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THAT’S GREAT, IT STARTS WITH AN EARTHQUAKE
- Last-minute thoughts on the promised end of the world

As far as I’m concerned, the world ended the day Denny Duquette, in Grey’s Anatomy, died, leaving Izzie (and me, and the rest of Denny-loving humanity) heartbroken. But, seeing as how I’m still up and about, I suppose one could give the Mayans’ version of the end of the world a chance. If the world were to end tomorrow, I wonder how it would happen. Things right now don’t really seem to be out of the ordinary. It’s a regular winter’s day outside. (Though perhaps not as cold as I’d like it to be. What does that mean? What does that mean?! Global warming? The end of the world? Cue for panic?) So, if what the Mayans said — or, more accurately, what we think the Mayans said — does come true tomorrow, what are you in for? Will there be a massive storm, followed by a saltwater and sewage flood that drowns everything while ravenous wolves run amuck in the city, as The Day After Tomorrow would have you believe? Or will there be catastrophic tsunamis and earthquakes, the likes of which were seen in another doomsday film, 2012? Cheerful thoughts. Perhaps you could add to the cheer by throwing in a few thousand post-apocalyptic zombies. Then you’d have a real party. (Except that most doomsday filmmakers seem to think that all apocalypse happenings originate and end somewhere in the United States of America — which is also where most post-apocalyptic activity occurs. Awkward moment for the average, gearing-up-for-doomsday Calcuttan.)

Some people believe that the world will end tomorrow. An alternative view, however radical, is that it will not end. (A third alternative is that life as you know it will end, but you’ll continue merrily along in one way or the other. Preferably without the zombies.) Tomorrow is likely to be as drab a day as any. The world is unlikely to end on December 21, 2012, mainly because the Mayans, in spite of having been an advanced civilization, knew as much as about the death of this planet as Edgar Cayce, St Malachy and Nostradamus did; that is to say, pretty much nothing. (Cayce, an American psychic, apparently spoke to a god and gained ‘psychic knowledge’, which he used to predict that California would slide into the ocean. St Malachy, according to his followers, also predicted that Armageddon was approaching. Nostradamus seems to have predicted everything. Sceptics, however, believe that Nostradamus’s quatrains, also called his “prophecies”, are mostly twaddle. You get the picture.) The Mayans’ understanding of the passage of time and seasons was vast and sophisticated. But, in spite of their advancement, it is a tad unlikely that they could have predicted the end of the world. The Mayan people apparently developed almost 20 different calendars. Some of them claimed to record time accurately over a span of 10 million years. (One wonders how anyone would know.) The calendar that ends tomorrow is said to have had a 5,126-year cycle. This is further divided into cycles of 1,44,000 days. The end of the last cycle, it seems, is upon us.

All these doomsday prophecies, feverish astronomical calculations and frissons of excitement running up and down people’s spines at the prospect of Armageddon would probably have the ancient Mayans fist-pumping each other over the resounding success of their practical joke. (All that I associate with the word, Armageddon, are Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis, back when they were attractive. Given how they look now, perhaps it is telling, and prophetic, that they were cast in a film by that name). As the cartoons doing the rounds suggest, for all you know, the Mayans just decided to stop at 2012. Calendar making can be a tedious job, really. A practical joke spanning centuries would sound far more appealing even to the most advanced of people.

An acquaintance of mine pointed out that the word, apocalypse, means “revelation” and not “the end of the world”. Which makes perfect sense, given how the world can’t really end if there is a post-apocalyptic world to suffer in, all over again. Perhaps a quick, clean catastrophe is just what we all need, given the state of affairs in the country and the world. One peek into the newspapers, one flip through television news channels, and I find myself communicating (in my head, of course) with whoever the chief ancient calendar-maker was, saying “I’m with you on this one”. It will be rather unfortunate if the world doesn’t end. Imagine having to continue living like this. R.E.M. probably knew what they were talking about when they sang, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”