our guide, who was a mine of information about the Middle Kingdom. She took us sightseeing and on passing trees from which cotton-like flowers fell, she proudly told us that this would soon be a thing of the past because the government had decided to replace these ‘female’ trees with male ones to avoid inconvenience to tourists. We were in the land where anything is possible.
The Great wall, like any tourist spot in India, was very crowded. The Forbidden City, right in the middle of Beijing, was spread over a vast area. But it paled in comparison with the grandeur of our palaces. The pace of sightseeing was hindered by numerous requests from locals for photo shoots with my wife and daughter, unusual women as far as the Chinese are concerned.
At Xian, the Terracotta army complex is a must-see but the big surprise was the Wild Goose Pagoda. It is associated with Hiuen Tsang, who famously travelled to India in the seventh century. The museum has a collection of articles he carried back from India. Every Chinese seemed to know one of their most famous stories, ‘Journey to the West’, and the “West” in this case means India. Stone tablets bearing Sanskrit verses, along with their Chinese translations, can be seen in the Stone Steles Museum. Clearly, they were intelligently copying back then as well. (via Long-haired women fascinate China).
The lost art of travel writing
I thought this was a very fresh piece of travel writing. For one it was not a regurgitated piece of propaganda. For another, he is a typical, English-educated, Indian who is surprised to see how far and how widely India is spread. He is also pleasantly surprised by the lack of simple freedoms that Indians assume are available to all – but a rare commodity.
Lastly, he seems to take significant pride, like much of Desert Bloc, in monuments built by rulers, in ‘glory’ of their reign! He does seems to think that “The Forbidden City … paled in comparison with the grandeur of our palaces”. When it comes to monuments, I would have preferred India to be at the bottom of the table.
For instance – in Russia, Peter the Great, asked all the boyars to cut their beards – and become modern like Western Europeans. Russia never recovered from that. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ordered Turks to stop wearing the fez – and a society with a 3000 year old history, suddenly started getting jolted from one crisis to another. In China, it was the queue.
In their great hurry to Westernize, these leaders cast their countries and cultures into a loop of self-doubt and loss of self-esteem. To all those who want to rush into Western (or anyone else’s) arms, Russia, Turkey and China are excellent examples. India is not far behind.
I liked this piece of simple writing. Utkarsh has his tongue in place – firmly in the ‘cheek.’
Mary Doria Russell’s fiction has always dealt with power and the search for elusive lands as a means to further it. … For her fourth book, Dreamers of the Day, Russell shifts her gaze to the Middle East, specifically to the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference where a group of high-profile Europeans met to decide the fate of the region in the aftermath of the First World War. The reader’s guide along this fascinating trip is Agnes Shanklin, a 40-year-old spinster who lives the staid life of a schoolteacher in Cleveland, until she lands a huge pie of inheritance money. (via Living in a timeless world).
This book is, seemingly, a lot like Midshipman Mr.Easy by Captain Marryat – which set out to white wash slavery. This book by Mary Doria Russell seems to be another such book – going by reviews. The carving of the Middle East after WW1 by the victorius allied powers, a disgruntled Russia and straw figures selected by the likes of TE Lawrence and Gertrude Bell to misrule over the Middle East – and now propped up by the US.
Maybe, somebody should remind Mary Doria Russell about the real people who are paying a price of the Cairo Conference.
To the sound of midnight fireworks and pealing church bells, Slovakia joined the euro zone, putting it under the shared currency’s protective umbrella amid a world financial downpour _ and underscoring the former Soviet bloc nation’s economic progress.
The small alpine nation on Thursday became the 16th country to adopt the euro, a European Union project which also celebrates its 10th birthday this New Year’s Day. With Slovakia, the currency will be used by 330 million people with an annual gross domestic product of more than four trillion euros ($5.6 trillion). (via Euro Zone Adds Slovakia As Its 16th Country – WSJ.com).
For 10 years, Turkey has been struggling to join the EU - and they have been given a 10 year time table, after which they may be able to join the EU. In the meantime, two-bit countries like Slovakia has been fast-tracked into the EU.
Any guesses, why?
Did I hear anyone say Islam?
Within 18 months of the start of the WW1, the British and the French had started discussing how to ‘dispose’ the territories of the Ottoman Empire. Of course, the people of the Middle East were not consulted – as they did not matter.
Demonising communism and now Islam. Without taking the responsibility for their own actions – and further interventions, creating further instability. Like the demonisation of the Jews before and the Red Indians after, this too is having disastrous effects – in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan.