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Monday, June 25, 2018

Breaking down News: Bamboos of the Gods

Political histrionics and the case for ancient India’s scientific achievements

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Published: December 6, 2014 2:39:20 am

When a bamboo boomerangs, those who were looking for a place to stick it in find it hard to find a safe place to flee to. So said Mamata Banerjee at Jalpaiguri, while making energetic gestures to drive home the point. The word “bamboo” was in English to guarantee universal comprehension, advertising Didi’s prowess far and wide. The rest of the communication was in robustly colloquial Bengali but quite shamefully, the entire English media, TV, print and internet, bowdlerised it in translation. Inauthentic cowards.

But soft, let us stop this racket and pay heed, for the chariots of the gods are looping the loop in the Lok Sabha. BJP MP and former chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ has taken many leaves out of Erich von Däniken’s books to sing of nuclear weapons and rocket science in ancient times, when everyone was Hindu and no one was confused. However, it fails to explain why, if the landscape of Aryavarta and Brahmavarta was bristling with Vedic warheads, didn’t the Hindus nuke all invaders back to the Pamir Knot or wherever they came from?

Emboldened by the prime minister’s optimistic speculation that Ganesha was an early triumph of plastic surgery, Nishank made a rather wild plea for astrology to be recognised as the mother science from which all knowledge flows. Sadly, the leading champions of the glory of ancient India never seem to get it right.
The philosopher Kanada, whom he recalls, did indeed develop an atomic theory, but it just declared that all things are made up of indivisible atoms. It had no idea how to divide atoms and make them go bang. And that was in the 2nd century BC, not one lakh years ago as Nishank suspects. As for the claims about plastic surgery, Sushruta did describe a procedure for nose reconstruction or rhinoplasty in his Samhita (about 500 BCE) which is still in common use. Bet the idea of transplanting whole heads across species would have tickled his fancy, but it is wholly impossible.

The target of Mamata’s boomerang was Amit Shah, who has set about uprooting the green shoots of the Trinamool Congress, but NewsX informed viewers that he was collateral damage. The bamboo barb was initially aimed at the CPI-M, Banerjee’s natural prey, but it also flailed at the BJP since the Trinamool fears an entente between the Left and the Right in the state. The anxiety is probably overrated since Amit Shah, who went to Kolkata with the declared intention of uprooting the Trinamool, lost traction when his theory that the Saradha scam money was used to finance terror was capsized by his own government. Perhaps, he had misread ‘Make in India’ as ‘Make Up in India’, but fortunately Parliament doesn’t let members make things up in the House. Meanwhile, the Opposition has stalled the Rajya Sabha over the hateful utterances of the latest sadhvi with a poorly buttoned lip, provising excellent television. The incident has forced the prime minister to speak up against hate, if only to tell the Opposition that it had got an apology, doesn’t deserve more and should toddle off and play.

In contrast to these political histrionics, there was the very real tension at Mahura in Uri, where militants tried to infiltrate an army camp and caused casualties. I watched through the long lenses of Times Now and CNN-IBN for 10 minutes of the 10-hour operation. In that time, the Times Now reporter made a serious bid for a bravery award by speaking non-stop, without coming up for air. The endurance record before brain death occurs is generally held to be three minutes. Only in Vedic times was Times Now’s record broken. Or perhaps, not even then.

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