End of an era as ghazal maestro Mehdi Hassan dies

From Dawn:

After being unwell for a long period of time, ghazal maestro Mehdi Hassan passed away at a local hospital in Karachi on Wednesday.

Hassan had been battling paralysis, lung, chest and urinary tract disorder since the past many years. His health suddenly deteriorated for the worse early Wednesday, following which he passed away around 12:15 PM.

Mehdi Hasan’s body was transported to Karachi’s Gulberg area where family members as well as a large number of relatives, friends and fans has gathered. So far, no announcement has been made for the legendary singer’s funeral.

The undisputed ghazal king, who was born on July 18, 1927 in Rajasthan, had fans not only on both sides of the India-Pakistan border but throughout the world.

And Now For The Monsoons

by Gautam Pemmaraju

The migratory Pied-Crested Cuckoo is believed by some to ride the seasonal winds of the South West Monsoon to arrive in the sub-continent in late May to early June. It makes the journey from sub-Saharan Africa, traversing the Arabian Peninsula, across the ocean, visiting the Seychelles and Lakshadweep, only to arrive in Kerala at first, as the overheated land solicitously lures the ardent monsoon winds in. They breed during the rainy season, and leave the subcontinent in September. Clamator Jacobinus, the Rain Bird, or the chatak of Indian antiquity, is believed to be the ‘harbinger of monsoons’, proclaiming, as ornithologist Hugh Whistler has said, the imminent rains “with its unmistakably loud metallic calls”. There are several who keep a keen eye out for its mantic presence, but its parasitic proclivities cause much distress to the resident avian populace. I am yet to read of any sightings, far less encounter one, and its typical song is not one of the several songbird tunes that I hear everyday. However, it is raining as I write. Although a steady drizzle now, it was far more animated early this Sunday morning. Lest I am fooled into thinking that the monsoon has arrived, the first “impressions of a chaotic sky”, the teasing, ‘towering cumulus clouds’, are merely bold heralders of the much anticipated annual visitation, at once cooling down the region and giving the city a thorough wash.

As Alexander Frater writes in Chasing The Monsoon, he too gets caught up in the collective febrile anxiety leading up to the first rain, and then:

At 1 p.m. the serious cloud build-up started … At 4.50, announced by deafening ground-level thunderclaps, the monsoon finally rode into Cochin. The cloud-base blew through the trees like smoke; rain foamed on the hotel’s harbourside lawn and produced a bank of hanging mist opaque as hill fog… At Fort Cochin they were ringing the bells in St Francis Church. In the dark harbour small boats ran for home. Waves bursting over the scalloped sea were suffused, curiously, with pink light. The jetty, set under a small wooden gazebo, vanished beneath heavy surf.

The monsoons, “a creature of grandeur and complexity that defies comparison with anything”, in the words of MS Rajagopalan of the Trivandrum Meteorological Department who Frater meets early on, are meant to officially arrive in Bombay on the 10th of June. This year they have been announced in Kerala on the 5th of June, which is five days late, according to a press release (and weekly update) by the local Meteorological Department of Mumbai, and the cumulative seasonal rainfall in the first week for the entire country is 32% below the LPA (Long Period Average). The department however predicts that the monsoon will be a normal one this year. (See here).

The ‘big bang’ theory, of the rains arriving in one dramatic burst is disputed, and some researchers claim that there will be “less rainfall if it sets in suddenly”.

Read more »

Artist Turns Dead Cat Into Remote Controlled Helicopter

Some of you may remember that I have been obsessed with cats and radio-controlled helicopters for some time. Now, someone has combined those two things in a way that even I could not have imagined before I saw it, thanks (I think) to my friend James McVinnie. Plus, through pure synchronicity, this post seems to somehow connect (maybe in a terrible way) with the one before it (the poem).

This is from Taxi:

Some people choose to bury or cremate their pets, or maybe even stuff them—but not Dutch Bart Jansen, who turned his dead feline into a remote controlled helicopter, called the ‘Orvillecopter’.

Named after his cat ‘Orville’, that was killed by a car—Jansen used its outstretched body as the frame for the Ovillecopter—attaching rotors to each of the cat’s paws and a power source under its belly—creating the first ever remote-controlled ‘cat-copter’.

According to Jansen, he said that Orville has achieved the “greatest goal a cat could ever reach”—flying with the birds.

Innovative or morbid? You be the judge!

More here.