previous rule by consensus, now they don’t brook any opposition.

Banana Republic: When the greatest nation on earth goes bananas under the Republican party.