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Blue And Red

Blue And Red
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We are, as it were, so battered by benign and beautiful images of Mother Nature that it is difficult to comprehend her malevolent and destructive face. From time immemorial, philosophers to poets to painters to poseurs have extolled and eulogised the glories and delights of nature. I was on a ship in Aswan cruising down the Nile when I first heard of this thing called tsunami. The strange word was so unfamiliar that when an Indian doctor from Ohio told me about the earthquake, I thought it would be a minor local affair. At any rate, on the liner itself nature was displaying its best face: the waters on the Nile were scrupulously well-behaved, a warmish sun and a pleasant breeze lulled the air, the banks of the celebrated river had camels and goats and donkeys and cows grazing lazily, the fields were lush green, well-sown and ready for cutting, there was not a cloud in the sky...and from the minarets the muezzin called the faithful to prayer. Because I am just a hack without a touch of the muse, I cannot compose verse, but anyone slightly more talented would have produced a sonnet or two.

On the TV in the lounge, on a big screen, we watched speechless and stupefied—wave after wave of rising ocean mingled with the shrieks of fleeing survivors. Nature’s fury in blood-curdling detail contrasted oddly with nature’s majesty on the deck above. That she had wreaked her fury on the poor, on the defenceless, on children and, ironically, on those (fishermen) who worship her, made the senseless carnage all the more bizarre. Those who revere Nature rather than the Divine have some explaining to do. If the tsunami is one of nature’s mysteries, one can only say that like the Lord, nature moves in mysterious ways.

Our lonely and fragile planet has more than one enemy. Earth-savers have been loudly declaring that the greed of humankind will destroy the human race. "Ecological balance" and "sustainable development" have been embraced as mantras for survival. Nevertheless, a catastrophic underground earthquake was never on the menu. Can we blame it on George Bush’s refusal to sign the Kyoto accords? Man can control the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction; however, if nature decides to drown or blow up or blast large parts of our universe, there is precious little we can do except watch with impotent horror.

The enemy of our 4,500-year-old civilisation is not merely Osama bin Laden, but a new, ugly force we can neither understand, nor predict nor deflect.

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