Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Kingdom in Exile: Dharamshala

'There is a saying in Tibetan, “Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.” No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster'
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.

After a twelve hour ride in an HRTC (Him Pride) bus from Delhi, an overnight journey, we got off at Dharamshala ISBT late morning on a cool clear day. At first it seemed like any average town in the foothills of the Himalayas, but after a five minute walk we came across a Caucasian girl, the sight of whom is still vivid in my mind. She must have been around 25. She was tall, had grey eyes, and yes she was very pretty and had a charming smile. She was also donning a bright red kasaya (Buddhist robe), wearing a serene expression, and had a clean shaven head. Pun unintended, she exuded a particular radiance, associated with the monks of lore. We realized then that we have come to a different world, a spiritual oasis, secluded in this niche of the Himalayas. Dharamshala indeed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No place like home: Jaipur

No one is truly a gypsy. There is always that one place that you are tied to, and you can always feel a the pull towards it. Jaipur City was where I was brought up and have spent most of my life. So that's where I start from.

My house is in the very center of the city in the locality of C-Scheme. Within a mile from there is a famous landmark of Jaipur, a tall figure of the the city's founder with a royal canopy, made completely in white marble. The figure itself is erected on a major cross road and due to lack of other highly creative names, the point is known as Statue Circle. The Statue is that of Maharaja Jai Singh II, and the city too is named after him.

Jai Singh was the ruler of Amber, a small palace town situated 11 kilometers from Jaipur. Concerened about growing population of Amber, he decided build a new city. Being an intellectual with interests in Sciences, Mathematics and Vastu Sastra (Indian flavor of architecture), he hired experts and scholars to chart out the plans. The result was one of the most advanced cities of 18th century India. Founded on November 18th 1727, the old city of Jaipur consisted nine blocks, wide perpendicular avenues and a heavy fortification surrounding the city with seven gates to guard it. The Statue shows Jai Singh holding an astronomical chart, a testament to his love for the cosmos.

In the evenings this place comes alive with families, frolicking teens, kids playing around and courting couples. It is one of Jaipur's oldest hangout spots. Moreover, It is surrounded by several other landmarks. There is Rajmandir, a famous movie theater, now facing tough competition from the swarm of new multiplexes opening everywhere, but it still maintains that royal charm which makes it irreplaceable. There also a hotel/restaurant/bar called Jeffery's (now Henry's, trademark issue) nearby dominating the skyline. Right next to Jeffery's (now Henry's) is a series of snack stalls serving good hygienic food, which is remarkable considering a famous open sewer dominates the place's ambiance.