Hampi : History and Spirit in Stone, And Poetry of course ! Thursday, Aug 18 2011 

Finally I made it to Hampi, taking advantage of the extended holiday weekend over India’s Independence Day, 15th August.

Most temples in South India have an elephant at the entrance, and the Viruppaksha in Hampi, is no exception. Centuries old, this is one of the very few temples in Hampi where worship of a deity still goes on from the beginning, uninterrupted.

As I stepped in, the frontline before the elephant had a Muslim lady in full burqa, with her husband, spending most time in front of this temple elephant, during middle of the holy month of Ramadhan. The elephant didn’t care less.

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The three young intrepid ladies in one of the pics, are from Washington, San Francisco, and Boston respectively, all from the US of A, who came very spiritedly to the Hampi Children’s Trust, just for a day, though they were doing voluntary service in Hubli, quite some distance away.  The children at the Trust may well lift your spirits just a mite higher than the awesome rocks in Hampi could possibly.

I spent two days in Hampi, and got more history into myself to last me several lifetimes.  Sermons in stones, and books in the running brooks, to use a Shakespearean phrase.

Another snap is of  the Vitthala temple, holds the visitor in awe whether or not concomitantly there is any religious or spiritual impact. The last mile, for the visitor, is covered by electric cars that escort about 15 people at a time, up the hill. Recently,  polluting vehicles were banned from the area, to protect the heritage site.

Hampi is not exactly on the beaten track, but anyone who “does” India and didn’t quite spend some time in Hampi, has missed something splendid. It’s well worth roughing it out with living standards and sanitation that would fall short of expectation for any urbanite.

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Leading Nowhere – Valleys of Hope and Summits of Despair Wednesday, Aug 10 2011 

Even as meetings between senior representatives of government go, the recent one between Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar of Pakistan and her Indian counterpart turned out to be a damp squib of the first order, if  any such interaction is expected to have any results at all. 

For this, it is the media, primarily in India, that has to take the responsibility. Even if there was no concrete agenda, no specifics to be achieved, they got, nose-dived,  into non-essentials, the trappings of success, the flaunting of designer labels. Enormous pity, because at least the more thoughtful among the fourth estate should have considered putting across the views that matter, rather than having got into print, for public consumption, banal, even inane, handouts, that close to 65 years on, the haves offer the have-nots.

But what makes me put word into cyberspace this time round, is Ms. Hina’s aside during an interview, thankfully on India’s state-run tv, rather than on the overwhelming private networks  that would have any Rupert Murdoch personage wondering why he was barking up the wrong trees in the UK and elsewhere, is that the next time she paid a visit to her large neighbouring country to the East, obviously after Independence celebrations that occur in her own  a day preceding,  she would like to visit the south of India, which is, to quote her exact words, “another world“. Wow !!

Now, that term, from the time and before, of the Dandi march, to be worth my salt, is one which made me squirm a bit; and, that’s despite whatever label that may be applied to her or him, particularly the label of religion. Some years ago, the columnist Mr. Suhel Seth wrote in the Statesman of Calcutta, that there is in India, only Bollywood, a term which I personally abhor, like Amitabh, existing as a bubble outside of the Republic of India.

So now to the South of India, which the Hon. Foreign Minster expressed a desire to visit the next time round. When it comes to music, food for the soul, there is Allah Rakha Rahman, whose family embraced Islam through Sufi influence, and gave his own rendition and intonation of “Vande Mataram“, which the majority in North India, with whom Ms.Hina can no doubt claim greater bondage, jocularly maintain that you can identify a South Indian from his naiveté when he affirms that the rousing verses of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was composed by AR Rahman himself.

Those old enough to recall their history, grandfather equivalents to Ms. Hina, may aver that it was the Founder of the nation-state of the Land of the Pure, who had this, the choral chanting of patriotic fervour, as one of the principal points to be proscribed, calling for the origin of bifurcation of territories ! Even Hitler’s auditory fascination for Richard Wagner, whose Ride of the Valkyries rouses mere mortals out of mundane slumber to this day, may have been overridden by those possessing lesser musical tastes, ever ready to implant a label as anti-Semitic, till the inimitable Zubin Mehta could finally perform it live in Israel, to applause and encores.

And there are other examples, like Mr. Abdul Kalam, former President of India, still alive, and among the most highly respected personages in the country, even if he holds neither public nor private office to boast of today. His narrative for igniting minds is open to all.

Now, coming to the Independence fanfare, as it happened, the Last Viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten, unlike his predecessor Lord Jesus Christ, could not be in two places at the same time, so it was, that one country, aiming to be perfect in its interpretation of God’s Word, ballasted its flag a day preceding that of its larger neighbour; with a Gandhi in a corner of the country, Bengal of course,  stating ” Dil sookh gaya ” ( Heart has dried up ).

That reminds me of one incident of the life of Prophet Mohamed (PBUH), which I would do well to recount in this Holy month of Ramadhan. When asked by a layman what exactly was the difference between human choice, and the inevitability of events, he asked the person, ” Put one leg up”; and when that person followed suit, the Prophet said ” Now put the other leg up”, and when the layman was nonplussed, said the Prophet (PBUH) ” now you know the choice between chance, and necessity and inevitability ”

And so, on Independence Day, let us see how we can sort out the real issues that matter, which is Water, Food, and Shelter.

And for cause to celebrate the three cheers, maybe I should make some half-hearted request to Ms.Atiqa Odho to join me in Independence celebrations, and hope that the disenfranchised Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi would not take it too hard over recent events that befell him, and guide us to better portents……

Or maybe, wait till the country called Bangladesh, going to turn all of 40 in December, and still regarded as the New Kid in the Block, and wait till year-end to uncork the bubbly.  We are all doddering old coots, really !

Zindabad !