Thursday, April 14, 2011

It is now becoming impossible to put into words what unfolds each day in this wondrous city

It is now becoming impossible to put into words what unfolds each day in this wondrous city
Krakow, Poland     Apr  12/13,  2011     Tue/Wed  1 : 25 AM
It is now becoming impossible to put into words what unfolds each day in this wondrous city. I sit down at my desk and ruminate where and how one should start. I make mental notes throughout the day and each hour I feel the need to start again because the events that follow have overtaken those that went by.
Sitting atop the balcony of the picturesque National Museum, looking down over the main square, I am asked early in the morning through an interview what brings me to Krakow, why and how I feel about my visit my impressions of the place and whether I am surprised that the Poles have interest in Hindi and Hindi Cinema.
I do not have an adequate answer. I do not have any answer at all. I fumble with my words at giving a credible reply, but fail. Each day has been more rewarding than the other. Each moment made special by concerned and caring hosts and each location that I am introduced to leaves me searching for the apt expression to describe its value and its presence.
At the New University and in its time cared legacy, one is exposed to the wondrous tales of invention and discovery. To the custom and grandeur and protocol and pageantry of the times gone by. Of the importance that was directed towards education and the right atmosphere and condition and personnel to pursue this most essential requirement. The time and money spent in building the ambience towards learning, of creating structures that would remain through the ages, symbols that would be remembered through time immemorial. The vision and the process of thought, the right choice of those that taught and those that learnt, the environment filled with aesthetic ambience, in order that the student felt privileged to be in those magnificent surroundings.
In one of their ornate halls, and there are several such, the Dean unveiled the portrait of my Father, painted by a local artist from a picture that I had given them and then went on to commit that the library that was under construction would name its Hindi Section after my Father. An honor and an accomplishment which one would not have dreamed about ever. Poland, Krakow, University, Sanskrit, Hindi, Father’s legacy with them … just not being able to comprehend. But it all happened and happened with the kind of grace and respect that the subject demanded.
That over, we drove down an hour to Auschwitz, the concentration camps and the horror of the gas chambers during the most dastardly acts of the holocaust. The barracks where the prisoners were housed, the chambers where they were gassed, that Wall of Death where they were shot without reason and then the hair raising visuals of the tons of shaven hair sealed in glass chambers for visitors to observe, shoes, clothing, glasses, objects of personal belonging … all bringing on a surge of emotion and dumbstruck wonder on the inhuman atrocities that the Jews were subjected to.
We stand in silence inside the gas enclosure, place a wreath of flowers at the Wall of Death and come out into the open cold fresh air in pouring rain to just not wanting to believe what we had witnessed. Most of the tour that was given to us by a lady was conducted in silence. There was nothing to say. Everything was before us to imagine and access what would have transpired there. Even though there are hundreds of visitors in several different groups that move about, not a sound is heard from anyone. No one speaks, and no one exclaims. A motley crowd of tourists simply walk about from one locale to another as though in a stupor.
Returning back from the camps I get into bed for a while to try and rest away the horrid experience of this heartbreaking location, but it does not help. Still living in the world of that uncontrolled savagery I am driven across to the Theatre for a recitation of my Father’s works to an anxious, intelligent and literate crowd of limited people in a semi circular stage. And even though time is limited I am able to present a cross section of poems, making ‘Khoon ke Chape’ the most prominent one simply because its theme is similar to the emotion of the holocaust - to allow the preservation of the sites where such insufferable events occurred, so that they could remain as rude reminders of the horrendous history and that a repeat of it never took place.
Soon after the recital, limited though it was because of paucity of time, was the opening film of the festival, ‘Black’. The introductions of praise were embarrassing for me to bear. But how does one control it. I was to introduce the film and then depart, but I stayed back to see it. I was seeing it after its premier in Mumbai on the time of its release and I had to admit to the genius of  Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the Director and Producer of the film.
When honor and credit towards my country in  foreign land takes place. When Auschwitz and recitation of my Father takes place. When Black closes the day … you tell me … how does one describe these 24 hours …
I have been unable to ..
Love and good night .. it is 2:15 AM here in Poland ..
Amitabh Bachchan

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