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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The turning of the year

2016 was a year of deaths in my family. I lost three seniors, one of them very very dear to me.

Like most other recent years, this one was full of sound and fury, signifying very little (iPhone 7 launched!!!). One of the most important developments – for those who are educated and care for both science and nature – happened very quietly at the very end of the year: China has officially declared that it is going to ban the ivory trade in 2017.

The most interesting thing I have learnt about Donald Trump so far is that he does not use email. This is all of a piece with several related items of data I have gleaned and remembered over the years: a) that Mother Teresa built up a great organisation and ran a very tight ship till her last breath without a computer, b) that Oprah Winfrey bought a PC only after she was a multi-billionaire, c) that Bill Gates keeps all his most sensitive documents in hardcopy, d) that following the snooping-over-the-Net scandal, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has ordered all the most sensitive government papers to be manually typewritten, e) that employees in France have just won a 'right to disconnect', f) that Raymond Reddington of The Blacklist fame is, like Trump, a smug dinosaur who has lived through the so-called communication revolution with huge success, without having an email, Skype, Facebook, Whatsapp or Twitter account. Considering the size of my internet footprint, I am already ashamed, and I shall want my daughter to keep this in mind while negotiating the brave new world. It makes me glad that she is very wary of the PayTM kind of stuff, and tells me she doesn’t miss it one bit.

The year ended blissfully in my daughter’s company, finishing off the Star Wars saga among other things. I have been privileged to read a lot of good books and watch some good movies recently. Sherlock Holmes season 4 episode 1 was a shocker, though I had become rather bored with the series earlier. Now I must carry on and find out how Holmes/Cumberbatch ‘saves John Watson’, as per Mary’s last wish. And what on earth are the two of them going to do with little Rosamund? Julian Rathbone’s sequel to A Very English Agent, called Birth of a Nation, was a rollicking good yarn: I am eagerly awaiting the third book in the series. Charlie/Eddie Bosham has become one of my great favourites among literary characters now.

A very moving book I read recently was The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony, and once more I must admit I am ashamed that I did not know of a conservationist of his stature till now. Do read up on him and his beloved elephants on the Net; you will find a wealth of interesting information, including the amazing (yes, I meant that word) story of how they came to mourn for him at the Reserve Lodge after he died, tragically, at age 61 of a heart attack. The anecdote about how his beloved bull Mnumzane had to be put down when he needn’t have moved me to tears, and these days that takes some doing. Anthony would have been delighted to hear about the news from China.

Reading Anthony brought back to mind an old and dear love: Gerald Durrell. Much as I now admire Anthony, who wrote ‘To me the only good cage is an empty cage’, I agree, for I believe very good reasons, with Gerry, that without zoos most animals would soon become extinct: therefore zoos must stay, only they must be far better built and managed, as he showed us how. It drove me to look up the website of the love of Gerry’s life, the Jersey Wildlife Trust that he set up, and that is now (fittingly) named Durrell Wildlife Park. I also read up about his (second-) wife, the scientist Lee Wilson, who married Gerry specifically because he had a zoo of his own, and now runs it in his loving memory – as Francoise runs Lawrence’s dream come true, The Thula Thula Wildlife Reserve in South Africa. It is heartbreaking indeed to learn that few youngsters these days read as wonderful a classic as My Family and other Animals, and that the Trust is once again having money problems. I don’t feel charitable about too many things these days, but if I had pots of money I know where much of that would have gone…


Saikat Chakraborty said...

Dear Sir,

I am happy to know that your year ended on a happy note. The first post of this year is vibrant and hopeful and I pray it continues.

Although I am ashamed to say that barring Sherlock Holmes, I haven't read or watched any of the other books or shows that you have mentioned. I will try to read some of it this year.

Take care Sir and have a wonderful year ahead.

With regards,

Nishant said...

Dear Sir,

I am glad you finished the year on a high note. I wish you a happy and healthy year ahead.

I am quite pleased that I have managed to survive with my (dumb) flip-phone. It makes for a bit of a laugh when I whip it out to save or look up someone's number and then shut it dramatically. Trump's been all over the news here, but for different reasons. Terms like "media bias", "post-factual world" and "echo chambers" are being thrown around all the time in order to make some sense of the US elections. That, and the recent Brexit and the alarming rise of Nationalism in some countries in Europe have given rise to a lot of debates and discussions which make for interesting viewing on Youtube.

I do like the modern spin they have given to Sherlock Holmes, but sometimes I feel they go overboard in the way they portray him. Anyway, they are keeping with the times and drawing the attention of a lot of people, whom they keep eagerly waiting for the next installment. That does say something.

Thanks for the list of books. I too have liked horses and elephants since I was little, maybe because of reading all the ancient mythological tales in Jataka, Pancha Tantra, Amar Chitra Katha, Hitopadesha etc (elephants), and Black Beauty and Gulliver's Travels (horses). With the variety of dogs of all sizes, shapes, hues and temperaments, accompanying their masters around in the breweries here, it is hard not to like them. I think I had borrowed the book by Durell from you, the one which speaks about the importance of zoos (though I must admit I still feel sad to see caged animals). Both my mother and I loved Durell's book (My Family and Other Animals). There were instances when I almost burst out laughing while I was reading it in a public area with lots of people around. There are hunting-safari managers in South Africa about whom I am quite ambivalent. I would very highly recommend a book I'd read last year - Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I think it's quite well written and it was difficult to put down, even though some parts were painful and horrendous.


Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda

To me both Brexit and Trump's election overshadowed the year. It is brillant that you find solace in ever trusted books and off-course Pupu.

My best wishes for the year ahead.