Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Inexplicable events

Some things leave you happy, some things leave you in awe,
some inspire respect and some evoke pity.

And then there are some things that make you say with genuine disbelief - "What the #%&@!"

It's an outright crazy place, with crazy people right from the Pharoahs to the modern day office going Egyptian. There is crazy traffic on the streets, and there are the crazy vendors, there are stupendous monuments and there is the crazy belief in the will of God.

After staying here for more than a weak, one simply gets immune to anything outrageous. Bizarre is routine here.

But it touches you and makes you see things in an unprecedented way.

When we chatted at the dining table during family breakfast and lunches back in Mumbai , dad would tell us stories and events of his childhood. And they seemed to be so different from the incidents of my childhood. And then, bhai (grandpa) would tell us stories of HIS childhood, and they almost seemed like a chapter of history. He would talk about things I could not comprehend or imagine. And I would be fascinated... it was like getting an insight into the world fifty years before my time.

And today I walked through the Egyptian Museum. I am drained. Not drained by any physical fatigue, but simply by running through my mind a self-created movie of life not fifty or hundred or five hundred or even thousand years ago, but something that happened more than four thousand years ago. While the growth of this civilization has been articulated by several historians, writers, artists in admirable ways, it has moved me enough to express my two pence worth of adulations at the cost of pale redundancy.

There was something about these people that make you uncomfortable. They did make some monumental structures, and they did make mind blowing paintings... but that is not what really strikes you. Although it is commendable that they could come up with the math required to build the pyramid so high, or the knowledge of chemistry to come up with colors that survived through 5000 years, it is their sense of logic that hits you the most... enough to make you uncomfortable within your skin. It was the proof of the development of the human mind that happened then, that does not fall in place with my view of evloution. Philosophy, logic, rationale - all these perhaps are essential for survival in any age whatsoever. But I kinda assumed that having a structured philosophy or a defensible rationale happened much later... It may be that one does not agree with their ideas and philosophies (of resurrection or power of the Pharoahs), but one cant deny that there existed a well-founded (that being a relative term) for all their actions that we see today. They were a people who knew what they were doing... and that too so well that the unity and strength of their beliefs is what made them a civilization that generated awe and inspiration and a unique respect from all those who came later.

And the process of mummification makes you bow involuntary to the mind of the genius. There, in the museum, right in front of me, lied the proof of intense knowledge and talent that existed back in those days.
When I stood in the mummy room alone, seeing the bodies, the signs of well-combed hair, the cleaned nails, and the organs of men who lived 5000 years back, I was in daze. I could not believe it. I still cant. It could not have been. Could I really be seeing the actual hair and skin of the man who lived several milleniums ago?

Recommending a trip to Egypt would be redundant. I can only say that even if one is 'not into those kinds of historical things', one will get into them. And if one is, then nothing compares to actually seeing the manifestation of that crazy people in real.
As for me, the ankh is attached to me for good (pun intended).

Thursday, May 01, 2008


There is what you know and read about in the random travel mags on the flight/online,
And then there is the stark truth you can see for yourself.

There is hassling and juggling through the persistent salesmen,
And then there is the friendly invitation to chai... as a symbol of Egyptian hospitality.

There are expensive restaurants with 'awesome steak' and KFCs and pizza parlors,
And then there is the gastronomic orgasm while eating the Falafal and sipping tamarinda.

There is smoke and dust and dirt...
And there is the single felucca sailing through the pure waters of Nile like a dreamy scene of a Hindi movie.

There can be loud commotion everywhere,
Until your ears filter out the noise and you lose yourself into the faint sound of Arabic music.

There is irrefutable proof of 5000 years of civilization... and the crazy genius of the Pharoes,
And then there is all the unabashed brutal reality of raw human nature... untouched by any element of civilization.

Egypt is surely a place that can test your patience. But just like the ankh, it always gives you energy for more life...