Month: February 2019

Gaya: Where the dead incur expenses

There is a place in India for everything. Banaras is where people go to die and attain “Moksh”( salvation). Gaya is where those who couldn’t attain salvation before their death are remembered and sent to Swargalok (heaven). The dead incur expenses for everything here. “South ka log bahut aate ho Kya yahaan pe?” I asked my panda( The guy who performs the rituals) whether a lot of South Indians come to Gaya. “Aap log hi hamara kheti Hain” You guys only are our agriculture, he said. I smelled business in Gaya right from the start. However I wanted to see the process through because I wouldn’t come here again probably. Besides my mother fished out a strange coincidence for the day that I came to Gaya. It was the same day that my maternal Grandfather had died. And he used to talk about Shraadh in Gaya. So now I had no choice but to perform it. If you visit Gaya, be sure to carry a lot of change. There are Brahmins and Beggars at every …

Nalan-da: Give Knowledge- At the ruins of the ancient university

It is said that the fire that engulfed Nalanda raged for six months. Such was the size of the university and the books that it contained. The mammoth structure was built of wood and bricks and both were burnt to the ground. As I stood at the ruins, I could see the burnt mark over the bricks. Such was the heat, that some of the bricks had even melted. However, the story of Nalanda is not be remembered for the attack that it had to suffer. All things great will come to and end. We should rather be proud if such an institution that existed in the place and try to answet pertinent questions that it poses to our present society. Nalanda is a portmanteau of two words. Nalin means lotus, which is a symbol of knowledge in Buddhism and Hinduism. Da means to give. This Nalanda is the place where knowledge was given. The present ruins are only a shadow of what was present during the glory days. It is said that the majority …

100 years of Jallianwala Bagh

Probably the first event in Indian History that had my blood boil was the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. It is probably the one event that shook the conscience of the nation and to this day kept alive in the memory of all across the country. On that fateful day in 1919, General Dyer who came to the garden in Amritsar fired upon a peaceful gathering of people bearing no arms. The garden which had only one exit while also surrounded by high walls turned into a pile of bodies. The ground became red from blood. The helpless people even tried jumping into the well in the corner in a vain attempt to escape the British brutality. General Dyer was commended for his action. In fact the committee formed to look into the atrocity gave him a pat on his back. For a nation that blew up the scale of the Black hole event, Jallianwala Bagh showed the double standards of the colonial master. India woke up to fight the tyranny and the flame that was lit …

Lest we forget: The Partition Museum

Anybody who has read Manto would have experienced vicariously the horrors of Partition. The scale of such an artificial displacement very often doesn’t get the treatment it ought to in our history books. Many of them start with the British rule, the resistance to it and lead up to the events that lead to Partition and the formation of the two new states, conveniently ignoring the horrors that it perpetrated. In the heritage City area of Amritsar, you will find a red brick colored building which is dedicated to the partition. The partition museum, tries to recapture and present before us the horrors that unfolded during those days where the large mass migration of people happened anywhere in the world. For a museum that tries to capture the horrors of a colonial rule ending in such an horrific manner, I found it distasteful that the building looked Western in it’s architecture. Though there are elements of Indian style, the huge pillars and the arched windows reminds you of classical Greek or Roman buildings. This is …

The handshake statue in Wagah

War through Pantomimes: Wagah Border and the Beating Retreat Ceremony

The soldier in the black clad Pathani Uniform beat his feet high. The Indian BSF Soldier raised his feet also high to touch his “pagdi” (headgear) and then spread both his arms wide and increased his presence. Then he adjusted the tips of his moustache as if to display his masculinity. If someone asks me the best way to resolve issued between two enemy countries, I would suggest the beating retreat ceremony of Wagah to be one way this could be achieved. To those who are not aware, the Wagah border is situated roughly 30 kilometre from Amritsar. The Indian side is a village called Attari, while Wagah is in Pakistan. The Indian side was filled with people right from the start. The infrastructure also is better in the Indian side with a whole stadium in two tiers set up in place. There are huge LCD screens and speakers also in Indian side, which seemed to be lacking in Pakistan. The most notable difference in India is the presence of women in the ceremony throughout. …

Mixed Emotions: Land of Dawnlit Mountains- Arunachal Pradesh

“You replace my car. I don’t want anything else” the owner of the Maruti Alto said. My driver was helpless. He kept negotiating. The next offer was even more ludicrous. “You can keep my car. Leave your car to me” The owner of the alto was telling this genuinely. It was an offer and not a joke. This was part of the conversation that we had with some Arunachalis while we were returning to Assam. Our car was involved in an accident and the other party started coming up with these kind of demands. The public which had gathered also supported this same line of arguments. In any other part of India, it would have simply gone to litigation and payment of accidental damage by the insurance company. Not in Arunachal. We were advised not to involve the police because once the tribe gets involved they back off from the situation apparently. I don’t know this experience of mine is the norm in Arunachal, however this lack of law and order and the concept of …

Brahmaputra: The mighty Son of Brahma

Brahmaputra is vast. As a person from the small state of Kerala, my imagination always run wild when I think of the big three rivers of India:- Ganga, Brahmaputra and the Indus. Of these while the Ganga and Indus evoke emotions of Bhakti, Brahmaputra commands a certain respect tinged with fear. It brings forth the image of a mighty God, whose inexorable flow consumes everything in its way. These images try to capture life in the Brahmaputra, taken during a short boat ride in it. This was taken at the Kolia Bhomora Setu which connects Sonitpur to Nagaon. The View itself captivates you… Before these Bridges came, water transport was the only way to go. Accidents were common and technology has helped save lives Fishing is a major livelihood way along the banks You cannot but marvel at the majesty of the River Mechanised Country Boats chug along the river, with not much of safety gear in them in case of a mishap A ride through the Brahmaputra is also a journey through the rural …

The one Horned Rhino Kingdom: Kaziranga

Manimalay trudged through the mist filled grasslands in the forest. Four of us were seated atop the cushioned seats fixed to her. The mahout, Tiber, kept on talking to her as if she could understand every word of it. Sometimes, he also got her with the stock that he held in his hand. Manimalay, a 40 year old female elephant, is one among a fleet of elephants who carry visitors into the National Park throughout the year. The elephants which do the Safari duty in Kaziranga belong to different owners. Since of these elephants belong to the government while since to licenced private parties. The elephants were all female as far as I could tell, and I highly doubt that male elephants are employed for this duty. The 4 riders sit sidewise on the mounted seats throughout the safari, as the herd of elephants proceed to the park. The best thing about the elephant Safari is how close the elephant could get to the wild animals without being attacked. The con being the small area …