It is time for true hero-worship of our country. To bring in the changes that matter – not just in words but in deeds.
A decade or so ago we were living in England. Once while travelling from one town to another, I caught sight of a signpost saying ‘Shakespeare’s home: 10 miles”. As we travelled the signposts became bigger and the distance shorter to the aforesaid destination. When we were a couple of miles away from the famous home we had become so curious that in spite of our port of call being different, we took a detour to see the place.
What we saw was a humble home, neatly kept. After paying a substantial entry fee we went around the property. Such incidents are commonplace, but brought home an important point. Shakespeare was and is one of the greatest writers of his times. The way the people of that town had preserved his legacy, and still maintain it, was exemplary.
My travels have taken me to different places in Europe and other places in Asia. One thing I noticed, which was common to all these places, was how beautifully they preserve their past and blend it aesthetically with modern structures.
Places like Prague, Amsterdam and Tashkent are a treasure trove of historical buildings. The huge churches and cathedrals, the old bridges lined with breath- taking sculptures, the gargoyles looking at you from roof tops, and the way nature has been woven into the tapestry of these towns and cities is fascinating. What is even more tantalizing is the way the new architecture has embraced the old.
Nothing seems amiss. It is one big beautiful picture to behold. Every nook and corner looks perfect. I remember once while walking in Lucerne, Switzerland, I came across a wooden cottage built on the bank of a rivulet. The cottage was half- burnt. Interestingly someone had put tubs of colourful flowers on the remaining window sills. The effect was so dramatic that even this dilapidated structure didn’t look out of place.
In truth, all one ever does is reach another destination which is hurrying one along,
Only to set off again, perhaps ultimately to reach that inconstant place I only call “home”
Because it accumulates more rituals than others…
Back home, India is a gold mine of history and every vein vibrates with cultural vitality. Every state you visit, every region you discover is so rich in culture it leaves you asking for more. In each village and in every town, people have a story to tell, a song to sing. The vastness of Ladakh, the lush green Western Ghats, the mighty Ganges and majestic Brahmaputra, the Valley of Flowers, the tigers and elephants which not many countries can boast of – we have them.
Travelling to Ladakh, one comes across these impressive monasteries, build over six or seven hundred years or more ago. One is awestruck as to how the monks ever brought alive these mammoth structures in the desolately stark rocky terrain.
Looking closer you see the hand-drawn story of The Buddha and his times beautifully painted on the walls and roofs. Pictorial messages and intricate mandalas are seen all around.
Then as your eyes become accustomed to the beauty around, you spot “Ram loves Reena” etched over our history, destroying it without a thought or remorse. It must have taken someone years to make the tapestry, but it took someone mere minutes to efface it, leaving a scar for future generations to see.
A few years ago, a film crew were shooting at the Red Fort in New Delhi. To accommodate a camera the team conveniently removed a portion of a wall – a part of their own history and legacy. The shooting was later stopped, but the damage was done forever.
In remote parts of Uttarakhand, one used to come across ancient temples, nestled in the most scenic places and untouched beauty. Over the years rogue hands have built shops and structures in close proximity to them. The people who should have been protectors of these temples are instead the ones sticking hoardings on the 500-year-old stones.
…there are plenty of travellers who never get further than the first step. They follow their impulse to disappear. But in this façade, they penetrate neither to a state of joy nor to a fulfilment of their own needs, but merely get caught up in photographs, in their own countries, in their origins, or in analogies to things they find familiar. And consequently, never get away from themselves.
Roger Willemsen (The Ends of the Earth)
Our education system is geared to teach us how to pass examinations, but we are not prepared for what to do with the information acquired. Similarly, we have been graced with rich history, art and culture, but why and how we should be proud of, and look after what we have been passed on is something nobody seems to care about.
We become nationalistic for reasons unknown even to us, but when it comes to the preservation of our past and taking it forward, with our heads lifted in pride, we shy away. Someone rightly said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
It is time for true hero-worship of our country. Bring in the changes that matter – not just in words but in deeds. Whenever the hands of destruction are raised to casually deface a wall or cut an unsuspecting tree the, remind yourself that it is your own, given to you with the belief that you will conserve it and pass it on to the next generation unscathed.