“We shall do such things, what they shall be I know not, but they shall be the terror of the earth”. That’s Shakespeare’s King Lear making his new year’s resolutions, I suppose. My more modest goals are to blog more regularly, and avoid matters related to religion and politics. How one can reasonably comment on the economy without reference to R & P is a mystery to me. But I shall strive.
After a few days in Bhubaneswar, I am now in Kolkata for a bit. Kolkata is nicely cold. The temperatures are a decent 12 degrees C minimum. It even rained a fair bit yesterday. This morning’s fog gives a dreamy look to the city.
With each visit, I note that the number of mosques goes up steadily and the loudspeakers they use get a bit louder and their hours of operation gets longer. Within ear-shot, I estimate about a couple of dozen mosques. Around 4 AM, they are loud enough to wake the dead. But it seems that it is not sufficient to wake the people around here because they take the decline in their stride (pardon the mixed metaphors). I regularly receive updates from the IT Ministry of West Bengal about how much investment is flowing into the state in the IT sector. I get the distinct feeling that they are busy congratulating themselves on how pretty the deck chair arrangements look, while below decks the holds are fast taking in water.
Moving on to more pleasant topics, the visit to Konark was excellent. The Konark Sun Temple is worth a visit from anywhere on this planet. Built sometime around the 13th century, it was a statement of defiance and triumph. The temple is built as a chariot for the Sun god who is known as “Arka” and thus “Kon-ark.” The “chariot” is intricately carved out of stone and has huge exquisitely carved wheels. The wheel virtually symbolizes the state of Orissa.
The one-day sight seeing trip around Bhubaneswar included Puri’s Jaggannath Temple as well. Sunday 14th January was Makar Sankrant. That was given as the reason for why the Jaggannath temple complex was so crowded. Though religious devotion is a mystery to me, I still marvel at the devotion of the people. These temples are not easy to visit. The experience is exhausting. (The word “juggernaut” derives from Jaggannath, FYI.)
After the Jaggannath temple crowds, it was great to hang out at a beach in Puri. It was fun to wade into the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal. The road hugs the shoreline and we just stopped at a random place and went to the beach. Walking on the sand, I wondered where all the sand comes from. Did you know that sand is not “made” at the beach but rather somewhere inland and it just gets transported to beaches and deserts?
I had fun visiting places that I had never been to before. Once again, I realized that India is a land which has an incredibly rich heritage. So how does one explain the paradox of poor people who have a rich heritage? Why has India been ruled for so long? The short answer is of course that here were riches waiting to be plundered. Since Indians generally don’t put up a fight, it was like snatching candy from kids.
“While we hold on to India, we are a first-rate power. If we lose India, we will decline to a third-rate power. This is the value of India.” I came across that candid evaluation by Lord Curzon in a BBC report on UK-India relations. One hundred years have passed since he said that. The British left, have exhausted their power to extract any more out of India. But what was taken was material wealth. What remains is the rich heritage that cannot be taken away. That rich heritage can only be lost through either collective amnesia or suicide.
I choose to end this with the words of an English poet—Alfred, Lord Tennyson—from his poem Ulysses:
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.