Gained in translation

Sometimes one wishes to bang one’s head against a wall. Like when the learned minister for climate change asserts piously that the recent rainfall in the country was solely due to our prime minister being virtuous. Makes one wonder about the role of the ‘corrupt’ leaders over the past 10 years in the kind of weather we have had.

One wonders also why the rains have caused so much more damage this time and resulted in so many deaths. Who was responsible for that? But the minister for climate change has not gotten into that. One wonders if she will blame our past leaders for it, like the erstwhile minister for information used to do. A lawyer by training and profession, he has just been made the minister for science and technology. This gentleman’s main job until recently was to spew hatred and abuse at the past governments, in one of which he was a minister.

Should one expect the honourable minister for science and technology to claim that “Pakistani spacecrafts would have taken our astronauts to Mars and brought them back had it not been for the corruption during the past two governments”? That’s giving him credit for knowing what (and where) Mars is. The twisted logic in his recent tweet implying that the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka were meant to prevent the Sri Lankan cricket team from visiting Pakistan is amazing.

Talking of arithmetic and numbers, one has a strong suspicion that very few people in the PTI know how many zeroes there are in a billion. Maybe they think “crore” translates into English is a “billion”?

Someday we’ll be told about how the Dear Leader selected the current lot of his ministers and advisers. He has said he had shuffled the cabinet because some of the ministers were incompetent. Which begs the question, if a man is not competent in one post, how can you be sure he’ll do well in the other, particularly (as in the case of the science and technology minister), where he doesn’t know much about the subject?

One recalls that a health minister in the first Peoples Party government used to insist that he had brought the prices of medicines down by a thousand per cent. There was no stopping him reiterating this at a conference in Tokyo. People are reported to have tried to explain it to him that a lowering of prices beyond 100 per cent would by definition require cash handouts by pharmacies. Whether he was ever persuaded or not is not known.

Talking of arithmetic and numbers, one has a strong suspicion that very few people in the PTI know how many zeroes there are in a billion. We’ve heard of the billon-tree tsunami, but just think, even if a hundred thousand trees were planted everyday, it would taken ten thousand days (twenty seven years at least) to reach the target. Yet they say they were able to plant a billion trees in five years. Maybe they think “crore” (ten million) translates into English is a “billion”?

In Indian movies (with subtitles in English), you can often see that a “lakh” (hundred thousand) gets translated as a “million” and a “crore” (ten million) as a “billion”. Perhaps that’s why our people do not know what a billion is. But I can understand Indians being confused about million and billion. They understand only lakhs and crores. We, on the other hand, stopped using “lakh” and “crore” in the days of Gen Zia (1977-88), so I can’t understand why our very learned ministers still say “billion” breezily without knowing how many zeroes there are in it.

The writer is a freelancer


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