Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
The title is both metaphorical and literal connotations. A convincing sense of menace grows day by day all around us. I’m a great admirer of Albert Einstein, who once said to one of his assistants, Emst Straus: “what really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world!” Though he didn’t answer the question himself, I would imagine he would have said “yes”, as the world is so chaotic. Even I, if present at the time of his creation, would have made one or two suggestions. One is to keep the Yaoshang festival in Manipur last 5 days, as it were.
American astrophysicist Carl Sagan, who talked about the birth and death of the universe, drawing analogy from the Hindu cosmology, reminds me of my mother, who used to talk about Pralaya (Sanskrit, dissolution or annihilation) as the end of each Yuga (epoch) in larger time cycles, each consisting of tens of billions of years each. we are now in 4th cycle, known as Kaliyuga (previously, Satya, Tetra, and Dwapur).
In the Vedic Samkhya philosophy, the world was created (srishti) by Ishwar (God) from mulaprakriti (primordial matter) and it will end with Pralaya within a framework of four cycles, in the perpetual Kalachakra (wheel of time). In Hinduism time is cyclical and not linear as we know it, beginning from the Big Bang.
Pralaya is known as Doomsday in the Christian Bible and Armageddon in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). It’s Qayamat (Judgement Day) in the Quran.
As I read in The Sangai Express, some people are debating about bringing Pralaya to the Meitei Yaoshang festival. I’m half-appalled at their insensitivity as well as raw criticism. Forget religion. I’m not a religious man. Yaoshang with thabalchongba and Nakathengba is Meitei culture like lai Harouba. It’s the only festival for Meitei children, which stays lifelong as an eternal source of pleasure in their old age. It’s like Christmas and Eid that children yearn for with excitement, daydreaming of new dresses and frolic. The thrill of wearing a new zipped coloured polo shirt that my father gave me every Yaoshang, still touchingly lingers with me.
These morbid ideas of a few, while others waft around looking pensive, can like wild beasts, savage the souls of young people. Mature adults, past the prime of their life, shouldn’t forget the excitement that little boys and girls have about meandering from house to house for nakathengba. There’s nothing more exciting for Meitei teenagers than the unique Meitei culture of thabalchongba. Talking about cutting down the days of yaoshang celebration is perhaps because of the ‘gender gap’, the rocky relationship between testosterone-deficient middle-aged and old men, and the blooming youth, on whom they want to wreak revenge for their carefree merrymaking.
I’m ancient, but have been on either side of this equation. I know deep down why we need to keep Yaoshang festival intact. Yaoshang culture, heralding the arrival of Spring every year, refreshes Meitei community with renewed hope for brighter days ahead like Spring flowers. Let’s not our adult intellect burn the simple pleasure of our children with big future resonance. Let’s pause and open our childhood door, to take the measure of what might have been against the kind of our childhood life without Yaoshang. Children have rights that are vested with adults. Let’s not exploit them. It’s not the young who are taking offence; it’s the old people giving them.
One thought stands out from my childhood days. While eating communal utsab, one elderly man having had his fill, would say to the Brahmin, who brings third helpings: “eigya eikhoi loina okchare”- meaning ‘we all have had enough’ regardless of others on his left and right, who are still hungry. The Brahman would then go past them.
I agree with the TSE Editorial that, it’s not a matter of three or five days, It’s a matter of regulation so that certain activities of life remain undisturbed. Newspaper hawkers, nurses and other essential workers should be allowed to move freely. It’s a question of organisation by the community. School examinations could be arranged just before Yaoshang.
In the UK, doctors have no Christmas, Eid or Dashera holidays. We have to organise among ourselves by turn. Likewise, a few people working in the newspaper production could do so by turn. Even Ima-Ibel who earn their daily meal by selling their meagre produce, need enforced holidays like Sundays. They are now joining the revelry like marathon race. I can’t remember anyone who suffered from starvation because of Yaoshang holidays. Yaoshang is the time to sow seeds in young children for sports.
The 5-day festival can’t be blamed for fall in productivity growth. Manipur has no capital or industries. If it were, it could be compensated by adults, working part of Sundays. In the UK, by a Trading Act 1994, supermarkets are allowed to open on Sundays up to 4 pm except Charismas Day and Easter Sundays. As for news, hardly anybody misses newspapers. If some do, there is always television news. Mitigating Yaoshang holidays is a transgression for only a handful, who have had an unpleasant childhood or is now having lapse of memory.
Britons celebrate Christmas week, beginning a few days before Christmas with office parties and liberal alcohol consumption, and through the week until after the New year celebration. There are inevitable alcohol-related problems such as, not only boys but girls, who have had a skinful, fighting outside the pubs in town centres. Yet, nobody talks about banning these holidays. This is their adult culture, initially based on religion. While Christmas is for children who receive lots of presents from their parents, and for tiny tots through the chimney, brought by Father Christmas, adults revel with drinks and dinner.
In the case of mega Pralaya (Mahapralaya) of the world, we have America that not only acts as self-styled world’s policeman, but also as defender of the world. America is the melting pot of scientists from all over the world, including Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein before WWII, and 80 German scientists, including Werner von Braun and his V2 rocket team, who were brought to America after WWII. The Russians grabbed the rest.
The Mahapralaya is anticipated because of oncoming asteroids (huge rocks) from outer space that have the capacity to wipe out all or some humanity from the face of this Earth. We are told by scientists that 66 million years ago, an asteroid about 12 km (7.5 mi) wide, fell in Mexico wiping out the vast majority of non-avian dinosaurs that roamed the Earth for over 160 million years, as well as about three-quarters of all life on Earth. The asteroid crashed into the ocean near what is now the port town of Chicxulub in Mexico. The impact of the explosion had an energy equivalent to that of the world’s combined nuclear arsenal by a factor of 1,000, or 8 billion Hiroshima bombs.
Scientists now predict that such an occurrence is likely every 100 million years. This scientific hypothesis must be correct as it’s happening even now, though in a smaller scale, and with the possibility of happening in a bigger scale. On February 15 2013 at 9.20 am (YEKT) or Yekaterinburg Russian time, one 12,000-metric tonne meteor, a kind of asteroid came with 60 times the speed of sound and entered the Earth’s atmosphere over the southern Ural region of Russia.
The asteroid became visible as a streaking bright light up to 100km (63mi) away, over a wide area in Russia, when people felt intense heat from that fireball. It broke up at the altitude of 29 kilometres, with an energy over 20 times that of the Hiroshima bomb into the sky above the Russian town of Chelyabinsk. The explosion generated a bright flash and shock waves, producing a hot cloud of dust and gas that penetrated to 26.2 km (16.3 mi). The shock wave damaged over 7,200 thousand buildings, and injures 1,500 people mainly by the flying glass from broken windows that were smashed in many cities in the region. Sound waves from the explosion whirred round the globe twice.
There was also another asteroid strike in Russia in 1908 over Siberia, known as Tunguska event. The shockwave flattened 2000 km sq forest with an energy release close to that of the US hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in March 1954. Events in this scale are thought to occur once every 300 years and could easily wipe out the entire population of Manipur.
Luckily, an earlier predicted asteroid named Duende, much larger, with a 40,000-metric tonne and 30 m wide, didn’t crash on Earth. There is still, 1 in 3,000 chance that Duende would strike the Earth (not known where) before 2069.
Fortunately, NASA is working very hard to do something that dinosaurs couldn’t do, to prevent such a mega Pralaya, with early warning system called ‘Asteroid Terrestrial Impact Last Alert System’ (ATLAS). It’s now planning to build a huge nuclear spacecraft to blitz asteroid threat to Earth. It’s called HAMMER (Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response). It will be ready in 7.4 years’ time. The ship would ram a smaller asteroid to destroy it, or to detonate a nuclear device to obliterate a bigger one.
(The writer is based in the UK. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.drimsingh.co.uk)
Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh