During a flight from Chennai to New Delhi, a flight attendant ushered a former Indian dignitary to a seat next to a little girl about 12 years of age.
The girl was reading a book. He thought she was reading a fairy tale book suited for her age. The girl was so engrossed in the book that she did not even look at him.
After a while he turned to her and asked, “Hey little one, where are you from?”
The girl looked up and seemed surprised at the familiar face. She smiled faintly. The dignitary was sure that the little girl had recognized him.
She closed the book she was reading and looked at him questioningly.
“Baby, what’s your name?” he asked.
“Bhanu Sir, ” she replied.
“Where are you from?”
“Kaayal Pattinam, Sir.”
“Oh, oh. So, you are from the coastal area like me?”
She nodded her head to mean “Yes.”
“Would you like to talk with me? Flights can be pleasant if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger,” he said.
“What would you want to talk about?” she asked.
“No. Sir,” she replied.
“Baby, then what is it?”
“Sir, it’s a book on a subject you are familiar with,” she replied.
“May I see the book?”
The little girl gave him the book.
The elderly dignitary was abashed when he read the title – “Fukushima Meltdown” by Takashi Hirose.
The old man smiled wanely at the girl after his initial shock.
“Do you understand what is written in this book?” he asked her.
“Yes Sir. Now, what would you want to talk about?” the girl asked innocently.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he blurted. “Now that you read high brow stuff like this, how about ‘the benefits of nuclear power for Tamilnadu’?”
“Alright Sir,” she said. “That is an interesting topic. Can I ask you a question first? I hope you won’t take it amiss?” she inquired.
“No. No. Certainly not,” he said smiling benevolently at her. “You know, I like to talk to young persons like you because ignited mind of the youth is the most powerful resource on the earth, above the earth and under the earth,” he replied.
“Sir, my question is this. You come from a rural area and you know that cow, horse, and goat all eat mainly the same stuff. That is grass and leaves isn’t it?”
He nodded his head to mean “Yes.”
“Yet, a cow excretes dung like a flat patty, a horse produces clumps, and a goat excretes little pellets. Why the difference?”
The dignitary, was taken aback and appeared visibly shocked and traumatized by the little girl’s intelligence, and all he could say was, “Hmmm, I have no idea.”
The little girl asked with an impish smile, “Are you really qualified to discuss the benefits of nuclear power for Tamilnadu when you don’t know shit?”
Then she went back to reading her book.
* * * * * *
Author’s note: Takashi Hirose wrote this book “Fukushima Meltdown” in a heat of passion mixed with terrible sadness in the weeks following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But he is far from a newcomer to this field; he has been writing books and articles warning of the terrible dangers of nuclear power since the early 1980s. In this book, which was a best seller in Japan, he not only describes the comic-if-not-so-tragic series of fumbling errors that lead to the meltdown at Fukushima, but also makes clear the absurdity of putting nuclear power plants anywhere on the earthquake and volcano prone Japanese archipelago – and by extension, anywhere in the world. This is the first translation into English of any book by this authoritative critic of nuclear power.