Saturday, January 21, 2017

Quit, O Mosquito



Please.

But seriously, unless all life on the planet Earth ceases; ironically, almost certainly brought about by mankind, mosquitoes, together with many other elementary, rudimentary forms, with the last remnants of the DNA constituting any form of life leaving its vestige, mosquitoes would be among the survivors.

So, what a wishful thought, or is it a dream.  By the way, is the picture above a wishful thought, a dream, or, to mankind at least, a pleasant, even if momentary, reality?

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Core


I am stung by the experience of touching 
the core of human existence

mainly, if not entirely, mine
if for no other reason, at least
before judging my environs I can see
explosions within myself
tearing me apart with contradictions
questions about perfection
if such a thing ever existed
attempting and deciding 
that there was no such thing

abominations, self-abnegations
tortured, tired
wanting to go
wanting all to end
at least, me

I do not know if I can make the rest
my enterprise

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Riddled Rider


charmer on the road
drawing attention
only at traffic lights
or tight jams
ignored otherwise
as the world and its harried people
pass by

The Strongman Problem



From the New Yorker:  THE STRONGMAN PROBLEM, FROM MODI TO TRUMP
By Steve Coll
January 18, 2017


At eight o’clock in the evening on November 8th, India Standard Time, just hours before American voters shocked the world by electing Donald Trump as their next President, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, went on television to address his country’s more than a billion citizens. At midnight, Modi proclaimed, all of India’s five-hundred-rupee and thousand-rupee notes, worth about seven dollars and fifteen dollars, respectively, and constituting about eighty-six per cent of all cash in circulation, would be banned from use, in an effort to battle corruption. He said that cash was easier for terrorists to use, and that other lawbreakers used it to evade taxes and store ill-gotten wealth.

Modi’s government gave virtually no forewarning of its demonetization plan, or notebandi, as it has become known, in order to prevent crooked cash hoarders from offloading their savings in advance of the change. People were allowed to turn in the discontinued bills at banks, but had to navigate complicated rules and risked having to explain exactly where the money came from. So the announcement had a storybook quality, as in the tale of some kingdom where, one morning, the subjects wake up to learn that their monarch has banned hats or dessert.

The result since then has been financial chaos and suffering. The cash ban has produced a sharp retraction in India’s economic growth. The government also botched the introduction of alternative notes, including a newly designed five-hundred-rupee note and a new two-thousand-rupee denomination. When I travelled through three Indian cities last week, it was still hard to find rupees, and it was not unusual to see clusters of people around A.T.M.s, scuffling or just staring forlornly at the machines. The sectors of the Indian economy where cash has long been king—real estate, automotive sales, even newspaper advertising by small businesses—remain stricken. Sales of motorcycles fell by more than twenty per cent in December, and the housing market suffered even worse falls.

For a traveller from what will soon be Donald Trump’s America, the most striking part of notebandi, however, involves its political aesthetics. On Friday, when Trump is inaugurated as President, he will join Modi as the latest figure in the world’s swelling ranks of populist-nationalist leaders, a gallery of strongmen in countries rich and poor, some more democratic and some less so, who govern partly through intimidation and a certain curated arbitrariness, a methodology of deliberate surprise.

Modi is the leader of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which won a majority in parliament in national elections held in 2014. He has encouraged a cult of personality—last week, he took criticism for releasing a calendar featuring on its cover a photograph of himself in an iconic pose of the independence leader Mohandas Gandhi. Modi’s particular form of illiberalism bears reflection because parallels are often drawn between the democracies of India and America, and for good reason. Both countries are religiously and ethnically diverse, yet both have forged a noisy form of political stability through their democratic constitutions and the staging of regular, mostly clean elections. Both now will be led by egotists who pressure the press and react poorly to dissent, and whose exclusionary rhetoric and policies threaten their nations’ core inheritances of openness and pluralism.

From India, the Trump transition looks all too familiar. The President-elect has a son-in-law as a key adviser and a daughter sitting in on meetings with foreign leaders, and he has drawn very loose borders between the ruling family’s business interests and its exercise of political power. From Pakistan to Indonesia, that is altogether normal.
Worryingly, South Asian populism of the Modi type can be deeply resilient, despite broken promises and poor governance. Many of the journalists, political analysts, and academics I met last week said that, despite the failures of notebandi’s rollout, the program remained remarkably popular and does not appear to have dented Modi’s standing. (Forthcoming state elections in the populous states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh will test this assumption.) Poor Indians tell reporters who turn up to measure their dissatisfaction with Modi’s ban that they never had much cash in the first place. Middle-class citizens who try to play by the rules (no easy feat in India, where petty corruption and political targeting is rife) clearly take satisfaction from the possibility that their more corrupt compatriots may lose illicit savings and be forced to pay taxes in the future. “It’s the kind of simple and radical idea that appeals both to Modi and many Indians,” Sukumar Ranganathan, the editor of Mint, a leading business newspaper, told me.

Populist politics is often constructed from a blend of nativism, bigotry, grandiosity, and coarse speech. Yet its aesthetic has an intimate quality. By banning cash with a symbolic sweep of his hand, Modi reached into the pockets of almost every Indian, as another journalist I spoke with last week put it. The Prime Minister made himself felt. India is racked by severe poverty and hindered by illiteracy; many citizens in the countryside cannot name a world leader or even their own national leader. After November 8th, many more knew Modi’s name.

Donald Trump’s Twitter feed operates similarly, if in a different context. Americans wake up every morning and find the leader’s unpredictable voice in their social-media feeds—exhorting, bragging, promising, ranting, bullying. It is common to critique Trump’s Twitter feed as a tool he uses to change the subject when he is having a bad week, but it is more than that: he reaches into your phone and makes himself felt.

In the cases of Modi and Trump, two recently empowered strongmen presiding over relatively robust democratic systems, the question is whether their populism and authoritarian instincts will allow them to alter the laws of democratic accountability. Trump is already altering certain norms—about the access of the press, conflicts of interest, and nepotism—with the acquiescence of the Republican Party. After his Inauguration, on Friday, he will preside over the largest economy and the most powerful military in the world. It is tempting to assume that accountability will eventually take hold, as in the past, whether through prosecutors and courts, if the President or his aides act illegally, or at the next election, if they govern poorly or betray the hopes of their voters. Yet the history and machinery of populist rule worldwide offers no easy comfort. Sometimes strongmen break the constitutions they inherit, or bend the functioning of those charters until they become, gradually, unrecognizable.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Heartfelt


Biologically, medically, the heart is not capable of thought or feeling. Both experiences are cerebral. They are felt, experienced, lived or dying, in the brain. Interestingly, the heart is not even as beautiful as, to me, the above picture is captivating, whether or not amorous.

The heart (not the flower) has four chambers which sequentially pump blood from one to another to another in a continuous cycle, which keeps us alive much before the moment of birth (as could be discovered only after the discovery of ultrasound, and echocardiogram systems). The myth was that the newborn heart's first beat was instantly after birth, indicative that the child was not a stillborn casualty.

Anyway, for the sake of people who fall in love with this picture as I have, I should not dissect (already too late) further, and just keep on looking at it, staring at it; and, who knows, it may therapeutically improve my own heartbeats.

--------------------
Anonymous wrote:
Very very nice heart, cross my heart.

Actually it feels like some alien forces have conspired to counter the divisiveness the violence and conflict on the human planet and made a wreath of hearts.
Beating in harmony for no particular cause except that hearts beating in unison make for a good feeling.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Once



many stories lived
inside and outside

once
greed lust vice
even largesse
prevailed

hypnotic musical notes
punctuated by
jingling of ankle bells
pierced the silence
of the night
accompanied by muted cries
of pain or ecstasy

once upon a time

----------------------
The picture above has always reminded me of Satyajit Ray's film Jalsaghar ("The Music Room"). I was haunted by the half-ruined zamindari mansion which Ray used in the film as a backdrop to a story in which insane hauteur in the tradition of pomp and musical pageantry brings ruin and death. The film was shot at Nimtita Raajbari, near Murshidabad, West Bengal. Here is a photograph of the building as it is today:


For the record, for the benefit of people who did not know Ray in the south, especially for the foreign diplomatic corps, I became the first person to launch seven morning shows of 16mm films of Ray in Madras, in 1972, one of which was Jalsaghar, his fourth film. Since there were no subtitles for the Bengali film, I wrote to Ray requesting him to provide more information. He did not bother to comply with my request, for which I blamed him for being snooty, and not showing respect for generating interest in India for his work. On the contrary, he actually blamed people for their disinterest, and refused to help people to access his films, with or without subtitles. Since he did not reply, I wrote a synopsis of all the films, which was good for my understanding of Bengali and, more importantly, of the language of cinema.


 a still from Jalsaghar


the film's poster

Friday, January 13, 2017

Indictment


for his past
present
and ahead of his future
man, human

hark
who is there
to carry out the sentence
retribution
none?

only arbitrators
and abraded
consumed
decapitated
victims

too mutilated
for vendetta
or to produce
shrill cries
for justice
which could atone

only nature
awaits dispensation
telling us
in many languages
how soon
but not when

just wait

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Satellite Apartments


apartments
in space
for aliens
arriving
or humans
escaping

hurtling
revolving
rotating
38,000 miles per hour

within earth's orbit
sunrise sunset
every hour

destination
moon
mars
venus

or
being thrown out
by internal controls
or external objects
or gravitational
or magnetic forces

meteors
comets
other planets

or
galactic debris
or stars
or whatever

life
its longevity uncertain
as when terrestrial
so also orbitally


Monday, January 09, 2017

Meditative



the written word
just like the spoken word
take my word
is not always
imperatively meaningful
or an enhancer
of utilitarian knowledge

it is capable of
distilling the mind
more often than not
with misguidance
and can also
stunt its growth

but then
an enlightened
purified
refined thought
when spread with wings
of spoken or written words
can bring within one's grasp
the meaning of gravity
Platonic proximities
or distances

not to forget
the chances are
meditation
can raise a storm
as well as
tranquilise

perplexity is
to choose
or be chosen

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Climate Change: the Antarctic Ice Shelf

From The Washington Post: Energy and Environment

The crack in this Antarctic ice shelf just grew by 11 miles. A dramatic break could be imminent.
By Chris Mooney January 6 at 4:30 PM 




An enormous rift in one of Antarctica’s largest ice shelves grew dramatically over the past month, and a chunk nearly the size of Delaware could break away as soon as later this winter, British scientists reported this week.

If this happens, it could accelerate a further breakup of the ice shelf, essentially removing a massive cork of ice that keeps some of Antarctica’s glaciers from flowing into the ocean. The long term result, scientists project, could be to noticeably raise global sea levels by 10 centimeters, or almost four inches.

It’s the latest sign of major ice loss in the fast warming Antarctic Peninsula, which has already seen the breakup of two other shelves in the same region, events that have been widely attributed to climate change.

The crack in the ice shelf, known as Larsen C, has been growing at an accelerating rate. Since the beginning of December, it has grown about 11 miles in length, after extending 13 miles earlier in the year. In total, the rift has grown about 50 miles since 2011 (it’s almost 100 miles long in total), and has widened to well over 1,000 feet. Now, only 12 miles of ice continue to connect the chunk with the rest of the ice shelf.




When it breaks away, the loss would be of nearly 2,000 square miles of ice, say the researchers with Project MIDAS, a British government-funded collaboration based at Swansea and Aberystwyth universities in Wales. That’s larger than Rhode Island and almost as big as Delaware.

The consequences of the break could be dramatic.

“When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded; this event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula,” said the researchers in a statement about the rift.

“We have previously shown that the new configuration will be less stable than it was prior to the rift, and that Larsen C may eventually follow the example of its neighbour Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event.”

Here’s an image showing the apparently accelerating advance of the rift, per the Project Midas team:

The British Antarctic Survey also released a statement on the growing rift, saying a huge iceberg is “set to calve” from Larsen C.

“Because of the uncertainty surrounding the stability of the Larsen C ice shelf, we chose not to camp on the ice this season,” David Vaughan, the survey’s director of science, said in the statement.

The floating ice shelf is fed by the flow of ice glaciers that sit above sea level on the Antarctic Peninsula. As the shelf loses mass, these glaciers could flow more quickly — which would contribute to rising sea levels. Losses from the ice shelf alone, however dramatic, would not have that effect, as the shelf is already floating on water, just like an ice cube in a glass of water.

Fortunately, the Antarctic Peninsula does not contain nearly as much ice as other, thicker parts of Antarctica, such as the West and East Antarctic ice sheets. The potential sea level rise if Larsen C is lost would be measured in centimeters, not feet.

Still, it would subtract a major, enduring feature from the planet, and add to already dramatic changes that have been seen in the Antarctic Peninsula, the portion of the icy continent that extends northward towards South America.

Two smaller ice shelves near Larsen C – Larsen A, and Larsen B – have already largely disintegrated. Larsen B retains a remnant of its former size, but scientists have determined that this ice, too, could vanish before too long. They have also documented that following the collapse of much of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002, the glaciers behind it sped up their flow towards the sea. Now, the fear is the same process could be unleashed on the larger Larsen C shelf.

The Larsen C ice shelf is more than 1,000 feet thick, and in spatial extent, nearly the size of Scotland. It is the fourth-largest ice shelf in Antarctica, although nothing compared with the two largest, the Ross and Filchner-Ronne ice shelves.

NASA, during a flight in November, captured several spectacular photos of the rift, including the one at the top of this article and also the close-up below. But that was before further extension of the rift last month:

The Antarctic continent is ringed with ice shelves, which are the ocean-front portions of larger glaciers. But as the climate changes, these features have been thinning and in some cases breaking apart dramatically.

The Project MIDAS group did not immediately make a statement attributing the development at Larsen C to climate change, but the fact that the shelf would be “at its most retreated position ever recorded” after the break is certainly suggestive.

Previous research has also documented that the Larsen C ice shelf is becoming less thick, and so floating lower in the water, and this appears tied to the warming of the Antarctic Peninsula in recent decades. Warmer seas could also be playing a role.



Now, the wait for the anticipated break begins.

Swansea University’s Adrian Luckman, who heads up Project MIDAS, told the BBC that “If it doesn’t go in the next few months, I’ll be amazed.”

Daniela Jansen, a researcher with the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany who collaborates with the Project MIDAS team, largely agreed in an email to The Washington Post.

“I think the iceberg will calve soon,” she said. “The jumps of the rift tip occurred in shorter time intervals the longer the rift got. This is probably due to the longer ‘lever’ for the forces acting to advance the rift, such as the up and down of the tides or strong winds towards the sea. Whether it will be months or maybe next year, I don’t know.”

------------------------------
Please also see my earlier posts on the subject of Climate Change and man's prospects for survival:

Ozone:  http://rameshgandhi.blogspot.in/2017/01/ozone.html
More on Climate Change, Progressing Towards Perdition  http://rameshgandhi.blogspot.in/2015/10/more-on-climate-change-progressing.html

Saving Our Planet: Limitless Vanity of Man http://rameshgandhi.blogspot.in/2014/11/saving-our-planet-limitless-vanity-of.html

Climate Catastrophe, Irreversible   http://rameshgandhi.blogspot.in/2013/06/climate-catastrophe-irreversible.html

An Open Letter to Prannoy Roy and Barkha Dutt  http://rameshgandhi.blogspot.in/2010/08/open-letter-to-prannoy-roy-and-barkha.html




Demonetisation


An anonymous person sent this piece to me. Below it I have included an article from the Wall Street Journal, "India's Demonetisation Debacle", by Sadanand Dhume.

First, the anonymous piece:

People are saying what's the problem with a 4500/- daily ATM limit and 24,000 per week limit?

I say, no problem, I don't even require so much cash every week.

My problem is that the limit takes away my freedom to deal with my own money.

 It is not the RBI's money, it is not the Governments Money, it is my own money which is in the bank because the representative currency was made illegal and my money captured into a bank account.

My problem is that I no longer have access to something I own.

My problem is that the banks have proven to be reckless with my money and their non-performing assets are rising by the day.

As of yesterday their non-performing assets were reported to have risen by 4,40,000 Crores! 

How do I trust such banks, bankers and the banking system loosely regulated by the Reserve Bank of India?

What if somebody took away your car and told you that you can drive it for 20 kilometers only every day and 200 Kilometers in a week and made changes in the fuel tank in such a way that you can not exceed those limits? 

That the car will not move an inch on a daily basis if you drove it for 20 Kilometers?

Would that not take away your freedom?

My money is my freedom and an attempt at taking away my money by a force of law is an assault on my freedom.

In other words this government has encroached on my fundamental right to freedom.

And that is my real problem. Is it not yours?
----------------------------
Please Spread my concern!

Anonymous

________________________________________________________________
Wall street journal article:  India's Demonetisation Debacle

By SADANAND DHUME
Dec. 15, 2016 8:18 p.m. ET

Nearly six weeks after India abruptly scrapped high-denomination banknotes accounting for about 85% of its currency by value, the economy continues to slow. Poor and middle-class Indians are still suffering from the shortage of new bills. But the most significant casualty may well be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reputation as a sound economic manager.

On Nov. 8, Mr. Modi announced that India’s two highest-denomination currency bills—1,000 rupees ($14.84) and 500 rupees—would immediately cease to be legal tender in most places. Holders have until the end of the year to deposit these bills into bank accounts. As replacements, the government has slowly rolled out a redesigned 500-rupee bill and a new 2,000-rupee bill.

The long-term effects of India’s demonetization gambit remain unclear, largely because no other major economy has attempted such an experiment except during a crisis. But with growth slowing and job losses rising, the short-term prognosis appears grim.

Instead of factory openings or large new investments, the images that tell India’s current economic story include snaking lines outside banks, distressed workers migrating back to their villages, and tax raids on jewelers and officials caught with hoards of allegedly illicit cash.

The policy’s shabby implementation—through an avalanche of amendments, rollbacks and patchwork fixes—undercuts Mr. Modi’s reputation for quiet efficiency. It also underscores his overreliance on India’s notoriously heavy-handed bureaucrats.

Demonetization has resurrected fears that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party takes policy advice from quacks. It damaged the credibility of India’s central bank. And it forced many of the country’s ostensibly right-of-center intellectuals to perform advanced mental gymnastics to defend the prime minister. Though a few economists have applauded Mr. Modi, the weight of informed opinion leans heavily against his decision.

Not surprisingly, shock waves from the announcement continue to crash through the economy. The Asian Development Bank cut its growth estimate for India for the financial year ending March 31 to 7% from 7.4%. JP Morgan expects growth to decline by half a percent to 6.7%.

Meanwhile, falling sales have begun to translate into layoffs spanning various sectors, including construction, textiles and jewelry. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates the transaction costs alone of swapping out an estimated 14.2 trillion rupees’ worth of currency to be 1.28 trillion rupees, or about $19 billion.

India’s economy will eventually recover from this self-inflicted wound, but there’s no question that demonetization has created doubts about Mr. Modi’s competence. The decision, reportedly hatched in secret with a coterie of trusted bureaucrats, showcases the prime minister’s faith in the command-and-control ethos of the civil service rather than in the “minimum government” he once promised.

It also shows how susceptible Mr. Modi and his aides are to the unorthodox ideas of assorted cranks and oddballs from the Hindu nationalist movement to which the BJP belongs. The loudest backers of demonetization include a telegenic yoga guru, a chartered accountant best known for propounding the homespun economic philosophy of “swadeshi,” or self-reliance, and a nongovernmental organization that wants almost all taxes to be replaced by a single levy on bank transactions.

Already, a flurry of commentary by well-regarded Indian and global commentators has tarnished the prime minister’s image. The business journalist T.N. Ninan calls demonetization “a bad idea, badly executed on the basis of some half-baked notions.” For Morgan Stanley’s Ruchir Sharma, Mr. Modi’s “clumsy exercise of state power” won’t achieve its ostensible aim—cracking down on so-called “black money” salted away by tax dodgers. Kaushik Basu, a former chief economic advisor to the government of India and former chief economist at the World Bank, calls the policy “poorly designed, with scant attention paid to the laws of the market.”


To be sure, not everyone thinks demonetization is a disaster. Columbia University’s Jagdish Bhagwati calls it “a courageous and substantive economic reform” whose potential benefits include shrinking the shadow economy, hurting terrorists and counterfeiters, and expanding the tax base by digitizing many economic transactions.

Others argue that this is likely only the first of a series of reforms that will eventually simplify tax administration, root out corruption and make campaign finances more transparent. Some supporters view demonetization as a quick way to invigorate a sluggish banking sector with cheap funds.

Perhaps the optimists will be proved right, but at this point their gauzy hopes of future benefits must be weighed against the present pain. Even if demonetization ends up producing some gains, the question of whether it was worth its considerable costs will linger. Moreover, the simple fact that no credible expert suggested such a drastic policy before Mr. Modi announced it makes many arguments in its support look like belated apologia.

Two and a half years ago, based on his record as the business-friendly chief minister of Gujarat, Mr. Modi stormed to national power as India’s great economic hope. At least for now, the demonetization debacle has shaken this assumption to its foundations.

Mr. Dhume is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a columnist for WSJ.com.

----------------------------
All Indian news channels are covering demonetisation heavily. For example, see  NDTV.com videos on the subject. The link below is up to date as of 1930 hours on 7 January 2017:

http://www.ndtv.com/topic/demonetisation

Friday, January 06, 2017

Pristine Allure


In an environment of sludge, sewage, stale moth-eaten remnants of vegetables, insects, a variety of decaying substances, where even an old, unidentifiable piece of paper also stinks... one can go on and on...

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Ozone



Ozone, ultraviolet rays (actually all ultra- and infra- rays beyond the visible spectrum popularly called VIBGYOR) determine in millions of ways, by adjustment, levels of all protection to all life, plant and animal, on earth. Nothing from among the Living on our planet Earth is disturbing the balance of these all-pervasive rays, which are all over the universe, as far as is known, except for Mankind. For instance, neither Plants nor Animals of any hue, from water, including invisible rivulets, to the peaks of mountains, and jungles in between, do anything to this natural order, which supports, or did support, the ecosystem, for more than two billion years, by responding to the atmospheric rhythms.

But Mankind was quite a different thing. It has progressively been harming this balance. And this progression of every element, every particle, every protection within which our globe is situated, and revolves, rotates, and travels around the Sun, which travels within the Galaxy, etc. etc., is irreversibly and geometrically, accelerating; which leads to the trespass and violation of all kinds of chemical, physical, and all other laws of nature, thus bringing very rapidly our own existence, together with the existence of most other plants and creatures, if not all, to near-extinction.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Colossus


statue of Gommaṭteśvara Bahubali,
Shravanabelagola, Karnataka


Bahubali is an important Saint in the Jain tradition. Shravanabelagola is located about 157 km from Bangalore.

Many people confuse Jainism and Buddhism. They have some similarities, in that both were reform movements in opposition to the rigidities and contradictions of orthodox Hinduism at the time of their founding. (Mahavir, the founder of Jainism was born c. 599 BCE; the Buddha (Gautama Siddhartha) was born c. 567 BCE.) The main difference between the two of them was that Buddhism moderated the severity of Jainism, and made it more accessible to laymen to practise.