Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Each morning we drive miles and kilometers to various destinations





Balaram Palace , Gujarat                    Jan  30 ,  2012                                         Mon  10 : 45 PM     

Mounted police to control the crowds … !! After returning from Sidhpur, the only place where the ‘shraadh’ ceremony is done for women .. so sublime and gentle and full of sanctity ..
In pensive mood at the area filled with temples and where the ‘shraadh’ is performed ..
The ‘toran’ at VadNagar, the birth place of the Chief Minister Mr Narendra Modi .. stunning and just strangely standing there as a symbol of what ? I do not have any idea .. majestic .. !!
At the prayer for Mother’s soul and its peace …


Each morning we drive miles and kilometers to various destinations, all of which have some significance in the history of the region. Each morning the crowds diligently stand by the side of roads and cheer. The smile on the faces of those that wave and scream and cheer, is poignant and sad for me. Their smile is so open and warm and honest. It is pure and simple. It is all that they have. But it is the best that they do.
Those that line the roads are from different walks of life. In the city there is the youth and the jeans and jackets and hoodies. Through the villages, there is first a sense of amazement,  and then it erupts ; their faces light up, they raise their hands in recognition and cheer, but what is most is the nature of their smile – open and warm and genuine, free from all other thought. The poor of this nation are a reflection of what truly this land stands for, believes in. Despite all the poverty and the paucity of food and house and clothing, they still remain happy and full of belief. A belief that all will change someday, that better days shall follow. They just need to pray more intensely and sincerely. The poor live through hope and fresh air, nothing more … and yes prayer ! Prayer to the God’s for mercy, for forgiveness and for the resurrection of their fate.
No matter how much we may want to do for them individually, or through collective effort it shall still never be enough. Never enough to bring them to an equal level. And if not equal then to a semblance of equality for their needs and wants.
We who have advantage of all basic needs have worked hard for its accomplishment. But so have the others. They have worked no less harder, but the Almighty showed us the way to an enlightened life. For the poor, it had some and did not have some. Why ? I still do not think that science could ever have an answer for it. I certainly do not and I am certain that many like minded would be in a similar dilemma. Which is why religion for the poor and needy is perhaps their most important crutch. They pray and they show devotion to the deities and Gods of the region, bring them along with the stories that have been associated with them for centuries, propel the truth of their existence, the values they possess and how prayer and hope can fill their life with a better tomorrow !!
It has worried me through my years of existence and worries me still because we do not have a solution for this ailment. But just like the others, I believe that hope shall be replaced by fact and fructify into more positive thought word and deed – namely, all the basic necessities required to live and survive in this world, shall come with some dignity and respect, at a time not too distant in the future.
I leave today with a heaviness, not of some physicality, but one that disturbs my mind – not such a good wave to be in possession of just when the night calls on us, to retire for the day …
Good night and with love …
Amitabh Bachchan

I was there today in one of the most congested regions of the city


Ahmedabad , Gujarat                   Jan 29/30 , 2012                                     Sun/Mon 12 : 20 AM


Uttarayan the festival of kite flying in this region, when the masses get up on their roofs, sing eat dance, play music, scream at every kite that takes off and that gets ‘cut’, by the competitor in the sky.
I was there today in one of the most congested regions of the city to get the right atmosphere for the shot and it was as you can see a bit overwhelming. But flying the kite was such a nostalgic feel. Perhaps after 60 years, during my time in my city of birth, Allahabad, that I was indulging again .. and cut my fingers too with the ‘manjha’, the crushed glass swiped thin thread that propels the kite into the air. The ‘saddi’ is the soft plainer thread that is used to tie up the kite and then fly it. But when competition starts from the other roofs, the idea is a competition of how to get rid of the other persons kite, but cutting off its flying thread. And this is done by tying to the ‘saddi’ a large length of ‘manjha’, which remains in the upper portion of the kite, so that when it encounters another kite soldier in its vicinity in the same sky they battle to cut it off – cut the tread that controls and flies the kite. Its a victory of course in the air and there is much jubilation from the roof you are at and from your team, when a few competitive kites are ‘cut’. In Allahabad or in UP, where the language is different, we used to shout – ” woh kaata !!”, ‘there we’ve cut it’ …
But really the most enthralling moment was driving back from the site … the mass of people, struggling pushing fighting the security, and their happy faces and shouts of ecstasy were just so much to be thankful for. It is difficult to control ones emotion at moments like this.
That done it was time for some philanthropy. The opening of  cancer hospital in the city, started by some US returned doctors, with the latest equipment and a motto that irrespective of he means of a patient, he or she would not be sent back because they did not have the funds to undergo treatment. All would be entertained and if they did not have the monetary support, the Hospital would consider them for free. Laudable gesture !!
Later, the Chief Minister Mr Narendra Modi dropped by at the Hotel where I was staying to meet up and to personally thank me for the work that had been done in the field of Tourism for the State. He also educated us during the course of his stay on the ‘banini bhais’ or the ‘banini  buffalo’. I do sincerely hope I have got the name right – ‘banini’ or ‘banni’ ? Not quite sure. But its details were fascinating. A unique form of buffalo who’s quality of milk never suffered with extreme changes in climate. The tested milk would be the same if the buffalo was in  -23 degrees temperature or at + 52 degrees. And this species is only found in Gujarat – or so I was informed !!
There is a move to cross breed the cow found in the Gir forest region with their counterparts in Argentina ! Thats a long way away !!
But most of the afternoon after all these formalities was spent in watching the Australian Open Tennis final between Nadal and Djokovic. And what a match that was. On to a 5 setter and not a scratch of evidence throughout the game as to who the possible winner or champion would be. So intense and rugged the game was. Went on to create a record in its timings – beyond 5 hours ! No other Grand Slam Final had been played so long before …
I really feel most concerned for the girl friends of these champions that sit along with their team in the stands, with a prayer and expectation on their faces all the time. They must loose some serious pounds during each of these competitions !!
Tomorrow another early call, another fascinating location, another long drive and another new habitat for the night .. we are the roaming minstrels of the modern age !!
Love to you and shubh ratri ..
Amitabh Bachchan 

Patan Gujarat a good 3 hr drive from Ahmedabad


Patan , Gujarat                      Jan 28 ,  2012                               Sat 8 : 01 PM




Patan, Gujarat a good 3 hr drive from Ahmedabad one of the main cities of this state, and this step well. Enormous, incredible carving and even more incredible the concept. The rounded portion is the well and instead of dropping a rope down to collect the water, they built steps to get down to the bottom or the face of the water and each step is an entire floor or platform ornately built in some of the most incredible carvings that I have ever seen. The Solanki Kings built it around the AD 1022 and it remained buried in earth for centuries until some Western travelers saw a small protrusion of one of the arches and started digging to unveil this work of absolute genius. Each step is large enough to house and entire metro city high rise floor, sheltered from above by roof and space enough for travelers to rest and spend several days by the water. Because the way down was steep and difficult to maneuver with the bucket of water that was procured, resting on the heads of the ladies that collected it, the steps to the step platform was made diagonally and in several directions to ease the climb. They say the best way to climb mountains without getting too tired is to walk up diagonally. We used to try that in Sherwood, Nainital to much effect. Walk a few steps diagonally for some distance and then change direction to the reverse diagonal and climb again, almost zig-zag in design !
But this Rani ni Vav, or translated, the Queens Well, Vav in Gujarati means well, is an unbelievable sight. The carvings are so intricate that one does not ever want to leave the place. Not a single space is left undone and each space having a distinct design and story !!
Patan too is the place where they make the famous Patola sari. It is a craft that takes almost 3-4 years to create one sari and it is all done by hand. Many foreigners have tried to take the craft to their land and to industrialize it through machines, but it has never worked. There are just a handful of families left that make these exquisite saris and they pride themselves in being so.
This has been a great revelation and every effort to maintain this great inheritance must be exercised. The civilized world shall always hold us in judgement and hold us responsible if we did not.
But it really teaches us that centuries from now, when humanity shall come across what we leave behind in this era and age, would it live up to the standards that we see now in these ancient discoveries ..?
A thought maybe to go to sleep with and to think ..
Amitabh Bachchan 

A very Happy Basant Panchami to all


Patan, Gujarat                       Jan  28 , 2012                               Sat  10 : 51 PM

A very Happy Basant Panchami to all .. auspicious day, auspicious beginnings, auspicious feel ..

My sleep deprivation prevented me from saying what I did want to say last night, but once the wrong button was pressed and all was lost, I did not have the nerve or energy to recapture it. But I do today and so shall put in an additional ..
Here at Patan, some 3 hours away from Ahmedabad, we are at the location that also prides itself in making the Patola Saris. But of that later. First to unfinished information on the Sun Temple of Modhera.
Modhera was chosen as the site for the Sun temple because the Tropic of Cancer passes through the city. The design of the temple is such that it catches the morning rays through its front opening and goes past the first structure onto the next which is the sanctum sanctorum, the place of worship for the Sun God, which according to information by efficient guide bore a large diamond, strategically positioned to catch the sun ray. The reflection then lit up the temple. The water body is where the King first bathed, did ‘pooja’ to the 108 images of the God’s around the walls of the water body and the entered the ‘sabha grah’ or meeting place in the first structure to be in prayer. 52 pillars, intricately carved hold up this ‘sabha grah’, the number of weeks in a year. The Sun God has 12 names, after the number of months in a year – Suraj, Arun …etc. the stone used is sand stone hence the rapid wear and tear, but the artistry in carving images on it all the more difficult especially when you see how detailed and intricate it is ..
In one of the photographs you see the entire temple with a large portion of the broken plinth lying. You may notice that the base of the temple was done on the design of the lotus leaf, and as you went higher the elephants took over. There are 12 such Sun temples all over the country. One prominent one now in Multan, Pakistan and they say even in Afghanistan, for in those early days and years this was all one region. The other very prominent sun temple is in the East in the state of Orissa, or its changed name Odisa, at Konark. This one has as its base the chariot wheels. Konark is perhaps better preserved because the invaders could not reach so far. All the monuments to the West faced destruction through invasion, treasures inside looted many times over and the fine art work left in devastated ruin. Why destroy the fine and intricate architecture ? Such a painful experience to see the destruction of some of the most extraordinary craftsmanship. Hitler was an invader too and caused through the War massive destruction, not just of humans. But when he saw Paris, he desisted. He never allowed it to be bombed or destroyed and left it in its pristine artistic state. Pity many of our treasures were either stolen or reduced to rubble. The treasures looted by Mehmood Ghazni and others was immense. Nadir Shah took away the famous Peacock throne to Iran, the British among many others took away the fabulous Kohinoor diamond, which adorns the Queens Crown even today … would we ever get it back …? I wonder … !!
On special occasions the Sun temple invites guests to classical performances at the precincts. the famed Bharatnatyam is performed on the periphery of the structure and it is a delight. I have suggested to have a Son et Lumiere done too. I would be more than willing to do the commentary, just as I have to the many other heritage and important structures in the country – Khajuraho Temples, Gwalior Fort, Tirupati Fort, Golconda Fort, the Sikh Heritage Memorial, …
So do visit the photographs again and live with its glory … a glory which we are trying to restore and restructure ..
My love ..
Amitabh Bachchan

Not having slept last night in Mumbai since work


Modhera , Gujarat                Jan 27 , 2012                                 Fri  11 : 33 PA


I am sleep deprived. Not having slept last night in Mumbai since work and activities finished late and by the time it was 3 AM, it was an hour away from catching the flight to Ahmedabad and then driving a few hours to Modhera, the Sun Temple.
Exquisite is the word for it, but even that seems almost apologetic when we wish to describe the sight of this monument.
Oh dear ! this sleep deprivation has robbed me of my senses and I have mistakenly pressed a wrong button and all that I had to say in the glory of the Sun Temple I have lost. But maybe tomorrow I shall try and retrieve it ..
For tonight … good night

Amitabh Bachchan

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