Rather than allow the scientists the leeway to continuously come up with new heights
to confuse the world's public with, it is important once and for all to decree a mean for Everest and leave it at that, at least for a decade, after which we can revise the figure taking into account the rising height of the Himalaya due to plate tectonics.
This mean height must be calculated for the snow on Everest-top, and not the rock, for it is show that makes the summit of Everest. If God and Geology had wanted to measure the top accord i ng to the rock height, we would have been given a rock pinnacle where no snow accumulates. Instead, the Third Pole has been endowed with generous snow even though much of the mountain, especially the southern flanks, is mostly dark granite and sandstone.
The exactitude of the Bureau scientists in coming up with the 8846.27 m height is, therefore, to be appreciated but not believed. Since their reading of the snow-laden summit was 8848.82 m, this writer would suggest that we round it off at 8849 meters for the sake of the mass public. Let this figure be reconfirmed by one more look at the mountain, and then let it stand for at least a decade before we decide to confuse the public once more.t*
HIMALAYAN KINGDOM OF NEPAL, BHUTAN
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(Thinking of you while I sit on the balcony ofFaneuil Hall filled with the cacophony of tongues accented in so many rhythms glazed with the great expectation of... dreams.)
J.J. sits on a pew, hands folded across his chest, muffling perhaps the beat of Bharat.
And I—a Himali witness to our Hindustani Jason about to duly tradein his native shawl fora Yankee fleece—survey the faceof the people.
The official roll call begins: Tran Van Joo, Soo Young Long, Wilder Pinash, Danielle Doming, Patrick John Dorvan, Tony Fong Tan, Jean Goo Yu, Soo Fan Yon, Angela Marion Nickelson, Star Inez Dealer...
Five White ladies, holding five certificates each, march toward the people soon to be anointed politically, standing to receive the gift of prized laminated proof of their new beginning, proof of their new life in the New World...
A child in the front row seat, all dressed in a baby Navy outfit, waving a tiny Old Glory, smiled at me; I smiled back at him.
. ..An QuLee,JeselBassacio,Lasine Vladkor Placjda, Natalia Marauez Toralio, Moo W Yan, Wilson Matthew Lee, Lin Yang, Upendar Singh, WiLeeTan...
(Tan, Tan. The Reverend Tan! Of course, the name rings a bell. He is pastor of the Church of All Nations on Tremont Street, whose tower-like architecture belies her pastoral function as a sanctuary to sinners and seekersalike. A converted cleric from the Philippines, Wi Lee Tan is a nice man. However, we failed to see eye to Christological eye when he asked me my thoughts on the divinity of the Son of Man. I said that is nice. The Rev. wanted more. A Hindu who grew up kissing bhat and the Bhagbat Gita, I told him that we are the flickers of the Flame, we are the souls of the Oversold. He was not moved. Religious conversion tends to seduce human souls with the most addictive holier-than-thou drug. Hence my internship with the Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, Inc., Boston, where the diversity of becomingis celebrated in theunity of being.)
Roll call continued, naming names no longer exclusive to the denizens of the Caucasus. Those names, beguiling and beautiful, belonged to the four winds of Mother Earth.
Though herded into the Ellis Island of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, they were far from being sheepish. Unlike Aesop's crow, they camedignifiedintheir native colours: golden, blackand
HIMAL January/February 1995
cinnamon brown. And a pinch of white. They were plumes from myriad branches bearing notes of their native songs to the land of the free and the home of the brave. All songs lead to the Boabab Tooted in the primal loam of our humanity.
America, you, too, sprang from the upturned tree of Africa; America, you, too, have sapblackas the primal night in your blood, of Africa. Wasn't your great-great-great-grand-mother's name Lucy?
America, you are a part of the tesserae of humanity. And see in its mosaic your own face. And the faces you disowned and continue to disown are those of your brothers and sisters, those of your kith and kin, culled from the geography of species.
Sing in the bard ic baritone o f Grandpa Whitman, while waltzing to
To different dreams.
Sing the lyric of Langston Hughes, while tolling out wonder and pain and terror in his Montage of a Dream Differed, And celebrate in duet with your Black Brother; /, too, sing America. And live out the true meaning of its creed.
Sing the Negro spirituals, while dipping your hand—stained from picking strange fruits—in the Mississippi of repentance. Behold your deliverance when theGeorgia clay dons thecolour of ihefruits you picked.
The roll call tolled for my friend: John John Thatanumil.
My friend from the southern tip of India stood, smiled. No, he beamed at me, his upturned face receiving my congratulatory nod and smile from the balcony of Fanueil Hall. Our friendship was a splash of Asian pollen upon the blooming brown-eyed Susan of his cherubic face.
I was happy for J.J. Whatever stamp he may bear on his brown skin, his heart—dipped long ago in the Holy Gangajee—will forever beat, I hope, with the rhythm of the East. He may prove to be a reincarnation of Ga nga Din—who was a better ma n than his creator— in the West; and, subsequently, he may ennoble our humanity bifurcated by Briticism laced with the just so witticism of the peripatetic bard of the Raj.
Left behind in an infant ark of life, six-year-old J.J. waited for his parents to return waving olive branches from the New World.
Holding his younger sister by her hand, J.J. steadied the vessel of his fate unmoored, drifting in the seeming calmness of his father's kith and kin. Assailed with fears and doubts, he trembled. Yet he remained unruffled for his little sister's sake. After all, J.J. is of India, and India commands that a child become a veritable adult the next day. Fate allows so precious little silk to the Indian boys and girls that they are denied the luxury of the warmth of their respective cocoon of boyhood and girlhood. Fly or fall. Swim or sink. J.J. chose to swim. J.J. chose to fly as soon as his father returned with the transatlantic plane ticket to the United States of America to begin his occidental odyssey.
Who he was by the age of nine, J.J. transformed it, transmuted it, translated itintoa much larger script by accommodating America's mandates, mores, and madness;by accommodating his dreams as well as his parents' wishes, against the backdrop of Marthomic collective memory. After ha vinghad an ample taste of "Mississippi Masata", J.J. chose to adorn the historic Faneuil Hall, reasserting the family boabab by reclaiming the Thatamanil name circumcised by his forefathers under the spell of Marthomic conversion, once upon a messianic time, thousands of historic miles away.
What is true of J.J. must be truein certain individual ways of all the soon-to-be-ncrtwraltzerf U.S. citizens, the adoring subjects of the judgeofficiating the ceremony. The judge cheerfully acknowledged this one special function of his office that he enjoyed the most. And cheerfully did he greet and welcome the candidates and their families and friends. Attested by his tone and body language, the judge appeared sincere. As was his wont, the judge overdid the bit about "justice, freedom and the pursuit of happiness". (Holy Buddha!, now there's a phrase—the pursuit of happiness—which sums up the existential mirage in the materialistic Sahara of America.) Since he was addressing Uncle Sam's newest recruits, thequestion of his captive audience going bored onhim was moot. Besides, there was a sort of alchemic momentum in the air that something was going to happen which would change the participants'lives forever. Hence the presiding judge's mellifluous tone lent credence to his sapiency during the sharing of the choice morsels from the myth-kitty of America. Nevertheless, he overlooked one of the dire dictates of the law of migration: The predators follow you wherever you go. To and fro.
I remember. This country was indifferent
to the plight of those hungry, tired and persecuted,
permitted to sail on the SS. St. Louis by Paul Joseph Goebbels.
Denied moorings by Cuba, by America, the ship returned to the
Hadean waters. Save a handful, her human cargo
succumbed to the asvastt maw of the Aryan inferno.
I remember. This country was indifferent.
Commit it to memory!—a must
by the sentinelling Belle Bedloe as well as her callers:
their adoptive country denied entry to the 937 kith and kin of the
of their Man, under the deal newly made with e pluribus unum.
It ought to be tattooed in the linings of naturalized lungs,
so it may not repeat on their watch.
Commit it to memory!—a must.
(Cap ling, compelling, en ticing, the songline of the hutna n dra ma unfolding before me tugged my heart kindred to the novitiates of novus ordo seclorum. I may not be oneoftliem. But I am with them.)
away from home from across the Atlantic,
fromacross the Pacific. Youare the salmon of variegated humanity.
Migration is a movable feast. For some
this country is the deep, for others the shore.
You come ashore heeding the wisdom
of the deep: you come ashore seeking
the altar in the stream. Come home away from home
so that the oceans be replenished, renewed,
with the cyclical certitude of creation.
You come to the deep singing the song
of the stream: you come to the deep carrying
the missal of the stream. Come home away from home
so that the oceans be sanctified, purified,
with the latitudinal liturgy of one great Nation.
I, too, am a salmon.
I dream of the pebbled streams fed by the melting
snows of Sagarmatha.
Finally, the anticipated moment arrived: the administering of the Oath of Allegiance.
Right hand raised. Uncle Sam's adopted children intoned after the judge:
I hereby declare, on oath,
I HEREBY DECLARE, ON OATH,
that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure
THAT I ABSOLUTELY AND ENTIRELY RENOUNCE AND ABJURE
(Though merely a witness to others' renunciation and abjuration, those two words stung my heart, stung my soul. Subsequently, I was somewhat hindered from beingcarried away by the momentous current of the ceremonious occasion for naturalization. Besides, I felt nothing unnatural about my self, about my soul.)
all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty,
ALL ALLEGIANCE AND FIDELITY TO ANY FOREIGN PRINCE, POTENTATE, STATE OR SOVEREIGNTY,
of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; OF WHOM OR WHICH I HA VE HERETOFORE BEEN A S UBJECT OR CmZEN;
Votively, hundreds of yearning mouths gave voice to their newfound allegiance.
A greencarded man whose back is neither wet nor dry, I am more amused than amazed by anydomestic or foreign princeor potentate. Or president. Nehru's Letters from a Father to His Daughter had immunised me during my scholastic infancy at Shanti Nikunja Vidyalaya, against the affliction of falling prey to trumped-up powers of prince or potentateorpresidentinvoked under the aegis of the divine, demonic or democratic right. To allegiance and fidelity to state or sovereignty I, therefore, answer with the conviction of E.M. Forster: ...bull shall fight for one human being.
1 cannot go against the milk that sustained me during my infancy; I cannot go against the bosom that housed me against the cold.
January/February 19S5 HIMAL
If I did lam nothing but a shell of a man devoid of the spirit of my native soil, devoid of the esprit of my Nepali soul.
If I did I am nothing but a gong hollowed out of my natal vitals.
I shall merely be an echo of
the birth of a nation, whose pang
wasn't my mother's pang. Nor her joy my mother's joy.
I can not go against the imprint of my mother's lactating breasts.
I seek the musk rising from the bosom of my native land.
'Tis not for me, I realise, to be bottle-fed on homogenised milk and be naturalized.
. . , and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;
.. . AND THAT I TAKE THIS OBLIGATION FREELY WITHOUT ANY MENTAL RESERVATION OR PURPOSE OF EVASION;
The onlookers were treated to the plangent promissory accents rising from the hall below in their adoptive land of Canaan. The crescendo appeared nigh.
To my right and left were two ladies from Guatemala and Ireland, respectively. The cinnamon sun poured out of the plump, youthful skin of the Guatemalan lady. And the salt and the sea from the Irish face imprinted with crows's feet. Shy, sparse with Anglo tongue, the lady to my right buffered me with her disarming smile and dignified silence. The lady on my left—a retired nurse from the Brigham and Women's—happened to be an inveterate traveler. "O. I have been to your country," she said with a bit of nostalgic glee. I told her that the Ireland I knew came from the Yatesian metier and the Joycean might, as well as the swords of Sinn Fein. "O!" And her sea-green eyes looked away briefly. "Are you a citizen?" she asked, tilting her head toward me. "Neither am I," she said with a splash of green pride.
Gradually, my mind took measure of the issues of mentalreservatton. It is humanly inconceivable, I profess, not to entertain mental reservation, especially in natal matters concerning one's love and land, concerning one's blood and bond, (Is the United States of America, then, the benign equivalent of Albionised Australia, for mental Artful Dodgers!)
The monarch flies away enchanted by the migratory call of Mother
but it retains the potency of the milkweed that sustained it during
its larval stage.
Nepal! My janmabhoomi.
She sits unfurled from East to West—Nature's silver shawl
forever entertain one thousand thousand percent mental reservation
when the integrity and honor of my motherland is questioned.
I am amazed by the horde of people
from the four comers of the world down below
the balcony in Faneuil Hall, not entertaining even a sliver of mental reservation*. Even R-2 D-2 would stumble on such a monumental mission. Impossible!— my soul cried out.
However hallowed, Faneuil Hall is
a holding cell for chosen flock, where they are shorn
of their heritage and stamped with the Seal of
Good Housekeeping. Never having been asked once
what cultural richness and native gifts do these seafarers bear,
they are sent out on the conveyer belt of Capitalism
capable of dashing one thousand thousand labouring souls,
who are to this behemoth "as flies are to wanton boys..."
...so help me God. ...SO HELP ME GOD.
P.K. Gongaju is a student of literature and theology He fives in Boston and serves as a counselor at a home for persons with psychiatric disabilities. The historic Fanueii Hall in Boston's old quarter is used today for naturalisation ceremonies.
HIMAL Januaiy/Februaiy 1995
Southern governments are not well-prepared for the international environmental negotiations that are taking place, and the nongovernmental organisations have not been of much help either.
by Jayanta Bandyopadhyay
he volume of environmental literature coming out these days is quite impressive. In bookstores all over, environmental publications—the mild, the strongand the provocative—from the countries of both North and South vie for the readers' attention. Sustainable development quotes from Mahatma Gandhi to Maurice Strong, and from Chief Seattle to Gro Harlem Brundtland, pop out of every page. There seem reason enough to believe that the problems of the environment worldwide are being tackled adequately and to be optimistic that we are about make fundamental changes in our unsustainable patterns of natural resource consumption.
Outside the bookstores, however, the hope and confidence evaporates. Much of today's environmental writing remains confined toabstract ideas and remote from real-life situations. The books, articles and newsletters are mostly part of reactive protests against problems, and carry little proactive prescriptions. The call for 'alternative development', so strong in the aftermath of the Stockholm Conference in 1972, is today but a whimper. The enthusiasm rekindled in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 is also being wasted.
Yet, in no other period of human history has the future of the globe and
all its living beings been so much in need of alternative lifestyles based on our environmental knowledge and wisdom. Action taken or postponed today will cast a long shadow into the next century. One may think that these changes are relatively easy to identify and prescribe, but that does not seem to be the case. Transformation is required at different levels, from changing of personal habits to changing the 'global habits'.
Data? What Data?
In a world which is becoming economically integrated and in which global negotiations have already become powerful instruments of decision-making, effective access to information is essential in order to support respective negotiating positions. Indeed, how doyou bargain without information on what you want and knowledge of how to get it?
While a few countries of the North have access to this information base, the countries of the South are by and large ill-equipped for discussion. Neither governments nor NGOs have paid heed to the need for information and databases to support the Southern viewpoints. As a result, the job of defending southern interests tends to be taken up by interested Northern groups, which is not the same, and surely risky.
The scientific gap is serious. And it extends to many country delegations at the important decision-making inter-governmental forums in New York, Geneva and elsewhere where the environmental policies and programmes of the next century are being charted.
Representatives, particularly from small Southern countries, lack vital information on the scientific and policy dimensions. Un familiarity with the global and local issues extends
across the board, from the law of the sea,to intellectual property rights, and biodiversity. Many do not even have basic data, say, on global climate change, or in-country genetic resources of flora, fauna or microorganisms. Without an information base of their own, the delegates of many Southern countries are reduced to looking over the shoulders of other country representatives, whose interests need hardly coincide.
The South Asian sub-continent is a good example of a region which, due to lack of expertise as well as the constant need to respond to natural disasters, finds it impossible to focus on the global environmental issues that will have a direct bearing on the lives of its population in the next century. What little expertise does exist, and the lobbying clout that the region would enjoy if it were united, is frittered away due to geo-political suspicions and rivalries.
In a period of accelerating global and regional integration. South Asian governments have managed to keep the walls of mistrust and hostility intact. Himalayan rivers, one of the richest water resources of the world, are made the cause of political disunity while other regions which have seen majorwaterconflicts,like Europe and West Asia, are moving fast towards economic integration. Under existing circumstances. South Asian governments can hardly be expected to collaborate to get the best out of global bargaining o n the environment. And if the situation is not corrected South Asia will become less and less capable of bargaining globally. The result is marginalisation in the negotiations of today and in the world of tomorrow.
South Asia's challenges are also those of the southern hemisphere asa whole. Referring to the signing of the
Uruguay Round of the GATT in Marrakesh last year, Julius Nyerere, former President of Tanzania and presently Chairman of the South Centre, conceded that many of the signatory countries of the South were not even aware of the implications of GATT for their economies.
Many of the environmental activist groups which have taken it upon themselves to speak up for the South have not prepared themselves for the arena of international negotiation and decision-making either. One basic weakness is that advocacy groups have progressively released themselves from the need to understand the science behind environmental problems. Many fundamentalist groups of the North prefer to approach the media with sensation rather than sense. Their Southern NGO counterparts, propped up with liberal international funding, are following suit. The voice of the independent Southern NGO can today barely be heard in international platforms.
Culture of Consumption
On the whole, the fewNGOs which do take part in global meetings as representatives of the South present a sorry spectacle. There is little interest inbuiiding competence on specialised issues. A few 'permanent representatives' have emerged among these NGOs, who aTe seen in most global platforms, be it in the population conference in Cairo, GATT and the environment in Geneva, women and development in Beijing, biodiversity in Bahamas, etc. etc.
These groups are capable of producing reams of generalised polemic, but a topic-by-topic and poi nt-against-point argumentation on behalf of the South against a well-prepared North is beyond them.
The problem is not, however, merely the inability of governments and groups to accessandusedatabase and information. The central issue is of altering the culture of the consumption society in both hemispheres. Can the governments
of the South, unable to change the wasteful consumption patterns of their own elites, put any pressure on the North to do the same?
The communication revolution has suddenly exposed the low consumption societies of the world to the images, real or otherwise, of the high consumption Northern countries. Commercials and advertisements do not encourage austere lifestyles and reduced consumption. While Northern governments will find it very difficult to move towards policy changes and structural transformations in their own societies, governments in the South seem powerless against the social forces that are pushing their countries relentlessly towards the mechanical duplication of Northern lifestyles and consumption patterns.
The core of the global challenge lies in changing the existing paradigmatic lifestyles and searching for alternatives. In this search, a complex web of relationships have to be addressed, among them dichotomous issues such as national sovereignty and global responsibilities, and liability for damage to the global commons, the rights over intellectual properties and the question of biosafety, the transfer of technologies, and so on.
Without waiting for their governments to take the lead, environmental movements of the South must wake up and begin to play a key and independent role in the search for the alternative para-digm. In a future that will increasingly be influenced by global conventions and agreements, there is an urgent need for proactive environtnentalism all over the South.
Environmentalism in a country like India hasbeen very successful as a reactive mechanism, as much as it has been conspicuous by its inability to be proactive. This weakness has been most vividly exposed in the post-GATT anti-GATT debate in India. Notwithstanding some exceptional proactive steps in rural India, like the formation oipani-panchayats in Maharashtra or forest protection commi-
ttees all over, the more visible and more propagandised environmental mobilisations have been reactive.
Even the movement that arose from the industrial disaster in Bhopal has remained reactive for over a decade. The focus has been almost exclusively on the question of compensation, and there has been no proactive movement demanding an open assessment of all industrial technologies and free and prior availability of information on the hazardous technologies.
The consistently reactive nature of Indian envi ronmental ism indicates the hold of the middle class intellectuals who otherwise live a comfortable urban life but rush to take a stand against plans and proposals that threaten other peoples' lives. This characteristic has dominated the intellectual movement in India on'alternative development' over decades. The dynamism of the integrated global economy and its enormous reach today have made the erstwhile mode of 'alternative development' concepts outdated. Time has come for less abstract environmental movements to move into the future as positive actors and not consistent reactors.
South Asian groups who would represent the population from the Himalaya to the southern-most point of Sri Lanka and from Baluchistan to Tripura must think for themselves andnotbeguidedby reactive protests, on subject as varied as tourism and modern agriculture, GATT and climate change. This, of course, applies not only to South Asia, but to all the South.
J. Bandyopadhyay is an ecologist with specialinterest In natural resource conllicts and sustainable mountain transformations.
Announcement of Subscription Agent
Himai announces the appointment erf- Mahashakti and Tirupatj Enterprises as its subscription agent for the Kingdom of Nepal, individuals/institutions wishing jb'sisbscribe may henceforth write toj call or fax their offices at: p o. Box i6fl
HIMAL Januaiy/Febivaiy 1995
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Wanted: Staff Writer
Himal magazine is looking for someone who can write, edit and report in flawless English. S/he will be based in Kathmandu butmust like oceassionaily rugged travel. We prefer applicants to be from South Asia or Tibet. Apply with biodata and writing samples by 20 May 1995. Mark 'Staff Writer' on envelope.
Essays onNorth-East India Milton. S, Sangnta, Editor Indus Publishing Company, Delhi, 1994 ISBN 81 7387 015 2 IRs400
Published to commemorate the life and works of the late V. Venkata Rao (a Gujarati scholar who researched identity, nationalism and sub-nationalism in India's northeast), this volume contains 16 essays on planning, development, historical economy, tribal life, frontier policy, tradition, leadership, insurgency, etc. It also contains B. Pakem's essay on application of tribal research studies in planning, development and administration; R. Gopalakrishnan on political regionalism and development; T.B Bhattacharjee on pre-colonial political structure of Barak Valley; and T.B Mukheriee on the early history of Koches of North Bengal. The volume also carries Sajal Nag's "Withdrawal Syndrome: Secessionist!! in Modem North-East India". People who demand secession from the Indian Union, writes Nag, have specific grievances against it. That their grievances are not being addressed has caused them to reject the political community of which they form such a marginal part and fueled their desire to withdraw from it and form new alliances among themselves. Secessionist)!, according to Nag, is only a revolt against such marginalisation.
Kirtipun An Urban Community in Nepal Mehrdad Shokoohy and Natalie H. Shokooity, editors Araxus Books, London, 1994 ISBN 1 870606 02 7 £43
This book is the result of a University of Greenwich project to study the historic heritage and present condition of the Kathmandu Valley town of Kirtipur, with a view to its conservation and development. A team of experts, many from Nepa! and some from Kirtipur, present detailed studies covering a wide range of subjects including the vernacular and monumental architecture, art and antiquities, history and epigraphy, social organisation and community, and recent changes in the urban fabric.
A ma in America
A Pilgrimage of the Heart
by Broughton Coburn
Anchor/World view Books
Pub date: May 1995
ISBN 0365 47417 2
Coburn, when a Peace Corps volunteer in Central
Nepal, lived in Vishnu Maya Gurung's hay loft
aboveher wa ter buffalo shed. Over time, friendship
developed between the two which Coburn
celebrates in his Nepali Ama: Life Lessons of a HtTtutiayan Woman, a photographic book containing Coburn's accounts of living, working and travelling with Vishnu Maya. Fifteen years later, Coburn returned to Vishnu Maya's villa ge wi th a n in vi ta tion for her to join him and his future wife, Didi, on a trip through the United States. What results from the 25 state, coast-to-coast adventure is Ama in America: A Pilgrimage of the Heart. "An offbeat American travelogue", according to a promotional flier the book is also "an exploration of beliefs and values and a rediscovery of the spiritual that lies beneath the surfaceof America... A singular account of the meeting of the two widely divergent cultures."
Indian Forestry through the Ages
by S.S. Negi
Indus Publishing Company, New Delhi, 1994 ISBN 81 7387 020 9 IRs300
Written by an Indian Forest Service Officer from Himachal, the book records the history of forest conserva tion in India and follows the de velopinen t of scientific forestry. Forest conservation started in India with Emperor Ashoka, writes Negi, when certain trees were declared protected and their felling was forbidden; the appointment of Dietrich Brandis as the Inspector General of Forests in 1964 heralded the era of scientific forestry in India. The book discusses the history of forestry in states and the union territories; lists the people associated with the history of Indian forestry and their contributions; history of forest policy, legislation, management; and fores try research, education and training. Classification of forests according to various scholars over the last century is also included. The annexure lists the forest cover situation in the different states (1988 and 1989).