Self-portrait as felt, green queries as faced
By Op Rana (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-04-17 07:43

Self-portrait as felt, green queries as faced

You fight for the environment. Isn't that what you think?

Yes, I said, trying to see the face that had yanked me out of my beloved early morning sleep.

I was angry and wanted to go back to sleep. But with the strange fellow's eyes burning through me like the midday summer sun, it was impossible to bury my face in the pillow again.

Realizing the futility of trying to drive away the shadowy character, I softened a bit. Actually, I was too groggy to think clearly, but clear-headed enough to try to reason with the intruder.

See, I said, I rarely switch on the air-conditioner at home. I don't waste water. I try to stop others, too, from wasting it. If you don't believe me, check the cistern tank in my toilet. It has two 1.5-liter bottles filled with water that save three liters of water each time I flush the toilet. I always close the tap when I'm brushing my teeth or shaving.

Is that all, asked the sullen face.

I had started to lose my nerves, and could hear the throbbing of blood vessels in my temple. I know my duties, I shot back. I switch off the lights before leaving my apartment and office when I'm the last person out. I don't own a car neither in Beijing nor back home in Kolkata (India) nor do I intend to own one. I take public transport. And I I ask readers through my columns to lead a lifestyle that would cause as little harm to the environment as possible.

And you feel you've done your duty? I could feel the vitriol in its voice.

Wait, I thought. Is this some Michael Moore-type of dream? Does the face belong to my yet to be born great granddaughter or great grandson? Is it chastising me for destroying the environment? But I read Moore's Dude, Where's My Country? more than five years ago. Why should such a thought (or apparition) appear now?

Self-portrait as felt, green queries as faced

So I decided to go on the offensive. I've been doing whatever I can to save the earth, I said. Why don't you go out and do your bit and leave me alone?

I thought I saw a sarcastic smile on that irritating face. How's the weather like? The smirk was clearly evident on the face now. Though April is still not the cruelest month, it is unusually warm, I replied.

If keeping the increase in temperature above pre-industrial levels to below 2 C can turn April into summer, what would happen if scientists' fear of a 4 C by 2100 is indeed a reality? The face turned glum after putting the question.

Statistics, that's what it was trying to play with now. But I still preferred silence because I knew the face had not plucked the figure from its (or anybody else's) imagination. It is there in the 2007 report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Besides, a Guardian poll of experts who attended a climate conference in Copenhagen last month expressed the same fear.

The face realized my helplessness before shooting more questions. Do you cook? What amount of vegetables do you buy every week? And how much of cooked and uncooked food do you throw away? I knew it had me this time.

But I was not ready to give up. I asked the face why it had chosen me, when I cared more for the environment than many other people in this world.

The smirk was back. And suddenly I realized why I hadn't recognized the face earlier. Polish poet Miron Bialoszewski was right indeed when he wrote: Of all the faces known / I remember least my own.

I know the face (my face) will be back with more questions to yank me out of sleep again.

What about you?

E-mail: oprana@hotmail.com