Saturday subsurface

KĊhaku are the most popular variety of ornamental carps in Japan, instantly recognizable because of their bright red markings on a white body. As I stood over the pond, this one must have seen me, and surfaced to look for a feed. The slanting light on the surface of the pond caught it even before its body emerged. I thought I should cut away the distracting colour and just show you the play of light.

How much space does a person need?

Tolstoy’s answer was six feet. Let me change the question to how much land is available in Mumbai to each person. The land area of the island city of Mumbai is close to 68 square kilometers. The number of people in this area was last counted in 2011, and was 12.5 million. It may have decreased a little since then, but this number will serve. Take away a quarter of the city’s area for roads. That gives us about 35 square feet of space per person. That’s a rather small room. Take away another half of the land area for offices, and you decrease the space to 12 square feet. We begin to approach Tolstoy’s limit. What chance, social distancing?

In a place like this you learn to be alone in a crowd. You can spend a quarter of your life packed like sardines into a can called a suburban train, and live a complete life in the space between your earbuds. You can get off the train, walk home to your 35 square feet bed-sit, and count yourself a king of infinite space. But you may have bad dreams.

Which is why work-from-home is a wonderful idea. As long as you have a job which you can do over the internet, what is it really that brings you far from your family and friends, from that familiar place that you grew up in, to a crowded city like this? We discovered the freedom of the internet during the pandemic. Immediately after the end of the lockdowns, we began to travel during the week, working on a laptop that you could take anywhere that gave you a wifi connection. I saw sunrises over deserts and mountain lakes during this time. And I saw nomads even more adventurous than me: kayaking between meetings, climbing cliffs with phone and earbuds in backbacks.

What keeps us bound to these cities? The concerts and dinners, the art and the collegiality of the workplace can be sampled a couple of times a week. But I love to walk the streets of the city, alone, camera in hand, taking street photos. Would I be able to watch people in this way in any place other than a city?

Narrow escapes

Yesterday was my second encounter with a cyclone. Fortunately cyclone Nisarga made landfall about 40 kilometers south of earlier predictions, and so missed us by about 80 kilometers. These are enormous disturbances in our atmosphere, so we got rain and high winds all day. But it was the kind of weather we see two or three times every monsoon, so it was not hard to weather. The incident brought back memories of another narrow escape: from typhoon Nangka when I was in Japan five years ago. That was a super typhoon which weakened into a minimal typhoon when it made landfall. The featured photo was taken at Shirasagi-jo, the White Heron Castle in Himeji, a few hours before the landfall. I’m not one to carp at these near misses.

First day of vacations? Feed fish

Schools and colleges close today for winter. Wondering what to do over the next few days? I have one idea from the large pool in Guagnzhou’s museum of Cantonese Opera. People do this everywhere in China. Go feed fish.

The result is really colourful.

Some day I must remember to carry a little bit of boiled rice with me when I go walking through parks in China. Apparently that’s a harmless thing to feed them. And it is easily found.