Monday, October 3, 2016


‘’War does not determine who is right, only who is left.’’ Bertrand Russell

On Thursday, Indian forces opened fire across the LoC (Line of Control). Pakistani media reported the event by saying that Pakistan was ready to respond to any aggression. The words used with nauseating passion by almost every news­­­ channel were that Pakistan was ready to come up with a ‘’moon tor jawab’’ against India, which means a ‘similarly violent (jaw-breaking) response’. I hope the powers that be did not use these exact words but it is a forlorn hope that they or the people they represent would think before speaking, that they would realise the power and impact of words. Sick as it is, such terminology goes down well with most people and is very commonly used. That the media used these words as well speaks for itself.
Coming from underprivileged backgrounds my students learning spoken English are fairly representative of the country. Last week we studied the story of Birbal the wise courtier and friend of the Mughal King Akbar, only to find that these students of Intermediate and BA had barely heard of the Mughal dynasty. Babar and Babar Nama have no place in their lives, nor does Akbar the propounder of Deen-e-Ilahi…and kitna bad naseeb hai Zafar (how unfortunate is Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal king) that they have not heard of him at all, or of his verses. How unfortunate a nation that has such little knowledge of its own or world history and is therefore so bereft of its lessons, particularly now, since many of those lessons have to do with the consequences of war. These girls were quite happy to go along with with the ‘moon tor jawab’ we are supposed to offer India, without knowing a thing about the wars of 1965 or 1971 except lurid versions that bear no relationship to reality. They were unable to answer the question: ‘Why is history important?’ They have not heard of the Jallianwalla Bagh incident, the Indian ‘Mutiny’, the French Revolution, or even…and please believe me, this is true…of the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not that they are alone. A great bulk of the public has not heard of these events, even the segment that is educated. A ‘moon tor jawab’ for most means quite literally a ‘chapair’ (slap), or an explosion or two killing someone at a distant spot. The full import of India and Pakistan being nuclear states, and not wise ones at that has not struck most people. So, for all of us, here is what happened when nuclear arms were used for the first time in other volatile times:
Tomiko Morimoto a 13-year-old schoolgirl lived in Hiroshima in 1945. In her words, when the bomb fell: “everything started falling down; buildings started flying all over the place. Then something wet came down, like rain. I thought it was oil but it was what they call black rain.’’
When a nuclear weapon or power plant explodes it produces radioactive dust and ash which if it is wet is called ‘Black Rain’, an extremely dangerous radioactive contamination that results in death, and carries on causing death for generations among plants, animals and humans by producing birth defects and illness such as alterations in the blood, destroying the bone marrow’s ability to produce blood and seriously damaging the liver and other internal organs, and making plants and crops inedible so long as the contamination lasts.
Tomiko and her classmates fled to a plateau on the outskirts of Hiroshima and waited for family members to come get them. All night long, they watched their city burning below but no parents came, because most of them were dead.
Tomiko remembers seeing dead people everywhere. She particularly remembers a Japanese soldier still mounted on his horse – both horse and rider dead. Also a streetcar, its passengers still standing, all dead.
Tomiko says she found a railroad bridge she and her classmates could cross safely. She recalls looking down through the spaces between the railroad ties where normally, one would see the river flowing underneath. But instead, she saw “a sea of dead people. There was no water to be seen, just people lying there, dead.’’
That day, on August 6, 1945, about 140,000 people died, or they died within months after Hiroshima was bombed. Three days later, about 80,000 people died when Nagasaki was bombed. This was America’s ‘moon tor jawab’ to Japan at the end of World War II.
Morimoto is still alive. “I’m afraid because more countries have the atomic bomb now,’’ she says. ‘’I fear the end of the world. Please, never let there be another bombing like that. We must all work towards peace. That’s the only way I can summarise it.”
War has never solved a thing. Bertrand Russell said, ‘’War does not determine who is right, only who is left.’’  In the case of nuclear powers and that ‘moon tor jawab’, will anyone be left?
So grow up media, and politicians such as Modi, and Khawaja Asif whose braggadocious comments on the situation have been so extremely foolish. There are plenty of sick people, unclothed and unfed in Pakistan. Your job, media, is to report their issues. Stop trying to garner ratings for yourself. And your job, dear politicians, is to work towards improving the conditions these impoverished people live in. It is why you were voted into office, remember? It was not to whip up sentiments that would send your people to their death.
If we would only understand what we say, and think before we speak, the world would be a better place. So, to quote the Greatest one of all at the end with a phrase we use all the time to the extent that we forget what it means: Salam alaikum (Peace be upon you).
Amen to that, Pakistan and India. Live in peace yourselves and allow the world to live in peace as well.

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