Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dont miss the colosseum

I, a Roman Catholic, brought up with strong religious values, was taking in the sight and smell of the Vatican and St Petersburg. But maybe the fatigue, after a tiring journey, and the endless musuems to Sistine chapel or the non-Christian friends, too critical about Christianity and its history, failed to make an impression I had preconceived about this place. It even made me guilty at some point for not feeling as excited as my family and hubby were. Would they say I lost faith in Europe? So I was silent about my experiences, limiting it to one word ‘wonderful’, every time I was asked how I felt in the Holy City. Mom always dreamt of travelling to Rome but I never did. Nor have I dreamt of any European trip for that matter. But walking the road to pilgrim I wished I had my mother’s faith or atleast if I could swap my day with her and let her experience this dream of hers . My hubby thought I was lucky to be there but something within made me tired.

But to my surprise what people experience in Vatican, a spiritual and aesthetic experience, I had at a different place.

“Don’t miss the Colosseum. It’s a must see before you die”. I took the comment lightly as I set for my journey to Rome. I was reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘interpretation of Maladies’ where in one story the same lines were echoed. Was it a sign of what experiences lay ahead, I didn’t know? When I stood in the long queue, for 45 mins, to enter the Colosseum, I imagined how people would have travelled from long distances on foot to see the shows at colosseum in olden days. The huge structure with its magnificnent pillars was exciting and intimidating. “How many have shed their blood in this place”, Basu said, making me scared what if their souls wandered about this place.

What strikes you first is the perfection of the structure, though 75 % of it is reconstructed. It really frightened me to look down and imagine a gladaitor shedding blood with people around cheering and howling. As the tourists looked down and took snaps I could visualise the excited crowds in ancient days screaming for gladiators to kill. Why are we all so eager to see this monument where thousands were killed? Was it an interest in history or architecture I don’t know? But as some lay relaxed on ruins of pillars I could not stop hearing the victorious screams, growling animals and crying women in the arena.

The musuem inside the colosseum displayed the artifacts used by spectators during these murders for their entertainment. Needles (can’t imagine women wove during this gruesome display of bravery as if they were watching daily soaps). Hairpins fallen from women who came to watch the game (concerned about combing when someone was shedding blood). Clay pots and oven brought to cook food in between the game (people ate while watching this). Coloseum was part of life of Romans who could eat watching man being torn apart by a gladiator or a tiger. I found it amusing yet beleivable because I had friends watching action movies, worse than deaths in Coloseum, while having lunch.
Having not seen’ Gladiator’ the movie this place had no gladiator effect on me so I was open to all that I saw .To understand the pains of a man who had to fight till death for a freedom he would never get that felt like the myth of Sisyphus. It is even fascinating to know these fights were celebrations that ran upto 120 days killing nearly 12000 animals and there were crowds excited and thrilled to watch this. Well people still are watching wrestling matches but there were no match fixing in Roman days or so I beleive.

But as I leave the colosseum I can’t help wondering what a barbarious animal man is yet claiming to be above all the other species. Would any other animal fight or enjoy killing for fun? I don’t know and yet today when people tell me Colloseum is a must see before death,I think nothing has changed in the centuries gone by. I don’t know for what reasons but despite all the blood shed and cruelty my soul never felt awakened anywhere else.
Something about pain fascinates me.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Animals are beautiful people

Well here is an Airedale terrier .We met outside ortobotanica Padova and sort of clicked coz we were both interested in plants. He agreed to pose for our feature on animals. Native of England but is now an immigrant to Italy.No wonder we both find it hard to understand Italian so we conversed in english. He told me wooow bow wowwwwww well that roughly meant " Animal haters sucks"

Friday, June 11, 2010

Empty nest

She seemed happier than most days. Though I could not decipher the bemused expression on her face. Life had been dead for a while since the doctors and reports unequivocally explained her inability to conceive. I felt guility for delaying our plan for having a baby and every fight ended in her wishful thinking if only we tried earlier and maybe she would have had a baby. Since I had no ways of proving she was wrong and seeing her cry after every visit to a friend's place or park or malls where couples strolled with babies I preferred suffering alone. Unlike she thought I was hurt too but maybe I could never be a devoted parent like her.

Life after this catastrophe was equally depressing with her resigning saying she wanted to do what she loved now that there was no point earning for two of us alone with noone to look forward to. What I dreaded was watching her look at kids playing football from the kitchen early morning. She never blamed me or fate anymore. Those 15 minutes game in the morning parents strolling with kids in the evening became her entertainment. She got a puppy to walk in the evening only to watch kids playing in the park.

Still hoping a miracle she refused adopting making me feel even miserable. Painting and art classes began in our house all for her to be engaged with kids. neighbours who knew her love for kids misused this freedom making her a baby sitter often but she had no complaints. Life was a standstill for us in terms of 'us' all she spoke of was the kids who came for classes or she met in park. I was convinced she was away from reality.

But today she was excited . It was after dinner that she told me she was pregnant. It took some time to register because it was impossible. She refused going to a doctor because she did not trust the doctors who had written down her verdict as infertile. This miracle is for them to witness she said. I was baffled maybe even scared if she had lost it but she looked happy and I was silent. Our life for a while had been two separate routines with minimal involvement. But now she insisted on baby shopping redecoration of the baby room. I saw her reading parenting books and even knitting something she never liked doing long time back.

Her growing tummy made me more scared but she never wanted to visit a doctor and in fact turned hysterical when I insisted.

I came home to see her in pain it was the sixth month but her tummy was quite big. I rushed her to the hospital and waited anxiously. I knew what lay ahead because I alone knew what she didnt that she had uterine cancer and she had stopped responding to treatment . That she would not live long and she would never be a mother. But I still wished she came back safe out of that O.T and we could play her make beleive games of parents - to- be.

'Sorry we lost her' said the doc. But she firmly beleived its a girl till the end. She had this inside her palm. I took the unfinished booty she had been knitting in violet.

I felt empty and cold in the hospital corridor.

'How was she lately' asked the doc? 'She was well prepared to leave didnt need me like before' I said. Maybe she knew she was going to play with all those unborn babies lord was preparing to send down to earth. Maybe she always loved our unborn children more than me and herself.

I walked down to see her one last time. She lay peaceful with that smile that always killed me. I have all the time in the world for you i am next to you I whispered. I am in no hurry today you can tell me all about the kids in the park i said.But she lay silent deeply asleep a sleep from which she would never wake up.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bus (read: ‘enough’ in Hindi) of this ride – Part II

Part I
The biggest fun having the window seat was to observe the proceedings of the world from the comfort of a window. I remember watching the newspaper boy throwing the papers out each day. Often the folds would open up mid air and the paper would not reach to its destination. The poor guy would then face the mockery of a bus full of kids. Then there were the ones who would wake up early to water their gardens. Not the gardening type they were. Just so they could do so using a pipe, else once its past the water supply time they had to do it by lugging buckets full of water. The other constant scenes were the kids who would arrive just when the bus starts leaving the bus stop and they would shout for the bus to stop. We would never interfere with nature’s schemes by making any attempts from inside the bus to stop it. If the driver wishes to stop then fine and if he doesn’t so be it. We always envied such kids who were spared a school day because they missed the bus, because in our scheme of things we were always fifteen minute early for the bus. We also had great disregard for the kids who used to get personal transportation to school; be it a chauffeur driven car or a scooter. You are to go to school using a school bus. Anything else was blasphemous. Is one allowed to go inside a holy place wearing shoes? Everyone needs to come barefooted. Sometimes there used to be races between our bus and these other kids and we used to root for our driver to beat the shit out of the infidels. If we used to win, the whole bus would be in cheers and if they won they sure had no one to celebrate it with. Often when such races were against other school buses the hysteria would just blow over the top.

One another reason we used to vie for the window seat was to ogle at the girls from other schools. We used to pass by around five to six such bus stops and each of them was assigned a name as well: the hand pump bus stop, the tea corner stop, the green bus stop (because the girls wore dark green uniforms), the market stop and the Gandhi statue circle bus stop. Once the bus starts nearing one of these bus stops, heads would start popping out of the bus. One often used to wonder that there were so many heads inside this bus. And we used to watch the girls, who were casually strolling and talking would suddenly prim up and become cautious once our bus used to come into sight. We often used to guess what’s happening in other schools by observing the happening at these bus-stops. A lot of girls studying would mean some exams are on, if they are carrying craft and painting then it’s arts, girls with balls means something sporty. One time we were astonished to see few of them wearing dark goggles. Neither was it summer nor had they done anything like that before. We thought it was a joke and shouted out to find out what was going on. The reply was: Conjunctivitis. Next day we kept all the windows on their side of the bus closed while passing through their bus stop. Well, that’s what the parents ordered.

The only spoilsport in our affair with the window was the rains. It was these times when all and sundry would try to remain as far away from the window as possible. But little did it matter because we didn’t have water proof windows and often you could find a few kids wearing raincoats inside the bus as well. But in the rainy season we used to look forward to the bus getting stuck. There was this rough patch of ground close to the school and it used to be difficult to ride it during the rains. We often used to pray that the bus would get caught there. The driver would hit on the accelerator hard and we would wait for the reaction from the bus. Ironically for us, if the bus lunges forward then we were doomed but if you could still keep hearing the roaring sound of the engine after many attempts then you know that god has heard your prayers. It was similar to the pull and push we experienced everyday to go to school; we pulling back to not to go and the parents pushing us to go. Eventually help would arrive from the school and we would be escorted to school. We used to console ourselves by thinking that we were at least spared the agony of the first period. We would also get added to the folklore of the bus-stuck fellows; ‘thou can get stuck but you can’t escape.'

I get transported back to the present by the constant honking around me. We are stuck in a traffic jam. Unlike the school days, we get stuck quiet often now, daily, be it rain or summer. There are no races now. The drivers are strictly instructed to behave and there are telephone numbers to be called to rein them in if they are speeding. Forget about racing, I would be happy if we keep moving constantly. There is no morning rush anymore, we get woken up by alarms; alarms on watches, mobile phones, T.Vs, mp3s etc. They have replaced our parents. They don’t push us to go to office. We are now pushed in doing so by our paychecks and deadlines. We don’t play at the bus stops now. We stand there like snobs, as if thinking about the theory of relativity, not relating to anybody else. Forget about putting your head out of the window now; we don’t even open the windows, because of the pollution. Soon I’ll reach office and would have to furnish my ID card to prove that I work here. Gone are the days when even the bus driver or the guard at my school used to recognize me. No ID cards needed, no names required. I wish to be on a bus on the way back to those days.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Animals are beautiful people

I was at a school in a very rural area of Tuticorin. The school was in a very desolate place with just few houses nearby. That's where I saw this sight. A horse and that too a very well fed one considering how impoverished the house and people living there were.
I thought the horse was their wage earner. But after few interactions a grandma of the family told me the horse was the pride of their family and they bought him with all their savings. It was their pet and they were not happy about making money out of him.
I was overwhelmed by their love and shocked as to how they managed to feed many mouths and still provided hay and grass to the horse. I have many friends still fighting with me for putting up animal pics and here is a family starving yet feeding a horse.

Well Human beings are beautiful people too ( occassionally)