Friday, June 22, 2007

Seven years in Tibet (Tag)

I've been tagged for the first time by Nandu akka and I respond .....

Tibetans can claim to have arguably the worlds most mystic and unique culture which has remained veiled to outsiders and has been the subject of inquisition for many historians and adventurers.Today, even as vestiges of the distinctive Tibetan religion and traditions are being systematically erased on it's native soil, traces of it do survive elsewhere.

I have had the good fortune to have lived amongst these people and am fascinated by their religion, mysticism, manners, morals, superstitions, hospitality and their inherent abilities of tolerance and survival. That is the reason why I just couldn't place this book down once I laid my hands on it. "Seven Years in Tibet" is a book authored by Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountaineer, and is an intriguing account of the time he spent as a fugitive in the mysterious land.

The Potala Palace - Ancient abode of the
Dalai Lama.

Harrer came to India as part of a German expedition to the Himalayan peak of "Nanga parbat" on the eve of the second world war only to be arrested and sent to a British internment camp in Dehradun. After three failed attempts he along with a few colleagues managed to sneak out and set out on a route towards Tibet that was never before attempted. After traveling along a circuitous route for two years he and his friend Aufschanaiter reached Lhasa, the capital city. One must remember that outsiders were not welcome in the country and that they neither had any papers nor any funds or resources. They learned the local tongue (I failed miserably in my attempt), did a lot of useful work for the government, won the hearts and minds of the people and lived in Tibet for seven long years.

A glimpse of the terrain on the Tibetan platue

Harrer's absorbing and vivid descriptions of the Tibetan religious customs, festivals and superstitions make riveting reading. Eventually he becomes the unofficial tutor to the teenaged God-king (The Dalai Lama) who had a deep desire to learn about western knowledge and the technological, political and social advancements made outside his protected land. Harrers's love affair with this unique land came to an end as the Chinese invaded it in 1950 forcing the Dalai Lama to take refuge in India.

Coming to the "responsibility" bestowed on me by this tag ..... here is the fourth (& last) paragraph on page no. 123 of the book ....(it speaks about the family of the god-king, His Holiness The Dalai Lama)

{The Great Parents had in all six children. The eldest son, long before the discovery of the Dalai Lama, had been recognised as the incarnation of Budha and invested with the dignity of a Lama in the monastery of Tagstel. He too was styled "Rimpoche", the form of address applied to all Lamas. The second son, Gyalpo Tondrup, was at a school in China. Our young acquaintance Lobsang was destined for a monastic life. The young Dalai Lama himself was now eleven years old. Besides his brothers he had two sisters. Subsequently the "Great Mother" gave birth to another "Incarnation", "Ngari Rimpoche". As the mother of three "Incarnations" she held the record for the Budhist world.}

The book has now been adapted into movie starring Brad Pitt, a copy of which I am fervently lo
oking for.

I am also supposed to tag five others .... here they go ...
(take it up only if you please....)

The rules of the tag, as handed down to me are:-

1. Give a refernce and link to the person who tagged you.
2. write about the book u've read recently and quote the 5th or last para of it's 123rd page.
3. Tag five others.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Cursed Continent ?

While setting foot on this land (Sudan), the only exposure I had to Africa was through movies like Born Free, God's Must be Crazy and Out of Africa, apart from some news articles and official presentations. Four months later I am not much wiser but have realised that it is almost impossible for an outsider to comprehend the complexities of this strife-torn continent. The good part however is that one does not require to "know all" to make a difference.

There are around fourteen countries in Africa which are experiencing internal conflict today. Ironically it is the abundance in resources, be it human resources, ivory, oil or diamonds that has turned out to be a curse as the developed and aspiring nations compete to get a foothold and stuff their already over-stuffed wallets at the cost of African "expendables". Every country that is involved here (peacekeeping / aid) and every single foreigner (whatever he/she may claim ) has a venal motive. However, it will not be prudent to place the complete blame on former colonialists or the contemporary hypocratic fortune- suckers (pardon the pun). The inherent tribal traits of the native populace and the unfavourable bias displayed by history bear a major share of the responsibility. Even though the situation in every country or rather every county is unique there are many common factors, the most prominent one being the history of this continent which has been largely deprived of civilisations and dominated by numerous stories of slavery and exploitation. The borders between countries had been drawn by european imperialists to divide their areas of influence without taking into consideration the ethnicity / tribal affiliations (the reason why most borders are in straight lines).

The energy level of children is one of the most striking aspects that I noticed here (in the midst of ruins and hostile faces). Generally, the child population (as a percentage of overall population) is much higher than one expects and thankfully their spirit is intact unlike the grown-ups. Even as the situation looks hopeless, there are a few instances which give room for hope. Let me narrate one such incident which occurred last week. There was this little boy, around thirteen years old who was standing by the main gate of our military camp. He was all in rags and looked harrassed, but there was a look of determination in his eyes which one couldn't miss. He didn't know any english and spoke a strange language (swahili perhaps), but managed to convey all that was required. He was from Somalia, another war torn country and was one of the millions of kids orphaned in the civil war. At a refugee camp, he heard from someone that Juba, the capital city of South Sudan offered good opportunities and may offer a route to Uganda or Kenya and decided to set forth. He travelled through Ethiopia and Sudan along the Blue Nile to reach Khartoum, ,obtained a "refugee certificate" from UNICEF and proceeded towards Juba. It was when all the money he possessed dried up that he stopped at the first gate he saw and asked for help. The distances invoved were great, the terrain perhaps the worst suited for travel and weather punishing. This little fellow had the spunk to travel hundreds of kilometers alone, without any sort of certainity regarding his future and hardly any resources, but just on the basis of hope .... for a better life. People like him make one feel grateful for all that one has been blessed with and ashamed of whining at the minor road blocks in life. He provides a silver lining in the midst of apparent chaos.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

"Guardian Angel" - story of a troubled mind

This is a poem which drew inspiration from a terrorist who was sincerely repenting being one, but was too deeply involved to be able to extricate himself into a peaceful life. He wishes and prays for a guardian angel to appear and guide him into happiness ...............

The blatant winds blew with all their might,
thunderous clouds roared for all the night.
Alone I sat and stared, for all i could
with a heart that was maim and numb, as it should.

My sins had crossed the threshold; when, I wonder?
bosom qualms were in search of a vent.
From the deepest crevice, deep and dark and under,
my teary eyes were full, crying for help.

And then she came as a cool and soothing breeze,
as if to purge me, off my wicked deeds.
Her smile could make an angel red with shame,
with her she brought the active winds of change.

Her touch, it did the wonders, foul is gone.
Eyes poured with compassion, for one and all.
She held my hand and led me out from the ditch,
unveiled a world, of calm and joy and grit.

And once my heart was filled with faith and trust,
she left my hand and flew, it was unjust.
The ambience of her scent was base enough,
to ride astride and realise what was left.

Yet I hope to see her once again,
the fossils of my past obliged in debt.
That she will come come for once; and come she will,
the time all fractured minds are put to rest.