Tuesday, 27 November, 2007

Gujarat and Me....

Life is strange....however accomplished or 'arrived' we think we are, it brings us back to reality with one swipe of the wand....

A couple of years back, I was giving my interview for entrance to MICA. I was surrounded by engineers all giving the perfect interview answers....and then my turn came. The interviewer asked me, "what has had the maximum impact on you as a person?". In all my candor I gave him the only answer that came to my mind. I saw the worst of Gujarat....I went through the trauma of the Bhuj earthquake and an year later, saw Ahmedabad burn in the aftermaths of Godhra.

How did this affect me as an individual? It made me realise that nothing is permanent. People spilled out on the streets of Ahmedabad to help the injured after the quake. They stayed up all night trying to give hope to the ones who were burried in the rubble. There was no caste or religious demarcation....it was all for humanity. All this goodness came shattering to the earth when the same people an year later took up arms to kill their neighbours, friends and strangers. I saw mobs running on roads with fire 'mashaals' trying to find a person belonging to the other religion so that they could make a spectacle of his death.

It made me realise, that however big you become, when the moment of truth comes...god's children are all the same. Rich and poor alike slept on pavements, in cars, in gardens and just about anyplace they could find after the earthquake for fear of their cracked houses coming tumbling down. They helped each other, cooked food in community kitchens and joined hands in a bid to come out of this tragedy together.

I also understood the real meaning of fear. Fear was not about losing your job or something as mindless. Fear was standing on the 10th floor of a building watching it sway like a pendulum....looking out of the window and seeing buildings crumble like matchboxes...driving through roads where on either sides, people were stuck in rubble - shouting for mercy from the pain....Fear was sitting on the terrace of your building watching the mob below, wondering where you will hide if they come upstairs. It made me stronger...and helped me understand how the things we give importance in life are actually worthless.

For someone who was not there, all this may be over-exaggerated drama. For someone who was, a reflection of their truth and for me, a way of life. On the on-side, the interviewer surprisingly thought similarly and I did make it through to MICA...the only candidate selected from all of Gujarat. Some answers after all may not be perfect...but as long as they are heart-felt, perfection doesn't matter....

Wednesday, 14 November, 2007

Egypt Explored - 1

My series on my trip to Egypt .... there are so many aspects to this crazy country that a travelogue will not do it justice! So I decided to pick up pieces of my experience and pen them down separately....



Egypt for the uninitiated is not a vacation! So all those people who want to go to a foreign location and kick off their shoes, do NOT go here....you will tear your hair out and by the time you come back, you will probably need a vacation to get over this one!

Having said that, I'll tell you about the kind of people who 'should' go here. If you love to explore...to experience new cultures...if you love history and architecture....if you are game to open your mind and heart to this land of wonder, then my friend, you can't miss Egypt!



It is a pandora's box. You will have people trying to sell you clothes, souveniers, taxi rides, camel rides, the camel itself, and just about anything they can think of...they will follow you and say "You are Indian?? Very good India....Maharajas...Amitabh Bachchan" and flash a toothy smile before trying to make their sales pitch...the scorching heat of the day sun will drive you nuts and you will go beserk when the book seller sells you an English newspaper for Rs.200....



But Egypt is more than that. If you can deal with all of this, then they embrace you with open arms and surprise you with their warmth. Taxi drivers offer you cigarettes, they are apologetic about the hassle you go through, educated professionals on the road are more than happy to haggle in arabic with a shopkeeper for something you want when you hit the language barrier....and the sights of Egypt are all ready to astound you! Standing in front of the Pyramids of Giza, one can not help but be awed by the 455ft giant structure made with rocks each weighing 1.5 tonnes put together at a time when they had no wheels, pulleys or iron tools...add to that all this has withstood earthquakes, invasions and all unimaginable exploitation! Every ruin in Egypt takes your breath away....be it the Luxor Temple, the Karnak Temple or the Valley of Kings for the sole reason that these dont appear to be ruins. These structures are 4000-5000 years old but stand straight and proud, displaying their mesmerizing writings engraved in the stone and hold their own....

All in all, go to Egypt if all this excites you....if you like standing in the middle of history and absorbing the experience. Egypt leaves you gasping....ironically, gasping for breath...for water...and for some more....