It was the winter of 1930, almost 90 years ago. Millions of underprivileged Indians, were trying to bear the cold wave with scanty resources at hand. But the political atmosphere in India was nowhere close to being cold. Political diaspora was abuzz with excitement. Simon Commission had come and gone. under the Presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru, tri-colour was unfurled and a call for ‘Poorna Swaraj’ was given by INC in its Lahore session in Dec’29. Britishers had done their bit in antagonising, INC had done its bit. Now, every eye in the nation, Indian and Britishers alike, was looking at just one man, and waiting for His call to action.
But the man, commonly known as Bapu, was a wily fox. He wasn’t to be moved by the emotional turmoil into a hurry despite the cajoling of a whole nation. Instead, the man, who had recently turned 60, just retired to his ashram in Sabarmati to contemplate over the _possibility of launching_ an agitation. The young nationalists not to be shut down by the Old man, decided to observe 26 January 1930 as Independence Day with a series of meetings across urban and rural India. The final push or perhaps the end of his sadhana, we will never know. At last, Gandhi sprang into action with a memorandum to Lord Irwin on 31 January. The memorandum, contained 11 points varying from Prohibitions, Right to Carry Arms, reduction of exchange ratio, tax on salt, reduction of various expenditures like military, salaries, coastal shipping rights, condemnation of political prisoners, abolition of CID.
As well intentioned and wide appealing as these demands were, none could make any sense of the demands in the times of heightened political anticipation. Looking at it in retrospect, 90 years down the line, we can easily guess what he was getting at, but at the time, it would have been a mystery to friend and foe alike. The magic of how these seemingly innocuous demands turned into a powerful pan India movement forcing the passing of Government of India Act,1935 by the British parliament, is the essence of Gandhi.
The way Gandhi acted through the hot winter of 1929-30 to the eventual breaking of Salt Law followed by the epic Dandi march gives us more than a few lessons. Some of the points that we can learn from this bracket, I have tried to list below:
In the 150th year of his birth, we might think of taking the man out from our wallets and bring him and his teachings into our lives. In a world loaded with single minded democratic autocrats, we might look at the inclusivity, the staunchness of that gentle autocrat who wielded a walking stick and frail body as his only weapon and yet, went on to tame the Shrewdest of Shrews!
Anyone looking at the title of the post would be inclined to think, this as being another eulogy to the ‘Queen of Soul’. Yes it is, about her but no it is not really about her. The beauty of the initial rock/rock n roll/blues was the interconnectivity through one to other. Artist to other, they were covering some of the legends and at times they were just covering and appreciating the contemporaries. 60s-70s the golden ages of English music, never to return.
So, coming to our story, Respect, I was introduced to Aretha Franklin through some of the best or top 100 songs type list and i got to know about the brave strong voice of Aretha. I wouldn’t say that this is my favourite song but I can fully appreciate the magnitude of the song and singer. One thing lead to another, and I landed up at the original ‘Respect’ guy, our dear old Otis Redding, I had heard the name a lot, having had some sort of charisma and charm. And yet, I hadnt heard much of him except the mellow (Sitting on the) dock of the bay. So, expecting dock of the bay, I tuned into Respect by Otis Redding and it was my turn to be blown over. When he starts, “What youuu wantt” louder than the loud thumping and trumpeting going on, I just forgot Aretha Franklin’s voice. His voice didnt carry that message, the earnest but here then, just listening to the song, I will swear to my death bed, I would prefer listening to Respect by Otis Redding over Respect by Aretha Franklin.
And yet, the guy died even younger than the 27 club. Surely a great voice, some great lines lost. Adding both the versions for people to make their opinion.
While growing up, I used to be fascinated about the three Vijays of Indian Cricket, namely, Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare and Vijay Manjrekar, drawing parallels with three Ws in my mind. As I grew up, I realised, while Mr. Manjrekar was the better batsman in his family, the other two Vijays were in different class, both in terms of age, as well as batting class and averages.
There are a lot of things, that can be told about the two Vijays, not least Cricket with Vijay Merchant or Mr. Hazare who breached the Don’s defence twice, a feat not many bowlers achieved, leave aside, the person being one of the two best batsmen in the team. But today, the story is different. Merchant is the Indian Numero Uno, the batsman with the highest First Class average after who else but the Don, he was the founder of Mumbai School of Khadoos Batsmanship, a tradition modified only with the arrival of a curly-haired teenager more than 5 decades later. While the biggest tragedy for Indian Cricket according to Merchant was that Hazare (a Test batting average only .07 lower than Merchant) couldn’t be the finest Indian batsman due to captaincy load.
The batting rivalry of the Don Bradman and Wally Hammond is well-known to the cricket literati, their Ashes rivalries where eventually the Don would prevail over Hammond besting Don’s previous efforts. Similar story-line developed in a similar time frame on the grounds of India, most famously in the matches between Bombay and Maharashtra (Baroda later).
The run race for the highest individual innings by an Indian between the two Prima Donnas began in 1941-42. Merchant’s innings of 242(3) for Hindus against Muslims in Bombay Pentangular was the highest score by an Indian till date. A record, duly broken by Hazare in the very next season with a score of 248 in the same championship against the same opponents, for “The Rest” against Muslims.
The next year, the final match featured, Merchant’s Hindus versus Hazare’s The Rest. Hindus batted first, with Merchant yet again breaking the record with a 250 in the team score. Not to be outdone by the other Vijay, Mr. Hazare scored a mammoth 309 out of a team total of 387, a 300 run partnership with his tailender brother scoring 266 out of them. Thus becoming the first Indian triple centurion.
Final saga of the story again came from the Merchant, scoring a 359* almost a week later, settling the debate for one last time. Hazare although scored another 316 but couldn’t best Vijay Merchant, the Indian Numero Uno.
दुनिया में दर्दनाक अनुभवों की कमी तो नहीं है पर जब कोई अनजाने आपको एक तीखी मिर्ची खिला दे, जिस असीम आनंद की प्राप्ति उस समय होती है, उसका वर्णन संस्कारी शब्दों में करना थोड़ा मुश्किल हो जाता है। मिर्ची नाम से ही अपनी सी लगती है, ऐसा लगता है, और मसाले जिनके लिए भारत का दक्षिणी भाग प्रसिद्ध है, मिर्ची भी उन्ही की विरासत होगी और फिर बाकी मसलों की तरह यूरोपियों ने मिर्ची का स्वाद भी हमारे घाटों पे चखा होगा । पर बड़े आश्चर्य की बात है, कि भारत में मिर्ची का इतिहास कुछ 500 साल ही पुराना है। 15 वीं सदी के अंत में, वास्को डि गामा और उनके साथियों ने ही पहली बार हमारी जीभ जलाई थी। मिर्ची के बारे में ऐसी ही कुछ अनोखी बातें मुझे एपिक टीवी चैनल के एक शो से पता चलीं जो मैं अपनी (बहुत ही कमज़ोर) याददाश्त और विकिपीडिआ एवं अन्य स्रोतों (मुख्यत:) की सहायता से, एकत्रिक करके अपने जैसे कुछ और जिज्ञासु मित्रों के साथ बाँट रहा हूँ।
7500 BC यानी कि आज से 9500 साल पहले से हमारे दक्षिण अमरीकी मित्र मिर्ची का लुत्फ़ उठा रहे हैं। 4500 BC में दक्षिण अमेरिका में इसकी खेती शुरू हुई, लगबघ उसी समय जब हमने चावल उगाना शुरू किया। सन 1492 में कोलम्बस जब भारत की खोज में निकला था, तब उसका एक लक्ष्य काली मिर्च (जिसको ब्लैक गोल्ड कहा जाता था) तक पहुँचने का दूसरा रास्ता ढूंढना था। वो जब अमेरिकी महाद्वीप में पहुंचा तो उसकी मुलाकात मिर्ची से हुई। वहां की स्थानीय भाषा में इसे चिली कहा जाता था, तो रेड इंडियंस की तरह ही पैप्पर की तलाश में मिली चिली का नाम चिली पैप्पर रख दिया। उसके बाद मिर्ची ने दुनिया के कोने कोने तक सफर किया और अब दुनिया की अमूमन हर पाक शैली में इसकी मौजूदगी है। मिर्ची को हमारे भारत की आबो-हवा और हम भारतीयों की मेहमान नवाज़ी इतनी रास आयी कि , आज के समय में भारत मिर्ची का सबसे बड़ा उत्पादक एवं निर्यातक है।
अब मिर्ची का ज़िक्र होते में ज़ेहन में पहला सवाल यही आता है कि दुनिया में सबसे तीखी मिर्ची कौनसी होती और, वो कितनी तीखी होगी? मिर्ची की तीव्रता मापने के लिए स्कोविल्ल स्केल का इस्तेमाल किया जाता है। इस स्केल में चीनी की उस मात्रा को नापा जाता है जिसको मिलाने से इस मिर्ची का तीखापन ख़त्म हो जाये। इस स्केल में सबसे तीखी मिर्ची, अमेरिका की “कैरोलिना रीपर” मानी जाती है जिसका तीखापन 22,00,000 SHU नापा गया है। भारत की सबसे तीखी मिर्ची “भूत ज़लकीया” की तीव्रता 15,80,000 SHU नापी गयी है।
इस पोस्ट का अंत मैं कुछ दिलचस्प मिर्चियों के साथ करता हूँ..
कश्मीरी मिर्च – नाम से ही साफ़ है की ये कश्मीर में होती है , पर इसकी सबसे मज़ेदार बात ये है की ये मिर्ची बस नाम की है , इसकी तीव्रता बस लगबगाह 4000 -5000 तक होती है, इसलिए कश्मीरी खान पान में इसका प्रयोग तीखेपन की जगह ज़ायके के लिए होता है।
गुंटूर मिर्च – आंध्रा के तीखे खाना का राज़ ये गुँटूरी मिर्च है। यह भारत से निर्यात होने वाली मिर्ची में 30% हिस्सा गुंटूर मिर्च का है। इसकी तीव्रता 50,000 -1,00,000 SHU तक होती है।
मुंडू मिर्च – आंध्रा और तमिल क्षेत्रों में उगाई जाने वाली ये मिर्ची अपने आकार की वजह से अत्यंत दिलचस्प है। अन्य मिर्चियों की तरह लम्बी और पतली होने की जगह यह मिर्ची गोलाकार होती है। इस मिर्ची का प्रयोग भी तीव्रता की जगह ज़ायके के लिए होता है। मैंने ऐसी गोल मिर्च नहीं देखी पर मेरे आंध्र-तमिल दोस्त ज़रूर खुशनसीब हैं।
Gold is known as the King of Metals owing to its intrinsic value due to the relative scarcity and that shiny hue. But the aam aadmi of the Metal family better known as Iron, has a very interesting story from its formation to its availability for our usage. First thing I’d do to Iron would be to rechristen it, giving it the cool name of “Star Killer”, the story behind the title shall follow.
The story for the day starts with Hydrogen being the only element present in the universe and the universe still being a hot burner, what with big bang just a few million years past. About 200-500 million years after the big bang (which happened 13.7 billion years ago), the universe got its first production plants. The 1st generation of stars which came into being around that time comprising majorly of Hydrogen with only a few traces, if any, of other elements. The stars, under the force of gravity and the heat around started the first constructive process in the universe. Hydrogen atoms under the intense pressure undergo the process known as “Nuclear Fusion” to form the Helium atoms, the 2nd heaviest element in the universe. The process keeps moving forward, smashing the proton particles against the existing elements to form newer elements, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen and so on. These factories were working very well and the universe was slowly being introduced to newer elements with increasing atomic numbers.
Then, the inevitable happened, a Manganese atom bombarded by another of those free-flowing Hydrogen atoms would have produced the newest kid on the block, our very own Iron. This is, where the story changes. Iron, being a heavy element went out-of-bounds for the Star system, the nuclear fusion process didn’t have enough energy to break the Iron chains. The creation of first Iron atom in a star system is the beginning of its end. Slowly the star, having consumed all its fuel in the form of Hydrogen and left only with the heavy elements died its own death. The manner of settling of the dead bodies in stars, unlike humans, is based on size. Thus the largest become Supernova, some become neutron stars, some become red giants. The red super giants was the last stage of most of the stars at that time. The red supergiants crumbled under the gravitational force and scattered off the heavier elements in violent gushes, spreading them far and wide, making up the source for the iron used by humans 13 billion years later.
Thus, almost every piece of our very common Iron, which we use in our daily life, was formed about 13 billion years ago, long before the Earth, the Sun and the Moon could even be conceived of. And not only the antiquity of Iron, but the most interesting thing about Iron is, it defines the natural boundaries of a star. No heavier element is ever produced in the course of the natural production activity of the universe and its arrival sounds the death knell of its founding star. No wonder, the star killer has had such utility in human lives.
Exploring, and then shattering the known horizons has been the biggest passion of the most entrepreneurial of humans. It is this unending drive that has taken human civilisation to the insurmountable heights. But, there come times in the advance of human civilisation that the logic finally overcomes the blinding passion and makes humans to think, pause and wait. There are two such interesting examples, while one concerns biking, other is about “the single most physically powerful device ever deployed by mankind”.
Tsar Bomba, a Hydrogen Bomb tested on 30th October 1961 by the erstwhile USSR at the peak of their powers and the peak of the Cold War, remains the most powerful detonation achieved by human society. The scale of power generated by the single event was awe-inspiringly obnoxious. Power delivered by such atomic, nuclear bombs is measured in Kilotons/Megatons of TNT equivalent. The blast yield of Tsar Bomba was 57MT TNT, just for comparison, the strongest such weapon tested by US was 15 MT. The Tsar was 3800 times more powerful than Little Boy, the bomb dropped at Hiroshima which was measured 15 KT TNT. While the Pokhran tests in 1998 by India had a max yield of 43-45 KT still 1/1300th times the power of TSAR, a feat achieved 37 years later.
To get an idea of the conventional power of the TSAR, the energy released by that one single explosion in Oct 1961 was 10 times the combined energy of all conventional explosives used during the course of the World War II. Everything within a radius of ~35 kms was razed to ground, houses were destroyed 100s of kms, there were partially broken windows even upto 900-1000 kms from the test site. Yet, the m6ost other worldly thing about the Tsar for me, was the height of the Mushroom Cloud. Through all my studies and general awareness of Geography, anything human related, after breaching the Troposphere (the layer of atmosphere closest to earth surface) is only restricted to Stratosphere, a layer which extends upto 50 kms. But Tsar’s Mushroom cloud breached the natural barrier, extending into the Mesosphere acquiring a peak height of 65 kms, a new horizon breached by humans, something the USSR Scientists could be very proud.
Yet, here comes the interesting story. The Tsar had a maximum theoretical yield of 100 MT but after testing the 57MT mega bomb, finally the USSR scientists decided that enough was enough and a bomb any more powerful would pose severe existential crises in the form of fallout risk and escape of the carrier, thus saving our earth to an extent.
Thus, a bomb which was 10 times more powerful than the whole of World War II, still had a lot of gas remaining in the tank, thankfully for human civilisation, even the human greed can encounter some limits at times.