On the Scenes and Sounds of Democracy

For well over a year now the American public (as well as many thousands of foreigners who reside here and elsewhere) were subjected to countless de­bates and discussions, articles and editorials, speeches and commercials per­taining to the grand event that, like the International Olympics, occurs every four years in this country: the American Presidential elections.

      Many are the seekers of the highest elected and the most prestigious of­fice in the land. Early in the game, they make their desires public one way or another. Then we slowly come to know so much about all these ambitious, and often little known, public figures: their records and their remote past, their values and world views, their tax status and tragedies, and lots lots more. Through a process peculiar to the American system, two of them emerge as the leading contenders of the two leading parties by late July or early August.

      During this process, there are many ups and downs for the contenders, hopes and disappointments, and continual mutual aspersions also. There is no telling who will emerge as the final candidate, for the most unexpected event could spell the doom of a candidate. One year, for example, we saw a promising politician tumble down because he was discovered smooching with an attractive damsel while his wife stayed far away with their children. Another time a potential president promptly withdrew because he had quoted from the speech of a British politician without acknowledging the source. Yet another hopeful was once counted out by the public when he claimed direct conversations with God almighty. It’s okay to talk to God, but if you claim to have received a return call, it is serious.

      Anyway, finally the two major parties select their standard bearers, and these two in turn, by judgment, for regional strategy, or through just bad advice, an­nounce their running mates. Often a couple of inconspicuous marginal candidates also show up on the list. Their impact is invariably to wreck the chances for one of the principal candidates.

      Then begins the season of wooing the public. Now newscasters get even more eager, the candidates consult media magicians who, like medieval potion-peddlers, try to transform the dullest dunces into charismatic Caesars. Word-smiths concoct catchy phrases and speeches, handlers tell the candidates what to tell to whom and when, and the candidates themselves rehearse gestures and smiles for TV cameras.

      Some news organizations, impatient for the final results, periodically poll a handful of potential voters and proclaim, on the basis of basic (and ques­tionable) statistics, and naively replying on the honesty of the respondents, who is likely to win if the elections were held that week. What purpose such an imaginary news item serves is a mystery that few can fathom. But it has become part of the ritual.

      A small section of the public that reads the papers, listens to PBS, and watches Meet the Press and Face the nation, gets to know the issues and what the candidates stand for. The majority forms their impressions from TV commercials and newspaper headlines, and is generally swayed by those that say the sweetest things about themselves and the most horrible things about their opponents. A significant fraction of the population is more thrilled by foot­ball and video movies than by political ideologies.

      And so at last the momentous day arrives. This is a feast day for TV com­mentators, experts who play on a large touch screen to show which states are blue (Democratic) and which are red  (Republican). It used to be that competing networks based on their statistical programs announced at the earliest who, according to their calculations, has won even before the polling booths closed in California.

      Then the decisive moment arrives. The results are announced. One of the candidates concedes, in the presence of his tearful supporters, victory to the opponent. This is the price one pays for this democratic system: Every four years 50 +/- % of the people have to shed tears on this November day when the next Presi­dent of the United States is announced to the world at large.

All this is part of the sounds and scenes of democracy in action.  There is much one can criticize here, there is much to be improved in the unfolding of the spectacle. But we should not lose sight of the fact that one way or another, every willing citizen of the land is drawn into the process. Teachers and truck drivers, artists and scientists, doctors and plumbers, one and all are touched by the din and dance of the democratic drama.

The most moving and significant occur­rence in all of this is that climactic moment when one of the candidates con­gratulates the other. This is civilized government at its best: The reins of govern­ment go from hand to hand, not through bloody battles or conniving conspiracy, not by sabotage and subterfuge, or by taking the head of state prisoner, but in full view of the public and in accordance with what the ballot box dictates.

So it was that Donald Trump was declared President-Elect, i.e. the next President of the United States early this morning (November 9, 2016). At least some credit or blame for his success must be given to forces that created, rightly or wrongly, fear  and job-insecurity in the hearts of vast numbers of simple Americans.  While millions rejoice in his victory there are also millions in the country today who are saddened and dejected by the defeat of a patriotic, intelligent, and immensely qualified candidate who could have become the first woman president of the United States. That is a great disappointment indeed.

My own feeling is that the next four years may not turn out to be as terrible as some fear, nor perhaps as glorious as some others are hoping for. All we can do is to join the vast majority in praying for the well-being and well-fare of the country.

November 9, 2016

History of Science in Rhymes

















The History of Science is great and long

Here you’ll read it, not as song,

But as facts in unmetered rhymes.

From very ancient to modern times.

Sample lines from first few pages 


Hydrogen, helium, interstellar dust,

Rarefied matter was what came first.

They all were of the Big Bang born,

Or from supernovae rudely shorn.

Particles, charges, atoms, ions,

Drawn closer and closer during endless eons;

Were brought within huge confinements

By gravitational enticements

Celestial globules, large and small,

Drops and droplets of the Cosmic Ball:

Massive ones grew hot and more,

Caused nuclear fusion at their core.

So it was that stars were made,

To shine for long, and then to fade.

Of these billions there was one

That slowly became our shining sun.

In its realm and under its sway

Lesser bodies came to play:

Planets, satellites near and far,

Moving for ever around their star.

Sun’s family is itself  bound

To the spiral galaxy it whirls around.

Here a speck we call the earth

Is where we all have had our birth.

In this our home in the cosmos vast

All life we know has had its past.

Life evolved on the temporal span

From molecules to the mind of Man.

Lands were barren, arid, waste,

Landscape not quite to our taste.

Volcanic fumes spread far and near,

While ocean waters were pure and clear.

Ammonia, methane, hydrogen there

In what was then the planet’s air.

Gigantic clouds rose and fell,

Abundant rains caused rivers to swell.

Flowing waters brought salts to sea,

Affecting the ocean’s purity.

Elements from every chemical group

Made the sea  a primordial soup.

Kindled by light, heat, and lightning,

And by factors that could be fright’ning,

Turbulent chemistry did eons take

The first organic units to make.

From inert matter in simpler states

Came amino acids, carbohydrates.

Further reactions now gave rise

To complex systems of greater size.

Self-replicating systems came

To launch life on its random game.

Once the spark of life was lit,

Its range and kind had no limit.

Some trapped energy from heat and light,

Though possessing neither touch nor sight.

Evolving patters of molecules

Brought to life animalcules.

All these were like children’s stories

Compared to the planet’s future glories.

Still no hint of all the creatures

Yet to emerge with stranger features.

Fish and freak of all forms and shapes,

Plants and trees and worms and apes:

All sorts of life now could arise:

 Germs and birds and humans wise.

Nucleic acids held the code,

Slipped and strayed and changed their mode.

By mistakes and unforeseen means

Were mutations made of the genes.

Genetic twists set in motion

Meandering paths of evolution.

As fossil evidence makes one see

All sorts of creatures came to be.

They answered  ev’ry chance and change

That occurred in the planet’s range,

In air and water, and on the land,

In polar realms and desert sand.

Insects, reptiles, also mammals,

Frogs and flies and snakes and camels,

With plethora of trees and plants,

Various as squirrels  and ants

Formed like a Master’s work of art:

Many mind-boggling from the start.

After beings like mare and bear,

One emerged, became self-aware.

It could love and mate, kill and hate;

With hands and mind, great things create.

To itself it could questions ask,

With joy complete a chosen task.

It could be noble, could be mean,

And it could be much in between.

This bundle with intelligence

Named itself Homo sapiens.

Earth this spot on the cosmic slate

Is where are drawn things small and great.

A Doodler sans reason or rhyme

Just scribbles away to pass the Time?

Is all of this  a Divine Plan?

Or just chemistry  causing Man?

Those who on this do firmly swear

Of many things  are unaware.

With all our knowledge, no one can

Precisely date the birth of Man.

Dryopithecus,  Ramapithecus

Followed by Australopithecus.

Apes their problems on trees did  solve.

From them, some think did Man evolve.

Others feel that it’ is a shame

If Man from monkeys truly came.

Science tells us how we came about.

On this, of curse, there is some doubt,

It’s not for science to just suggest

What to humans may seem the best.

As a witty man reminded us

Let’s  look upon the question thus:

If Creation’s ex-ape is you and me,

We also happen its apex to be.     

Mystics and science both do claim

That all life is of the family same.

Four million years or maybe three

Have passed since the biped’s arms were free.

It roamed the land in search of foods,

Ate and slept, explored the woods.

It mated, it procreated,

No arts or craft, it yet created.

Lice and mice, Man ate them well,

Frogs and worms, he liked their smell.

Every creature that moved in sight

Was fit for catch, then for bite.

‘Twas perhaps of a deer or ass,

Man stumbled on its raw carcass.

Might have been old, might have been fresh,

Man formed a taste for massive flesh.

And it became, to say the least,

A thrill to slay or tame a beast.

In the new age that we enter

Man becomes an expert hunter.

Hunting, wild though it seems,

Calls for plans and secret schemes.

In plans and schemes to engage

Man required a language

Spoken words were great and mighty

They sowed the seeds for society.

Not too harsh are Man’s teeth and jaws,

Not to piercing are his claws.

And so his games to fully kill

Man had to use some other skill.

After trying many a trick

He forged his tools with stone and stick.

Technology thus came to fore,

Its first goal was just to gore.

A lightning flash that caused much fright

Did perhaps a forest light.

Or the scorching sun on a summer day

Burnt perhaps a leaf away.

Or random strokes of rocks in dark

Did produce a fiery spark.

Through such events did Man acquire

His knowledge of insubstantial fire.

That, in truth, was a great event,

Alas, it unrecorded went.

So we know not how or when or where

Man first of fire became aware.

Subtle fire was ever so helpful,

Strange sometimes, but also hurtful.

Warmth it gave in wintry weather,

At night humans moved hither and thither.

It protected him from beasts of prey

Which by fire were turned away.

It fell not down, and defied touch,

‘Twas not feared, for it did so much.

When cities, temples, and prayers came,

Humans began to worship flame.

Seeking food, every month of the year,

Humans hunted foxes, yaks and deer.

Humans were restless,  nomadic

The food they found was sporadic.

Then ten thousand years ago

Humans began some grains to grow.

They had learnt to sow and reap

And harness beasts like cow and sheep.

When humans grew  greens and grains

And learned the role of falling rains,

They knew there was no further need

To move and search, themselves to feed.

Now they started settling down,

Building roads from town to town.

The great Agro-Revolution

Slowed and stopped constant motion.

More creatures were domesticated,

Life became more complicated.

But while they sat and they did wait

For seeds to sprout and germinate

They’d watch the sky or tell a star

“How I wonder what you are!”

They’d sing and dance or take a ride

On their mind fertile, so far and wide.

Unchained thoughts, when free to rise,

Often tend to civilize.

When society tries to curb free thought

Civilization begins to rot.

The Full Book is Available on Amazon.com & in Kindle.