Sunday, April 27, 2008

India - Part that I am yet to Know and traverse

Special April Issue of 'India Today' and March Issue of 'Jet wings' made me aware of India that I am yet to know – both in terms of its places and the personalities.

I remember two incidents when I can think of the historical sites of India. First – A Korean while visiting Elephanta Caves pointedly asked ‘Why everyone in India takes me to the sites that are the testimony of the past and forgotten. Why can’t anyone show me the place that belongs to this era?’ This incident happened in 1988. Even today, I am not very sure where would I take him to a place or monument that our posterity would show it as a mark of 20th century. Another Incident was when Japanese asked me ‘How many world heritage sites are there in India? ‘I had to ponder a while and come with an estimate of 20. I was off the mark by 30%. The correct number was 27 and represents roughly 3% of Global 851 world heritage sites declared by UNESCO. I think India’s share of world trade would hover around 0.5%. I wish one day, it matches the same percentage as that of global heritage sites.

'India Today' special issue chose sixty personalities that made unparallel contribution to India’s sixty years since independence. With the exception of P C Mahalanobis, I had heard about most of them but there were few like Anna Durai, B.C.Roy, S. S.Bhatnagar, M.S.Swaminathan, MulkaRaj Anand, Nirala, Rukmini Devi Arundale, and Amrita Sher Gill that I had not known much about their life. Photographs of young Radhakrishnan without his customary head gear and Rajendra Prasad with his childlike smile in the company of his grandson brought out part of their personality that was hitherto buried under stereotyped sketches of history text books. So are some are unknown facets and incidents in the life of Ramanujam, Ramanath Goenka and Bimal Roy.

Out of 27 UNESCO world heritage sites in India, I have visited just 15.

· Taj Mahal, Agra: My first visit to this place was memorable as it turned out to be Full Moon Day on Rakhi Purnima. I had gone to Gwalior for work and took a train to visit Agra. Train stopped at various stations on the way and with me were families and small kids decked up in new clothes and boys with their wrists tied with Rakhi's and Red Tika on their foreheads. They look very royal. One such railway station name was also as sweet as these kids. Lalitpur- where these kids got down and I proceeded to Agra to see the Taj showered under moon and star light. The magic of Taj under star lit sky never returned in my subsequent visits. Those were the pre-terorrism days and there were no restrictions on visiting Taj.
· Ajanta Caves, Aurangabad: Horse Shoe valley of Ajanta would look as magnificent as Grand Canyon. Paintings and artwork look fabulous but I feel this place should be more tourist friendly.
· Ellora Caves, Aurangabad: The journey on this earth would have been incomplete if I had missed this wonderful masterpiece.
· Agra Fort, Agra: My American business friend after seeing this was gasping for adjectives. He had just returned from Germany seeing the much touted forts. ‘There is nothing like this all over the world ‘. It’s sad that this place gets overshadowed with Taj Mahal. Most visitors are exasperated by heat and toil of Agra city by the time they finish Taj Mahal and arrive at magnificent place.
· Mahabalipuran: I visited this place from Chennai. Those were the days when I was vegetarian. I watched my colleagues having prawns curry while I struggled with insipid vegetarian.
· Sun Temple Konark: I made this on a one day sightseeing tour on a hot hot sunny day, drenching with sweat, throat parched with thirst. I had to make it and I am happy I did it to this amazing site.
· Churches of Goa: They are good but what’s more enchanting is seeing villages of Old Goa nestled on the tributaries of river Mondovi.
· Fatehpur Sikri: Standing on the top of this place I could imagine the war that Babur had won to start the Moghal era in India. Buland Darwaza, a massive entrance to the complex depicts an awe of Mughal Empire.
· Elephanta Caves : This is where my Korean business friend commented ‘ why cant Indian show me the place that belong to this century’
· Buddhist Monument, Sanchi: A missed flight from Bhopal to Mumbai and gave me a day to visit this place with other two fellow travelers – names of whose I have forgotten but face I haven’t.
· Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhi: I know little about this place in fact I wonder if it’s still the same one that’s part of Lodi Garden.
· Qutub Minar: More than the sight of this architectural wonder, sad incident of death of innocent school children trampled in chaos while being inside still hounds me.
· Mountain Railways of India : I saw Darjeeling railway while on way to Sikkim. Few movie songs bring the best of these. Mere sapno Ki Rani in Araadhana and Kasto mazza hai lelaima Ramailo o kaali odhali in Parineeta are some of these.
· Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai: I see the beauty of this place only watching old Hindi movies when movie hero arrives in Mumbai chasing his dream. Cameraman of the movie loves to pan on the top dome of this sculpted masterpiece. But for me, this place will always remain as Bombay VT.
· Red Fort, New Delhi : Light and sound show of this place make you go back to grandeur of India

With traits of Ferdinand Magellan, Marco Polo and Ibn Batuta in me, I am keen to visit remaining heritage sites of Manas wildlife sanctuary – Assam, Kaziranga National park, Assam,Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Mahabodhi Temple, Buddhagaya,Rock shelter of Bhimbetka, Bhopal, Champaner Pavagadh Archeological Park, Gujarat, Chola temples, Chennai , Pattadakal Monuments, Karnataka, Sundarban National Park, Nandevi and Valley of Flowers , Uttarkhand , Khajuraho Monuments , Hampi Monuments. As much as I am keen to do so, I also want to add my very own heritage sites of Kanyakumari, Sundar Ban, Pushkar Mela, Varanasi, Ladakh and Vaishno Devi.

For ‘India Today’, it must have been a hurculean task to choose 60 select personalities from all spheres that remain well accepted for all age groups. However, I would have loved to see Arbindo, Amitabh, Rakesh Sharma, Ramdev and Osho making in that list.

Here are some of the quotes that impressed me as I finished this issue in one go:

Think Big, Think Fast. Ideas are no One’s monopoly-. Dhirubhai Ambani
If you want excellence, you must aim at perfection. It has its drawbacks but being finicky is essential - J R D Tata
Music lets me forget bad experience. You cant keep Raga and regret in your mind together – Bismilla Khan
Its nonsense that people join the army to serve the country, like the politicians do it only for the sake of the country- Sam Manekshaw

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i too read India today's said article, but your critical appreciation shows your deep insight while reading.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous K Ragavan said...

"Nice to know about heritage. K.Ragavan."

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Mnachn Hangzo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Manchin Hangzo said...

"You make visting heritage sites very interesting ."

10:01 AM  

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