Wildbuzz: Star Wars over Pangong

There is no shortage of words in the exchanges between India and China over the turquoise blue Pangong lake. Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Friday delivered a loaded speech at the famed lake. But words fail us when it comes to the cosmic spectacle that unfurls over the lake in the dark when mere mortals sleep and the Gods slip out from the crevices of cosmic infinity.

Those who have viewed that spectacle and are currently locked out of the mountains due to Covid-19 restrictions are revisiting the photographs and videos of the “good old days when Corona was nothing more than a heavenly beer”! A software engineer with Tata Consultancy, Dipyaman Santra, is a mountain addict. He drove on a motorcycle all the way from Kolkata to Pangong taking nine days in September 2018. He took a photograph of the Aakash Ganga (Milky Way galaxy) over the lake at 11.21 pm.

In his own words, then, are those moments of magical glimpses that uplift the sufferance of human existence to a momentary merger with cosmic divinity. The romantic realisation dawns that we are all made of star dust. Santra recalls the Pangong night sky with a fervid pining for a return to the lake of a lost horizon. “We missed the beautiful view of Pangong lake during the day as it was already dark when we reached there. We usually love riding through the mountains during the dark but the road was not supportive. So, when we reached there (at around 8:30), we were way too exhausted. Our first concern was to find a place to stay and we were thus distracted by mundane concerns. We found some tents and we went to the lake. I glanced at the sky and it felt like I was waiting for this for a long time. The place was totally dark as most of the lights had been turned off,” Santra told this writer.

“The sweet sound of the water splashing created a pure ambience. Unlike the chaotic sound of waves crashing on a beach, the sound of waves at Pangong was like the peace of a monastery, of bells tinkling in a shrine. When I looked above from the water, these stars and the Aakash Ganga view was a spiritual treat! I wondered how Nature had fabricated this infinite black canvas with lots of small glittering dots, so randomly, and yet so beautifully! I can try to search for more words to describe the view but what I felt, what I saw, I don’t think any word is enough to describe that. I can only say, even today, when I think about the day, I still see everything vividly in front of my eyes, I still hear the sound of the water splashing, I still feel the purity,’’ recalls Santra.

MONITORING WEIGHTS & MEASURES

We would like the weighing machine kept in our washrooms to not tell us the truth about our ballooning bellies. We would not mind being flattered if the machine under-weighs the fat layers and flashes a coy number. On the other hand, we are very particular about weight devices used by retailers selling groceries, grains and fruits in mandis and kiryana shops. Electronic weight measures used by unscrupulous retailers overestimate the weight of goods sold, thus cheating shoppers. The common swindle is realised when diligent householders check the goods purchased on a reliable weight measure kept at home in the kitchen. The truth of this came to the fore again in rather a kinky context. The tricity’s snake-rescue expert, Salim Khan, had rescued a huge Bengal Monitor lizard (Goh) from a house at Swastik Vihar, Panchkula, on Tuesday.

Impressed by the size of the Goh, I asked Khan to get its weight measured to obtain an idea of the dimensions of the specimens rescued in the tricity as popular lore has it that the big ones weigh 10-12 kg. Just as big, rescued pythons (without prey ingested) are routinely estimated to weigh 100 kg with length of 20 feet by onlookers when the actual weight is less than half or a third, and length far more conservative than those fanciful estimates attached to WhatsApp forwards. That is, the mind playing optical tricks!

So, Khan took the Goh in a cage to a kiryana store, which did not enjoy a good reputation in the mohallah but was located at a key junction so sales were high. That measure showed the cage weighing 4 kg. Deducting the weight of the cage, the Goh thus weighed 2.9 kg. Unconvinced by the reliability of the measure, Khan then went to another kiryana store, which carried a better reputation in the mohallah. The second measure showed up the Goh, after deducting the carrier weight, as 2.1 kgs. There was thus a difference of 800 g in the digital measures of weight thrown up by two different kiryana stores in the same mohallah!

Just imagine how many poor blokes the first kiryana store must have cheated in supply of weight-inflated provisions.

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