Total Pageviews

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Consumerist Laws

No economy, least of all ours, where half the people lead an existence below the poverty level, can support the middle class dream of unbridled consumerism.  So it has been quick to learn the ropes of the “world of market efficiency with its corruption and dirty tricks” to fulfil its essentially unachievable dream.  You cannot embrace the market, the profit society ruled by the consumer king and keep away corrupt practices.  But then the middle class does not only want to eat well and live well, it also likes to think well of itself.  A generalized and diffuse sense of grievance against the “system” nicely   relegates   the individual guilt to a “collective” from which they are automatically excluded.  The newly invented myth that the laws are inadequate justifies the demand for the all-conquering thunderbolt to strike the mightiest of the corrupt.  The unqualified support of the Jan Lokpal Bill is the most articulate expression of their middle class ontology.  Any serious discussion of the bill therefore, must be foregrounded in the Dr. Jekyll-and-Hyde character of the movement.  Many of those who light candles or keep vigil for the TV cameras are also part of the anonymous and shadowy “corrupt system”.

The utopian thinking which favours radical and subversive solutions even a recasting of the institutions and practices that create the social order has teamed up with the consumerist urge.  Never satisfied with what is on offer, these drives ceaselessly demand ever greater things; the bar is progressively raised, the aims go higher and higher.  The consumerist urge is both fuelled and satiated by a longing for newer and shinier merchandise and disposing off the old.  The use value is supplanted by the sign value.  Otherwise the proposed Lokpal bill – the authorized version of it – that we are so agitated about would not have been such a do-or-die imperative.  We have a roster of laws in the arsenal – precision guided to eliminate corruption, black money and acts of financial malfeasance.

It is in this context that one would like to raise the tactless and undiplomatic question – in what respect has the P.C. Act 1988 been tested and found wanting in the context of investigations.  In tandem with the RTI it can take care of the corrupt practices lowly peon as well the PM of the country.  If it shakes in craven terror when it comes to calling into account the mightiest, the fault certainly lies with those who are wielding the authority under that Act, not the Act itself.  I am all for the strongest possible Lokpal Act; it is always comfortable to have an ICBM tucked away somewhere in the silo.  My worry is our dismal track record in terms of our use of the available weapons.

The Prevention of Corruption Act by outlawing the giving and taking of crime obligates the entire society to an honest conduct and yet the nation is outraged and helpless before its all pervasive corruption.  What is the purpose of law if no one obeys it?  How do we administer a society which throws up people against whom the law itself hides behind legal lacunae and legerdemain?  The CBI, an organization which appeared to have been carved out of pure awe, (was it till yesterday?) - suffers from a serious crisis of credibility today.  The laws that it has been dealing with have become more lethal.  The institution of the CAG has been there all the while and no one took much notice.  Then comes a man called Vinod Rai and suddenly the nation wakes up to its tremendous powers and anti corruption potential.  To bring up the counterfactual, a serial grabber of post-retirement assignments has all but killed the Right to Information Act in a particular state.

Corruption just like AIDS: is not a disease but a syndrome.  It is the manifestation of a society which has turned immunodeficient; a society which can no longer depend on its own antibodies, its moral defences .  In the present context it is more important to make better men; for that we have to reform our society a little bit. One can be a very efficient minder of other people’s morality: the difficult part is watching your own conduct.

Gandhi sought the terms of his appeal by delving deep into himself; for him the political was never divorced from the moral.  Is there a Gandhi today who could lead a civil obedience movement to exhort his followers to obey just one injunction – of not paying or accepting bribe; admittedly an action as heroic as those of our forefathers, who faced bullets in the freedom movement?  In his second coming, could a Gandhi produce enough number of men commensurate in their moral worth on a regular basis to the the perfectionist Lokpal assignments?

If that were not to be, the Lokpal Act would be another consumerist indulgence.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tales from Banana Republic - II: Blessed Be the Poor

The poor who failed to enter the Kingdom of God ended up in the Republic of Banana, which is perhaps just as well, because the camels that had got past the eye of a needle also, unaccountably, landed in this same Republic.  I make haste to add that this is by no means being cited as a double refutation of any religious text.  A brief explanation as to how this state of things came to pass is, therefore, necessary.  The camels getting past the eye of a needle has never been historically ascertained, but a very assiduous and devoted priest carried out his research into this strange coincidence.  For his efforts, he received his Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Belsund. 

He was interviewed for the popular channel As It Happened. 

Dr Blunderbuss welcome to our popular programme “Celebrities”. 

Dr. Blunderbuss:
Thanks very much. 

Could you tell us something about your area of research and the findings?

Dr. Blunderbuss:
In the seventh century b. p (Before the Year of the Poor) (Corresponding to 3
rd century b.c) the Republic of Banana exported great quantities of spiritual wisdom to neighbouring countries as aid and charity.  So, despite being the market leaders in spiritual property, the Republic was in huge deficit of forex.  My research has shown that it is during this period that all these straying camels landed up in the Republic of Banana.  The Republic was flush with spiritual assets but little material wealth.  So, any addition to its material resources was welcome, but never openly acknowledged.  In this land, the slaughter of animals was forbidden, even though it made no economic sense.  So, some clever entrepreneurs took to the smuggling of these plentiful straying camels across to the neighbouring republic and made fast bucks from the profitable, but clandestine, trade in raw hides.  It appears that the strict scrutiny at the various check posts that the republic had established to prohibit this contraband trade was spoken of, metaphorically, as the eye of the needle. 

But getting past the needle of the eye refers to the exiting camels. Does not that present a discrepancy in the narration, Dr.Blunderbuss?

Dr. Blunderbuss:
Exactly, but over a long period of time such extrapolations and temporal mix-ups do occur.  Eminent historians have encountered such difficulty in the account of the rise of Minoan civilization and the dating of the events of the time of the Sumerian Kings.  The cultural anthropologists and the experts at hermeneutics also throw their weight behind this thesis of the “exiting camels.  ”

So this simple flaw in the linearity of the narration does not affect the basic thesis?

Dr. Blunderbuss:
Absolutely not.  This is how the Republic of Banana came to have, broadly speaking, only two categories of people.  Those who had defied the Biblical injunction indulged in contraband trade and other illegal activities and become rich. They became the ruling class.  Those who had taken the Biblical road map seriously and had abstained from theft remained poor and provided the ruling class with endless scope for  working for the welfare of the poor. 

Thanks very much Dr.Blunderbuss, for your very informative and convincing  exposition.  Hope to have you with us on some other occasion. 

The rulers of the Banana Republic knew that it was the poor who would ultimately inherit the earth.  The Directive Principle of the Constitution of the Republic enshrined as its goal the determination to create conditions for the poor to multiply by leaps and bounds.  A beatific smile spreading across the face of a poor man dreaming of bread was embossed at the centre of the impressive national emblem. 

Professor Lal Singh, Director of the National Art Gallery, was paid an honorarium of One Billion Rupees for this inspirational motif.  The Banana Republic, it may be added, had got rid of the out-dated Christian calendar, Vikrami Samvat, Gregorian and Julian calendars.  The year in which it made the first survey to locate the poor was designated as Year 1.  In all official business it was obligatory to mention in the year of the poor i.e.  “y.p.”

The census of people living below the poverty line, in fact, was a very happy, even pious pastime, which was undertaken from time to time.  The economists and the planners engaged with the ferocity of the great ecclesiastical debates of the middle ages on what constitutes poverty, who was poor, and whether there was a failsafe method to recognize the poor when one actually encountered one. 

So when in the Y.P.2060 the Republic decided to have a fresh survey, it was not an easy task to choose the right man- someone who was practical and not dogmatic had no nonsense approach and who could deliver the results.  The President retired to his chamber, put on his thinking cap, smoked long and hard from his favourite pipe.  After days of waiting he finally said “Let Mr. Dang conduct this survey.  He is the most responsible and the wisest of all the civil servants.”
Many who were opposed to Mr. Dang on account of professional rivalry, and many more who were jealous of his go-getter image, raised several objections, but the president was curt and dismissive.   “Mr. Dang has been nominated, and Mr. Dang it shall be”. 
So this onerous task fell to the lot of Mr. Dang. 
Mr. Dang, it must be said, had many sterling qualities and he had distinguished himself in many a critical assignment.  He was a conjuror of sorts.  Admittedly, he could not produce a rabbit out of hat, but surely he, and only he, could make a budget for Rs.80000 Crores, with virtually nothing in the kitty.  He would often add nothing to nothing and produce something.  Some of his uncharitable critics attributed this to the fact that he was arithmetically challenged.  But there were a large number of people who could vouch that he was a mathematical genius.  However, the fact that he had occupied all the key positions in the government and gone on to head the civil service gave lie to the claims of his detractors. The government could err once, even perhaps twice, but could it err all the time?

Mr. Dang, meanwhile, took up the most challenging assignment of his life time with his characteristic verve and enthusiasm.  He declared that he would very soon announce the methodology and all that.  Saying so, he went into a long hibernation.  Insiders say that he locked himself up in a room with all the available literature on the subject, an abacus, and thousands of marbles. 

He burned the midnight oil struggling with calorific values and genie co-efficient, grappled with exclusion and inclusion criterion.  He started off by making bunches of six; one bunch designated a poor family of six.  He made a few bunches of seven marbles to account for the decimal in the average family size of 6.28.  By the time he had got to seven families he discovered that 7 bunches of 6 each, and 6 bunches of 7 each added up to the same number.  How can 7x6 be same as 6x7?

Mr. Dang spent reams of paper in lengthy calculations but he could not come up with a suitable formula to account for this anomaly and just when he was about to give up, a beautiful and failsafe method of identifying the poor was born out of his despair. 
He decreed that a long rope-earlier used as a clothes line- be strung at a particular height.  Those who could walk under the line in an upright position without touching the rope would be designated as living below the poverty line. 

This method was found to be the most objective, safe and impartial.  It was an instant hit with the bureaucracy because, apart from saving them from back breaking paperwork, it was also flexible, and what better incentive to keep the bureaucratic brotherhood together than the occasion of fiddling with flexible rules. 

The task of identifying the poor was going on at a brisk pace.  The bureaucracy could lower the rope or let them crouch, as and when it suited them.  This came to be known as the bureaucratic rope-trick.  It consisted in raising the rope suitably to let those people crossover who otherwise would not have but for the fact that they had ingratiated the rope man.  It could be lowered to stop those who did not find favour.  It was an act doubly blessed and the offerings meant for the poor were split equally between the performers and the participants of the rope trick. 
The list of the poor was ready in record time and the Republic of Banana went into an overdrive to provide them with various benefits.  Mr. Dang was not lacking in fame, earned by such popular innovative schemes in his earlier assignment.  But this was his crowning glory and earned him accolades from his peers and common people alike. 
The   republic launched a massive programme of housing   the poor.  In a given time frame, the President decreed, each one of them must have a roof over his head.  It appears one of the district officers took his statement quite literally, and built roofs without walls and was quite surprised to see that they came crashing over the heads of the poor dwellers.  Even while the government was grappling with this tragedy where in about 400 poor people had died, Mr. Dang received the following communication from the D.M. of a far-flung district. 

We have found that the programme to provide decent housing to the poor has run into some difficulty.  Seventy thousand houses built in the last three months have not been occupied by them.  They say that these are no good because they provide shelter neither from the sun nor rain from above.  Many of them in fact most of them save one claimed that they could not even see them.  It is worthwhile to mention here that we had constructed these houses with utmost care and used the most durable material available.  But it appears that because of some as yet undiagnosed ocular infection or mass delusion the poor have refused to occupy these houses.  The government may like to get this matter investigated by an expert committee. 
Yours faithfully etc.

The great discrepancy between the two views of reality was proving to be very intractable. In view of the great urgency and extreme sensitivity of the matter a,full-fledged multi-disciplinary research project, with a budgetary provision of Five Billion Rupees, was commissioned at the National Physical Laboratory, to which experts in optics and ophthalmology, economists and ethnographers, psychologists and psychiatrists, entomologists and even ventriloquists, faith-healers and shamans were appointed. 

That was in the year 2064Y.P.In the year 2069 Y. P. it was announced that the findings were due any time, but as the final touches were being given  to the report  it was discovered that some of the  data was fake, some out-dated, and some based on erroneous assumptions.  The committee was reconstituted with even wider terms of reference.  Optimistic estimates suggest that it won’t take more than a few years now for the experts to submit their report. 
Meanwhile Mr. Dang himself chose to inquire into the death of the poor people in the house collapse accident.  He made a local inspection; spoke to the relatives and the survivors; wondered aloud how and why they had survived.  Photographs were taken, the whole scene of occurrence was videotaped and Mr. Dang flew back to the capital.  In his report he held the speech writer of the president squarely guilty of the mishap.  He recommended his immediate dismissal and launching of a criminal prosecution for the murder of 400 innocent poor.  It was he who had put that bit about “roof over the head of every poor family”, in the speech of the President which had led to the misunderstanding leading to the accident. 

As to the district officer, he commended him for his financial prudence and acumen-“if at all”, the report said, “someone can be commended in such unhappy circumstances, regrettable though the incident is, the District Officer managed to save Rs. 699, 99, 99,600.00 of the taxpayers’ money.  The following is the detailed break up.

By merely building the roof over the heads of the poor the officer had saved Rs.  700Crores. Subtract the figure of 400 the number of lives lost from the money thus saved and you arrive at the figure quoted above.”

The report was placed in all the public fora where the matter had been agitated.  The President of the Republic himself congratulated Mr. Dang for his sagacity, his judgment and above all his great compassion for the poor.  It was decided to present the budget to the people at large in a rally, which should be known as the mother of all rallies.  To showcase the activities of a compassionate, caring Republic, the administration took out massive advertisements, published souvenirs and sponsored sporting events.

 The administration conveyed the poor to the central park in their full regalia of tattered clothes.  Great feasts and cultural events were staged in their honour.  Every district of the Republic, to showcase its achievements, took out expensive advertisements in newspapers and other media.  The World Bank sent observers to independently assess the numbers, because there were complaints that some of the republics were deliberately inflating the numbers to earn some brownie points.  Mr. Dang got to put a maddening chorus of applause to enlighten those assembled there about the efforts made by government.  The report on the measures taken for the welfare of the poor was read out of the total budget amount of Rs. 50 billion, Rs. 49.995 billon were spent on designing a suitable emblem, hoardings, and other publicity materials. The organization of rallies and commemorative souvenirs, holding of enquiries etc. publicizing the scheme and educating the journalists were the other significant items of expenditure. 
The rest was spent for the benefit of the poor.  The huge congregation went into raptures as shouts of “long live Mr. Dang”, rent the sky making God himself feel a little uncertain whether his oversight in booking the poor for a wrong destination wasn’t better for the poor after all.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mr. T.S. Eliot and his Fads

for Ishanvi

Mr. T.S Eliot was by and large, fair in his judgments.
That is, if you overlook some of his embarrassing critical pronouncements.
And his hasty and ill conceived pursuit After Strange Gods,
Which won him many side snarls and some polite nods.
But I always wonder,
Why did he so shamelessly surrender?
To the charm of the mundane and un-dramatic cats.
Dedicating not just an isolated rhyme,
 But one whole Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
To describe their lives and lores,
 Their tantrums and their daily chores,                                                               
  Their diets, their dates, their habits and habitat.
 The broad backed hippopotamus rolling in slime and mud
The tons of lard that squats with a deafening thud
The flittering of bats or the hooting owls,
Or the activities of the more exotic kinkajou or the mungabey
 Are hardly the animals that delight
  But they often spurred Eliot’s’ fancy to flight.
  Much to the consternation of the average reader
 Or any other sentient creature.
 Here in UK or the more distant lands
 Wherever English poetry is still cherished or tolerated,
One can fault his choice on many counts.
Reasons of taste is but one, but there are so many more,
In my mind the evidence steadily mounts.
So let’s forget it and come straight to the point.
Why did the traditional favourite,
 The trusted and faithful dog
 Failed to elicit even a rhyme or jog?
His inspiration to compose in its honour a rattling good song.
Was it mere poetic license?
Or sheer dotage or indolence
Or subliminal longing for his porpentine cat.
Useless in many ways; for one
They couldn’t even scare a rat.
Lazy and indolent
Waiting for the soft October evening to settle
And they just curled about the house and fell asleep.
Peaceably asleep! While the poor dogs slave it out
Be it the St Bernard or the Doberman pinscher
Or the agile Grey Hound, or the Bulldog with its deadly snout
The loveable Pomeranian or the loyal Alsatian
Do not figure even in a minor role
In any of his poem or play
Or his other writings
Critical, ecclesiastical, secular or lay.
I don’t mention the Wasteland
Because it cast the dog in a rather demeaning role
As being no friend to man.
Murder in Cathedral had scope for half a dozen canine roles
But obviously Mr. Eliot had other things in mind.
Now, therefore the time has come
When conscious efforts must to be made
For addressing the injustice and correction of taste
The excess in one direction
The addiction to cat lore
Must be amended
And the dog firmly established at the centre stage
As in the days of yore.
With this noble end in view
You are privileged to witness this Preview
Of some of the eminently successful dogs
They have varied penchants and different inclination
But they are well known in their circles
Some are celebrities of sorts
But their fame has not spread as far as it ought
They are being inaugurated to world at large
With their recent pencil sketches and the reports of   their charge

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Fable For Our Times

1988 was one of the very bad years from the point of view of my seasonal discomfitures and crises. It was also the most productive in terms of the trivia that I keep churning out. Since blog had not come into being then, most of it disappeared or was destroyed because it could not survive periodic post production scrutiny. Some did survive. Friends, Foes and Faceless Jokers is one such piece. Many others though not destroyed, went out of sight. The post that follows belongs to this category.

Like everyone else I also was bitten by the bug of   getting published  and I remember having fallen for an offer made by my classmate, who was then teaching in Patna University, that he would see to it that I achieved authorship.  After he collected the copy, he never quite mentioned anything about it.  I thought I had lost out the rhymes as well as the opportunity of  seeing it published, because on the few occasions I met him I was too shy to ask.  But one of my periodic bonfires of old papers which have  outlived their utility, brought to light not only this, but many longer rhymes and other doggerel verse.

The Fable for our Times was scribbled when my children were in the primary section (if I remember correctly, one of them was in the KG) and they were required to write something on their visit to the zoo  for their  class assignment.  This piece  grew out of that  collective  effort and  is dedicated to those innocent uncomplicated years of their childhood which dispelled the  officially incurred gloom in our lives and kept us going.

              A FABLE FOR OUR TIMES

The caged animals of Sanjay Gandhi Zoo
Had enough of the veritable hell
That they were living through.

They had overheard their keepers,
Game wardens and lion tamers,
Talk of kindness to animals, but alas!
For this story there were no takers.
For in their hearts, they all knew
That all the talk of preserving the species
Was nothing more than a diversion
With which man himself amuses.

The most disgruntled of the whole lot of beasts
Were none other than the monkeys, apes and Chimpanzees.
The word spread through the underground channels.
(To such silent communication systems there are no human parallels!)

The time and venue for the meeting was published in
Zoo times-the animal samizdat
The zookeepers were unfortunately unaware of this
Coup de etat.

The meeting began on a very acrimonious note.
A lot of fire was breathed,
In danger stood many a throat.
But as the day wore on,
The deliberations assumed
A somber tone.

From some weak livered member in the crowd
Escaped a piteous moan.
The wizened sage, hirsute and shaggy
But taking a distinctly biped stance,

“Gentlemen and ladies, no hypocrisies here,
We are animals please”.

And shot a meaningful glance.

“Why have we been deprived of our liberty?
Not to speak of our property.
Separated from friends,
Plucked away from our habitat
And forced to live on human charity?

Why is it that what is sauce for the human goose,
Is not sauce for the animal gander?
The humans may the outer space colonize
But we can’t even at our pleasure wander.
The jungles here on our terra firma.

You must excuse me my meandering discourse.
But for describing our suffering and their wickedness,
One must perforce to metaphors and allegories take recourse.
Even then I wonder
Full justice could be done to their cursedness.
So I’ll do no better than introduce,
My dear friend, who is part clown, part impresario
For our benefit here, he will reduce,
His vast experience of the human inferno and purgatorio.”

A monkey gets up with great distaste
“Gentlemen! I am not keen on polemical debate.
Especially, if it is directed towards our closest mate.
Even though they may disown us for their own reasons.

If you ask me I am always at a loss,
When I watch my cage keeper speak to his boss.
He shivers before him in season and out of season.
He sniggers and he twitters
And engages in meaningless chatter.
He keeps devising ingenious ways to flatter.
Why, his antics and his chatter
His acrobatic and his natter,
Would put many of our less endowed colleagues to shame.”

A hyena could no more contain himself.
“My experience of the human species, stated precisely
Explains why our kind avoids them - and wisely.

They are cunning and deceitful, opportunists and slimy
Self serving, egotistical, hypocritical and wily
I shall illustrate the above generalization with a pointed tale.
Of how two close friends were trying to grab
An opportunity with mutual blackmail”.

A pig who might have been sleeping but now looked interested
Drew a deep yawn as a prelude and this is what he narrated.
“I saw a fat khadi clad man talk to his minions, bless our hearts!
And now I am convinced that a man is made of many parts.

(The fatso was holding his court, according to the latest report.
Discussing the state of things and what to report,
To the court of the highest resort.)

The worthy in white grunted and growled,
He put on a most becoming scowl.
The minions and lackeys shivered and whimpered,
Licked, lowed and ceaselessly kowtowed.
When the worthy grunted I thought he was one of our kind.
When, he growled of the big cat did he remind.
The lackeys in turn made me think of the skunk,
Of the louse who crawls on to your shirt and the lowest punk.
And my considered opinion may be reiterated
That man has complete affinity with us - some stated, some unstated.
How! Oh! How highly is his worth overrated”?

A peacock in the backbenches was dying to have his say.
“Ladies, gentleman and friends I would like to continue this tale, if I may.
I saw this same worthy pay court and obeisance to his big daddy in New Delhi.
When he strutted out of his house with lackeys in tow.

Proud as a peacock, bold as a lion,
So sure of himself everyone was forced to bow.
But no sooner than he reached his Mecca, the Jerusalem of Power.
He shrank in size: he almost cringed in craven terror.
The presiding deity proved to be more than his match
He called the likes of our hero in one single batch.
Our pilgrim’s aura left him, he couldn’t articulate,
Left destitute of words, he was in a terrible state.
How sad to say, the peacock, the lion of pedigree pure,
Was suddenly reduced to a rabbit, a mole who couldn’t the daylights endure”

The terrestrial animals had until now held complete sway,
The marine mammals it was thought had nothing to say.
But for a dolphin known for his linguistic abilities.
He had made a special study of governments and hermeneutics.

“Gentleman, you are all aware of the human aural deficiencies.
They can pick up sounds only of limited frequencies,
But they have devised words, sentence, syntax and grammar.
In short language to the world of phenomena acts as their primer.

However, their language bears only a very rough approximation to the picture of reality,
These imprecise tools constantly deteriorate with use and are witness to their brutality.
When the humans say ‘Peace’ the wiser amongst them promptly prepare for war
If they say ‘accord’ people apprehensively look for signs of discord,

All the nations have ministries of defence,
Ever ready to invade and attack
But defence is always the pretense.
The ministry of employment ensures unemployment,
The ministry of education assiduously shuts out enlightenment.

Some of us still remember the dawn of human civilization.
Many of our kind actively participated in its celebration.
Language was hailed as a gift of the gods.
It held out promise of an era of peace, of cordiality and accord.

But great expectations have gone wry.
On the list of potentially threatened animals,
He himself ranks high.
Standing in the shadow of nuclear doom.
Haunted by the fear of ecological blight and population boom.
The human race displays a remarkable sense of humour
He creates funds for this or that extinct species
And revives an extinct tuber.
But at his back he fails to hear.
The great Mushroom cloud hurrying near”.

The congregation was silent; the atmosphere took an eerie tinge.
The portents of doom were enough to unsettle and unhinge
For what seemed like eons no one spoke,
Except a twittering sparrow, the silly bloke,

Everyone looked to the aged eagle, apparently distraught.
For comfort, for solace for sobering thought.
Could silence be jarring, could sheer emptiness have weight?

The eagle’s long, silent, world-weary look accelerated their pulse rate.
The winged ancestor, the solemn sage, of greater disasters did presage,
“There is no disputing our affinity, our resemblance and common lineage.
But why make an issue of it!
Let the humans think they are different, damn it!

Let us look back a little to the beginning of Time.
When the cosmos was taking shape, the fireball was in its prime.
There was only the indeterminate, undifferentiated primeval soup.
You couldn’t get anything out of it,
How hard or how long you did scoop.

Then rose the anaerobic forms (of shall we say life)
Setting some criteria.
Paving the way for the rise of many strains of bacteria.

From bacteria to unicellular creatures.
To amoeba with shapeless features.
From reptiles to winged beast that nightly feasts.
From Dinosaurs to the fleet footed arboreal beasts.

Ladder upon ladder, brick by brick.
The evolutionary strategy unfolded its trick.
(Only partly discovered by Watson & Crick)

Till the creation of our cousin - Man
At this point it seems, the unforeseen fingerers
On further innovations put a ban,
But of all the species the most selfish is man.
His altruism has different meanings in different contexts.
So that he can kill sperm whales and his own infants on various pretexts.

The other species enriched the genetic pool furthering the evolutionary end.
But if things are left to man himself he will to himself and to evolution itself put an end.
In his moment of glory unfolds his tragic story.
He has measured the interstellar spaces, propounded the relativity theory.
He has delved into the heart of the atom and mapped the subfor nical region.
He has listened to the music of spheres, the call of the
Men of vision.
But alas! Is his mind within the governance of his reason?

There is the other strain - The Siren’s song.
The one that urges them on to suicide and swan’s song.
The Pied piper comes in every age - only the disguise varies
He plays a tune which urges them to give in to irrational vagaries.

In the days of yore it was the sea-deep and blue
In our times they are the Perishings, the Cruise and the Tridents - in steel grey hue.
The ozone layer depletion, the urban chaos,
The population boom, the superpower fracas,
The scourge of AIDS, the deadly plague.
The endless hedonism, the death wish vague.
Drugs, psychiatric abuse, mass manipulation.
Funless fornication and instant gratification.
It is the tragic flaw of which the Greek playwrights warned.

And how would the world end?
Not in the manner one of their kind suggested,
Not with a ‘whimper’; not in a calculated cataclysmic upheaval as predicted.
It will go up in smoke overtaken by the Mushroom cloud.
Not precipitated by some superpower mighty and proud.

Some faceless, depersonalized creature, part man part computer,
To the question whether the human race has a right to survive,
Will be the final adjudicator.
Bored by his enforced loneliness, ennui
Or the sheer metaphysical horror.
Of the awareness of the enormity of his diabolical role,
Sitting in fear and trembling at the nuclear control,
May press the button without waiting for orders,

It would be as if the entire house were to be blown up
While the evening was still young and the revelers keyed up,
For a long night’s carousal and a bomb were to go off;
Leaving the house in shambles,

No trace of anything left off.
No culprits, victims, survivors, nor adjudicators,
No media men, T.V. Crews, antinuke demonstrators.
None left to lament or investigate
No historians, reporters or parliamentarians to debate.

Reptiles, bulls, lions or tigers,
Fish, mammals, predaters or primates.
Genes, chromosomes, DNA and gametes
Blood, marrow, arteries and bone
Beans, peas, cornflower or stone.
Man, mineral, reinforced concrete,
Underground shelter or nuclear silo.
The Colorado Desert or the Assam Rhino.
They will all merge and intermingle.
The barriers will melt and species commingle.

The fever of the vein, the ague of the bones,
The serotonin in blood , the secretion of the hormones.
All will have settled down in the planetary soup,
Where nothing into nothing from nothing recoup.
No blame will be apportioned, no credit sought,
No wars over the wording of obituaries fought.

The ghost of Mark Twain will join the Satan to  grin with
An evil chuckle.

“What is left of what it was?

Nothing, nothing, nothing

At all”.