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On issues that matter …

Time and Travel February 2, 2018

Few in this world today have the luxury of owning absolute time. Time that is free of schedules, time that is free of mundane needs, time that is free of responsibility and time that is not entangled in relationships.

And then if you have someone generously enabling you to spend that time any which way you want, consider yourself blessed royalty, that is, if you don’t give in to conceit and consider it your good karma.

So with time and money taken care of all I needed was to pool in my latent energies, dig up my buried enthusiasm and set out to tick off the only item on my bucket list – Travel.

Thus begins this discovery of places, not some unexplored, exotic destinations, but places that everyone has been talking about forever – yeah, kind of like watching ‘Godfather’ forty-five-and-half years after everyone’s watched it – to show my gratitude to time that gives and preserves. Loosely, I would call it a heritage trail but along the way if I find something meaningful, I’ll tag it under “Purpose found.”

There’s also this sudden sense of urgency to visit these places – places that clock history, places that stand testimony to time, places that I could easily have belonged to. The urgency stems from an innate sense of distrust of the age and era that I am living in where human fickleness is enough to wipe out my inheritance as a human being.

So, stretching the theme of unbounded time, I set out to gallivant across India first, landing in whichever part that works out best, but sticking to the intent of touching every state, with no purpose other than to feel and experience. The jottings are to be nothing in depth, just the first thoughts, a whispering journal, if you will.

So here I go….

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Ajanta & Ellora Caves (Maharashtra – India)

In understanding German philosopher Immanuel Kant even peripherally, one can concur with his theory that a thing of beauty has no purpose other than being beautiful. Beauty, I paraphrase Kant, is the form of finality in an object, when perceived separately from the representation of an end.

So it didn’t matter to me that the beautiful sculptures in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora nestled in the western mountain ranges of Maharashtra represented the revival of Buddhism or Hinduism or Jainism, but simply that they came from a rather fertile part of human creativity called aesthetics. From the gigantic to the intricate, the caves and the carvings are simply fluidity in rock.

The scale and scope of human imagination, the pure mathematics of structural design and architecture, and sheer strength of human endeavor that one witnesses in these caves is mindboggling. From a time perspective, some of the Ajanta Caves range in antiquity between second century BC to second century AD and others are from fifth and sixth centuries. And of the Ellora Caves, the Buddhist caves date back to 500-700 AD, the magnificent Kailash temple (of the Hindu excavations) to 760 AD, and the caves with the Jain sculptures date back to the ninth and eleventh centuries.

Besides being wonder struck at the physical strength of the men (and women?) who carved such beautifully lyrical sculptures out of hard rock mountains, what made me wonder was the survival over the centuries, and consistency in narration of the great epics and puranas, be it the Ramayana or Mahabharata or stories surrounding the innumerable gods and goddesses of the Hindu scriptures or the Buddhist lore, all of which are depicted on the walls and ceilings of these caves.

A critique, if at all, would be of the Indian authorities who, at some recent point, found the worth and usefulness of preserving these treasures.

As for my take away from Aurangabad, the point of stay to reach the caves (a town Kant would otherwise have found no inspiration from): Families first, super helpful friends of friends, hurda party (please google it), and a dozen rich versions of the humble paan from Tara Paan Center.

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The images here don’t do justice to the feelings they evoke when you see them in the caves.

Until my next discovery in time…

Srirekha Chakravarty

 

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Losers tell all July 30, 2016

Convention mania has gripped all those watching the American election circus across continents as much as across the United States.

Donald Trump had his dooms-day at the Conventions the week before and this week belonged to Hillary Clinton to bask in the glory of being the first American woman to be nominated to contest for the highest office in the country, and well, presumably in the world.

Okay, remember that keynote speech by then state senator Barack Obama at the 2004 DNC convention? Like many pundits, that night I too thought I was looking at a future President. And boy, were we right about that!

And earlier this week I thought I saw something similar happening at the DNC 2016 – Michelle Obama’s rousing speech that, I am sure, had everyone from Bill Clinton to Joe Biden to President Obama and even Hillary Clinton reworking their own speeches to match up if not better it.

Revisiting the historic moment of the young(er) Obama’s speech in Boston that summer, I thought I might as well start accepting a few truths of the present day election cycle that will soon become part of political history.

History as we all know is written by the winners. Don’t lynch me in the public square for saying this but in varying degrees I would give the benefit of the doubt to even such losers as Hitler. A cursory Google search throws up questions like: ‘How did Hitler really die?’ or ‘Did Hitler really die in that bunker?’ proving my point in the very ambiguity of the widely accepted ‘fact’ that Hitler committed suicide.

So coming back to today’s leading contenders for US Presidency, they have already made history for being the first ever woman and the first ever ‘outsider’ to have reached this close to the White House.

The many supporters of Trump will agree that if he loses, history may not be kind to this maverick billionaire who has bulldozed his way to the frontlines through sheer money power and more accurately, a false ego power.

He has been for years, and continues to be the butt of vicious liberal media jokes; therefore, win or lose, one can only imagine what it would be like for the Trumps in the years to come.

So for the record, I would grant it to this man for challenging status quos in a way that Hillary Clinton can never do. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be foolhardy if only to be able to say: “I don’t like your face” to whichever Chinese Premiere you are dealing with for pig-headedly keeping their currency undervalued.

And why fuss about Trump’s overtures to Russia? C’mon, everyone thought it was cute when in 1988 President Reagan put his arm around Gorbachev in Moscow’s Red Square and told a group of Russians nearby, “I’m glad we are standing here together like this.”

For better or worse – perhaps only worse – Trump will shake up the political and diplomatic world, and turn the world economy topsy-turvy. And if we don’t ask ourselves the questions: ‘At whose cost?’ or ‘For whose benefit?’ we might after all be able to let Trump have his spot in the annals of history

I don’t like this guy Trump. Never did. But hey, I won’t wait for the winners to tell all, I’ll be my own chronicler.

 

Srirekha Chakravarty

 

 

 

 

 

100 years of world history August 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — srirekha @ 11:41 pm
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I had to share this with everyone. For all of us who were born in and lived through the past century, this video is a reminder of all that we have survived and hopefully not an indication of what can be expected in future!

A 100 years in 10 minutes …