I know I am a hopeless blogger and which is why I’d rather write a subject in an elaborate manner than in a concise note. I prefer to concentrate mostly on my books, covering the little known regions of India one at a time and this time it being the Northeast India.
I have been exploring the Northeast for nearly four decades now and have keenly observed her gradual transformation over the years. Though literally speaking, the region has always been intensely connected to India since time immemorial but there is a need to re-connect the region with the heartland of India once again.
Brahmaputra is mentioned in the Vedas as one of the Sapta Sindhu, i.e the seven sacred rivers along which the so called Indo-Aryan migration had taken place. This region has also been elaborately mentioned in the Mahabharata. The Arjuna-Chitrangada affair, Krishna-Rukmini episode and Bheema-Hidimba relationship, all of which had developed in this very region.
We have recently published a book titled ‘Exploring Northeast: The Seven Pristine Pearls of India’, displaying the breathtaking natural wealth of the seven states of the Northeast and its immense ethnic and unfathomable cultural diversity. Though personally I feel that the book is a must have collection item for every library in India, as well as all over the world, but I do not know how far we will be able to successfully get it across.
I have been making extensive trips to the Northeast over the last five years. However, today I feel an intense urge to share my experience relating to the Northeastern culture with you all, which I was fortunate enough to observe in my very own state, West Bengal. A large number of Manipuris come to Bengal in Nabadwip to celebrate the festival of Holi and perform religious dances in their Rajbari. I am tempted to share a few of the events here to establish the cultural refinement of the region about which we know so little.
India, my motherland has fascinated me since childhood. And now as I explore every nook and corner of this vast country, I especially realise its unfathomable richness and immense diversity.
Northeast India for whatever reason has remained little known to all of us,even to the people who’ve lived in different states of this very region.Majority of the population of India have a very vague concept about the region and only a handful of foreigners have seen this fascinating territory.
I realized that we have very little access to information about this region. There are in fact very few books that cover this region comprehensively.Presumably, to publish a book after exploring the region without any government support would not be considered to be economically viable. Not only would the entire venture need a long time but also a huge sum of investment,which only a handful of people are willing to take upon.
I decided to explore the region- capturing as much as possible in my endeavor to discover the cultural richness of our country.
Now,my book on the seven mystic states is finally ready for printing and will be published very soon. I hereby request you all to join me on my experience about this fascinating territory.
I thought it is now appropriate to share, what I was doing all these days. I do not know, why these remote areas of my own country, fascinates me more than the easily accessible destinations. When I visit these remote sectors of India, I realize, how little we know about the unfathomable natural wealth, interesting historical events, immense cultural richness and human diversity of our own country. Information is easily available regarding the mainland of India, but these remote areas still remain ‘little known ’ to the world. May be, because they are relatively difficult to explore, and even more difficult to compile information since authentic documents are not easily available.
It was a challenging experience to explore every nook and corner of Ladakh but not impossible. I, enjoyed exploring it, as much as presenting them to the world. It was a scintillating journey all through.
I have been visiting Ladakh, a remote territory in the northern corner of India since 1984. I had been there several times thereafter as the unique natural features of the Himalayas and the Karakorams fascinated me as also its two thousand years old culture. When I started reading available documents regarding Ladakh, I was astounded by many interesting facts. I took time to explore each valley to complete my ground research. I covered the territory in different seasons and eventually I had a good collection of photographs and material to inform and share.
Finally, I had the courage to present them in the form of a book titled ‘Ladakh, A glimpse of the Roof of the world’. It is not only a fascinating territory of India, but surely that of the world.
To the organizers of the Blog Action Day,
Thank you very much for selecting such a relevant topic and also inviting a lesser mortal like me to participate in this mega event.
It has been long since I have written in my blogs page, but I am unable to resist to your invitation to write about climate change on the Blog Action Day.
The day I received your invitation in the first week of October 2009, the local newspaper was flooded with the news of a recent earthquake and tsunami in the region. Tsunami batters Pacific islands, Sumatra quake toll crosses 500 and Fear of unspent strain beneath South Asia. The third topic summarised the underlying cause of the massive upheavals taking place on the Earth surface and at times under the sea in the region. I am sure many such events are taking place in the world in the recent times causing concern not only to the scientists and intellectuals but even to the average people like me. Has such events increased in number lately or is it just that the media has become more active and conscious about ecology and environment. But the fact remains, that a time has come, to increase the awareness about the damage we are doing to the environment sometimes consciously and on other occasion inadvertently. We must note the effect, the changes taking place and try our best to reduce the damage and if possible to take some corrective measures.
In this respect I would like to take this opportunity to share my experience with you and your readers about a phenomenon taking place in the Indian subcontinent which I am trying to follow and record to my best ability.
I got an opportunity to explore Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a rather remote area of the Indian Territory in the Bay of Bengal. The natural beauty of the twin archipelagos was breathtaking, the anthropological wealth mind boggling and finally, the richness and the diversity of flora and fauna of the region was unfathomable. Incidentally, many islands of the twin archipelagoes were occupied for long for various purposes by the European community and the Japanese (during Second World War) till as late as the middle of the twentieth century. The history of the place is also thus quite interesting. I was flabbergasted by the overall experience of my stay there.
A massive tsunami caused havoc in the region on the morning hours of 26th Decenber 2004. Over two hundred thousand people perished in the subcontinent in eleven countries. Nicobar Islands my dream destination, was devastated by the catastrophe. As the population of the remote district was comparatively less, loss of over ten thousand human lives in the entire archipelago attracted less attention of the world in comparison to the total loss of lives in the event in other zones.
I was astounded by the wrath of Nature which I noticed in The Nicobar Islands during my visits to the archipelago following tsunami. Due to a possible tilt in the ocean plate many areas of several islands were submerged. Sea had engulfed vast areas of some islands. As almost all the inhabited islands had flat terrain with little elevation they easily got inundated by the submersion of the land.
Majority of the villages were located right on the coast causing high percentage of loss of lives as huge waves washed the localities with unprecedented fury. The people were not aware of such events and have never heard of such a phenomenon excepting in the religious and mythological stories. Majority of the villages on the coast were devastated and the resultant social changes following the event was unimaginable.
The islands of the region particularly the Nicobar group were protected by the coral reefs around them which had grown around the islands for many hundred years. Only gentle waves reached the shores because of the natural barrier. Giant waves of tsunami had uprooted the coral reefs and thrown huge chunks on the interior of the islands thus exposing the soft coast to the sea. Giant monsoon waves are now easily approaching the coast causing erosion of the islands.
I would like to share with you few photographs of the archipelagoes which I have managed to capture during my visits.
Post-Tsunami (March 07)
Grub Island situated in the Mahathma Gandhi Marine National Park has remained intact but has lost much of its spectacular sandy beaches. In fact, the gradual change in the topography of the beach of the island during the post-tsunami period has provided a good opportunity to study the continuing readjustment of the Ocean plate. One half of the circular beach all around the island was lost immediately after tsunami (see photograph JulÃ¢â‚¬â„¢05) due to a significant tilt of the Ocean plate. However, the serial photograph captured in MarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢07 shows that the shape of the beach has changed further and has now become tongue-shaped, possibly due to a reduction in the tilt of the Ocean plate and further submersion of the island.
The southern end of the Car Nicobar Island, during pre-tsunami period, extended well into the sea. As is evident from the post-tsunami photograph, the sea has engulfed this extended end to a great degree blunting the tip. The giant Tsunami waves on that fateful day caused some changes, while at a later date, gradual soil erosion has caused further changes in the shape. The coastal greenery has been completely washed away by the giant Tsunami waves. However, the dense mixed jungle at the centre of the island has remained unaffected. The sea waves, post tsunami are larger and causing extensive soil erosion.
Car Nicobar Island used to have a protective coral reef ring all around during the pre-tsunami period. The strength of the sea waves would abate while crossing the reef and only gentle waves would reach the shore. As the corals got completely uprooted and thrown on the land by the giant waves of Tsunami, the seashore now lies completely exposed. Uninterrupted huge monsoon waves are now hitting the coastline with tremendous fury causing unbelievable erosion of the coastline everyday. Kakana beach, which used to have gentle waves due to coral reefs, is now being battered by giant waves.
I hope you have enjoyed this presentation.
I am publishing books describing the natural wealth of the archipelagoes and the effect of tsunami in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. I would like to share my entire experience and photographs with the readers. I would be grateful for suggestions and guidance in this respect from your viewers in my endeavour.
At the very outset I must apologize for the long break in writing my blog.
Often I may have the time but struggle to find the right mood to express a deeper feeling.
It is easy to misunderstand the attitude of the people of Goa.
But I feel it is not that simple to understand a culture and the philosophy of their existence. It is not fair to judge everybody with one’s own yardstick. I have used a word Sosegado which is actually the essence of Goan existence. I would like to elaborate on that before I progress further.
I had read somewhere many years ago, a Goan had described the actual meaning of socegado – I liked the passage and copied it at that time. I would like to reproduce it (though it is not my piece and now I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even remember from where I had collected it). But the description is unparalleled and I wanted to share it with everybody.
Moreover I believe only a Goan has the right to explain the meaning of the word.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe mystic of Ã¢â‚¬ËœSocegadoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢
The tourist on his first visit to Goa is bound to hear the word Ã¢â‚¬ËœSocegadoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ perhaps several times a day, uttered by several people on several vastly different occasions. It is indeed a baffling word and to date, nobody has come out with a synonym for the word. A Goan would be puzzled that you need to explain Ã¢â‚¬ËœsocegadoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ for to the true blue Goan it is as elementary as the sun or the sea.
The nearest substitute would beÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ leisureÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ but admittedly it is a poor substitute. It falls grievously short of the splendid connotation of the Goan word. It denotes a sense of lethargy but devoid of the stigma of torpidity or sluggishness. It could mean Ã¢â‚¬Ëœtake it easyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ but without invoking the cardinal fault of procrastination. It is perhaps a little bit of both these attributes combined with a sense of timelessness that lifts it above the level of laziness.
It is an extremely practical acceptance of the impossibility of cramming everything into today coupled with a cheerful , optimistic consciousness of tomorrow to come. It is the GoanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s invariable rejoinder to any attempt to rush him into anything. It symbolizes the leisurely pace of life even to which the brakes are applied almost in toto for the afternoon siesta when all Goa slumbers blissfully.
When you can, with a clear conscience, leave the file in the tray marked Ã¢â‚¬ËœURGENTÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and take off to a Ã¢â‚¬ËœtavernaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ or bar, savour your glass of local feni and breathe the atmosphere of relaxation then you are possibly coming closer to the mystery of Ã¢â‚¬ËœsocegadoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
Incidentally, feni is a typical Goan brew made from the coconut palm or the cashew fruit. It is definitely not for the faint hearted, it is a taste to be acquired. It is said that once you do acquire the taste for feni, no other liquor can compare with its full bodied frothy flavour. And once a feni lover, always a feni lover. Then you have moved a further step closer to mastering the mystery of Ã¢â‚¬ËœsocegadoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
Do not however try to force the pace, for that is against the very spirit of Ã¢â‚¬ËœsocegadoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
It is tranquility and total willingness.
It is indeed the Goan way of life.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
What do you think, my friends?
IsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢nt it very confusing and unrealistic in the context of modern world living.
But fortunately or unfortunately that is what prevails in the Goan society, good or bad, they love to enjoy life in their own way. Money is needed all right, but plays a little less role in their state of happiness.
It is indeed a different world all-together.
It belongs possibly to moon and possibly that is why moon looks so closer from there,
almost within telepathic distance.
No my description of Arambol cannot be yet over.
How can it, it was only the afternoon when I left you to take the compulsory afternoon break which is popularly described as socegadu by the Goans; when everything stops including one’s mind.
This is a very complex subject and a word incomprehensible for the many non-Goans. Probably you wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even find it in any dictionary, but the Goan dictionary ends with that one word. However, as and when I find the time, I would like to deal with the subject of socegado in a little more detail. Please excuse me for the time being while I indulge in it for a bit.
As you get up from your afternoon slumber you see the tired evening sun leisurely descending down on the western sky. A group of young men gather in front in the beach and start kicking the football which I believe is the most popular game of the world for obvious reason. It does matter where one is born, everyone enjoys this fascinating game. Neither does one need much paraphernalia to enjoy the madness playing this magnificent game. Any circular object will suffice, be it a coconut, or when available a leather ball. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s it. There after it is time for total fun and happiness.
But if you watch carefully the boys having an enjoyable football match on the beach in Arambol you may notice something interesting. The two teams are almost always from different continents. Their skin colour maybe different as maybe their attitude towards life and their basic requirements; but it does not matter as long as the ball is being kicked while in the fading dusk, the sun provides just enough illumination for the exercise.
I mean, you will soon realize that on the beach it is an European team is up against a local Goan side. An official encounter between an European football team and an Indian team is rare in this part of the world but an unofficial match is on every evening in Arambol during winter months.
A large number of tourists in Arambol are from Europe (almost all) and many of them spend a long time there. The crowd that usually gathers there probably is not very busy in their own world and has found the time to spend in leisure. It is very much like the Goans themselves.
Amongst the tourists, many recognises the opportunity and will set up a local business. The Goans will accommodate them and they have an earning to sustain themselves for a long periods. Be it a shop, a restaurant, a resort, a bakery and one has even started an unique super market. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll describe Ingo in detail in a future blog.
If you have the time to spare for yourself and for Mother Nature, Arambol is the place for you. Even if you are amongst those whom this materialistic world does not recognize as a wealthy and, or, a valuable person. but you will indeed be the fortunate one.
To be able to spend your leisure with the rising moon.
The Goan moon
The moon will nevertheless emerge on the eastern sky at dusk, and will communicate exclusively with you in a language which nobody else will understand. You will feel human existence in this world has its worth. Unfathomable peace prevails there as you imbibe the moonlight which percolates through the foliage onto the beach and to the roaring sea.
Your soul by then will have been tranquilized by the world around you.
You ask it to move, to leave, to return home.
It will say, “no, never again”.
may mean nothing to many, it means nothing less than a Ã¢â‚¬ËœHeaven on EarthÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to many others.
In fact, of even the regular tourists a large number would not even know this place as it is not amongst the many popular beaches of Goa. But to many others, there are no other place in Goa they know, and they would like to spend all their leisure time there.
A narrow lane meanders through the curio shops as it approaches the beach. The lane shrinks so much as you progress, that eventually you cannot even turn your vehicle. You will feel a fool if you have landed in Arambol in a four wheeler. The administrative authorities are oblivious of the problem and are not concerned about develop a parking space near the beach (like all other beaches of Goa) as they feel it is not a requirement.
Those who, with abundance of wealth, own a car and only likes to travel in their vehicle, are better advised not go to that place. There are many other destinations more suitable for them in Goa, and most of them offer much better materialistic comfort for a stay; including many star resorts.
At this stage, it will be most unfair if I deny you the pleasure and the experiences of the beaches of Goa. I am tempted to take you to Arambol an Ã¢â‚¬Ëœout of the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ beach destination in Goa. The tiny State of Goa on the west coast of India is primarily famous for its magnificent golden beaches. With the influx of tourists in Goa many of them are now proud to have star resorts. I, very carefully, avoid staying in such places and often will avoid visiting those well known places.
Fortunately for me, and for many others, Goa still possesses many remote locations which still has only basic infrastructure and offers just the minimum facilities to survive and exist. Materialistic comfort is an absolute Ã¢â‚¬ËœNo NoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ there. Arambol is one such place; it still retains the look of a pure and primitive tourist destination Ã¢â‚¬Ëœof the seventy’s GoaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. Peace prevails undiluted and in abundance.
I took sometime before introducing you all to a beach in Goa, as I feel, to enjoy a place one must have an idea of the heart and the mind of the people of that place. It is said that Ã¢â‚¬Ëœbeauty is only skin deepÃ¢â‚¬â„¢; you enjoy the beauty of a lady much more when you can smell the aroma which comes from her heart. Only then you enjoy her beauty, even if she may not be beautiful to the eye of others. So I had to tell about the hearts of the people of this place before I take you to her seaside cottage.
After you manage to find a place for yourself, you walk down the lane to have a glimpse of the sea, the reason you have come to Goa and to Arambol. The rule here is to hire a small hut or a room for a family and a two wheeler for travel. Only a two wheeler can negotiate the by-lanes of this wonderland. You park the exhausted vehicle like a king (or a sage) in front of your dilapidated hut and enjoy your time like a Shahensha, even if with a little money.
Yes, Arambol has everything for the king of hearts and very little for the modern day materialistic executives.
As you approach the beach you see a cluster of restaurants, some single story and some double with a romantic balcony on top, from where one can enjoy the activities on the beach throughout the day. You see a variety of water-sports – surfing, water-scooter ride, para-sailing. You see people returning from a swim in the sea, clothes soaked in water and their minds completely soaked in happiness.
You seep beer from a mug and relax!
Excuse me while I briefly enjoy the visual of my memories of my beer and a deliciously fried Macarel Recheacdo. It has remained deeply imprinted in my mind and surfaces every time I think of that place. I feel like going into a trance of Ã¢â‚¬ËœsocegadoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
Mid-afternoon is just the right time and Arambol is the perfect place.
An Indian philosopher Sri Ramakrishna once said Ã¢â‚¬ËœTaka mati, mati takaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ ( money is nothing but earth and earth is money). Hindu philosophy preaches of a human existence where money plays only a secondary role. Incidentally, Ramakrishna was from my state West Bengal and the organization which has come up in his name Ramakrishna Mission to preach his philosophy to serve the needy community wherever and whenever possible.
It is almost impossible for the common man and the mass to follow this philosophy in the modern materialistic community existence. Though there are some individuals in this world, however small may be their number and regardless of their nationality, still do believe in it. This materialistic world on the other hand demands acquiring more wealth by the individual, for social status, than is required for comfortable existence. In fact, our status within the family is often determined by the quantity of wealth you possess. This initiates a rat race in the society. And this social and environmental effect grips almost everyone. And almost the entire world is trapped in this rat race to a great extent. Many states of India are also not immune to it.
In Goa, I experienced a society where this rat race is much less palpable, and almost the entire society believed in a happy and peaceful existence, where money played a lesser role than we are used to in other parts of the world.
They have more time for religious activities irrespective of the religion they followed (Hindu or Chritianity) . Faith serves an important role for such existence andÃ‚Â for calming the mind. It also prevents one from getting distracted by the importance of materialistic comfort for happy existence.
The mass there is born and brought up in such an environment that they do not feel the compulsion of running after the wealth. It is amazing to see how the entire community gets involved in the religious and many other annual social functions. Even the youth participates in large number and whole heartedly in all the religious activities. It is amazing to note how much time they have and devote for all such events.
As they are not after the money, they pursue their activities with much intensity; be it music, dance, football or cooking. They are very passionate about such things as they exist for their pleasure andÃ‚Â so enjoys it to the maximum. They do it because they love it and many of them pursue their passion as their profession. Some of them achieve high standard as they manage to blend a lot of passion into their work. But it ought to be a work of his choice, be it cooking, fishing or driving.
A good percentage of Goan give priority to his enjoyment while working, over the amount of money he earns. I know a Goan Ã¢â‚¬ËœPilotÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ (a motorcycle rider available for hire) who preferred to continue his job as he enjoys riding motorcycle even when a bank offered him loan for buying a taxi. He could have earned much more, he chose not to.
Not many such people now exist in this modern world and not many places where the majority still believes in it.
Contentment, in Goa, is the rule rather than an exception.