Sunday, January 21, 2007

Urban Pools of Meltwater

"While there have always been meltwater pools. There are many more of them covering a far larger area of ice....This meltwater is now believed to keep sinking all the way down to the bottom, cutting deep crevasses and vertical tunnels called 'moulins'. When the water reaches the bottom of the ice, it lubricates the surface of the bedrock and destabilizes the ice mass raising fears that the ice mass will slide more quickly towards the ocean"
- Al Gore in the Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore was talking about innocuous looking pools of melted ice (meltwater) that have been spreading across the surface of Greenland. The adjoining picture is NOT Niagara Falls; its meltwater flowing into a deep moulin. How deep is the moulin? Well, the tiny black dots at the top of the picture are actually people.

While ice-sheets already formed on the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans are also breaking away and melting, this does not raise sea levels. Meltwater on the Greenland's landmass is significant because it may help huge chunks of land-based ice to slide into the sea which WOULD raise the sea levels.

I believe that metaphorical meltwater pools have also formed in urban Indian society...that has an equally large potential to change the climate in India - in this case, the social one. Unlike global warming, this climate change is likely bring positive change to most people's lives (even if they don't think so themselves :)

The meltwater pools can be found in places like Buzz in Delhi where young couples dance, smoke, drink and kiss in abandon every weekend night...or for example in Mocha in Bombay - where packs of barely-teened girls and boys spend horrendous number of hours and huge amounts of deep-pocket money on melted-Lindt hot chocolate and green-apple flavored hookahs.

The signs of climate change are everywhere. Here's a few examples:
a) Rising divorce rates (specially amongst the under-35 age-group) - Ask yourself how many divorced friends your parents had and how many divorced wonderful friends you do
b) Falling rates of pre-marital virginity. The perceived virginity rate in the eyes of parents is probably still at its 1960s level - I know many many couples who've lived-in in India but almost no parents who knew about it :)
c) The laissez faire attitude...fancy way of saying live-and-let-live...of most of my friends and relatives to my coming out. "But even then, why do you have to move to the U.S." I was asked a couple of times. Or the increasing number of gay nights in Delhi - at last count it had doubled to 2! - each, I believe, well-attended.
d) The increasing number of kissing scenes in Hindi films - even Ash did it...yes Amitabh, she did it and even if its cut from the theatre runs of Dhoom2 its probably already on Youtube for eternity. I do think though, that Ash kissing-in-movies is like Microsoft bundling IE with Windows - its a free gift that people didn't expect and thats designed to put wannabes like Mallika Sherawat (or poor Netscape) out of business

Sceptics will argue that there was always a tiny Page-3-population that lived like they were in Malibu rather than Mumbai - I think the difference is that:
a) The people swimming in the thawed meltwater pools today, are overwhelmingly middle class - not the upper-class people Shobha De famously wrote about
b) They don't regard themselves as social revolutionaries unlike the 1960's (1970's in India)
Flower-Power generation - the increasingly blase attitude towards sex, divorce, marriage etc is truly subversive - one that is likely to infect contemporaries in smaller towns, as well as younger siblings, kids and nephews/nieces who are now growing up. Quiet creeping revolution is more difficult to put down than bus-window-shattering protests

I, of course, selfishly applaud the omens of a new social climate - it may allow me to have a dating scene based in Delhi/Bombay before I'm 80 and can't dance anymore.

But there are others who should be worried. Human action has led to the drying up of the Aral Sea (Yeah really - the whole sea literally evaporated into thin air) and left shipping fleets stuck in the sand (see adjoining picture).

Indian conservative political parties - the ones that tend to riot on Valentine's Day - may find themselves similarly left stranded by the wayside along with their Ice Age ideas - if they don't change with the

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