Cultural, International, Life as it is, Literary, Travel

Lockdown Love – Part Four

When Adit made the first telephone call to Sudha, he was bit nervous – what would happen if she became interrogative and rude to him. As it turned out, his nervousness was unfounded, she was polite and receptive. In fact, it came out that she was anticipating a call from Adit. Sudha read Adit’s articles which Selina forwarded to her and were very much impressed. She was, in fact, looking forward to meeting personally this writer by the name Adit.

Adit and Sudha narrated their background stories in great details on the telephone. Sudha told Adit her story – her sweet memory of living at the centre of cultural activities back home, her acquaintance with all the great and the good in arts and literature. Such conversations went on for days and days, hours at a time.

Sudha was gradually getting involved emotionally. She never received such attention, love and affection from anybody until then. Everybody used her generosity, her good nature, her willingness to help others, but never received any empathy, any love from anybody in return. Now she thought she got a right man with the right attitude.  

But love, as usual, never flows smoothly. Whereas Sudha was madly in love and wanted even to marry Adit, Adit was not mentally prepared to get into the bondage of marriage. That made Sudha extremely upset, she pleaded on the phone, in her numerous text messages to Adit to take her into his life. Sudha even said with some sadness that all her life men came begging to her to marry, now she was begging to Adit to marry, what a change of fate! Love now made Sudha desperate. Adit asked for patience as lockdown would not allow them to get to each other. Now that the lockdown was over about three weeks ago, Sudha got impatient, almost despondent. The last text she sent to Adit about two weeks ago was the link to the Tagore song “Ami swopayne royechhe bhor” (I am drowned in my dream) and then she stopped communicating with him altogether.

Adit expressed all of these inner feelings in great details to the Police Officer. The Police Officer listened patiently and attentively to Adit’s disclosure. Occasionally the Police Officer interjected to keep the conversation going.

The flight was nearing to its destination. The overhead speaker announced that within the next few minutes the plane would start descending.

The Police Officer said, “When we land at the airport, we will go together through the immigration and customs check. After collecting our luggage as we go out of the exit, I will hand you over to the NJ Police Officer – presumably a female officer. She will take care of you after that and I will disappear.”

Adit realised that he was not free to do what he might like to do. He had inadvertently fallen into the fold of this case. The Police Officer realised Adit’s feelings.

He said, “It is for Sudha’s sake and for your convenience that the NJ State Police has taken over the case. There is no criminality involved in it.”

Accordingly, after landing at the airport, they went together to the immigration counter with the Police Officer in front of Adit. Everything went very smoothly and then they went to the luggage belt and amazingly their luggage was placed in a trolley waiting to be collected whereas no other passenger’s luggage even arrived at the terminal. They got their luggage and went out through the ‘Nothing to declare’ gate. A female Police Officer wearing NJ State Police cap was waiting outside and as soon as she saw them, she came over, had a little chat with the British Police Officer in a whisper, shook hands and then the British Officer went off.

The NJ Police Officer came over to Adit, shook her hands with him and said, “Good afternoon, sir. The Police car is waiting for you”.

Adit was somewhat surprised and scared. He asked whether she was taking him under arrest.

The Police Officer said, “Of course, not. We are only taking you to Sudha’s place quickly. Please get into the car and I will tell you the whole story as we drive to her place. It is someway off from here.”

Adit got into the police car, for the first time in his life, and, as directed, sat next to the NJ State Police Officer. She put the police siren on and started to whiz off.

“Don’t get alarmed. It is only to let us go quicker. There is some element of urgency though. Let me give you the background story on this side, as far as I know.

About 10 days ago, Sudha had a large overdose of sleeping pill, presumably to commit suicide. Luckily, the lady from the next apartment came to say hello to her, as Sudha moved in there only a few days ago. After repeated knocks the door was not opened, although the neighbour knew she was in the apartment. The neighbour then alerted the building manager, who came over and opened the door with the master key. Sudha was found unconscious but gurgling, with mouth full of saliva and food particles. Immediately she was transferred to the emergency ward in the local hospital. They worked very hard for three days to bring her consciousness and back to life. For the next four days, it was a touch and go. Now she is much better, but not yet out of the woods.

In the meantime, Police Department started to investigate the case. It could well have been a murder case or a suicide case. We got Sudha’s cell phone and recovered the whole set of conversations between Sudha and you over the last eight months in Messenger and WhatsApp services. From the texts and emails we have managed to piece together the background story. But we need your part of the story and that is why we sent you the ticket. As far as I can say, there is no untoward event or criminality we can detect; just pure unfortunate sequence of events.”

“Now, she is very weak and traumatised. You need to help us – reassure her, even if they are not true, that the love she anticipated from you, the future she dreamt with you would all be fulfilled. Oh, another thing, tomorrow morning, I will come to collect you to go to the Police Station so that you can make a full statement on the case. It is only for our own records.”

The car came to Sudha’s house. The Police Officer led Adit to an apartment and he saw a nurse wearing a white apron standing by the door. The Police Officer indicated her to take Adit inside.

It was a very nerve wreaking moment for Adit. He never saw Sudha before and after the suicide attempt, she would be very fragile physically, in a tormented mental state. She might be angry or she might be happy seeing him, he simply did not know. He went quietly in the room with the nurse. A harmonium was on the other side of the bed. A frail lady was lying o n the bed with her face turned towards the window. As he went nearer the bed, she gradually turned her head towards him. He sat on a stool beside her. Her face was full of wrinkles, the shadow of pain was still all over her face. Adit held her hand; a faint glimmer of smile came over her face.

Adit said quietly, “Sudha, how are you now? Soon you will be stronger again, then we will go back to our country together. You will have literary life again; we will have musical soirees. You will sing and we will all listen.” Her face glowed a bit, a tear of joy trickled down her cheek and she twitched her hand a bit inside Adit’s hand. Then she said very very slowly, almost in an inaudible whisper, “Please, don’t leave me, p . l . e . a . s . e.”

Cultural, Human Rights, International, Life as it is, Literary, Travel

Lockdown Love – Part Three

“But for somebody whose fate was unmistakably written in tragedy, how could one expect normal joyful life? Her husband back to his country found a niche in the writers’ corner and gradually started to prosper. That made Sudha happy endlessly and she even started sending money to him so that he could devote his whole time uninterrupted in writing. Sudha’s dream of a cultural hub, a centre of attraction of poets and writers in her house is gradually coming into reality. But, as it is said, “Man proposes, God disposes”, life started to get sour for Sudha again”, said Adit.

“What happened then?”, asked the Police Officer.

“For the first few years, things were going more or less as planned – Sudha was rearing her children in Princeton and her husband was pursuing his career back home without contributing anything to the family finance in New Jersey. Then news started percolating to Sudha that her husband was seen many times in the company of a young female news reporter. Initially Sudha refused to believe that, but the news became more and more persistent and even Sudha’s mother told her on the phone that it was not a rumour anymore and they were living together. Sudha was devastated by this betrayal of her husband. She stopped sending him money. That prompted her husband to take a retaliatory step and a few months later they got married.”

“The plot is thickening. Now the divorce would follow”, commented the Police Officer.

“Precisely. Following a flurry of letters between Sudha and her husband, it was agreed that a divorce proceeding would be initiated by Sudha and her husband would not contest, as he was the guilty party, who married someone while being married to someone else.”

 “Even then it took a couple of years to settle the dispute of custody of children and financial matters, however little asset they had. By late 1980s the divorce was finally granted”, said Adit.

“So, Sudha was then free to get married.”, said the Police Officer.

“Yep, in theory. But she neither liked to get married nor did she get someone she fancied. Her husband’s utter betrayal made a huge big dent and a deep scar in her heart from which she did not recover for quite a while,” said Adit.

“So, where do you come in?” asked the Police Officer.

“I will be in the scene soon. But we will have to skip through a long period of 30 years of her life”, said Adit.

“Wasn’t she looking for a man she liked all those years?”, asked the Police Officer facetiously.

“Not really. Sudha had numerous approaches from her colleagues and even from her bosses. Incidentally, she changed her nursery job to a newspaper editorial job. The money was good and that gave her some financial stability. But she resisted approaches from males, primarily because she could not trust male folk after the betrayal of her ex-husband for whom she sacrificed so much. How could one leave his own children and his wife and go after another woman, particularly when his wife was not only looking after his children but also supporting him to fulfil his ambition?” Adit said in exasperation.

“You seem to be very much in sympathy with Sudha. But where do you exactly fit in?”, asked the Police Officer.   

 By that time dinner trolley came close to their seats. They unfolded their tables and got ready for the dinner. Dinner was served. The flight was nearly half way through when they finished dinner.

After the dinner, Adit continued, “My married life also came to a sudden halt. After more than 40 years of married life, my wife suddenly decided to leave me and the matrimonial home. I did not know where she went. As far as I could say, there was no third party involved. I only saw her few times at the Magistrate’s Court on divorce hearings. I had no intention of getting involved in any romantic affair whatsoever after my divorce. But I must admit that living alone in a house without any companion was not very pleasant. Apart from tackling day-to-day matters, loneliness could occasionally be over-powering. So, when Selina joined up two sides across the Atlantic together, there were no impediments for a morally acceptable friendship between me and Sudha.”

“As I said I am an investigative officer, I looked into your affairs on a request from New Jersey State Police to see if you had any role in Sudha’s present predicament”, replied the Police Officer.

“What do you mean by Sudha present predicament? Is she not alright? Are you suspecting me of some wrong doing? Is that why you are sitting next to me?” a flurry of questions blurted out of Adit.

“No, you are not a suspect nor of any wrong doing. However, you got the ticket from the NJ Police Department, who is investigating Sudha’s situation. That’s why you got the MoD allocated seat in the plane. I don’t know Sudha’s present condition, but they wanted you to be in their office to clear up few things. I will transfer you to NJ State Police official when the flight reaches JFK airport.”

“Am I under arrest?” asked Adit.

“Of course, not. It is not a criminal investigation. We are just trying to find out if there is any foul play by anybody. As far as I can see, you are on the right, so far. By the way, coming back to the question of third-party involvement in your matrimonial affair, I have to tell you that your wife left you to live with another man, who was married and his wife was away to live with her grown-up children. When his wife and their children came to know about this affair, they descended on the house immediately and he had no option but to evict your ex from the house. She then rented a house, in fact, a single bed apartment. She had to file a divorce case quickly to settle financial matters with you before the scandal broke out. She kept her address hidden from you under the pretext that you may harm her”, said the Police Officer.

Adit was totally stunned and shaken. How could that woman whom he trusted so long become so dishonest and vulgar? He even agreed to give more than the share of asset the Court wanted him to give. He wanted to let her lead a life as comfortable as it could be. Now the scandal was coming out behind her abrupt departure. Adit was shaking his head in agony.

“It seems that it was a good thing that your ex kept her address hidden from you for her safety. Otherwise, things could possibly turn nasty”, said the Police Officer.

“I am devastated”, confessed Adit.  

(to be continued)

Cultural, International, Life as it is, Literary, Political, Travel

Lockdown Love – Part Two

“When we were exploring each other’s background, we found that there were lots of common likings and dis-likings, common attributes between us. We were students of the same university, but she was one year junior to me. We had lots of students’ tittle-tattle to share,” said Adit. “Although the name Sudha was familiar to me from my contemporary male friends, as there were always so-called Romeos among my friends; but I never saw her and probably she never saw me. I gathered from those Romeos that she was a stunning beauty, but she was also very proud of her beauty and very conscious. She would not even talk to a male student whom she did not consider smart enough, or not interested in contemporary arts and literature and, of course, in contemporary music; just being a very good student and academically brilliant did not cut ice with her.”

“Was she one of those girls on high pedestal looking down on boys?” queried the Police Officer.

“Only, I guess, on cultural issues; that is what Sudha led me to believe. Financially, academically and socially she was just an ordinarily girl. Probably her family background had influenced her in molding her attitude. Her father was a prominent journalist. Her house was always journalists’ meeting place – editors, reporters, writers, poets and so forth used to throng in the house. On top of that, her father was a keen musician and used to organise musical soirees in the house on various occasions. Life was very pleasant and enjoyable for Sudha at that time. However, good days came to a shuddering halt when she was about 15”, said Adit.

“What happened, then?” asked the Police Officer.

“Her father suddenly died of cardiac arrest, although some suspect foul play. But no untoward elements had ever been found. That event was nonetheless extremely painful, heart-wrenching experience for her and an end of an era of cultural life in the house. That joyful home atmosphere left a lasting impression on her that would last all her life”, said Adit.

“In the university, the good and the bright boys in her department and in other departments approached her, with roses in their hands, so to say, but she would not budge except for an outwardly smart, culturally inclined boy. She fell in love with that boy, who was even one-year junior to her. Her presumption was that he was a budding poet and a writer.”

The whiskies and cashew nuts were served at that point and they had a little sip. They were only couple of hours in to their journey.

Adit continued, “Although Sudha studied political science at the university, she embraced cultural life whole-heartedly. Her boy-friend was a rather pretentious poet with hardly any accomplishment. He projected himself as a poet of great promise and associated himself with established and semi-established poets and writers of the day. That pleased Sudha to no ends. She welcomed the budding poet with warm hearts along with his writer friends to her house in order to create an atmosphere of cultural life, which the untimely demise of her father drew to an abrupt end. Not long after the completion of her university education, they got married.”

“Sounds like it is heading towards a happy ending”, said the Police Officer.

“Far from it. That was the beginning of the tragedy. After the wedding reception at a local hotel, the couple had nowhere to go for the night. A relative attending the party, out of pity, offered them a place in his house for few nights, they had no honeymoon. Married life could not have started worse than this for a girl like her”.    

“Did she say all these things to you on the telephone?” enquired the Police Officer.

“Yes, everything and much more. The vagrant husband would not do any work to earn his living. He would beg money from Sudha so that he could pursue his so-called literary career, but more likely to continue with his vagabond life! Sudha took a job at a local college to maintain some semblance of a married life. But the money was not enough to have a separate abode and so Sudha and her husband had to move in to her mother’s house”.

“You are right, it is getting worse and depressing”, said the Police Officer. Then he said, “I am going to the toilet and be back in a minute.”

Adit then looked around. The front two rows were empty as well as the back row. This separation from other passengers gave Adit a feeling of privacy in the plane. He started sipping his whisky again.

The Police Officer then returned to his seat and said, “Sorry for the interruption. Would you please continue with the story?”

“Are all Police Officers good listeners like you?” enquired Adit.

“Who knows? Investigative Police Officers always like to hear interesting stories. They can detect any gaps, mishaps and mis-statements.”

Adit was somewhat surprised by his statement but continued unabated.

“Life for Sudha was going from bad to worse. Her husband had no job, no earning. But he used to go out of the house in the morning and not return till well in the evening. He would not disclose even to Sudha, what he did throughout the whole day. Sudha also did not press hard and intrude into his personal life for the sake of family peace. Around two years after the marriage, Sudha had the first baby. But her husband would not change his lifestyle at all. His vagabond lifestyle continued while Sudha had to assume the role of the bread winner for the family.”

“That was a terrible situation. How long did it continue?” asked the Police Officer.

“When the baby boy was about three years old, her husband started coming home very late at night and sometimes not at all. Sudha was obviously very distraught. In one-night, past midnight, there was a knock at the front door. Sudha was alarmed. Anyway, she opened the door and there were a few policemen in front of the door with a search warrant and an arrest warrant for her husband. Her husband was declared a terrorist. However, he was not in the house and so he escaped arrest.” Then Adit continued, “Few nights later, in the early part of the morning, her husband came to the house totally dishevelled and said in a hushed voice that he would have to leave the country and when he would be able to come back, he did not know. Sudha broke down in tears, she begged him to take her and the boy with him. He could not do that. Eventually, with Sudha’s mother intervention, it was agreed that the family and friends would try their best to get visas to a foreign country for all three of them.” “A couple of weeks later, all three of them flew to Bangkok en route to New York. That was mid 1970s”, said Adit. “How they managed to get the visa for the whole family so quickly was a mystery to me.”

However, in America, in New Jersey to be precise, they found a tranquil life for some time. Her husband found a job as a courtyard attendant at a patrol station and she as a nursery teacher. So, life settled down to a rather peaceful non-turbulent life. They had a daughter in early 1980s. But her husband was getting restless and disheartened that his writings were of no value in America, there was no appreciation whatsoever of his work. Sudha also was not getting the buzz of a cultural hub in her house. Her dream of a centre of cultural activities, musical soiree etc were in tatters. So, it was agreed that her husband would go back to his native country and Sudha with children would stay in America until they finish their education. Once her husband established himself as a poet and a writer in his country, Sudha would join him and lead a life full of song and music”.

(to be continued)

Cultural, Environmental, Human Rights, International, Life as it is, Political, Travel

Brexit – the most pointless masochistic step in UK’s history

It’s done. A triumph of dogged negotiation by Theresa May then, briefly, Boris Johnson, has fulfilled the most pointless, masochistic ambition ever dreamt of in the history of these islands. The rest of the world, presidents Putin and Trump excepted, have watched on in astonishment and dismay. A majority voted in December for parties which supported a second referendum. But those parties failed lamentably to make common cause. We must pack up our tents, perhaps to the sound of church bells, and hope to begin the 15-year trudge, back towards some semblance of where we were yesterday with our multiple trade deals, security, health and scientific co-operation and a thousand other useful arrangements.

The only certainty is that we’ll be asking ourselves questions for a very long time. Set aside for a moment Vote Leave’s lies, dodgy funding, Russian involvement or the toothless Electoral Commission, consider instead the magic dust. How did a matter of such momentous constitutional, economic and cultural consequence come to be settled by a first-past-the-post vote and not by a super-majority? A parliamentary paper at the time of the 2015 Referendum Act hinted at the reason: because the referendum was merely advisory. It “enables the electorate to voice an opinion”. How did “advisory” morph into “binding”? By that blinding dust thrown in our eyes from right and left by populist hands.

We endured a numbing complicity between government and opposition. The door out of Europe was held open by Corbyn for Johnson to walk through.

What did we learn in our blindness? That those not flourishing within the status quo had no good reason to vote for it; that our prolonged parliamentary chaos derived from an ill-posed yes-no question to which there were a score of answers; that the long-evolved ecology of the EU has profoundly shaped the flora of our nation’s landscape and to rip these plants out will be brutal; that what was once called a hard Brexit became soft by contrast with the threatened no-deal that even now persists; that any mode of departure, by the government’s own estimate, will shrink the economy; that we have a gift for multiple and bitter division – young against old, cities against the country, graduates against early school-leavers, Scotland and Northern Ireland against England and Wales; that all past, present and future international trade deals or treaties are a compromise with sovereignty, as is our signature on the Paris accords, or our membership of NATO, and that therefore “Take Back Control” was the emptiest, most cynical promise of this sorry season.

We surprised ourselves. Only a few years ago, asked to list the nation’s ills – wealth gap, ailing NHS, north-south imbalance, crime, terrorism, austerity, housing crisis etc – most of us would not have thought to include our membership of the EU. How happy we were in 2012, in the afterglow of our successful Olympics. We weren’t thinking then of Brussels. It was, in Guy Verhofstadt’s famous term, a “cat-fight” within the Tory party that got us going. Those cats had been fighting each other for decades. When they dragged us in and urged us to take sides, we had a collective nervous breakdown; then sufficient numbers wanted the distress to go away and “get Brexit done”. Repeated ad nauseam by the prime minister it almost seemed impolite to ask why.

In the early days of the referendum campaign we learned that “on the doorstep” it was all about migration; but we also learned that it was the UK’s decision, not the EU’s, to allow unlimited migration from the accession countries before the permitted seven years were up; it was the UK’s choice to allow EU migrants to stay more than six months without a job; it was the UK that successfully campaigned to enlarge the EU eastwards; it is the UK, not the EU, that lets non-EU migration continue (and why not?) as EU migration declines. We also learned that the UK, not the EU, opted for our maroon rather than patriotic blue passports. Though, as I look, my old passports seem almost black.

There is much that is historically unjust about the British state, but very little of that injustice derives from the EU. Brussels didn’t insist that we neglect the post-industrial towns of the Midlands and the north; or demand that we let wages stagnate, or permit multimillion handouts to the CEOs of failing companies, or prefer shareholder value over the social good, or run our health service, social care and Sure Start into the ground, close 600 police stations and let the fabric of our state schools decay.

It was the task of the Brexit campaign to persuade the electorate otherwise. In the referendum they succeeded with 37%, enough to transform our collective fate for a generation at least. To cause sufficient numbers to believe that the source of all their grievances is some hostile outside element is the oldest trick in the populist handbook. As Trotsky was for Stalin, as the USA is for the mullahs of Iran and Gülen is for Erdoğan, so Brussels has served its turn.

Hedge fund owners, plutocrat donors to the cause, Etonians and newspaper proprietors cast themselves as enemies of the elite. More magic dust. The claim that the Northern Ireland issue has been settled is a dangerous pretence. We have witnessed reasoned argument’s fall from grace. The Brexit impulse had strong elements of blood-and-soil, with hints of Empire nostalgia. Such spooky longings floated high above mere facts.

We acquired an argot. “Article 50”, “frictionless trade”, “just in time”, “the backstop” – how they tripped off the tongue. We learned to respect an “invisible border”. Before it all began, only a very few knew the difference between the customs union and the single market. Three years on, not much has changed. A survey last year showed that quite a lot of us thought that “crashing out” was the same as remaining. If only.

The Brexit leadership and the leader of the opposition were always in a hurry to start article 50’s two-year stopwatch. They feared that leave voters might change their minds, that those who didn’t vote last time were 2:1 for remaining, and that young voters coming on to the rolls would be mostly pro-EU. The Brexiter generals reasonably feared a second referendum.

At least, we can all agree that we will be a bit poorer. As one of my school teachers used to say, if a thing is really worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. Theresa May could never bring herself to say that Brexit would make us better off. She wouldn’t even tell us if she would vote to leave in a second referendum. We should credit her honesty. By contrast, Boris Johnson, laying his post-Brexit vision before parliament, promised he would narrow the UK’s wealth and opportunity gap between north and south, and make it the home of cutting-edge battery technology. He forgot to mention that the EU never stood in the way of either project.

Redefining our new trade relations with the EU will preoccupy us for years. As for the US position, take a long walk in the American mid-west and you’ll go a month across a monoculture desert and not see a wildflower. To compete, our own agriculture would have to welcome the hormone hypodermic. Our farmers will need to divest of inefficient hedgerows, boundary trees and three-metre field margins – museum pieces all. When it was in trade talks with the EU, the US wouldn’t contemplate higher standards of husbandry, food standards and environmental protection, even though they would have granted access to half a billion consumers. American farming corporations will not be changing their ways for a nation of a mere 65 million. If we want a deal, it is we who must downgrade.

We sense damage and diminishment ahead. In a dangerous world crowded with loud-mouthed “strongmen”, the EU was our best hope for an open, tolerant, free and peaceful community of nations. Those hopes are already threatened as populist movements have swept across Europe. Our withdrawal will weaken resistance to the xenophobic tendency. The lesson of our nation’s history these past centuries is plain: turmoil in continental Europe will draw us into bloody conflicts. Nationalism is rarely a project for peace. Nor does it care to counter climate change. It prefers to let tropical forests and the Australian bush burn.

Take a road trip from Greece to Sweden, from Portugal to Hungary. Leave your passport behind. What a rich, teeming bundle of civilisations – in food, manners, architecture, language, and each nation state profoundly and proudly different from its neighbours. No evidence of being under the boot-heel of Brussels. Nothing here of continental USA’s dreary commercial sameness. Summon everything you’ve learned of the ruinous, desperate state of Europe in 1945, then contemplate a stupendous economic, political and cultural achievement: peace, open borders, relative prosperity, and the encouragement of individual rights, tolerance and freedom of expression. Until Friday this was where our grown-up children went at will to live and work.

That’s over, and for now the force is with English nationalism. Its champion is Johnson’s Vote Leave cabinet whose monument will forever be a special kind of smirk, perfected back in the days of the old Soviet Union. I’m lying, you know I’m lying and I know that you know and I don’t give a damn. As in, “The five-week prorogation of parliament has nothing to do with Brexit.” Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg were masters of the mocking grin. The supreme court’s inconvenient judgement that this prorogation was illegal clearly still rankles. Recently, the ex-home secretary Michael Howard was set on to murmur against the judges. Extending political control over an independent judiciary would be consonant with the Johnson-Cummings project. Victor Orbán of Hungary lights the way.

The remainers held out for a kinder sort of world, but we were always the herbivores in this debate, with our enormous, good-natured and derided marches – “a hate-filled crowd”, the Sun; “an elite”, the Daily Telegraph. If 16 million remainers are an elite, then we may rejoice that the UK is a model of meritocracy.

We were, in truth, the left-behinds. By the grace of Corbyn and his grim lieutenants, we had no effective voice in parliament. On her first day as prime minister, Theresa May promised outside No 10 that she would govern for us all. Instead, she threw half the country to the dogs to appease her party’s right wing. Initially, Boris Johnson’s elevation was decided by a tiny, ageing constituency, the majority of whose members told pollsters that they wished Donald Trump ruled Britain and that they longed for the return of hanging. In similar spirit, Johnson found fresh depths of populist vulgarity when he spoke last June of pitchforking the EU incubus off the nation’s back. He has realised his dream.

As for the outer extremes, the occasional milkshake aside, we never violently assaulted a Brexiter in the street; we only rarely inclined to sending anonymous death and rape threats such as came so abundantly the way of Gina Miller, Anna Soubry and many female MPs. However, the antisemitic emails from within the Labour party were a disgrace. So too was the bullying mob jeering outside the Rees-Mogg home. But we remainers did not slyly exhort our compatriots to riot in the event of a second referendum going against us. Nearly two-thirds of the electorate did not vote to leave; most of business and the trade unions, agriculture, science, finance and the arts were against the Brexit project; three-quarters of MPs voted to remain. But our representatives ignored the evident public interest and shrank behind party cabals and “the people have spoken” – that bleak Soviet locution – followed by “get Brexit done”, the mind-clouding magic dust which has blinded reason and diminished our children’s prospects.

Ian McEwan is a Guardian columnist (published in the Guardian on 1 Feb 2020)

Cultural, Environmental, Life as it is, Travel

Autumnal Colours in America

In America’s Northeast covering New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and so forth the dramatic explosion of colour during autumn season starts typically in late September. It peaks in mid-October when leaves on the trees are emblazoned in gorgeous shades of red, orange, yellow and gold. After that, a gradual decline would ensue as the locust and maple leaves fall to the ground first, followed by the golden brown oak hanging on until late November, while the beech trees might let their leaves go sometimes in the middle of winter.

This year, all the precursor conditions—chilly nights and sunny, warm days—were in place for a fabulous fall foliage season. The display of bold colours confirmed that fall has finally taken over from the dog days of summer. But the days are also growing shorter which means the frosty days and nights of winter are around the corner. So, at this time every year, we throw the thought of winter out of our mind and venture into the wilderness to look at the transformation of the leaves. It gives us the feeling of “walking into fire without the heat.”

Some of the best places to see fall foliage are right in our backyard—the Catskills, Adirondacks and Bear Mountain, all within a short driving distance from our home in the lower Hudson Valley.  In the Northeast, New England reigns supreme for fall foliage viewing. Though the entire region is renowned for its vivid display of eye-catching colours, there is perhaps no other place more picturesque than the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Hence, it is one of our favourite places to gawk at the many trees—maple, beech, birch, elm and hemlock—burst into brilliant colours.

The nearest place where we can watch the fall fiesta is the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. One of the greatest attractions in the Catskill is the Hunter Mountain, where leaves change into a multicolour canopy in mid-October. For a glimpse of the delicate brushstrokes of Mother Nature on a larger landscape below and around us, we took the scenic skyride to the 3,200-feet summit of the mountain. The colours on the nearby Kaaterskill Mountain, as seen from the Hunter Mountain, were simply awesome. The mountain also offered incredible 360-degree views that reach out to and beyond the Catskill Mountains.

Few places in New York rival the Adirondacks for viewing fall foliage. The Adirondacks offer a different sort of autumnal splendour—lakes, mountains and forests combine to create a canvas upon which nature paints her annual pièce de résistance.  During our visit to Lake Placid, Adirondack was an unbelievable kaleidoscope of colours. The roads through the mountains of Adirondacks also afforded us one of the finest views of fall season’s palette—a photomontage of colors one finds in rainbows. The banks of the Ausable River were decked out in shades of crimson, orange and yellow.

While driving along the 35-mile stretch of the scenic Kancamagus Highway that cuts through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, we were treated to sceneries of majestic alpine mountains, quaint covered bridges, crashing waterfalls and colourful foliage. The splendid transition of colours throughout the mountains created a wonderful morphing beauty that accentuated our experience of viewing fall foliage.

As they say, “Fall is our jam here in the Northeast—when the colours switch from green to vibrant oranges, reds, yellows and gold.” For us, it is the time of the year to relax and enjoy the ravishing display of nature’s seasonal gift—the gallery of flaming colours, the “year’s last, loveliest smile” before the trees retire for the long winter slumber.

Quamrul Haider is a Professor of Physics at Fordham University, New York.