After reading Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy’s “How to spot the crackpot” (May 28), I simply could not resist telling this story. He writes of some nutter publishing a paper to the effect that experiments carried out by someone (presumably the CIA-Mossad-Raw nexus) in northern Alaska have triggered earthquakes and floods in Pakistan! The burden of Dr Hoodbhoy’s article lies on our ‘understanding’ of science.
In late October 2005, I met a person who was clearly a reader only of Urdu newspapers. He was retiring the following year, since he was then 59, a supposedly mature age. After the preliminaries, he cast a suspicious look around his sitting room, leaned over and very conspiratorially with a sly smile on his face asked, “So, what do you think of the earthquake?” I promise you, for a second I thought this was a sadistic madman who took sick pleasure in the misery of others.
I said it was very bad business; tens of thousands of innocent lives lost and we were set back 20 years. No, no, said he. The hand the Americans had in it. What did I think of that? Completely floored, I asked what on earth had the Americans to do with it. I can still recall the condescending sneer that contorted the man’s face.
Very patronisingly he said he was sorry he had taken me to be a man of sense. And then, he enlightened me: the Americans had discovered OBL somewhere in Kashmir and they wanted to bomb him to kingdom come. But in order to be certain that they got his ass, they had this humongous bomb that could shake the earth to its very core. Now, since India is contiguous with Pakistan and also happens to be part of the evil nexus, the US let them in on the plan.
No way, said the Indians. They did not want any damage in their part of Kashmir. So the Americans fine-tuned their bomb to make it unidirectional. The result was that the damage extended in a line from the southeast to the northwest. And to be fair to that idiot storyteller, Indian Kashmir was spared virtually by inches. The man said, he had read it in all the papers and for proof pulled out a number of clippings of Urdu news items and columns endorsing his belief. He said, he was surprised I did not even read the papers.
Back in 1987, when personal computers were still a novelty in Pakistan, I heard the following gem. But unlike the government officer in 2005 of the American earthquake bomb, the teller of this gem was illiterate. It was in a barber’s shop in Gujranwala where this man was being read the morning paper by a friend of his. An item about computers triggered this story from the old gent.
The doctor in his mohalla has recently installed a “cum-pooter” in his clinic and it tells you everything about the patient. This includes the sickness or the cause of murder of one’s grandfather and the illnesses that one’s great-grandchildren will have in the year 2099. All one had to do was spit on a piece paper and let the doctor stuff it into the computer: thook la kay under kar deyo, is what he said. And out came a long list of everything one wanted to know about oneself.
Then one day, the doctor’s computer began showing only zeros: zero he zero dakhai javay. For emphasis, the old gent repeated this phrase thrice. The good doctor immediately sensed something was terribly amiss. So he went to his patient’s home and, lo and behold, a funeral was ready and waiting to depart for the graveyard. The computer, the Lord be praised, knew the man was no more and had alerted the doctor by displaying zeros.
Now those were blessed pre-news channel days and such things escaped common knowledge. The earthquake-and-flood wreaking experiment in Alaska has so far evaded our famous anchorpersons only because it is too much science for this semi-educated class of self-important persons. With Dr Hoodbhoy’s article, the cat is out of the bag. Watch the news channels go viral on this little known experiment.
As for the omniscient computer, it was newsworthy in those dark ages. Now it is far too dated.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2012.
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