Washington DC celebrates 100 years of the spectacular cherry blossoms in its midst.
If one had to associate a colour with Washington DC, it would have to be grey, at least for 51 weeks of the year. The conservative, mostly-quiet city has a reputation for being low-key, even dull, outside of the realm of political theatre, which is, of course, its mainstay.
Yet, for one week of the year, the city turns that reputation on its head with an eye-popping burst of pink and white, as the cherry blossoms bloom and transport the denizens of Washington to a magical land for a few brief days.
This year, this stunning annual spectacle marked a special anniversary, for, it was exactly 100 years ago that First Lady Helen Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted a couple of Yoshino cherry trees at the city’s southern border along Tidal Basin.
These two trees were among the 3,000 that were received by Washington as a gift from the city of Tokyo as a token of friendship. “The original pair still stands, though gnarled and showing their age, along with about 100 of the original trees transported from Japan,” blossom-watcher reports noted this year.
While crowds flock in droves to Tidal Basin, clogging up the metro and maxing out parking spots, those with insider information can quickly rush to another pristine cherry-blossom neighbourhood in the greater Washington area, Kenwood.
Kenwood, which is just across the border of Washington in Maryland State, is arguably one of the most high-end real estate areas in the entire region, with house prices mostly in the $2-4 million-range. Yet, in the last week of March or first weeks of April, it is no longer the stunning homes but the dream-like quality of the cherry blossoms in full bloom that draws the admirers in.
What are the chances of Pakistan pulling off its own version of the IPL?
Having tested waters with a domestic T20 series, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is now actively toying with the idea of a Pakistan Premier League (PPL) with international participation to give this cricket-crazy but presently starved nation some real-life matches on the grounds that were once part of the international cricket circuit.
The domestic T20 series completed its second edition — the Super Eight T20 — this past Sunday at the Pindi stadium in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. The eight teams in the reckoning brought together some of the leading lights of Pakistan's international team with national stars from various cities of the country. And, the teams were suitably named Faisalabad Wolves, Karachi Dolphins, Karachi Zebras, Lahore Eagles, Lahore Lions, Peshawar Panthers, Rawalpindi Rams and Sialkot Stallions.
For a terror-struck nation that now gets to see its cricketers play only on television, the T20 domestic series offers a rare chance to see them in action on home ground. Now, seeing what the Bangladesh Premier League has done to the game of the fledgling cricketing team of South Asia, the PCB is thinking of a PPL that will have international players also to work around the problem it is facing in luring back national teams of other countries to play in Pakistan since terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan team in 2009.
Not only will PPL bring international cricket to Pakistan in its newest and arguably most exciting format — probably sans the cheer girls in their skimpy attire — it promises financial spinoffs for the PCB and players, plus offers the chance to budding cricketers of the country to sharpen their game with leading lights of the sport in its most competitive form.
An elephantine problem
Will India provide a tusker for Kandy’s Esala Perahara festival?
The biggest Buddhist temple in Kandy has a problem. It needs a tusker to be the lead elephant in a sacred procession, The Perahera. And Sri Lanka, home to the highest density of elephants per square kilometre, for some genetic reason, does not have elephants with the majestic tusks that we see in India.
The biggest Perahera, Esala Perahara (Festival of the Tooth) in Sri Lanka is organised in Kandy each year around July/August. The hill town attracts people from far and wide for this all-night, stunningly beautiful festival of colours, dancers and drumbeats, and piety.
Late last year, when the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Ashok K. Kantha, visited the temple complex to inaugurate a massive 16-feet Saranath Buddha statue, he was approached with the tusker problem. India has the tuskers that meet the requirements here, but there are far too many laws that need to be adhered to ahead of a tusker travelling to Sri Lanka. Right now, efforts are on to cite an earlier precedent — of a tusker that was brought from Myanmar — and apply the same principles here. A tusker arriving on Sri Lankan shores from India is still a long way off, but the process has been set in motion.
India and Sri Lanka may not see eye to eye on many issues that affect either country. But this is another example that illustrates the nature and depth of relationships that the people of the two countries have established.