If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Anirban's Rajasthan

These pictures were taken by my friend Anirban Dasgupta. He wrote to me: ‘I am sure you would agree [Rajasthan] has a unique appeal. Along with its natural beauty, it has an extremely rich history. ... If you love history then surely Rajasthan is a must visit. In fact, I do wish to return to the forts once again, especially Chittorgarh. Walking through the ruins there is an overwhelming experience. I felt as if I could visualise the night when thousands of women jumped into a huge well of fire ... the whole area illuminated with the light from it  ... their shrieks ... the next morning with the sun rising in the east, the main gate of the fort is opened and thousands of men in saffron robes rushing to battlefields below shouting “Har Har Mahadev”. ... what a morning it would have been!’

Amber Fort, Jaipur

Amber Fort, Jaipur

Adinath Temple, Ranakpur

In Rajasthan, the barren landscape has been complemented by exquisite creations of men.  



Meherangarh Fort, Jodhpur

A Courtroom, Meherangarh Fort

The Meherangarh Fort in Jodhpur was built in the fifteenth century by a Rathore King, Rao Jodha. His descendants fortified the structure over the next centuries. I found this interesting piece of information in Wikipedia:

The foundation of the fort was laid on 12 May, 1459 by Jodha on a rocky hill nine kilometres to the south of Mandore. This hill was known as Bhaurcheeria, the Hill of Birds. According to a legend, to build the fort, Jodha had to displace the hill’s only human occupant, a hermit called Cheeria Nathji, the Lord of Birds. Upset at being forced to move out, Cheeria Nathji cursed Rao Jodha: “Jodha! May your citadel ever suffer from scarcity of water!” Rao Jodha managed to appease the hermit by building a house and a temple within the fort very near the cave the hermit had used for meditation. Jodha then took an extreme step to ensure that the new site proved propitious; he buried in its foundations a man called Rajiya Bhambi, a Meghwal, alive. You’ve guessed it right! Meghwals are amongst the scheduled castes in modern India.

Rajiya was promised that in return, his family would be looked after by the Rathores. To this day Rajiya Bhambi’s descendants live in Raj Bagh, Rajiya's Garden, an estate bequeathed to them by Jodha.

A slice of history: In the fort, you can also see hand imprints of some women who committed Sati. I would request you to left-click on the image twice to see the details. You'll see that the hands belonged to women of different ages. At least one (extreme right in the second row) looks like the hand of a little girl. 

What went through the minds of these women when they placed their hands to get the imprint?

In the picture below, you see the Sun Temple at Ranakpur, which was built in 14th/15th Century. This temple in Pali district (between Jodhpur and Udaipur) reminds one of Halebidu in Karnataka and Konark in Orissa. Who says India is a country that was stitched together by the British colonialists? 

Please left-click on the picture to see the details

Anirban, an amateur photographer, lives in Kolkata and runs a software firm with his friends. Thank you Anirban, for allowing me to post your beautiful pictures on this blog. 

And to my dear Readers, let me repeat: to see the details, please left-click on all the pictures. They look even more gorgeous when expanded.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Winners take it easy

All great sportspersons perform well when the stage is big. If it be true, Rafael Nadal (born 3 June 1986) ought to be amongst the greatest tennis players of all times. He has won 82% of the 11 Grand Slam finals he’s played. An astonishing statistic!

Nadal lived in an apartment in his hometown Manacor, Mallorca with his sister and parents until his parents separated in 2009. The trophies that have been in his home include nine Grand Slam titles, three Davis Cups, and an Olympic gold medal. A little away from his home, a Main Belt asteroid discovered in 2003 was named after him: 128036 Rafaelnadal.

Rafael Nadal won the last three Grand Slams he played: the Wimbledon, the French Open, and the US open in 2010. If he wins the Australian open that began yesterday, he will become only the third man in history to win four Grand Slams in a row, after Don Budge and Rod Lever. In an article in The Independent on 16th January, Paul Newman writes:

… but Nadal himself insists that he feels under no more pressure than normal. “This may be the only opportunity in my career to do this, but that’s not the reason I will feel any pressure here,” he said yesterday. “The pressure is just the same at every Grand Slam event. You want to play well in the important tournaments. Whether I win a fourth Grand Slam in a row is not something that’s on my mind. What’s on my mind is trying to play well ….

So here is a young man – not even 25 – at the threshold of making history. And he seems unconcerned about its significance. While reading this amazing statement, I felt that a true champion takes it easy. If you want to win, you have to shed the fear of losing.

Newman goes on to write that Nadal considers the task of winning four Grand Slams in a row to be “almost impossible”. Asked how special it would be, he replied: “I think it’s better if we continue with another question. Seriously, I can’t answer this because I haven’t thought about it.”

What areas of his game would he hope to work on this year? “Everything,” he said. “My serve can still improve a lot. I think I am serving better, but it's never going to be enough. You can play more aggressively. You can play more inside the court. You can go more times to the net. You can return a little bit more aggressively. You can play longer. You can play closer to the lines. … In tennis you can improve all your career. …”

That Nadal, one of the greatest sportsmen of all times, thinks that nothing about his game is good enough is food for thought for ordinary mortals like us. When we set targets for ourselves to excel in any field, how much do we aspire? 

Also, in every field, you have champions – from V S Naipaul to John McEnroe – who are bursting with conceit and arrogance. But people like Rafael Nadal, whose humility matches their enormous talent, have a special place in our heart.

Nadal played at Chennai Open in 2008. He was upset after experiencing abject poverty first hand. Since then, he has supported charitable causes from Balearic Islands in Spain to Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh. He has an academy there. His foundation has also worked in Anantapur Educational Centre project. Nadal and his friend and closest rival, Roger Federer have joined hands to support charities the world over. I wish our champion cricketers, who roll in money but can think of nothing better than opening expensive restaurants, thought the same way.

Nadal suffered from a viral infection during his first tournament this year at Qatar. According to Newman, he has been feeling better since arriving in Australia but could not be sure how he would feel once he started playing matches. “After what I had in Doha, I’ve felt a little bit more tired than usual when I’ve been practising and I’ve been sweating more than ever,” he said. “I’m feeling better, but I don’t think I’m perfect.”

I join his countless admirers in wishing him all the best for the tournament and beyond.

Postscript: In February 2010 Rafael Nadal was featured in the music video of Gypsy, with the Columbian Singer Shakira, a household name after her Waka Waka song in the last Football World Cup. The still from the video is courtesy Wikipedia. You can see the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCE-QdWd1qQ

Monday, 17 January 2011

Remembering Binayak

I came across this letter to the editor in the Statesman two days ago (15 Jan 2011). I feel I must share this with you.


In 1969, I went to Vellore for the treatment of our month-old son. The day after our arrival, a group of medical students in the Christian Medical College and Hospital entered the paediatric ward. Among them was a bright young man aged less than 20. He spoke to me in Bengali and said he was Binayak Sen.

At once I felt that I had met a younger brother, more so because my maiden surname is also Sen. During our week’s stay in Vellore, he helped us in every way, even took us for sightseeing.

While walking along the streets in the town, he stood in front of the post office and said, he would send a telegram to his younger brother to wish him on his birthday which fell on that very day, 7 February 1969. One afternoon, as we were packing our bags to leave our hotel for the return journey  to Kolkata, a beaming Binayak had come to see us off. He carried our luggage to the taxi, accompanied us to the railway station and helped us to board the train. I still vividly remember him standing on the railway platform waving us good-bye.

I have known him only for a few days. He is now in the news and I am shocked to learn that he has been sentenced to life imprisonment for sedition. He is a kind-hearted, sympathetic, amiable, polite, soft-spoken and helpful person.

Binayak and sedition, Binayak and life-sentence. I simply cannot co-relate. I am 79 and terribly sad over the news. I hope and pray that everything will move in the right direction very soon and that wonderful person will be hale and hearty and smiling as ever before.

Yours, etc.,

Dipti Dasgupta, Sodepur, 7 January.