The UK

For a change, a blog entry without a picture. Like many Indians of my generation, I have had a long association with the British, an association that goes back generations.Our political masters try hard to erase our Mughal and colonial history but, try as they might, history cannot be erased. Where, for instance, would we be without the cantonments, often the only places left, with a little bit of green, in our cities. Where would we be without Rudyard Kipling and the romance between Nehru and Lady Mountbatten?

For me, the “romance” goes a bit deeper. I lived in England between the age of 4 and 8 and, something of England of the 60’s stayed with me. As George Harrison once said, it was a time with the Brits smiled! The 60’s were a great time in England, even though Donovan did ask the world, in song, to slow down.

I did not return to England until I was in my mid 40’s for a family holiday, and once again later.

So, as I leave Switzerland and move on to England in the next entries, I will put in pictures of my subsequent visits to England, not to the England of my childhood.

Some shitty pictures, and some better ones shall follow!

The Rolling Hills

The Rolling Hills. Basel

This is the last entry about Basel, and will be a short one. For one, I am not in much of a writing mood right now. This is life. You cannot always be in the most fluid writing state of mind.

But, Basel. The more I travelled to Basel, the more I like the town. I took this picture when I was at the Munster, looking over across the river at the rolling hills that stand behind the church steeples, and I was filled with a peace that swept through me. Everything seemed to be good under the sun.

There was no war, there was no strife. No evil to bother us, no stress to make us weep, no deadlines, no strange politics or politicians to think about.

This is how the world should be. The broad expanse of nature that stands for eternity, and stretches to infinity, clean air to fill your lungs and, man in total harmony with nature.

At The Munster

During the time that I spent in Basel, I grew quite fond of walking up to the Munster. The hilly walk up to the Munster was originally a Celtic site in the 6th century BC. Later,  between 1100 and 1500 AD, the Munster was built up, as a Catholic cathedral. It is now a reformed Protestant church.

The Munster is on the little hill, overlooking the Rhine. The first time that I was there, on a Sunday, I watched the faithful leave the Munster and head straight for the charming little restaurants next to it. On a sunny spring morning, people would sit outside, drink beer and eat. Good food after good prayers. All was quiet, all was peaceful. It seems as if the world was properly ordered, with no tension, no worry, no streets filled with teeming beggars.

Sometimes I wonder, which is the better life? In my travels, and my dialogues with many people, they talk about the life in India, the colour, the noise, the overall sense of a restless energy being thrust into your face. Here, life is ordered, some would even say – dead. But, which is the better? The restless energy that is thrust into your face, or this seeming calm?

The life that India thrusts into your face reveals the social tensions that are always bubbling to the surface, and if you scratch, you can either see beauty or the almost corrupt cruelty that is a part of daily life. On a quiet Sunday morning, as I would climb down the steps behind the Munster, and sit with with my book by the river side, I wonder what lies beneath the calm waters of Swiss life. Is all well, or does the calm water hide deep currents of deep discontent that do not rise to the surface.

The red sandstone architecture and the coloured roof tiles make the Munster a beautiful place indeed. The river side behind it is a model of charm, and it is really great to see people just walking around enjoying the clean air and the river.

Yes, the rivers in Europe are used well. There is life here, life that is calm, unhurried; life that does know how to take the pleasure of a lazy Sunday morning, and turn in into something altogether beautiful.

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