Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Shouting in The Gol Gumbaz

My journey moves on.....
From Badami, we go on to Aihole and Pattadkal. On the way, we sidetrack to a place called Mahakoota, a shepherd tells us its a nice place. There is a temple there and we see a wedding going on. I take out my camera to take a picture but walk away, the event looks too private and I dont want to interfere. When we are driving down and asking for direction, little children run up to the car and ask for empty water bottles. I still dont understand this strange request.

Bijapur is an old town, previously the city of the Adil Shahis. A good hotel again, good rest. My dad and our friend could see the Gumbaz from their room but all ma and I could see was some dome that looked like a cheap imitation. Our fault, we chose that room. :-(

I was never too good wit history but I remember how fascinated we all were when we had to study the history of the Adil Shahis. Gol Gumbaz is famous for its Whispering Gallery, a marvel in acoustics.

As you walk towards the Gumbaz, the tomb of Muhammed Adil Shahi II, you see this plain structure and begin to wonder what all the fuss is about. I was not prepared for the Gumbaz. It is huge! I always have a mental picture of the places I am about to visit and almost none of them turn out to be half as good as the pictures. But the Gumbaz does not disappoint. I am still gaping in wonder when we step in.

The guide rattles off history in a well practiced voice. There are these little squares in the floor which square hole cut into them that work like air conditioners. You can immediately feel the cold air when you step on the stone. The architecture is amazing. The entire structure is built with an interlocking system that is common in Afghanistan and Kazakstan with the dome not supported by any pillar.

A narrow flight of very steep steps take you to the top from where you can see the whole of Bijapur. Inside is the Whispering Gallery. The acoustics is so amazing that you just need to whisper and a person on the other side of the dome can hear you as clearly as if you were standing next to each other. The only problem was that the people there did not seem to know the meaning of a whisper. They were all hooting, clapping and shouting so loud that a deaf person could hear as well! The most amazing thing was that the sound of a mobile phone is not carried to the other side! Not a bit! I wonder why not.

There are well maintained gardens around the Gumbaz, a mosque and a museum. We hang around a bit and the guard complains of how the government does not maintain the place well. People seem to love complaining about their lot in life. Blame the government for the water, your dog's health, the pealing walls of your house...you get the picture!

Gol Gumbaz was...what shall I say...(dont want to say good, I do that a lot!). Well it was interesting. I have not been to many tombs of Muslim rulers and the change was refreshing.

We come out and get hounded by tonga drivers. That story tomorrow....

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Watching Out For Monkeys at Badami

Finally the photos are out! This is a picture of Badami, as taken from the caves. The net has some great pictures of the place, just search Google for 'Badami'.

Badami was under the rule of the Chalukya kings. The place is so called because the rocks here are the colour of Badam. Its a beautiful place (a friend keeps making fun of how I manage to find every place beautiful or nice or amazing! And each with an exclamation mark too!)

We were out early that day after a pleasant night. The roads leading to the place are pathetic, even by normal rural standards. We were wondering whether we were on the right road, going as we were through slums. Something that was to become very common throughout the rest of my trip caught my eye. A lot of houses here have blue doors, a few green. Blue not the colour of the sky but a rather gaudy shade. I remember Nat Geo showing how blue doors were to ward off the evil eye in Arab countries. I asked a person at Pattadkal but he could not confirm this.

A popular Kannada editor had once written about Badami and warned of how they snatch your cameras and throw them on the rocks, pull your clothes and generally make a nuisance of themselves. I was very apprehensive about this but thankfully, I found it to be a tad bit exaggerated. There are monkeys but will bother you only if you pretend to offer food. Ma made a dig on the media here and said how you can never trust journalists to tell the truth. (She loves doing that to see me defend my profession!)

Badami is essentially cave temples at four levels. The first three are dedicated to Lord Shiva and the last one is a Jain temple. We hired a guide who rattled off the history of the place for full two hours. Most of it, the names and the dates, just flew out with the cold breeze on top of the hill. There were some interesting details I remember though.

The first cave has a figure of Nataraja, Lord Shiva in a dancing pose, that has eighteen arms. It is so carved that various permutations and combinations of the arms bring out the mudras of Bharatanatyam. Also, a carving of Lord Ganesha is unique because the way the sculptor imagined Him is very different from how we see Him today. The figure does not have a big belly that is so much a part of Ganesha today. There are interesting carvings, each of which tell a story, so like all the temples in India where each stone has a story behind it.

The stone used here is sandstone that literally melts with the vagaries of time, wind and sunlight. The Chalukyan kings had earlier tried building a temple in Aihole and Pattadkal nearby but those melted with time. Hence they built their temples at Badami in such a way that the wind does not get into the caves and neither does light. The sculptures are intact, though the natural colours used to paint the walls have faded away long ago.

The picture above shows the hill opposite the cave temples. The houses that you can see are illegal as per the Ancient Monument Act. Houses can be built 100 meters (is it more or less? I am not too sure.) away from monuments and these people will be evacuated any day now. The pond was supposed to have had healing powers though human activity has polluted it today. The entire place is supposed to have been an ocean millions of years ago.

Badami is a good place. It forms a triangle with Aihole and Pattadkal. We went there too but were not very impressed. I wouldn't say it is worth it to travel as far as we did to see just Aihole and Pattadkal. Both are in ruins. It is interesting to see how the stones have melted as if they were plain wax. But Badami is worth going. There are stone benches to take in the imposing structures but it was too cold that morning to do so.

You can spend an entire day there going to the opposite hill and the pond. We were on a tight schedule and moved on. The tall rocks block the sun and as we moved on, the sun hit us square in the face. And so did the realities of the world. The splendour of the Chalukyan Dynasty was juxtaposed with a naked child playing in the mud while a older girl, not yet a teenager, looked longingly at the trickle of water that was filling up her bucket. The rocks hid not the destitution of the world outside of where its shadows fall.....

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Ah Madikeri!
I gave myself a break from routine, twisted some very important around and came home last night. Madikeri is wonderful, as always.
I plan to finish 'Two Lives', watch a lot of movies and write some.

Anyways, to all the Indians reading this,

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

How Did It Come To This?

After that rather negative post yesterday, I had a relatively okay day today. But then, towards evening, things started to get to me. Every once in a while, I go through this claustrophobia where people and situations get to be. Then I just need to escape from it all and spend some time with just myself. In Madikeri a walk always cheers me up, even a whiff of air (that is always fresh) from the top of my terrace at home is enough to make me feel better. While at uni, it is tough to escape people I know and I take off to Cafe Coffee Day a few kms away. I sit there with a book, drink some coffee and come back refreshed and ready to face the same old people again. That is what I did today. I come back and I check my mail to find this forward from my cousin. The pictures of starving children in Africa are horrifying.

The above picture won the Pulitzer in 1994. The photographer, Kevin Carter, killed himself soon after he took this. The vulture is waiting for the girl to die...It is horrifying. How did the world come to be like this?

Monday, January 23, 2006

I'm Not a Girl, Very Much a Woman

When I first started this blog nearly seven months ago, I wanted it to be a forum for some of my writing, nothing more, nothing less. I did not intend to write anything personal, about my moods. I never expected to make friends on the web, and I never expected them to become my offline friends too. But increasingly, I have made friends and I have written about my personal life, so much that most of my readers would know about Ginger, about where I travel and about my antics with ma, my mother. As far as I can remember, I have not written about the way I feel everyday, my moods and my tantrums. Possibly, because expressing myself has always been my outlet, the way I unwind, my mantra for de-stressing.

Today I need to de-stress, by cribbing, or rather by talking of disillusionment. If you are the kind who gets bored or depressed with depressing stories, read no further.

When I first joined university, it was the very first time I was staying away from my family and obviously, I was very apprehensive. Ma even thought I would get homesick and quit in a few days, like it had happened long ago (Another story for another day). I grew up protected and pampered to the hilt. But I was very happy here, inspite of missing home. Post graduation studies has given me much more than a degree. The lessons I have learnt here are depressing, no doubt, but of the kind that will help me face the world like a woman. Some of the people I have known here take the cake, with the cherry and the icing, in being of the worst kind you could hope to encounter.

Here are some lessons I learnt here, some that made me a woman from a naive girl:

  • If something can go wrong, it will, multiplied a hundred times.
  • A lot of people, a loooot, cannot stand other people being happy, even if they have to screw up their lives. Sadists!
  • If you thought people could get really low to make your life miserable, they will go further down and you realize that was just the tip of the iceberg of their pettiness.
  • People are never, ever what you think they are like. Whoever said first impressions are right was wrong.
  • Your upbringing shows, so does your breeding, even through your designer labels and polished speech. ("Huttuguna Sutru Hogalla", a Kannada proverb basically meaning old habits won't die even if you burn them). Sorry to sound like a snob!
  • People will do anything, eneeeeething to get what they want.
  • Ill-fitting cheap clothes, gaudy make-up and loud crass talk is NOT sophistication.
  • You need to get exposed to bad behaviour, bad people and horrible situations to come out clean and mature. The polished gold shines better.

I suppose I cannot write more without spilling out the details, I cannot do that, a lot of good people will stand to get hurt. Let us just leave it at that.

I read this post again and it sounds so negative. I am sorry everyone. Its just that I am not in the best of my moods today. Remember Anne Frank's Diary (used to be a kind of Bible for me once)? Towards the end she writes about how she wants to believe in the goodness of people. "Inspite of everything, I still believe people are good", I think she says. I have said the same thing for the past one and a half year. I take it back today. I have lost faith in the goodness of people today(don't worry, it will come back again soon, old habits die hard!). Maybe to expect goodness is naive and stupid in this age.

Just half an hour ago, I told Mahesh just two things. One is that in the end, how your conducted you life is between you and God, it is never between you and 'them'. So be good, be the best you can be. The other thing was that no matter what, you have to keep your dignity with you. If you lose a battle, lose with dignity. At the end of the day, you should be able to look at yourself in the eye and not have to look away.

God, this reads more like my personal diary, one that I used to write in before this blog. Should I publish this? I will. Today, my blog becomes my diary, it is in the true sense my life, my views. And you my privileged readers (if you could get yourself to read upto this line!)

Phew! That did me a lot of good! Hail the power of the typed word!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Cant Come Up With a Catchy Title!

Honest, I could not come up with a catchy title today. Am I getting saturated? Of course not!

Thought I would make it a short post, not about my trip.
I had a class presentation today about the ship breaking industry. I am sure you have read about the French decommissioned ship Clemenceau that is making its way to Alang in Gujarat, the largest ship breaking yard in the world. This ship is carrying hazardous wastes. The industry itself is one of the deadliest in the world.

The point here is that I learnt a lot about it from the internet. There were no books on the issue, except a few Down To Earth reports. That made me wonder how we collected information before the internet. Though I make the ultimate use of technology, I am still not entirely comfortable with it. It gets too overwhelming sometimes. But here I am, listening to a beautiful Kannada song on the head set and communicating to the world. There you are, my readers, from all parts of the world. I have never met most of you, I shall probably never meet you either, but you know where I went on my last trip, what my dog looks like, how I hated class, what reports I gave...so much a part of my life. Amazing, isn't it? I am sure for the generations to come, this kind of connectivity will not be a big deal but I am still to accept its reach.

I reported a programme after nearly a year. Realised how much I enjoy dissecting every part of the speech and picking out what I think is important. Wrote another one today about a lecture by a Philosophy lecturer. Most of what he talked about went over our heads though. About a year ago, I had reported a speech made by Justice Venkatachala of the Lokayukta, Karnataka. It was my hardest assignment ever. He spoke nothing of significance (to be polite about it) and I went through hell writing a report. But since then, I have the confidence that I can report anything, any speech.

Does this post have a topic? Does it need one? (Influenced by the philosophy lecture!)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

On the Highway-2

NH 13 has a loooot of lorries on its roads. I mean, there are only lorries. We were wondering where the rest of the world was. Thankfully, a car passed us by, then another. Next comes the Arebailu Ghat, similar to every other ghat road I have been on, Shiradi... Satyamangala...Bisile ghat... The change of landscape is abrupt. The road winds on through dense forests and around the next turn the plains open up.

The northern parts of the state are upon us. The people look different, the air is hot with the smell of Byadagi chillies that is grown in these parts and dust from corn fields blow on my face. At infrequent intervals, I see carpets of chillies laid out to dry. We stop at Yellapura for lunch, not a very good one. Further on, we happen upon a village where the weekly market is in full swing. I see a lot of tribal women around wearing their sarees in a very elegant style. Their jewellery is fantastic. Ma and I are so amazed that we forget to read the name of the village.

Hubli is a large town, an important commercial centre. But it looks more like an over-sized village. We pass by the circle where Dr Raj Kumar, the Kannada matinee idol, shot his famous song "Huttidare Kannada Nadali Huttabeku". From there it is NH 218 towards Badami where the landscape, the people and the corn fields follow. Badami is a small place. We were worried we would not find a place to stay but finally found a good one, newly built with clean bathrooms (very important when I travel.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

On the High Way

I believe it is time I began to write about my trip. Am already pretty late in doing so. For the past two days, I was researching this presentation I need to make about the ship breaking industry. Also, bought Vikram Seth's new novel 'Two Lives'. This is the first time I am reading his work and I must say, it seems pretty good. I have a confession to make here. The original print costs Rs 695 but I bought mine off the side of the road for Rs 150. Well, I am against piracy but there was no way I could blow nearly Rs 700 of my dad's money. He would not be the least concerned but hey, I have a sense of shame. When its my own money...one day...

Now about my trip.

The first day was just travelling up to Badami, the place of the Chalukya Dynasty. It is a loooong way from Mangalore on NH 17 upto Ankola and from there on NH 13 to Hubli and further on. NH 17 that begins somewhere in Kerala and ends in Goa has always been a favourite of mine, especially the road from Mangalore to Udupi. The roads are not quite wide and wind through little towns, one of which is named 'Manki'! Every few kilometres, the monotonous tree lined road gives way to a blue stream of the Nethravathi River. These tributaries are wide and lined with tall palm trees on both its banks, often gently sliding up to embrace the steps of the huts on its banks. The scene could be straight out of a picture postcard, with the long winding river, the palm trees, a little boat on the banks below a thatched hut where a fisherwoman grumbles at her lot and cleans the day's catch while her teenaged daughter washes clothes of every possible colour.

After a while, I get bored with the picturesque scenery, however beautiful, and shift my attention to people. Like in every town in every corner of the city, people in the towns along the road have begun to wake up. Its a Sunday, Christmas Day but for most, that is not a reason to rest their tired feet. The fisher folk get their boats ready, the children take out their bicycles and another day begins. A little further on, we pass by the entrance of Murudeshwara, a temple of Lord Shiva. Soon, I catch a glimpse of the gigantic statue of Lord Shiva looking on into the distance while hundreds of the devout throng at His feet every day. Though we would not admit it for the world, each of us utter a silent prayer for a good journey. At least I do, like I am sure millions before me have done.

Then again the landscape continues...the palm trees...the people...the houses and the towns, all that pass by in a haze and one seems to merge into the other to my tired eye. just when I am about to doze off, a sudden wiff of sea breeze wakes me up. I look out and the road is lined with the unending trees and the odd house. Just when I am about to attribute the smell to my ever fertile imagination, the road opens up. The way ahead is straight but somehow I get the feeling that we are piercing the sea because on my left is the Arabian Ocean and on my right is the Souparnika River. The sight is overwhelming. You cannot help but marvel at the wonder of nature with just one road separating the sea and a river. It is the Marwante Beach and surprisingly, the river joins the sea only about 10 miles up the river. Boat rides are offered. The beach has a high stone barricade. We dont stop, though we did so last time.

From Ankola, the landscape changes again. We leave behind the coast and take NH 13.

to be continued.....

Sunday, January 15, 2006

My Favourite Pillar

This is the only picture I had of the place. This is one of the many carved pillars at Chennakeshava Temple, Belur which I told you all, is my absolute favourite place. The temple has to be seen to believe its beauty. It is full of sculptures of dancers, stories from mythology. The Queen Shantala, an accomplished dancer herself, is said to have posed for the sculptures in various Bharatanatyam poses. Some of the bangles on the figures actually move, though made of stone, from one slab. I would only be doing grave injustice to the place by trying to describe it. See it.
Now this pillar is unique because all the sculptures in the outer walls of the temple, have been reproduced in minute form on this pillar, down to the tiniest detail. The detailing is fantastic. The best part is that the main architect, I forget his name, left a small panel blank in the pillar and asked that it be filled by someone from the future generations, if they thought themselves capable of doing so. Of course, no one had volunteered so far. The guides, in their well practiced voices, talk of how humble it was of him to think there would be better architects, while at the same time, throwing an open challenge that he probably knew would never be accepted.

If you ask me, no person can claim to have seen Karnataka without a visit to this temple.
By the way, Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) has a new slogan now- 'One State. Many Worlds.' Earlier, it was 'Theatre of Inspiration.'

Its (Not) A Simple Life

This weekend I went to my aunt's place near a place called Vittal. It had been quite some time since I went there.

I must write about this place. This aunt is my mother's only younger sister. I call her 'Chikku', short for Chikkamma. I am an only child and I grew up alone without anyone to play with. I would not get dirty in the mud, would not fall and get hurt much. I did all this every summer at her place all through my growing up years.

The village is called 'Pariyalthadka'. To get to the house, you would need to walk for about 15 mins through arecanut trees, very lush green fields and on thin planks across deep streams. I grew up with a touch of the city and the village and I appreciate both now. I and my cousins have spent many hot days roaming the fields, eating everything edible, frolicking in the water, getting very very dirty, coming home to scoldings and more delicious food. There are many dishes that are very unique to this part of the state, like undlakalu (tiny balls made of jackfruit with a piece of copra inside.Very hard.), mambla (layers of mango juice that is dried in the sun), burnt cashew (yummy) and so many others. Everytime I go there, I eat every waking moment. Helps that the entire family pampers me with handfuls of raisins, cashews and secret extra helpings of everything! ;-)

I mean to write here about life in a village. I know of many people who wish to leave the stress of the city, buy a farm and spend a happy life in a village. Believe me, village life is hard, if not harder than city life. I have seen my uncle worry and lose hair over the rains, the water for irrigation, the frequent power failures, labour problems, low price for crops...Life is definitely not stress free. My aunt has to cook and feed the servants also (they do that a lot in these parts). Then there is the lack of privacy. Every action is reported back to your family. (Village folk as a new mass medium! Hmm! Very interesting!) For someone accustomed to the anonymity of the city, it can be suffocating. You cannot eat, dress, act like you want. The need to be at your best behaviour all the time, think about what your neighbours will say before you do something can be a lot stressful. Village life is not simple in any way.

There is a Kannada proverb which says 'Doorada Betta Nunnage'. Loosely translated, it means what is far away always looks better than what is up close. So it is with life in a village.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Poem

I wrote this in class today, pretending I was writing down notes (I did a bit of that too!). Now, before you go on to read the poem, let me tell you that I am in no way sad or dejected. The poem is a result of a little joke that began after I finished my internship.

There was this one person in office (wont tell you who, or where!) who talked really funny. My friends would tease him all the time and I was the only one going to his rescue, all behind his back, of course! So Mahesh started saying how I ought to marry his son (this person is really old) and go on defending my father-in-law. Lately, we found out that he doesn't have a son. Whenever I am extremely chatty and getting on his nerves, Mahesh talks of how this person can not be my mava and I pretend to be really depressed! The whole poem is part of that joke.

Shedding Tears for the Unborn

If life could be
An ocean of tears
Mine would be a drop
That nevertheless
Maketh the ocean what it is.

The Bard called
The world a stage
And I play my part
With a smile,
A hearty laugh.

But just ahead
Is a stark reminder
A word, an action
That opens up a hidden wound
A fresh well of tears
From which I draw
To water an unborn dream
A hope that died.

The unborn wish
Forms a lone tear
That I drop in the ocean
One drop that maketh
My large, sad ocean.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Alone I Stand

In a mood to post images today. This is a pic I took on my mobile when I first got it. That was the time I took pictures of anything and everything.

This is a tree near my house and was taken during winter. It was looking so desolate that in one of my not-so-cheerful moods I named it 'Alone I Stand'.

Camera phones are good to play around with but do not give much clarity, at least the Nokia ones that some of my friends have. My LG phone is better off, provided I adjust it to a higher resolution.

To Wear A Piece Of Art

The pic is from www.heritagearcade.com from where you can buy these.
What you see in the pic is an example of Bidri ware. The art originated in Bidar, the north-most district of Karnataka. It is said to be a purely Indian innovation of a 500- year old Persian craft.

Bidriware is cast with an alloy of zinc, copper and other non-ferrous metals. Beautiful floral patterns are first drawn freehand and then engraved with a chisel. Pure silver wires are inlaid on the casting which is then soaked in a solution mixed with the soil of Bidar fort which has special oxidising properties. This causes the zinc alloy to turn a lustrous black, leaving the silver inlay intact to contrast stunningly with the black background.

The Bidriware ranges from boxes, vases, goblets, hookas, jewellery, ashtrays, animal figures, etc. Like most art forms in India, this is also not given the encouragement and publicity it deserves. Hyderabad advertises it as its own indigenous art as Bidar is closer to Hyderabad than it is to Bengaluru.

We have this really tall vase at home that is in need of some polish. A few years ago, I bullied my lecturer (also a personal friend) Pattabhi sir to part with a box that sits pretty on my table back home. This time when I was in Bangalore, the Cauvery Emporium (the state managed art and craft store) had a live demo of how these are made. I picked up this amazing bangle, something you dont get to buy often. It sits pretty on my wrist and everytime I look at it, I know that in some way I am carrying a part of history and culture with me.

Bidriware is very heavy, even the smallest pieces. They are expensive too, but well worth it.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Patting My Back!

I had some issues in mind but not today. I spent my time online reading other blogs on my must read list, something I hadnt read in a few days.
I have been sitting in front of the computer since this morning and my eyes hurt. I and my friends learnt Photoshop, QuarkXpress, Anfy, Namo Editor, SPSS and a bit of HTML today. This is the first time I learnt so much in one day after joining uni. So we were all very proud of ourselves.

Also, we are thinking of making a documentary film and are playing around with topics. The interest was sparked by a film called "Closer to Reality" made by some students of literature from Delhi about the Bhopal gas tragedy. We were ashamed at not having done anything about well, anything, and decided we wanted to do something meaningful. Any ideas are welcome!

We were thinking on the lines of some social issues, a problem or an environmental issue but then, we would be just like the Westerners who look for the negative side of India. Maybe we should do something positive, concentrate on some community, I dont know. Help!!!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Statement of Purpose

This is my 100th post, yeah! I guess I ought to celebrate in some way, maybe with a special post. But the truth is, I cant think of a special topic. Still didn't get the time to scan the pics, or could have written a travelogue.

I am going to write why I chose to be a journalist here, that somehow seems appropriate. Before I decided to come to this uni, I had thought of applying for journalism schools that were highly specialized, were difficult to get in, had good standards but just gave a diploma instead of a post grad degree, which I wanted. These schools all demanded that the applicant write a few words about why we wanted to be a journalist and I had come up with a few ideas. This post will be one of such ideas.

As far back as I can remember, I have loved writing. I grew up with books all around me. My granny, an excellent story teller and ma told me dozens of stories. I had tried reading Tolstoy at the age of 12!

Anyways, I loved the idea of playing with words. Throughout my growing years, I had desired to be a doctor, a hotelier, do my MBA, become a globetrotter, the first and longest ambition was to be an astronaut! Writing was always in the background. After my PUC, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. MBA was the happening course then and I thought I might as well go with the flow.

I remember vividly that it was when I was in my second year of BCom that I decided that I could not survive in a commerce field, I didnt want to. One thing lead to another and to cut the story short, I ended up where I am today. In the course of getting here, I have fought with my dad, incured the wrath of the majority of my family who thought I was destined for "better" (read jobs that paid better) things. One of my aunts doesnt talk to me properly even today. I couldnt be happier!!!

It was just after the Afghanistan war had ended. I was reading this article about the life of the people there. The reporter saw this woman kneeling beside a drain and to see she was picking up weeds growing inside so that her family could eat! Reading that jolted me like nothing has ever done since, though I have read sadder stories. Now the reason I want to be journalist is this. I want to tell what people are like, how they live, how they die. I want to live a thousand lives through the lives of these people. I want to be the voice of those whose cries are muffled by the rest of the world. Through their lives, I want to live.

I dont know how far I can say I have done my work. Like someone famous said, and I paraphrase, 'you just want some things in life, there is no special reason for that'. In the end I just want to be a journalist and tell stories of human beings, not of politics, not of events or institutions, just people and their lives.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Roots

I finally finished 'Roots'. It was marvelous, to say the least. In the end, the author writes about how he set about his research, the griots he met and the way he wrote the book for over 12 years.
It was, like my lecturer told me, like reading an epic. I cant wait to watch the movie.

My only complaint is that there is nothing in the book about the way Kunta Kinte died. I had gotten so attached to him that I had even become incredibly depressed when he was captured as a slave. I had been with him when he travelled to America, felt his anguish at being a slave, rejoiced at his attempts to escape, felt his pride about his Africa as if were my own. The book takes off from when his daughter Kizzy is sold off. I needed to know how he spent the rest of his days. I needed some closure on him.

If you can, read it. It is a marvelous account of the cruelty, fortitude, bravery, endurance and pride that human beings are capable of.

Make Poverty History -2

The last post got me some good comments and I just had to include something again on the issue. India is not poor. Period. I agree there is a lot of gap between the rich and the poor but if I am not mistaken, isnt it pretty much the same in most other countries? You cannot convince me that there are no poor people in the US, Norway or any other rich country. Exchange values of currency are not to be taken here.

Just two days ago, I saw this cute little girl in the city bus station balancing on a thin rope with a vessel on her head. Her brother was beating a drum and an older lady was appealing to the onlookers to spare a few rupees. Standing just a few feet away was this lady with a few gold chains around her neck, with thick bangles on her wrist, giggling away with her companion. The scene ought to be very disturbing, but it ceases to make an impact. You learn to look away and spare the child no more than a momentary thought, if at all.

There are high raise multi-million rupees apartments next to dirty slums, an underage child helps the daughter of her mistress get ready to go to a posh school, a mother dances away the night in the company of drunk men, not to satiate her lust (or theirs), but to feed her two children whom she tucked into bed in the back room, who will wake up hungry the next day. We know all this. We have stopped reading about it in the media, simply because it is not news anymore. You cannot ignore reality.

Like I said, throughout my tour, I saw the poorest of the poor. The modern theorists, we learnt in class, blame the individual for the condition he is in with out considering the social conditions that lead to that stage. These people were almost fatalistic. It is unfortunate that I did not get to talk to some of them and find out more. You could almost call it a revelation like that of Che in Motorcycle Diaries, though not resulting in any drastic change on my part.

India will change, I shall believe in that. The will of the people, along with very strong political initiative, is the only way to ensure that.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Make Poverty History

San Nakji has put up a link to the Make Poverty History on his blog and that made me think about the campaign all over again. The most popular part was the white band with the same words carved on it, just like the yellow Livestrong bands of Lance Armstrong. Anyway, it was a campaign to rid the world of poverty. This evening I got myself a Livestrong band that I now sport around my wrist. I wanted the other one though.

Poverty brings me to the condition of the people of North Karnataka. Now, the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore, is the capital of the state. All the major offices are here. All the politicians worthy of their (mis)deeds throng the corridors of the Vidhana Soudha (the seat of power) doling out oodles of sycophanic banter to ensure that they continue to stay in power. Politicians will not be the subject here. What they tend to do, regardless of from where they are elected, is formulate plans and release crores of rupees to develop Bengaluru.

The people of north Karnataka have long been agitating for a separate state or atleast a High Court bench there so that some developments might take place.

This time when I was touring in those parts, I had a first hand experience of what they go through every day. We are usually so far away that the biggest of their agitations are almost always tucked away in the corner of the newspapers. There is nothing there. People are so poor that the very sight of even some of the bigger towns is heart renching.

We drove through Hubli, a major city. In no way did it resemble a city. The roads were narrow, dusty. In none of the towns did I see really big cars like we do even in Madikeri. Bijapur, another major city, has nothing that resembles what we would call roads. Horse-driven carriages are still a favourite means of transport, among the tourists as another anachronism, among the locals a necessity. I wonder if there are really rich people there. Oh wait! They are all politicians now in Bangalore! The IT bigwigs complain of bad roads. They ought to go up north.

We found that the people are not very enterprising, at least in the tourism sector. The food is amazing. There is the usual fare that you get elsewhere but they dont use baking soda in their cooking, so you can actually eat your fill. Feels like home food. The little kids who sell yoghurt, souvenirs do not pester with tales of woe and make you feel guilty.

In Bijapur I felt guilty about the money I was spending. The cheerfulness with which they live with poverty does that to you. The money they demand for a carriage ride is dirt-low and they are willing to settle for far less. Poverty has never touched me this close. I shall not claim to be as affected as Prince Siddhartha was, that would be plain exaggeration and my mind is numb with media conditioning. But it made me think, about the unfairness of it all. The worst thing is that I cannot do anything to help those people. The helplessness is all the more disturbing.

Every year in the summer, people with land to till and a roof to cover their heads migrate to the southern parts to labour for the rich man. They live on the sides of roads with the Earth for a bed and the naked sky for a blanket. All because of the drought that cripples them every year. This year, thanks to the torrential rains elsewhere, however destructive, there has been rains. Hopefully they will not migrate.

The culture is amazing there. In modern terms, they may be termed backward but are in no way so. Africa is, like I said, close to my heart but closer to me are my people in a distant part of my own state. Poverty is the worst disease that could affect societies, it robs people of their dignity, of their culture and of their will to live. Make Poverty History. Everywhere. To get back your own dignity. To look them in the eye and not be forced to look away quickly. Please.

Settling In

I know I still have to write my travel stories, I will, soon. Before that, a little bit on how I lived these past couple of days. New year's eve was nothing special. I have never been much of a party animal. I was at home packing for the hostel. Switched on the TV for a while but there was nothing on that held my interest. I was asleep when at about half past midnight, this dear friend of mine calls up to wish me. I can hardly hear him over the "music" in the background and neither could my half asleep brain make sense of his words. (I say the most nonsensical things when woken up, or so I am told!) I think he was incredulous about me missing out on life, shocked that I am even today as boring as I know he was once. The point is, I like parties fine. But I would rather hang out with a close group of people than blow money on night clubs just to scream, flirt and drunk. Hmm...I thought you could do that anyplace!

The first day was bad. The hostel food tasted worse, we were all bored. Now the routine has set in again and I just realised that I have tons of work to do this semester. I have a feeling it is going to be a good one. Lets see.

I have so many thoughts in my mind right now, so many stories to tell that I just have to post. Will do that later tonight.

Hope you all had a good New Year's.