Saturday, 28 December 2013

Albert Camus: The Artist

Each time a writer writes he puts a little of his soul into his work. As his work grows, a spectator is allowed a peek inside his mind. To an onlooker, at first it might seem that he is caught up in a kaleidoscope of the myriad shades of glass as seen in white light. It is bedazzling. So, the onlooker must be careful to shield his eyes or better yet close them for his own good. These shards are nothing but pieces of the artist’s soul. He embeds each piece in his work. In some he puts a little of his spirit, in some others he dips these shards into hues of other people’s reality and personality and thus gives us a reflection of his own soul and inadvertently a picture of the life and time of which he is an inextricable part. He stands at the center witnessing life with both its point and pointlessness or meaning and meaninglessness.

Courtesy: Ehnemark, Jan via Wikimedia Commons

A beautiful line comes to my mind as I think of this. 

"You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life." 
-Albert Camus

I don’t think that I would be able to go on here without mentioning Camus and his contribution to literature and philosophy.

Born into a poverty stricken Pied Noir family with a cat named Cigarette, the professional quirk of writing while standing and Jean-Paul Sartre as a friend turned lifelong rival, Albert Camus was the second youngest person and the first African born writer to be honoured with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 for his work "Reflexions sur la Guillotine" (Reflections on the Guillotine) against Capital Punishment.

There is no teacher like ‘Life’ because she lives with you from the moment of your inception until your last dying breath. “You cannot create experience, you must undergo it”, he said once and so Life taught him much. It was a different world then where people led strange lives during a difficult war time.  And so, Camus wrote much about human frailties, exposed the internal working of man’s psyche and became a firm proponent of the concept of ‘Absurdism’ which finds speech in his famous essay “The Myth of Sisyphus’.
Naked language that needed no support of extravagant words and thoughts stripped of all superfluity, Albert Camus was a writer whose works till date are an exposè of the veritable ramblings and musings of a common man.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Varanasi: The Sacred Heart of India

It’s 5:30 am and a brilliant orange ball perched on a puffy white cloud stretched itself, pacing its way gently through the calm grey blue of the wide undisturbed sky. It looked like a mystical drama with the universe playing its enchanting part in the ordinary lives of the humans who inhabit the shores of the Ganges in a city like none other: Varanasi.

Courtesy: Orvalrochefort/Creative Commons/Flickr  

Watching the beautiful sunrise, a little boat trip would take you across the Ganges, from one ‘Ghat’ to another as you take in the breath taking beauty of an ancient civilization that still manages to live its present while beautifully wrapped in the culture, traditions and dignity of its glorious past. 

As you enjoy this soothing boat ride, you see the city waking up from its slumber and soon you see people milling about, the priests or the ‘pujaris’ as they are called in the local dialect performing their set of morning prayers with a religiosity that will beckon your admiration while the pilgrims, tourists and the locals go about their own business. With the Ganges flowing, Varanasi is a delightful place to find yourself in as you sit and reflect, to introspect and heal spiritually. Many a times you shall hear people testifying to sudden inspirations and knowledge while sitting at the Ghats, or listening to the chiming bells in the temples.Wherever you go, you will easily find sages and priests offering prayers, performing ritual ‘aartis’ and handing out ‘Prasad’ to all those pilgrims who come seeking divine blessings.

Varanasi, Kashi, Benares

Many names for what is essentially the ‘Soul of India’. There’s something sacred in its air and sooner or later it gets you; it soothes you and calms you. Hailed as the city of Gods, ‘Varanasi’ lends an overwhelming experience to anyone who touches its holy shores washed by the Ganges herself. Even this poetic name comes from the union of the river ‘Varuna’ and a small stream known as ‘Asi’.

What makes Varanasi so unique?

    Courtesy: Meenakshi Payal/Creative Commons/Flickr

Well, there is so much that makes this land such a representative of the Indian culture and society. Let’s see, the city is old with its traditions, ways and culture spanning hundreds of years, yet elements of the new can be witnessed in the way the city has gradually developed with time.  Travelling to Varanasi is so easy. It is connected by the airport, the rail route and the roadways. If you wish to stay, then this city offers a range of options from the likes of Radisson and Ramada to small hotels, guest houses and dhaam shalas to make your stay a comfortable one. The colourful fabrics sported by the people, the silks, brocades, muslins and not to forget the world famous ‘Benaresi Saris’ (a must have in the trousseau of every Indian Bride), present a visual feast for any shopaholic while the rich and spicy platter or ‘Thali’ as it is called by the indigenous of the Northern India gives wafts of delicious aroma truly sensational and never fail to tickle your taste buds. And that is not all, mingled with this exotic profusion of colours, flavours, aromas and delicacies is the essence of Indian spirituality that lives and breathes in the very air of the place. Be it the Ghats, the cleansing waters of the Holy Ganges revered as a mother or the temples with their intricate carvings beckoning throngs of believers to their inner sanctum, Varanasi is a haven for each and every person. It is a place where you find solace.

Make sure when you plan your next trip, reserve a special seat for this holy city and give it the time it rightfully deserves.