Sunday, July 17, 2016

O Captain! My Captain!    By Walt Whitman.


O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, 
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won, 
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, 
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring; 
                         But O heart! heart! heart! 
                            O the bleeding drops of red, 
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies, 
                                  Fallen cold and dead. 

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; 
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills, 
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding, 
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning; 
                         Here Captain! dear father! 
                            This arm beneath your head! 
                               It is some dream that on the deck, 
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead. 

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still, 
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will, 
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done, 
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won; 
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells! 
                            But I with mournful tread, 
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies, 
                                  Fallen cold and dead.


The Last Leaf                  By   O. Henry 

In a little district west of Washington Square the streets have run crazy and broken themselves into small strips called "places." These "places" make strange angles and curves. One Street crosses itself a time or two. An artist once discovered a valuable possibility in this street. Suppose a collector with a bill for paints, paper and canvas should, in traversing this route, suddenly meet himself coming back, without a cent having been paid on account!
     So, to quaint old Greenwich Village the art people soon came prowling, hunting for north windows and eighteenth-century gables and Dutch attics and low rents. Then they imported some pewter mugs and a chafing dish or two from Sixth Avenue, and became a "colony."
     At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had their studio. "Johnsy" was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; the other from California. They had met at the table d'hôte of an Eighth Street "Delmonico's," and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.
     That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching one here and there with his icy fingers. Over on the east side this ravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feet trod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown "places."
     Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman. A mite of a little woman with blood thinned by California zephyrs was hardly fair game for the red-fisted, short-breathed old duffer. But Johnsy he smote; and she lay, scarcely moving, on her painted iron bedstead, looking through the small Dutch window-panes at the blank side of the next brick house.
     One morning the busy doctor invited Sue into the hallway with a shaggy, grey eyebrow.

     "She has one chance in - let us say, ten," he said, as he shook down the mercury in his clinical thermometer. " And that chance is for her to want to live. This way people have of lining-u on the side of the undertaker makes the entire pharmacopoeia look silly. Your little lady has made up her mind that she's not going to get well. Has she anything on her mind?"
"She - she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples some day." said Sue.
     "Paint? - bosh! Has she anything on her mind worth thinking twice - a man for instance?"
     "A man?" said Sue, with a jew's-harp twang in her voice. "Is a man worth - but, no, doctor; there is nothing of the kind."
     "Well, it is the weakness, then," said the doctor. "I will do all that science, so far as it may filter through my efforts, can accomplish. But whenever my patient begins to count the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent from the curative power of medicines. If you will get her to ask one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves I will promise you a one-in-five chance for her, instead of one in ten."
     After the doctor had gone Sue went into the workroom and cried a Japanese napkin to a pulp. Then she swaggered into Johnsy's room with her drawing board, whistling ragtime.
     Johnsy lay, scarcely making a ripple under the bedclothes, with her face toward the window. Sue stopped whistling, thinking she was asleep.
     She arranged her board and began a pen-and-ink drawing to illustrate a magazine story. Young artists must pave their way to Art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that young authors write to pave their way to Literature.
     As Sue was sketching a pair of elegant horseshow riding trousers and a monocle of the figure of the hero, an Idaho cowboy, she heard a low sound, several times repeated. She went quickly to the bedside.
     Johnsy's eyes were open wide. She was looking out the window and counting - counting backward.
     "Twelve," she said, and little later "eleven"; and then "ten," and "nine"; and then "eight" and "seven", almost together.
     Sue look solicitously out of the window. What was there to count? There was only a bare, dreary yard to be seen, and the blank side of the brick house twenty feet away. An old, old ivy vine, gnarled and decayed at the roots, climbed half way up the brick wall. The cold breath of autumn had stricken its leaves from the vine until its skeleton branches clung, almost bare, to the crumbling bricks.
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     "What is it, dear?" asked Sue.
     "Six," said Johnsy, in almost a whisper. "They're falling faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. It made my head ache to count them. But now it's easy. There goes another one. There are only five left now."
     "Five what, dear? Tell your Sudie."
     "Leaves. On the ivy vine. When the last one falls I must go, too. I've known that for three days. Didn't the doctor tell you?"
     "Oh, I never heard of such nonsense," complained Sue, with magnificent scorn. "What have old ivy leaves to do with your getting well? And you used to love that vine so, you naughty girl. Don't be a goosey. Why, the doctor told me this morning that your chances for getting well real soon were - let's see exactly what he said - he said the chances were ten to one! Why, that's almost as good a chance as we have in New York when we ride on the street cars or walk past a new building. Try to take some broth now, and let Sudie go back to her drawing, so she can sell the editor man with it, and buy port wine for her sick child, and pork chops for her greedy self."
     "You needn't get any more wine," said Johnsy, keeping her eyes fixed out the window. "There goes another. No, I don't want any broth. That leaves just four. I want to see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I'll go, too."
     "Johnsy, dear," said Sue, bending over her, "will you promise me to keep your eyes closed, and not look out the window until I am done working? I must hand those drawings in by to-morrow. I need the light, or I would draw the shade down."
     "Couldn't you draw in the other room?" asked Johnsy, coldly.
     "I'd rather be here by you," said Sue. "Beside, I don't want you to keep looking at those silly ivy leaves."
<  4  >
     "Tell me as soon as you have finished," said Johnsy, closing her eyes, and lying white and still as fallen statue, "because I want to see the last one fall. I'm tired of waiting. I'm tired of thinking. I want to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves."
     "Try to sleep," said Sue. "I must call Behrman up to be my model for the old hermit miner. I'll not be gone a minute. Don't try to move 'til I come back."
     Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the ground floor beneath them. He was past sixty and had a Michael Angelo's Moses beard curling down from the head of a satyr along with the body of an imp. Behrman was a failure in art. Forty years he had wielded the brush without getting near enough to touch the hem of his Mistress's robe. He had been always about to paint a masterpiece, but had never yet begun it. For several years he had painted nothing except now and then a daub in the line of commerce or advertising. He earned a little by serving as a model to those young artists in the colony who could not pay the price of a professional. He drank gin to excess, and still talked of his coming masterpiece. For the rest he was a fierce little old man, who scoffed terribly at softness in any one, and who regarded himself as especial mastiff-in-waiting to protect the two young artists in the studio above.
     Sue found Behrman smelling strongly of juniper berries in his dimly lighted den below. In one corner was a blank canvas on an easel that had been waiting there for twenty-five years to receive the first line of the masterpiece. She told him of Johnsy's fancy, and how she feared she would, indeed, light and fragile as a leaf herself, float away, when her slight hold upon the world grew weaker.
     Old Behrman, with his red eyes plainly streaming, shouted his contempt and derision for such idiotic imaginings.
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     "Vass!" he cried. "Is dere people in de world mit der foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a confounded vine? I haf not heard of such a thing. No, I will not bose as a model for your fool hermit-dunderhead. Vy do you allow dot silly pusiness to come in der brain of her? Ach, dot poor leetle Miss Yohnsy."
     "She is very ill and weak," said Sue, "and the fever has left her mind morbid and full of strange fancies. Very well, Mr. Behrman, if you do not care to pose for me, you needn't. But I think you are a horrid old - old flibbertigibbet."
     "You are just like a woman!" yelled Behrman. "Who said I will not bose? Go on. I come mit you. For half an hour I haf peen trying to say dot I am ready to bose. Gott! dis is not any blace in which one so goot as Miss Yohnsy shall lie sick. Some day I vill baint a masterpiece, and ve shall all go away. Gott! yes."
     Johnsy was sleeping when they went upstairs. Sue pulled the shade down to the window-sill, and motioned Behrman into the other room. In there they peered out the window fearfully at the ivy vine. Then they looked at each other for a moment without speaking. A persistent, cold rain was falling, mingled with snow. Behrman, in his old blue shirt, took his seat as the hermit miner on an upturned kettle for a rock.
     When Sue awoke from an hour's sleep the next morning she found Johnsy with dull, wide-open eyes staring at the drawn green shade.
     "Pull it up; I want to see," she ordered, in a whisper.
     Wearily Sue obeyed.
     But, lo! after the beating rain and fierce gusts of wind that had endured through the livelong night, there yet stood out against the brick wall one ivy leaf. It was the last one on the vine. Still dark green near its stem, with its serrated edges tinted with the yellow of dissolution and decay, it hung bravely from the branch some twenty feet above the ground.
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     "It is the last one," said Johnsy. "I thought it would surely fall during the night. I heard the wind. It will fall to-day, and I shall die at the same time."
     "Dear, dear!" said Sue, leaning her worn face down to the pillow, "think of me, if you won't think of yourself. What would I do?"
     But Johnsy did not answer. The lonesomest thing in all the world is a soul when it is making ready to go on its mysterious, far journey. The fancy seemed to possess her more strongly as one by one the ties that bound her to friendship and to earth were loosed.
     The day wore away, and even through the twilight they could see the lone ivy leaf clinging to its stem against the wall. And then, with the coming of the night the north wind was again loosed, while the rain still beat against the windows and pattered down from the low Dutch eaves.
     When it was light enough Johnsy, the merciless, commanded that the shade be raised.
     The ivy leaf was still there.
     Johnsy lay for a long time looking at it. And then she called to Sue, who was stirring her chicken broth over the gas stove.
     "I've been a bad girl, Sudie," said Johnsy. "Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I was. It is a sin to want to die. You may bring a me a little broth now, and some milk with a little port in it, and - no; bring me a hand-mirror first, and then pack some pillows about me, and I will sit up and watch you cook."
     And hour later she said:
     "Sudie, some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples."
     The doctor came in the afternoon, and Sue had an excuse to go into the hallway as he left.
<  7  >
     "Even chances," said the doctor, taking Sue's thin, shaking hand in his. "With good nursing you'll win." And now I must see another case I have downstairs. Behrman, his name is - some kind of an artist, I believe. Pneumonia, too. He is an old, weak man, and the attack is acute. There is no hope for him; but he goes to the hospital to-day to be made more comfortable."
     The next day the doctor said to Sue: "She's out of danger. You won. Nutrition and care now - that's all."
     And that afternoon Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay, contentedly knitting a very blue and very useless woollen shoulder scarf, and put one arm around her, pillows and all.
     "I have something to tell you, white mouse," she said. "Mr. Behrman died of pneumonia to-day in the hospital. He was ill only two days. The janitor found him the morning of the first day in his room downstairs helpless with pain. His shoes and clothing were wet through and icy cold. They couldn't imagine where he had been on such a dreadful night. And then they found a lantern, still lighted, and a ladder that had been dragged from its place, and some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colours mixed on it, and - look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn't you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it's Behrman's masterpiece - he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell."

THE AXE                                      By R.K.Narayan 

AN astrologer passing through the village foretold that Velan would live in a three-storied house surrounded by many acres of garden. At this every- body gathered round young Velan and made fun of him. For Koopal did not have a more ragged and God-forsaken family than Velan's. His father had mortgaged every bit of property he had, and worked, with his whole family, on other people's lands in return for a few annas a week. A three-storied house for Velan indeed ! . . . But the scoffers would have congratulated the astrologer if they had seen Velan about thirty or forty years later. He became the sole occupant of" Kumar Baugh " that palatial house on the outskirts of Malgudi town.
When he was eighteen Velan left home. His father slapped his face one day for coming late with the midday meal, and he did that in the presence of others in the field. Velan put down the basket, glared at his father, and left the place. He just walked out of the village and walked on and on till he came to the town. He starved for a couple of days, begged wherever he could, and arrived in Malgudi, where after much knocking about an old man took him on to assist him in laying out a garden.
The garden yet existed only in the mind of the gardener. What they could see now was acre upon acre of weed-covered land. Velan's main business consisted in destroying all the vegetation he saw. Day after day he sat in the sun and tore up by hand the unwanted plants. And all the jungle gradually disappeared and the land stood as bare as a football field. Three sides of the land were marked off for an extensive garden
and on the rest was to be built a house. By the time the mangoes had sprouted they were laying the foundation of the house. About the time the margosa sapling had shot up a couple of yards the walls were also coming up.
The flowers hibiscus, chrysanthemum, jasmine, roses, and cannae in the front park suddenly created a wonderland one early summer. Velan had to race with the bricklayers. He was now the chief gardener, the old man he had come to assist having suddenly fallen ill. Velan was proud of his position and responsibility. He keenly watched the progress of the bricklayers and whispered to the plants as he watered them, " Now look sharp, young fellows. The building is going up and up every day. If it is ready and we aren't we shall be the laughing-stock of the town."
He heaped manure, aired the roots, trimmed the branches, and watered the plants twice a day, and on the whole gave an impression of hustling Nature ; and Nature seemed to respond. For he did present a good-sized garden to his master and his family when they came to occupy the house.
The house proudly held up a dome. Balconies with intricately carved wood-work hung down from the sides of the house ; smooth, rounded pillars, deep verandas, chequered marble floors, and spacious halls ranged one behind another, gave the house such an
imposing appearance that Velan asked himself, " Can any mortal live in this? I thought such mansions existed only in Swarga Loka"
When he saw the kitchen and the dining room he said, " Why, our whole village could be accommodated in this eating place alone ! " The housebuilder's assistant told him,
" We have built bigger houses, things costing nearly two lakhs. What is this house ? It has hardly cost your master a lakh of rupees. It is just a little more than an ordinary house, that is all. . . ."
After returning to his hut Velan sat a long time trying to grasp the vision, scope and calculations of the builders of the house, but he felt dizzy. He went to the margosa plant, gripped its stem with his fingers and said, " Is this all, you scraggy one ? What if you wave your head so high above mine ? I can put my fingers around you and shake you up like this. Grow up, little one, grow up. Grow fat. Have a trunk which two pairs of arms can't hug, and go up and spread. Be fit to stand beside this palace ; otherwise I will pull you out."
When the margosa tree approximately came up to this vision the house had acquired a mellowness in its appearance. Successive summers and monsoons had robbed the paint on the doors and windows and woodwork of their brightness and the walls of their
original colour, and had put in their place tints and shades of their own choice. And though the house had lost its resplendence it had now a more human look. Hundreds of parrots and mynas and unnamed birds lived in the branches of the margosa, and under its shade the master's great-grand-children and the (younger) grand-children played and quarrelled. The master walked about leaning on a staff. The lady of the house, who had looked such a blooming creature on the inauguration day, was shrunken and grey and spent most her time in an invalid's chair in the veranda, gazing at the garden with dull eyes. Velan himself was much changed. Now he had to depend more and more upon his assistants to keep the garden in shape. He had lost his parents, his wife, and eight children out of fourteen. He had managed to reclaim his ancestral property which was now being looked after by his sons-in-law and sons. He went to the village for Ponged, New Year, and Deepavali, and brought back with him one or the other of his grand- children of whom he was extremely fond.
Velan was perfectly contented and happy. He demanded nothing more of life. As far as he could see, the people in the big house too seemed to be equally at peace with life. One saw no reason why these goods things should not go on and on forever. But Death peeped around the corner. From the servant's quarters whispers reached the gardener in his hut that the master was very ill and lay in his room downstairs (the bedroom upstairs so laboriously planned had to be abandoned with advancing age). Doctors and visitors were constantly coming and going, and Velan had to be more than ever on guard against " flower-pluckers." One midnight he was awakened and told that the master was dead. " What is to happen to the garden and to me ? The sons are no
good," he thought at once.
And his fears proved to be not entirely groundless. The sons were no good, really. They stayed for a year more, quarrelled among themselves, and went away to live in another house. A year later some other family came in as tenants. The moment they saw Vdan they said, " Old gardener ? Don't be up. to any tricks. We know the sort you are. We will sack you if you don't behave yourself."
Velan found life intolerable. These people had no regard for a garden. They walked on flower beds, children climbed the fruit trees and plucked unripe fruits, and they dug pits on the garden paths. Velan had no courage to protest. They ordered him about, sent him on errands, made him wash the cow, and lectured to him on how to grow a garden. He detested the whole business and often thought of throwing up his work and
returning to his village. But the idea was unbearable : he couldn't live away from his plants. Fortune however, soon favoured him. The tenants left. The house was locked up for a few years. Occasionally one of the sons of the late owner came round and inspected the garden. Gradually even this ceased.
They left "the keys of the house with Velan. Occasionally a prospective tenant came down, had the house opened, and went away after remarking that it was in ruins plaster was falling off in flakes, paint on doors and windows remained only in a few small patches, and white ants were eating away all the cupboards and shelves. ... A year later another tenant came, and then another, and then a third. No one remained for more than a few months. And the house acquired the reputation of being haunted.
Even the owners dropped the practice of coming and seeing the house. Velan was very nearly the master of the house now. The keys were with him. He was also growing old. With the best he could do, grass grew on the paths, weeds and creepers strangled the flowering plants in the front garden. The fruit trees yielded their load punctually. The owners leased out the whole of the fruit garden for three years.
Velan was too old. His hut was leaky and he had no energy to put up new thatch. So he shifted his residence to the front veranda of the house. It was a deep veranda running on three sides, paved with chequered marble. The old man saw no reason why he should not live there. He had as good a right as the bats and the rats.
When the mood seized him (about once a year) he opened the house and had the floor swept and scrubbed. But gradually he gave up this practice. He was too old to bother about these things. Years and years passed without any change. It came to be known as the " Ghost House," and people avoided it. Velan found nothing to grumble in this state of affairs. It suited him excellently. Once a quarter he sent his son to the old family in the town to fetch his wages. There was no reason why this should not have gone on indefinitely. But one day a car sounded its horn angrily at the gate. Velan hobbled up with the keys.
" Have you the keys ? Open the gate," commanded someone in the car.
" There is a small side-gate," said Velan meekly.
" Open the big gate for the car ! "
Velan had to fetch a spade and clear the vegetation which had blocked the entrance. The gates opened on rusty hinges, creaking and groaning.
They threw open all the doors and windows, went through the house keenly examining every portion, and remarked : " Did you notice the crack on the dome ? The walls too are cracked . . . There is no other way. If we pull down the old ramshackle carefully we may still be able to use some of the materials, though I am not at all certain that the wooden portions are not hollow inside. . . . Heaven alone knows what madness is responsible for people building houses like this. . . ."
They went round the garden and said, " We have to clear every bit of this jungle. All this will have to go. . . ." Some mighty person looked Velan up and down and said, " You are the gardener I suppose ? We have not much use for a garden now. All the trees, except half a dozen on the very boundary of the property, will have to go. We can't afford to waste space. This flower garden . . . H'm it is ... old fashioned and crude, and apart from it the front portion of the site is too valuable to be wasted. . . ."
A week later one of the sons of his old master came and told Velan, " You will have to go back to your village, old fellow. The house is sold to a company. They are not going to have a garden. They are cutting down even the fruit trees : they are offering compensation to the leaseholder ; they are wiping out the garden, and pulling down even the building. They are going to build small houses by the score without leaving space even for a blade of grass. . . ."
There was much bustle and activity, much coming and going, and Velan retired to his old hut. When he felt tired he lay down and slept ; at other times he went round the garden and stood gazing at his plants. He was given a fortnight's notice. Every moment of it seemed to him precious and he would have stayed till the last second with his plants but for the sound of an axe which stirred him out of his afternoon nap two days after he was given notice. The dull noise of a blade meeting a tough surface reached his ears. He got up and rushed out. He saw four men hacking the massive trunk of the old margosa tree. He let out a scream : " Stop that ! " He took his staff and rushed at those who were hacking. They easily avoided the blow he aimed. " What is the matter ? " they asked.
Velan wept : " This is my child. I planted it. I saw it grow. I loved it. Don't cut it down. . ."
" But it is the company's orders. What can we do ? We shall be dismissed if we don't obey, and someone else will do it. . . ."
Velan stood thinking for a while and said, " Will you at least do me this good turn ? Give me a little time. I will bundle up my clothes and go away. After I am gone do what you like." They laid down their axes and waited.
Presently Velan came out of his hut with a bundle on his head. He looked at the tree-cutters and said, " You are very kind to an old man. You are very kind to wait." He looked at the margosa and wiped his eyes, " Brother, don't start cutting till I am really
gone far, far away."
The tree-cutters squatted on the ground and watched the old man go. Nearly half an hour later his voice came from a distance, half indistinctly, “Don’t cut yet. I am still within hearing. Please wait till I am gone farther”.



WATER: THE ELIXIR OF LIFE

Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, (7 November 1888 – 21 November 1970) was an Indian physicist and Nobel laureate in physics recognized for his work on the molecular scattering of light and for the discovery of the Raman effect, which is named after him. On February 28, 1928, through his experiments on the scattering of light, he discovered the Raman Effect. It was instantly clear that this discovery was an important one. It gave further proof of the quantum nature of light. Raman spectroscopy came to be based on this phenomenon. He was the first Asian and first non-White to get any Nobel Prize in Science.
In 1922, Indian physicist Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman published his work on the "Molecular Diffraction of Light," the first of a series of investigations with his collaborators which ultimately led to his discovery (on 28 February 1928) of the radiation effect which bears his name. The Raman Effect was first reported by C. V. Raman and K. S. Krishnan, and independently by Grigory Landsberg and Leonid Mandelstam, in 1928. The Raman Effect was designated as an ACS National Historical Chemical Landmark in recognition of its significance as a tool for analyzing the composition of liquids, gases, and solids.
Raman also worked on the acoustics of musical instruments. He worked out the theory of transverse vibration of bowed strings on the basis of superposition velocities. In 1948, Raman through his study of the spectroscopic behavior of crystals, he approached the fundamental problems of crystal dynamics in a new manner. He dealt with the structure and properties of diamond, the structure and optical behavior of numerous iridescent substances (labradorite, pearly felspar, agate, opal, and pearls). Among his other interests were the optics of colloids, electrical and magnetic anisotropy, and the physiology of human vision. He was also the first to investigate the harmonic nature of the sound of the Indian drums such as the tabla and the mridangam.
In 1934 Raman became the director of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Other investigations carried out by Raman were: his experimental and theoretical studies on the diffraction of light by acoustic waves of ultrasonic and hypersonic frequencies (published 1934-1942), and those on the effects produced by X-rays on infrared vibrations in crystals exposed to ordinary light. He also started a company called Travancore Chemical and Manufacturing Co. Ltd. in 1943 along with Dr. Krishnamurthy. The Company during its 60 year history established 4 factories in Southern India.
In 1947, he was appointed as the first National Professor by the new government of Independent India. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society early in his career (1924) and knighted in 1929. In 1930 he won the Nobel Prize in Physics. In 1954 he was awarded the Bharat Ratna. He was also awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1957.
India celebrates National Science Day on 28th February of every year to commemorate the discovery of the Raman Effect in 1928. Raman retired from the Indian Institute of Science in 1948, and a year later he established the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, Karnataka. He served as its director until his death in 1970, at the age of 82.

Summary:

The essay “Water: The Elixir of Life” written by Sir C.V. Raman analyses and discusses in a clear, concise, and scientific manner the nature and properties of water and its significance in the life of human beings. Certain issues like soil erosion and the preventive measures which have to be adopted in order to control it, the need for afforestation, the promotion of internal waterways as a cheap and economical means of transport and the production of hydroelectric power are some of the points which have been highlighted and dealt with in this essay.
C.V. Raman begins the essay with  his remark on how human beings have always sought for an imaginary elixir of life while neglecting and taking for granted the real elixir of life which is nothing but common water. To prove his argument he cites the example of the Libyan Desert and the Valley of the Nile. Though both of them lie side by side, the first is a dry and arid desert while the latter is one of the most fertile valleys on this planet. The presence of the river Nile in the Valley of Nile is responsible for this huge difference between the two places. He in fact remarks that the entire civilization of Egypt was nurtured and sustained by the life-giving waters of the Nile.        
Raman points out how the presence of water adds to the beauty of the countryside. The rainfed tanks apart from quenching the thirst of human beings, animals, and plants, add life, colour, and vigour to the landscape. They are a very common sight in South India and play a very important role in nurturing the agricultural development of the region. These water of these rainfed tanks is utilized for the cultivation of rice in Mysore.
He compares water in the landscape with the human eyes because both water and eyes reflect the mood of the hour, and are the most important constituents of the landscape and human body, respectively. Just like the human eyes, water in the landscape appears bright when the sun shines, and becomes dark and gloomy when the sky is overcast.
One important property of water is its ability to carry finely divided soil in suspension. These particles are carried over great distances and get deposited when the salt water of the sea mixes with the fresh water of the river in the delta areas. Large tracts of fertile alluvial land are formed in this manner. Thus water plays a pivotal role in promoting agriculture, and making the entire region fertile and full of greenery.
But the very same agency can play a destructive role when it is present in excess. Soil erosion is one such phenomenon. It is a major problem in countries like India. It occurs when the top layer of the soil is washed away in successive steps by the action of water. It is mainly caused by sudden bursts of heavy rainfall, the slope of the land, removal of the natural protective coat of vegetation, the existence of ruts along which water can flow rapidly, and the absence of any checks to prevent the flow of water. It can be checked using various preventive measures like the terracing of land, the construction of bunds to check the flow of water, the practice of contour cultivation, and the planting of appropriate types of vegetation.  
Water is the basis for all forms of life. All creatures require water for their physiological activity. Hence the need of the hour is to conserve and properly harness all available water resources. In countries like India where agricultural production is mainly dependent on seasonal rainfall, this becomes a burning issue. C.V. Raman suggests the adoption of techniques which help in preventing and controlling soil erosion in order to conserve and harness water for useful purposes. This would prevent the water from the seasonal rainfall from running off the ground. He suggests the practice of afforestation and the planting of civilized forests to check soil erosion, conserve rain water, and provide cheap supplies of fuel.
He also mentions the idea of promoting internal waterways as a cheap and economical means of transport because a country like India has a large number of water bodies which can be used for navigation. He also supports the idea of using water resources to produce hydroelectric power. This would improve the rural economy, and help in tapping the ground water resources to a greater extent.
Hence he concludes by saying that though water is the commonest of liquids because of its easy availability, it is the most uncommon of liquids because it has the unique power of maintaining animal and plant life. Thus the study of its nature and properties is of highest scientific interest.

Short Questions:

  1. Why is water considered the true elixir of life?
  1. C.V. Raman says that water in a landscape may be compared to the eyes in a human face. Why?
  1. How does soil erosion occur and what are the chief factors that cause it?
  1. What are the usual measures used to check soil erosion?
  1. What is the measure suggested by C.V. Raman to control the movement of water in order to harness it for useful purposes?
  1. Why is the study of the nature and the properties of water of highest scientific interest?
  1. Man has through the ages sought in vain for an imaginary elixir of life, the divine amrita, a draught of which was thought to confer immortality. But the true elixir of life lies near our hands. For it is the commonest of all liquids, plain water!
  1. This common substance which we take for granted in our everyday life is the most potent and the most wonderful thing on the face of our earth.
  1. Water in a landscape may be compared to the eyes in a human face.
  1. One of the most remarkable facts about water is its power to carry silt or finely divided soil in suspension.
  1. When silt-laden water mixes with the salt water of the sea, there is rapid precipitation of the suspended matter.
  1. Water is the basis of all life.
  1. In one sense, water is the commonest of liquids. In another sense, it is the most uncommon of liquids with amazing properties which are responsible for its unique power of maintaining animal and plant life.  

Water can be considered as the true elixir of life because of its ability to nurture and sustain all forms of life. It plays a vital role in promoting agriculture, making the soil of the region fertile, providing cheap and economical means of transport, and in the production of hydroelectric power.

C.V. Raman compares water in the landscape with the human eyes because both water and eyes reflect the mood of the hour, and are the most important constituents of the landscape and human body, respectively. Just like the human eyes, water in the landscape appears bright when the sun shines, and becomes dark and gloomy when the sky is overcast.  

Soil erosion occurs when the top layer of the soil is washed away in successive steps by the action of water. It is mainly caused by sudden bursts of heavy rainfall, the slope of the land, removal of the natural protective coat of vegetation, the existence of ruts along which water can flow rapidly and the absence of any checks to prevent the flow of water.

Soil erosion can be checked using various preventive measures like the terracing of land, the construction of bunds to check the flow of water, the practice of contour cultivation, and the planting of appropriate types of vegetation.  

C.V. Raman suggests the practice of afforestation and the planting of civilized forests to check soil erosion, to conserve rain water and to provide cheap supplies of fuel. This would prevent the rain water from running off the ground during the seasonal rainfall.

Water, though the commonest of liquids because of its easy availability, is the most uncommon of liquids because it has the unique power of maintaining animal and plant life. Hence the study of its nature and properties is of highest scientific interest.

7.      What is the role played water in shaping the course of mankind’s history?
            It is evident from history that all the ancient civilizations were found near the water bodies. Water has the immense power to change the barren lands into fertile and vice versa. The best example is the Nile valley in Egypt. Water has a significant role in shaping the course of the earth’s history and continues to play the leading role in the drama of life on the surface of our planet.