Damn Yankees! —Mahmud Sipra

Here is something else you ought to know in case you are wondering why horses, cattle and people are having such a devil of a time foraging. Grain, barley and maize are getting scarcer and dearer by the day

Wait a minute. Before you get the wrong idea, this is the name of a book, a hit Broadway play and a movie. In the movie of this name, the writer Douglas Wallop attempts a retelling of a Faust legend. Loosely based on the New York Yankees, a premier baseball team, it tells of how the devil convinces the protagonist in the story to sell him his soul in return for becoming the greatest ball player in history. There is an escape clause in the accord though, a “we have agreed to disagree” type throwaway line.

Sound familiar?

The plot thickens when the antagonist discovers that “our hero”, who by now is a celebrity “reneges” because he wants his old life back.

Not so fast, says the antagonist, adding, “I’ll see you in hell first!” (Where else?) He threatens to unleash the hounds of hell. The hound comes in the shape of a comely female, a sort of a devil wearing Prada, who is meant to seduce the hero with her wily devil-given assets and seductive voice. And so it goes.

I wonder why the Indians haven’t attempted a retelling — or a “remake” — of this Faustian drama up until now. They remake everything else.

Imagine Bachchan (senior) playing the devil. Instead of baseball, the plot can revolve around cricket this time around, with someone like John Abraham as the protagonist. They can import Imaan Ali to play the “devil wearing Prada” bit — that is of course if their own sultry Bipasha Basu understandably turns down the role.

They can always throw in a couple of “item” numbers by Malika Sherawat and a mad scientist to make things interesting. I’m telling you, it would work. It has all the elements of a riveting drama. You can even get that very talented duo called Strings to do a sequel to their song with a small change: Kuch honay wala hai. Cricketers and mad scientists selling their souls to the devil — how can you go wrong?

Meanwhile, to make matters worse, the Axis of Evil lot, who have by now learnt a few tricks from being in exotic places like ‘Eye-rack’ and ‘Tora Bora’, are now doing what the Comancheros use to do: hit and run. All this time, the cavalry, the infantry and those unmanned flying machines with their hunter-killer capabilities scour them hills around and beyond the Khyber Pass.

Every now and then they get lucky and zero in on He-who-walks-tall’s wigwam. Problem is he’s never home when they hit. They get a goat, a few crows, maybe even a few jackals. But they never get their man! Wonder who tells them that the “Fedareles” are coming.

Here is something else you ought to know in case you are wondering why horses, cattle and people are having such a devil of a time foraging. Grain, barley and maize are getting scarcer and dearer by the day. That’s because all that edible stuff is now ending up in the fuel tanks of cars and trucks as “alternative energy” or “biofuels”. Sugar Cane, barley, corn, wheat et al are all now heading from the farmer to the ever-growing biofuel markets.

According to the Guardian, quoting an unpublished World Bank report: “diverting grain away from food for fuel has upped food prices by a whopping 140 percent from 2002 to the first quarter of 2008.”

Some of you reading this column may remind me that some time ago, it was I who was recommending to the erstwhile railways minister to go the biofuel route by planting and harvesting a plant called Jethropa along the thousands of miles of unutilised railway land that crisscrosses the country. I firmly stand by that suggestion. It will not make the slightest difference to the country’s food chain because the plant is toxic and unfit for human consumption.

You can imagine my delight when a friend of mine drew my attention this morning to a news item in one of the leading dailies. According to that report the country’s “official think tank” has recommended to the country’s premier oil company to “investigate, research and develop the possibility of using ‘Jethropa’ as a raw material for producing bio-diesel in Pakistan.”

Full marks to this administration for finally coming around to some forward thinking and also for reading my DT column! Invoice follows!

Meanwhile, here are a few ideas on how to conserve water, energy and food:

Have communal showers. Ask your neighbor to join you. Bring back the public hammam. The Japanese are very civilised about this; the whole family bathes together.

Forget air-conditioning. Go back to keeping a block of ice in the room with just one fan on. Let everyone sleep together. You can even chill your fruit and cold drinks the old fashioned way. You will bring your electricity bill dramatically down and bond as a family.

Keep your car. But don’t drive it, just look at it and admire it. After a couple of years the Japanese, the Koreans and the Germans will buy it back from you for much more than what you paid for it. Their need for ferrous and non-ferrous materials to feed their monster industrial appetite is going to force them to do this. Just make sure you sell it back to them with a full tank of fuel. They will pay you a premium for that. Fossil fuel is going to be a thing of the past, way past by the time Pakistan celebrates it centenary in another 39 years.

Keep a horse and a buggy, just like the Nawabs used to. And the Amish in America still do. And you know what, they have zero crime. In fact they don’t even have a police station.

Don’t go to work during the day. Work only at night. Sleep and play during the day. Bring back the solar pith hat and the umbrella. The ICC had the right idea when they ruled that cricket matches be played at night.

Go ahead! Make a statement, do something for yourself and your country!

Because you now have a choice: you can choke to death if you don’t control greenhouse gases, or you can starve to death by diverting anything you eat to fuel to drive your car.

Take your pick.

Mahmud Sipra is a best selling author and an independent columnist. He can be reached at sipraindubai@yahoo.com

Source: Daily Times, 10/7/2008

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