New Internationalist

Ether Street / The NI Crossword

Issue 330

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The spirit Nil continues to reveal random secrets of
past, present and future to a captive audience.

Suppose we do accept that you have been incarnated on this earth a hundred or more times. You must have learned a lot about history that you could pass on to us.

Not really. A lot of the time I was a world away from the big events you think of as history. I’ve talked about my part in the Russian Revolution and as an African Queen resisting slavery. But mostly I was just Olga Ordinary or Abdul Average, looking after the rice crop or rearing children. And you don’t want to hear about those.

All the same, once you get back to the ether you must be able to put it all in historical perspective.

Well, I suppose I did once serve the greatest leader in human history.

Who was that? Alexander the Great? Elizabeth I? Ronald Reagan?

Mere warlords, the lot of them. I’m talking about a truly great leader who renounced wars, armies and all the suffering they cause.

Oh, you mean José Figueres, who abolished the army in Costa Rica in 1948 – we’ve just been reading about that. [Ed: see article]

BRICK

Actually no. I have in mind Asoka, last of the great Mauryan emperors of India, over 2,000 years ago. He started out as a chip off the old block, trying like his dad to expand the empire to embrace all of India, and conquering the eastern country of Kalinga (now Orissa state) in a vicious military campaign. But he was so horrified by the bloodshed that he renounced warfare and dedicated himself to good works.

Easy enough when he’d just won the war anyway. A bit like Blair and Clinton pushing peace and harmony after bombing Belgrade to bits.

No, Asoka was different. He converted to Buddhism and devoted his life to putting its principles into practice: ‘conquest by dharma (principles of right life),’ that’s what he called it.

Oh, we get it. He turned into a religious maniac foisting his ideas on all and sundry.

It’s true he sent Buddhist emissaries to Burma and Ceylon. But he didn’t even make Buddhism a state religion at home – he guaranteed freedom of worship for all sects and promoted non-violence. It was good works that he saw as more important: he built hospitals for humans and animals, planted roadside trees, dug wells. A New Deal, you might say.

And what was your part in all this, then? An adviser or minister?

Well, no. I cleaned the palace latrines. But it was honourable work; Asoka didn’t look down on that kind of labour. Sad to say, though, his successors didn’t continue his legacy after he died. The empire fell apart straight away and Buddhism in India went down the tube with it. And my own descendants were locked into a shit-shovelling subdivision of the caste system. Probably they still are, though I must admit I’ve lost touch with that branch of the family.

So Asoka’s work was all to no avail.

Don’t you believe it. Buddhism may not have taken off in India but it certainly took root in Burma and Ceylon. And of course he was directly cited as an inspiration when the Global War Renunciation Treaty was signed in 2058 – oh, sorry, that hasn’t happened yet, has it?

Next issue: etheric broadcasts are
suspended to allow a Jumbo crossword.

The NI Crossword
No 50 by Axe

Crossword no.50

To celebrate the 50th NI Crossword, this puzzle is pangrammatical, ie it features every letter of the alphabet. This may be a help or a hindrance to solvers!

Cryptic
Across
1 Unloaded some of Cairo’s coffee for Brittany port (7)
5 One walks out of Biblical land, reaching a point on the Volga... (6)
8 ...a medical person with love for the pulpit (4)
9 Pyrenean ibex evolved, ejecting foremost amphibious type (5)
10 Slav Scot’s taken out to see Tchaikovsky Symphony No 2... (4)
11 ...rumour this morning on 2000 (about – a number that’s not definite) coming from Siberia (10)
12 Irish port bottle’s stopper (4)
13 Usage Duma made of student celebration... (9)
15 ...drink and Oblomov’s extreme ballet (5)
17 Stay second class near Luxembourg in northern French city (5)
19 Lewis’ place is definitely not on the first Scottish hill (9)
21 Divorcing British from the symbol of fair play needs a bit of money (4)
22 He dumps Raj’s rebel Bihari city... (10)
24 ...the politician between, first, India and independence, and Zulu warriors (4)
25 A god from Egypt and the sign of Christ accepted by a following town in Brazil (5)
26 A film studio of old is turned around; it’s growing in tropical parts... (4)
27 ...growth bearing fruit after losing the pick of the bunch... (6)
28 ...Nigerian cash failing in the end, and Nigerian returning Kenyan capital (7)

Down
1 Cuban African dance to a degree is very sweet (3,4)
2 Individual in bed is sent back after initial sickness; he’s Greek and not complaining (5)
3 The Americans’ last landing, north of this part of Japan... (8)
4 ...and affirm tank run to be arranged this morning in a German location (9-2-4)
5 Tamil Nadu – southern backward part of the country (5)
6 British Airways puts in one carriage up in the chairman’s place, near the oil, in South America... (9)
7 ...to soar vaguely above Brazilian city and Argentine port (7)
14 Spotted dog along the eastern Adriatic by mid-morning (9)
16 Support greeting embracing mankind from Hindu woman (8)
18 Leading Ugandan who didn’t say ‘I’m India-mad’? (3,4)
20 They carry water and Iraqi gold, perhaps (7)
22 Coins in Jinan in an open society at first (5)
23 Pair nearly row to river and it’s port! (5)

Quick
Across
1 Brittany ferry port (7)
5 Industrial city on the Volga, Kuibyshev between 1935 and 1991 (6)
8 Primitive Christian pulpit (4)
9 Pyrenean ibex (5)
10 Slavic people (4)
11 Alluding to a Siberian peninsula and its people (10)
12 Second city of the Republic of Ireland (4)
13 Opening words of a student song in Latin, ‘Let us be glad...’ (9)
15 Russian city whose name has interchanged with Vyatka since 1992: famous Russian ballet company (5)
17 French city, home of the Pasteur Institute (5)
19 Largest town in the Outer Hebrides (9)
21 Italian unit of currency (4)
22 Industrial city of Bihar (10)
24 Zulu warriors (4)
25 Brazilian city, 300km west of Belo Horizonte (5)
26 Lady’s fingers, gumbo (4)
27 Pineapple (6)
28 Capital of Kenya (7)

Down
1 Small cake, leavened with yeast and soaked in liquor (3,4)
2 Indifferent to pleasure or pain: disciple of the philosopher Zeno (5)
3 Resident of Japan’s largest outlying island (8)
4 Germany’s financial centre (9-2-4)
5 Country with the largest area in Africa (5)
6 Centre of the Venezuelan oil industry (9)
7 Argentine river port of one million people (7)
14 Describes the coast of former Yugoslavia (9)
16 An Indian woman of high caste (8)
18 Former Ugandan dictator (3,4)
20 Water-bearing symbols (7)
22 Chinese coins equal to 10 fen or one-tenth of a yuan (5)
23 Major river of northern Portugal (5)

Last month's solution

Solution to no.49


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