A Geodesic Dome Domesticated by…Kishan Devani

Posted by

Loosely inspired by Desert Island Discs, that perennial programme that tells us far more about the castaways than their simple choice of discs might imply, Greeneralia’s variant temporarily transplants the subject to a Buckminster Fuller Geodesic Dome in a site of his or her choosing. Newly appointed Honorary Vice President of the Green Liberal Democrats, Kishan Devani is our first occupant. [Editor]

[1] Where will you go? “Invited to choose the site for my geodesic dome, a pandemic-beset England in mid-February unhesitatingly prompted the Maldives and so here I am, beamed up as in Star Trek to Thudufushi, South Ari Atoll, with no jet lag or airport queues. I am rather pleased to have found an illustration which pre-provides a shady hammock with the perfect view but I shall have to move it a hundred yards or so inland in order to preserve my solitary ‘castaway’ status. Greeneralia‘s editor has set some rather strict parameters, of which this is the first, and most difficult. While acceptable as a literary construct, in real life I would have to reject the invitation on this basis alone – my family means too much to me. And my son is just a few months old. But I’m willing to consider the idea in my imagination..

Martin Falbisoner via Wikimedia Commons  ThudufushiAri AtollMaldives.

Greeneralia‘s victims subjects are provided with comfortable furniture, a kitchen with all mod cons including a fridge/freezer which magically refills with all basics as you consume them, central heating/air-conditioning, state of the art broadband, access to all television channels worldwide, computer with Zoom etc. Also limitless supplies of writing paper, pens and pencils.

[2]. What single item of furniture would you like? The Maldives in February has 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of dark, so I am going to need a good reading light and, I think, a Charles Eames chair and footstool. (Originals are prohibitively expensive and a beach environment is not their intended habitat, so I choose a reproduction one). If I close the shutters, and play some good music in the background, I should be able to enter the world of imagination through literature and not worry about the world of creepy-crawlies (scorpions??) But first I need a comfortable chair.

ichCourtesy zeitlosberlin.com

[3]. Apart from the Oxford English Dictionary and the Complete Works of Shakespeare already loaded on your pc, and a holy book of your choice, name up to 10 books which you would like to have in hard copy. You may like (but are not obliged) to choose books which represent different aspects or phases of your life. And/or, please choose up to 10 pieces of music

First, our holy book. This is Vachanamrut by Lord Swaminarayan. And, as an accompaniment, I will need The Bhagavad Gita, the Easwaran edition in which he writes: “The battlefield is a perfect backdrop, but the Gita’s subject is the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious.”

I was born in London in the 1980s, but by ancestry I am a Lohana, a kshatriya group who, according to legend, are descended from Rama himself. They originated from the border area between what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan which they defended as warriors. Gradually they migrated south, my ancestors reaching Gujarat, and from there set sail for East Africa at the beginning of the 20th century, where they remained until the advent of Idi Amin and their arrival in the UK. Much of the history, as you can see, is ‘lost in the mists of antiquity’ and if I do find any spare time during my stay in the Maldives, I propose to do some digging in cyberspace to try and document the early history (counts as a third book).

I am a cricket fanatic. I support the England or the Indian team, depending on whom they are playing against. (And yes, groan, I pass the ‘Tebbit test’). I am proposing to invite Sir Donald Bradman, the legendary Australian player, to dinner, so his autobiography, My Cricketing Life, must be my next book, I think.

One of my chief interests is politics (I stood as the Liberal Democrat candidate in Montgomeryshire in 2019), and I think my other choices should be political biographies. First, then, I need a Liberal Democrat: [Lord] Paddy Ashdown, who led our party from 1988 to 1999. He had an extraordinary life, the stuff of a Le Carré novel, but amongst the many books he wrote, Paddy took the precaution of writing his own biographical account, ‘A Fortunate Life’.

Next is Barack Obama. What a man! The first volume of his autobiography, A Promised Land, is summarised in Waterstone’s review as ‘the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world‘.

[4]. You may add 6 items of luxury or original food which have not made it to the list of basics.

[5]. For one evening during your gaol time, you may give a dinner party for 10 people (living or dead, real or fictional). Tell us who is on your guest list, and perhaps why.

If you want conversation to flow at a dinner party, two recipes are to invite people as much like each other as possible (who will then discuss the minutiae of their differences) or to invite people from very different backgrounds – I have chosen the latter. I will have a round table in order, with luck, to avoid arguments about seating and I list my guests alphabetically for the same reason. The alphabet has serendipitously placed Tagore and Shakespeare next to each other – I do hope I can overhear snippets of their conversation.

Paddy Ashdown

Amitabh Bachchan

Donald Bradman

Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield.

Two (very different) Gandhis:

Indira Gandhi née Nehru

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, called Mahatma

Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Barack Obama

William Shakespeare

Rabindranath Tagore

When the guests have arrived (and since I am beaming them up, they will all arrive at the same time), Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan will sing for us:

‘Ustad’ is like ‘Maestro’ or ‘Maitre

As for the dinner, I am not a great cook and certainly don’t want to spend the time which I could otherwise be talking to my guests in preparing food, so my final wish would be for a typical Maldives buffet to be served (based on coconut and accompaniments, as modified through my Gujarati heritage) by magically invisible attendants. We are vegetarian, but have the world’s cuisines to draw on: my dinner party will include French Fries as well as Urad Dhal and Makhni Dhal; Roti including Rumali Roti; Paneer Tikka; and of course Basmati Rice.

The fruit is magnificent here, particularly coming from an English winter, so I would only add the Maldivean version of a jalebi, the Zilebi, and I find kulfi impossible to resist, as I expect do many of my guests.

[6]. You may negotiate 3 items which you would like but have not been included (unfortunately these do not include people).

Ecological note on destination:

by Editor

Andrew Evans wrote an article for the National Geographic in 2013 about his visit to the lowest high point in the world:

No discussion about global warming is complete without a nod to the Maldives, the paradisaical Indian Ocean archipelago that spans the equator, comprised of around 1,200 islands….I first visited the Maldives some seven years ago, and no matter how much I raved about the beautiful neon coral, the schools of blue and yellow fusiliers, the flawless sand beaches and the rustling palm trees, all anybody wanted to ask me about was the question of rising sea levels and how in a decade or so, the entire nation will be underwater. According to National Geographic, we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100. If that is true, than the islanders in the Maldives have real reason to worry. The average height of this country of coral beaches is around 4 feet above sea level, and the highest point in the entire nation is just under 8 feet (about 2.4 meters).

The Convention on Biological Diversity comments on: Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect) in the Maldives

The pristine marine ecosystems of Maldives are being threatened by natural factors such as climate change and related factors such as coral bleaching. They are also threatened by anthropogenic activity such as tourism and over-exploitation without consideration given to biodiversity. Pollution from uncontrolled waste disposal, untreated sewage and land reclamation and channel building are major threats to the biodiversity. However, turtle and shark fishing have been banned, as has coral mining. Threats or pressures on terrestrial biodiversity include damage due to unsustainable agricultural practices, such as overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, removal of vegetation for infrastructure and human settlement, and developmental practices.