Temple Of Zeus

After a short entry, with me philosophizing about Death, it is back to the travels again.
I had visited a few towns in Switzerland with my Chinese brethren, and then we were off to Greece for a few days. The first stop was Athens, and for those who go two entries back, you will see the photo of the old gent gallantly blasting off a stream of urine onto the wall in front of him.

There was a strike on those days, and the garbage had been piled up along the streets; and I thought, “wow, this is really like much of India!” To be fair to my own home country, many cities in India, like Delhi are wonderful. However, when you go away from the centre, to places like Gurgaon, then you see a different story.

We visited the Temple of Zeus in the morning, and the sun was blazing down upon us. June is a really hot and humid month in Greece, and I really dislike hot weather. The other problem with some of these group visits, is that the time that you have is not often of your own choosing. I would have probably gone earlier in the morning, and stayed a bit longer.

The temple indeed is one of great antiquity. Not only is this possibly a symbol of great piety, but also of  great ego.

It took about 600 odd years to build, and then it lasted not more than a hundred years. The building started in 515 BC, during the reign of the tyrant Pisistratus. It was abandoned and restarted over the next 600 years, and was finally completed in about 121 0r 131 AD in the reign of the emperor Hadrian.  When it was build, there were 104 Corinthian pillars about 17 meters high; 48 were in rows of three and 56 were in rows of two. In the cella, there was a giant gold and ivory statue of Zeus, and an equally large one of Hadrian next to it.

The barbarians ransacked it in the 3rd century AD, and then the temple fell into disuse. Over the next one thousand years, it was pillaged for the stone.

The monument to the greatest Greek God, a tribute to the ego of the emperors, was forgotten until it was excavated  in 1889-96 by Francoise Penrose.

15 vertical columns, and one fallen column are all that remain in the hot summer sun, a lonely reminder of the transitory nature of human vanity. It is, however, also a reminder of the magnificent work that humans can do, and is a reminder of our collective past.

Spikes And Death

This is a blog, and not a treatise. Therefore, this will be a blog entry on Death, and not a treatise on Death. Maybe someday, I will write a treatise on Death.

I have been fascinated by Death since I was a teenager. When I used to read about the occult sciences, I often thought that Death was the last great adventure that a living being would embark upon. In my early teens, our two dogs were run over, and my sisters and I, tears running down our cheeks, buried them.

Later on, when I was seventeen, a young boy a year older than me drowned. We had to cremate him, and we did so in the middle of the night. Accompanied by the priest and a policeman, there we were, a bunch of 17-19 year olds, cremating one of our own, watching his melting flesh drip into the fire under the stars that light up the midnight sky. The memory has stayed with me ever since.

In Kolkatta as it is called these days, I once saw a dead body between the railway tracks and the platform, as people went about their daily business completely indifferent to the dead body not more than two meters from them.

In Mumbai, as it is called these days, I saw the dead body of a man, chopped up into four or five pieces ( he had been run over by a train ), his parts being shoveled into a sack, for a solitary and forgotten cremation.

Many years later, when I visited Edinburgh castle, we went around to the torture chambers. Torture takes place today as well.

We humans often talk of ‘bestial’  behaviour. We talk of people who behave like animals. Yet, I have never seen animals torture each other. We invent means of torture, we drill spikes into people heads – I believe the followers of Pol Pot often hammered nails into the heads of their fellow country men.

We invent new ways to kill and maim each other. I wonder, does this bring us closer to an imaginary God?

Death smiles, as Death welcomes everyone to the beyond. Will we then be asked to account for our lives work, or will we dissolve into some infinite nothingness?

The picture above is a picture of a building in Rottach-Egern, with ice hanging from the edges of the roof. As I looked at the ice hanging down, I thought of the shapes, and I thought that they would be a sadist’s delight. I photo shopped the original picture into something dark and menacing.

“Death”, as Jim Morrison wrote, “makes angels of us all, and gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as raven’s claws..”

India in South Europe

I went to Greece many years ago. This was in June 2005, and moving on from Gaillard, this next section of blog entries will be all about the trip that I made with Chinese officials. That trip was probably the last time one of them looked out onto the face of the world as a free man. He loved photography, and that trip was also probably the last time he took photographs as a free man. He had power and glory, but after he died, he was a forgotten man. Such is the transient nature of our existence.

We started the trip in Athens. The hotel was a bit crappy, and I was not too enthused by the start of the trip. Yet, when you stay in hotels that are not in the prime part of the city, then you also get to see how the “real people” live. I remember that phrase, “real people” well. I was once advised to get out and see how “real people” live. This, coming from an expatriate. I quelled the retort that was rising in my mind, that I am Indian. We see the “real people” every day, and that sometimes we have enough of the “real people”.

Anyhow, when I saw this man pissing by the roadside, the first thought that came into my head was, “Hmm, people in the Southern Part of Europe have certain similarities to us Indians. We too, pee on the roadside”

Similarities between Indians and Southern Europeans run deeper than that, but I am not sure that this is the space to go into the similarities between us Indians and the people of South Europe, and where we are different. Yet, if I were to liken Indians to Europeans, I would look to the South of Europe, and not to the North.

Bright sunshine; bright smiles; dirt on the street; chaos in the air; an air of taking life by the scruff of the neck, and giving it a good blast, are just some of the areas where we are similar. We have a love of life, and a way of expressing this, that makes us somewhat similar. That is where I will leave it for now.

Aqualung In Gaillard

“Aqualung” was one of the seminal songs of my youth. The idea of an old man sitting on a park bench, watching pretty girls go by captured a the imagination of a whole generation of pimply teenagers when I was growing up.

Those were the days of us in shabby, torn clothes, long hair, stubble, beads around our necks and the ingestion of psychotropic and psychedelic substances. Those were good days indeed, when the earth was young; the sky was blue; the sun yellow; and our dreams were energetic and bright.

Dreams sometimes fade, or are replaced by others. The hard fact of a materialistic world impinges itself on idealistic visions of changing the world according to our own visions.

Aldous Huxley’s “Doors of Perception”, and Carlos Castaneda’s books were favourite reads. We had our version of “Saturday Night Fever”. Listening to “Riders on The Storm” at 3 am, with a storm raging outside my window, and feeling the breath of the killer on the roads sent the old, familiar tingles go running up and down our spine, somewhat like the intsy-wintsy spider that went up the water pipe.

For some, the dreams remain strong, and they live a life well lead, and happy.

For others, age settles in, and dreams of youth fade for some. Some of them, like Aqualung, sit, wearing shabby clothes, watching the pretty young things go by, while Death rattles in their throats.

Aqualung gives much food for thought.

A Walk In Gaillard

I spent a day and a night in Gaillard, France. I arrived in the afternoon. I had taken a train, to Geneva, from Basel and from there I took a taxi to Gaillard. I was a little paranoid about taking that taxi. Those were the days when Switzerland required a separate visa, and I am not sure if my memory serves me well but, I don’t think I had a Schengen visa. Or, maybe I did, since I did go to Greece as well. But there was something that was not quite right, and I was paranoid.

The hotel was a bit basic, and the TV programmes that were running were in French. Now I cannot even pronounce “Oui” correctly, so an afternoon watching French TV was not something that I was looking forward to. Not even memories of the sexy young thing who was in my French class in college ( I followed her into the class, actually) was enough to keep me in the room.

 So, I walked for 4 hours that day. I walked and I walked and I walked. I was living in China those days, which is quite a polluted country, and I live in India now, which is also quite a polluted country. Being able to walk along the country path and breathe in the fresh air was a really lovely experience.

The country path was, well, a country path. It was a bit dusty, bounded by trees on either side. The brook was bubbling along as I walked. It was July, and the sky was blue. A perfect day to walk. Would I survive there? I don’t know. We often love these places when we visit them. We go off into spasms of delight, squealing about the clean air and the return to nature.

Personally, I find these places beautiful, and I could live in them for extended periods of time. They are good. They cleanse the soul.

We need to preserve them, else as the world’s population increases, we will find ourselves in the hell holes depicted in so many futuristic movies, a world populated by empty trash cans, a legacy of our present times to the future.

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