Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Bury me, wherever I Die!


                                                            Bury me, wherever I Die!

Bury me wherever I die. This strange thought clicked in my mind during my travels, when I tried to calculate how much I have travelled in my life. I realized that my travelling started when I was born, as life itself is a journey. But literally I travelled after my birth with my parents and since then I am travelling and enjoying my journey as it is very joyful and eye opening.  Freya Stark says, “Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.”

My father was in a transferable job and always transfers from one place to another all over India and goes on official tours to different places, wherever he gets his postings. While visiting those places he always took us along with him, so that we can learn and explore that new place with him. We studied in different places and enjoyed different cultures of India. We lived as if we were part of it by accepting people, culture, climate, dresses, food and life style etc. But leaving that place for another was always painful and I always cried like hell and made others too. But joining a new place is always heartwarming for me, I always feel as though borders are just in our minds and I never felt that in myself. For this reason I felt as free as a bird flying and floating in the sky of joy and used to merge in each and every culture and enjoyed by accepting them as new. I feel lucky to explore so many places and to get friends not only in India but from different places of the world.
                     I opened my eyes in the beautiful valley of Kashmir which is known for its extravagant natural beauty and called 'heaven of earth'. The word Kashmir is an ancient
Sanskrit word which literally means Land of Kashyap Rishi. The Kashmiri Pandits are his descendants and have named the valley after him, Muslim monarchs ruled Kashmir, including the Mughals. Kashmiris are famous as good hosts and I always loved the way they greet people by serving different food, dry fruits, apples and gifts. Their yummy cuisine includes dum aloo (boiled potatoes with heavy amounts of spice), tzaman (a solid cottage cheese), rogan gosh, yakhiyn, hak, rista-gushtaba, danival korme, and the signature rice which is particular to Asian cultures. The traditional wazwan feast involves cooking meat or vegetables, usually mutton, in several different ways. Alcohol is strictly prohibited in most places. I liked the way they sit in a circle and enjoy food by serving in the centre of a group in a big round plate.  It shows bonding in family and love for their guests. They use beautiful fancy Kangre to keep themselves warm in winters (a basket which have clay’s pot inside with burning coal into that pot), I still have a little one as a sign of remembrance. There are two styles of making tea in the region: Noon Chai, or salt tea, which is pink in color and kahwah, a tea for festive occasions, made with saffron and spices (cardamom, cinnamon, sugar, noon chai leaves), and black tea. Nature has lavishly endowed Kashmir with certain distinctive favors which hardly find a parallel in any alpine land of the world. It is the land of snow clad mountains that share a common boundary with Afghanistan, China and Pakistan; Jammu and Kashmir is the northernmost state of the Indian Union.

The Mughal had a deep influence on this land and introduced various reforms in the revenue industry and other areas that added to the progress of Kashmir.

 I was brought up with amazing people of Kashmir, although my memories are limited as I was too young to absorb the world around me, but I still remember names of Kashmiri, Sindhi, Dugray and Punjabi friends’  who lived around my house. I love their dress fancy Faran (long woollen shirt), their yummy food, their traditional dance and caring nature, beautiful apple gardens, dry fruits gardens and aroma of saffron in long fields; huge mountains covered with while snow, all that things are still fresh in my mind. We visited beautiful places nearby Jammu, Reyasi, Palgaam, Baramulah, Tangmurg, Gulmarg, Dal Lake, Nishad bhag, Shalimaar Bhag, Hazrat-Bal, Chandigarh (Punjab) during our stay there.
After that we got trasfered to Joljebe, it was near Pethoragarh (UP) and known as sangam (union) of Gore Ganga and Dolleganga (name of two rives). This is the place located in a valley. It was a tribal area with lots of dangerous insects, reptiles and wild animals. I was amazed to see our stilt house near the river; it was like a beautiful dream location. But my mother was scared thinking about surviving there. The sound of the river was so loud that we could not sleep so many days and nights. Mosquitoes were so poisonous that it took five to six years to get rid of black marks from our body. We stayed just six months there because there was not good schooling. But I got life time experience there. I remember once our house owner shouted from her window at 8:00 pm by saying ' leopard is at your door so please none of you come out'. It was a thrilling experience that leopard is sitting at our door; all of us were badly horrified even though we were aware of the fact that our door was closed and it could not manage to come inside. And once we saw a semi nude group of tribes’ drinking water in the  river just like deer without using hands and as soon as they saw us, they ran as same as deer do.
The very interesting thing I noticed there was spring water, which came out of my friend's house's floor and they have to shift to another house over night. Nature is really full of surprising and interesting facts.
Any how my father shifted us to our grandparent’s house as Joljibie's living conditions and schooling was not suitable to us. While leaving at that place I tried to absorb natural beauty of high mountains, deep valleys, beautiful rivers, amazing waterfalls and lovely springs.

 We were shifted to Moradabad (UP) where my grandparents stayed; we had a great time with relatives and cousins but missed our father badly as he continued to stay where he was posted.  Moradabad was established by Prince Murad, the son of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, It is situated at a distance of 167 km from New Delhi. The city is nicknamed Pital Nagri, ("City of Brass") for its famous brass handicrafts industry. The city of Moradabad is on a ridge west of the river Ramganga. Moradabad has a mixture of all religions living peacefully here for years. People live here in true brotherhood. The town forms a large centre of trade in country produce. It has a special industry in ornamental brass ware, sometimes plated with tin, which is then engraved. There I got the chance to see closely small industries run in houses by small industrialists and how labors work in that. I picked lots of friends from there too. After completion of two year's posting there, our father gave us news that he got transfer to Siliguri, (West Bengal). While reaching that place I was leaving my childhood behind and entering into my teenage and thirst for exploring new places was also growing with me.

Siliguri is situated on the banks of Mahananda River in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is a principal commercial, tourism, transportation, and educational centre in the northern part of West Bengal. Siliguri, situated as it is in the plains at the base of the Himalaya mountains, connects the hill stations such as Gangtok, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik and northeast states to the rest of India.

Our house was in a campus outside the city and school was in army cantt at the other end.  I liked the huge house and lovely children park at its back and in the evening it got full by children of all ages. The city is blessed with natural beauty of flora and fauna. Beauty of this place is enhanced by its major festivals which include Durga puja ,Viskarma Puja, Saraswati puja, Dipawali, Baishaki mela is one of the oldest mela in Siliguri. I was very much surprised, when I saw people whoever they might be Christians or Muslims celebrating Durga Puja jointly with their other Hindu brothers, wearing new clothes along with all family members, walking from one Pandal (pandal is fabricated structure, either temporary or permanent, in religious ceremonies including weddings) to another taking sweets etc. All that amazed me very much, I realized that the mixed culture of Bengal may have taken centuries to build and now it has gotten so much strength that even this time, when religious fanaticism is spreading all over the world, the unity and brotherhood is unbreakable in West Bengal even in religious celebrations. Dance and singing is in roots of culture and in blood of people. I loved their language as it is very sweet and pleasing. I tried to learn speaking, reading, writing and got good command within few months. The traditional dress of man is Doti (long wrapping cloth around waist) and Kurta (shirt) and Saree of woman (a long cloth draped all over the body). I like Machair jol and Aluayer baja in food. And on their festivals they use to be in traditional dresses only, I also tried that and loved to copy them. I made lot of friends there and all of them are life time and I feel proud that they are still in my touch. Our stay was of seven years there and we explored nearby places like- Birpara, Malda, Dalcola, Kuchbihar, Chuka, Purneya, Alipurdur, Bihar state etc. T.S.Eliot says- “The journey not the arrival matters.”

 Now it’s time to leave again because of another transfer, this time leaving place was very painful as so many friends had become close to my heart and I was mixed so much in that culture that people took me as one of them. I cried a lot while sitting in taxi and so the friends who came to see us off, but then it was time to make up my mind to accept another place, culture, atmosphere etc.

 Cesare Pavese says: “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, and the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” It was almost three days train journey towards our new place, Rajasthan’s Pink city “Jaipur”. My desire to see new place was gradually getting fulfilled minute by minute.  I always preferred the window seat to absorb more and more natural scenes and experiences. After a long travel we entered the border of Rajasthan. I loved to see the golden brown colored huge rally of beautiful sand dunes on both side of the road which seemed like huge mountains of gold poured from the sky. Vegetation was only in a form of cactus plants and huge trees of babul with thorns, with limited shadow for resting. People with colorful clothes were a pleasure to watch. Ladies in bright colored dress ‘Ghagra-Cholies’ (one of Indian dress like long skirt and short top) with bright colored ‘odani’ (a long fine wrapping cloth, which women wore to cover their head and used as veil on face, they wore traditional silver jewelry in their upper arm called ‘chura’, thick bangles in wrist, a round necklace, heavy anklets and ‘bodla’ (round shaped jewellery on forehead) on their forehead which added charm to their innocent beauty. Gents in Dhoti-Kurta (long Wrapping cloths worn by men with shirt) with Pagri (turban), sitting under the huge shrubs of Kikar (a tree with thorns, found generally in Rajasthan area) smoking hookah pipe (Marra pipe) and some were playing cards. Seeing beauty and colors all over, I understood why Rajasthan is known as “Rangelo Rajisthan” (an Indian state of colors).

Lin Yutang says - “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” Is very true, we felt depleted of strength because of our long journey and wanted to reach home to get heavenly feeling.  Our house was here out of city but construction was very royal architecture.  I liked my room with balcony attached with it on first floor. Jaipur is the most beautiful city I ever came across and more I saw that more I fell in love with its historical beauty. It was founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amber, after whom the city has been named. Jaipur is known as the ‘Pink City of India’. It has cultural sites Jawahar Kala Kendra, Ravindra Manch has helped promote the culture of the state of Rajasthan. Albert Hall Museum (Government Central Museum) hosts several arts and antiquities. There is a government museum at Hawa Mahal and an art gallery at Viratnagar, museum. There are statues depicting Rajasthani culture around the city. Jaipur is a major hub for arts and crafts. Some of the crafts include bandhani; block printing; stone carving and sculpture; tarkashi; zari, gota, kinari and zardozi; silver Camels pulling loaded carts and sand all over the areas were a totally new scene for my eyes. On jewellery; gems, kundan, meenakari and jewellery; miniature paintings; blue pottery; ivory carving; shellac work; leatherware, etc. With some of my Rajasthani friends I attended their programs and functions and liked their traditional dances, most famous one is Kalbayleya done by tribal Banjara groups, and singing, I loved to wear ghagra choli with bandej orni.  Their typical dishes include Dal Baati Churma, Missi Roti, sweet dishes include Ghevar, Feeni, Gajak, Chauguni ke laddu. A number of festivals are organized in the city. Some of them include Gangaur Festival, Jaipur Literature Festival, and Teej, oothappam festival, Holi the festival of colors played on sitting on elephants. Jaipur is an extremely popular tourist destination in Rajasthan and India. The largest circulated daily newspapers in Jaipur are the Rajasthan Patrika, Dainik Bhaskar and The Hindustan Times ‘Jaipur live’ and I got honored to be part of that through my write ups, during my stay there. I visited Ballabhgarh (Haryana), Agra (UP) and a nearby city Ajmer with my family members and one family friend who put his all efforts to make that special and memorable for us, their hospitable behavior is unforgettable for me.

I did my 12th standard and joined college for graduation. After college I did job and continued my post graduation. This was my most important phase of life I was now entering from  teenage to graceful years of maturity. The world around me became more important and understandable to me. The bonding with new culture and people became stronger day by day. I was living as I was born to die there. The very time my father’s transfer came to me as bad news, I was so much in love with that culture and its people that leaving that place is almost like leaving body from a soul. I realized that moving from one place to another fills you with fun and gives you enough exposure to learn new place and culture but the worst part happens when you get attached with it and fills with pain, before leaving. But St. Augustine says - “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” So it is the time to move on, after spending seven important years of my life in Rajasthan and met many different people who showered their love and blessings on me and still are in my touch as we have become everlasting friends. I left Jaipur with a heavy heart and my new destination was Aligarh (UP), although it is a small city but famous for Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and its students all over the world. In 1875, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan founded the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College in Aligarh and patterned the college after Oxford and Cambridge, universities that he had visited on a trip to England. Aligarh is well-connected to other cities. Famous places of Aligarh fort. The Dor fortress, now in ruins, lies at the city's centre; its site is in the area now called Upper Kot and is occupied by an 18th-century mosque. Notable markets of Aligarh include the Centre Point Market, Railway Road Marke, Shamshad Market, Mahavir Ganj, (Houseking Locks) Mohammad Ali Road,Upper Fort (known as Uppar Kot),is the best place for shopping for brand Locks.Tasweer Mahal and Amir Nisha.

Before I got settled in this new city physically and mentally, my destiny had planned for me to fly outside India within few months with lots of twists and turns, I flew to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  I made up my mind by thinking “All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel: one knows that the first joy can never be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time.” – Paul Fussell

In a very first look I saw this world black and white. The men wearing white thawb (Long white dress) and women covered in black abbaya (long gown wore on full body with hijab). But I knew that I would trace colors out of that. New place, new language culture, it was like facing big challenge of life and now it has become more difficult to face. New laws were beyond my understanding and I was trying to adjust myself.

Saudi Arabia is the second-largest in the Arab world, It is bordered by Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen, the Red Sea to the west and Persian Gulf to the east. The Saudi Arabian government has been an absolute monarchy since its inception, and it describes itself as being Islamic. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and the kingdom is sometimes called "the Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Al-Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca), and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (in Medina), the two holiest places in Islam. I lived the dream of visiting these holy places which people die for; it was like soul calming and living worldly heaven.

Saudi Arabia has the world's largest oil reserves which are concentrated largely in the, oil accounts for more than 95% of exports and 70% of government revenue, although the share of the non-oil economy has been growing recently. This has facilitated the transformation of an underdeveloped desert kingdom into one of the world's wealthiest nations. Saudi Arabia's geography is dominated by the Arabian Desert, Rub' al Khali, the world's largest contiguous sand desert, there are virtually no rivers or lakes in the country, but wades are numerous with extremely high day-time temperatures and a sharp temperature drop at night. The date palm is widespread and enhances beauty of nature. Saudi Arabia has traditions often derived from Arab tribal civilization. The many limitations on behavior and dress are strictly enforced both legally and socially. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited, for example, and there is no theatre or public exhibition of films, Saudi Arabian dress strictly follows the principles of hijab (the Islamic principle of modesty, especially in dress). The predominantly loose and flowing, but covering, garments are suited to Saudi Arabia's desert climate. Traditionally, men usually wear an ankle length garment woven from wool or cotton (known as a thawb), with a keffiyeh (a large checkered square of cotton held in place by an agal) or a ghutra (a plain white square made of finer cotton, also held in place by an agal) worn on the head. For rare chilly days, Saudi men wear a camel-hair cloak (bisht) over the top. Women's clothes are decorated with tribal motifs, coins, sequins, metallic thread, and appliques. Women are required to wear an abaya or modest clothing when in public.

Football is the national sport in Saudi Arabia. Traditional music is generally associated with poetry and is sung collectively. Instruments include the rabābah, an instrument not unlike a three-string fiddle, and various types of percussion instruments, such as the ṭabl (drum) and the ṭār (tambourine). Of the native dances, the most popular is a martial line dance known as the ʿarḍah, which includes lines of men, frequently armed with swords or rifles, dancing to the beat of drums and tambourines. Bedouin poetry, known as nabaṭī, is still very popular. I have seen Saudi men dancing in groups with sword in hands during their festival or cultural events.

According to– Mark Jenkins
  “Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”

So many rules and restrictions but gradually I made myself habitual of this new place, its climate, bound culture, limitations, rules as I felt all this is for our safety and security. I got the chance to visit different cities of Saudi Arabia like- Jubail, Dammam, Khobar, Riyad, Hafuff, Jeddah, Makkah, Madina etc and neighbor countries like- Bahrain, Kuwait, Dubai etc and realized that those countries changed their culture according to time but every culture has its own charm and grace and I really enjoy that. Whenever I visit  India I try to visit the places which are untouched by me and explored Shimla, Kullu Manali (Haryana), Masuri, Chennai, Hydrabad, Kadapa, Banglore, Ooty, Mysore and my wish to explore different places is not over yet. There is a famous proverb ‘Jesa desh waysa baysh’ (means- look accordingly wherever you live). After spending so many years in different cultures and places my haunt is not over, I want to travel till my last breath and I feel I don’t belong to any particular culture, I accepted whole world as my own and have a deep desire to be buried wherever I die.
Refrences: wikipedia

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  1. Nice narration.... Lucky you that you are able to live in different cultures :)...

    Hope you will visit kerala(gods own country) one day :)

  2. Such an endearing narration!! Good work Ashi!!