Our armchair travels have taken us to Bahrain. This is a nation that consists of over 30 islands in the Persian Gulf.
The King Fahd Causeway is a series of bridges and causeways that connects Saudi Arabia to Bahrain. The causeway was built to improve the links and bonds between these two countries. It was officially opened to the public in 1986.
Its modern capital Manama has left a lot of history behind for visitors to delight in instead of creating an ultra-modern city of steel and glass. The modern nicely blends in with the ancient history.
The Bahrain National Museum is the country’s most popular attraction. Visitors can get a great introduction to its history here. The highlights are the archaeological finds from ancient Dilmun, the reproduction souq covering Traditional Trades and Crafts on the first floor and the satellite photo of Bahrain which takes up most of…
On the banks of a winding river
covered by shade giving trees
stood an old temple now a ruin
one day, was I mighty surprised
to see myself walking towards it?
The glaze from the noon fiery sun
as it struck many majestic pillars
at first blinded me; I could now see
a deity of a goddess unattended.
Offering my salutations to her
I looked around to spot anyone
who would come this desolate way
but alas, no one seemed to exist
except me, in these lost quarters.
I walked down the once trodden steps
when having heard a sharp noise
I turned around to see, to my wonder
the old sanctorum door now shut
who had shut that door, I wondered.
I went around to the farther side where
trees grew abound next to a cool pond
with water flowers growing amid aplenty
my eyes spied in the shade of trees
a monkey and a squirrel eyeing in awe.
The cool breeze and the fruits in bounty
took me to a dream of bygone days
I dreamt of that very place back in time
how festivities rocked the still ground
where people flocked and lost in joy.
The temple fair with all its pristine glory
had attracted one and all, near and afar
a visitor like me now in different attire
it was then I spied upon a beautiful girl
who stood in the precincts of the temple.
Was she beautiful, or was she radiant
there was something about her charm
eyeing all who seemed to be lost in fun
wondering who she was, bright as the sun
my mind at sea, churning with thoughts.
I climbed the well laid lovely temple steps
a flood of devotees praying to the goddess
somehow the glow on the face of the deity
could very relate to that on the young girl
one in divine and another in human form.
Making casual inquiries it was made known
she was the very child of the temple priest
a staunch devotee who cared for nothing
engrossed in the ardent service of his folk
worship of a mother who was his child.
I circled with the crowd, and at every turn
her radiant smile, of the ever mighty holy
my doubts cleared with the compassion
she bestowed on us with her look of love
a mother truly pleased at her children.
At a loss, to keep the discovery to myself
do I make it known, not had I, the courage
should I approach her the wonder she was
would she listen to me as others of her age
or be wise as a woman of a countless age.
One day, she was playing prank with kids
getting close, away from the little ones
when she sensed my faithful approach,
the graceful, the all knowing smile asking
how was I attracted to her, all these days.
Garnering courage, I went near divine her
while the kids were not at close quarters
asking her, was it true, what I had sensed
she being the divine in human form said
keep it to you, which I did all this time.
Days were spent meeting and asking
had she powers that she could exercise
could she keep the village blessed
she would wait for them to pass a test
would then, she decide to be a part of it.
A few months passed by, days of joy to me,
but one day, the priest’s daughter fell sick
the ailments added to her father’s plight
one said of a physician at the king’s court
might help her to tide over her such illness.
A journey to the palace place was too far
calling the physician might invite wrath
a young lad, i was to carry the message
private it was, to the medic to respond to
a person who still glowed, despite her pain.
I went to the king’s court and with difficulty
manage to get his consent, for the call
but he asked for a big fee, which I doubted
any one, of the village could well afford
but they could have grouped and helped.
With sad tidings, I brought the message
no one cared or willed to help the priest
who rendered selfless service for them
helped bring them blessings from Her
just as She had blessed him with Her.
Chiefs and the landlords refused to help
in kind or in money, left him disconsolate
the priest died, heart broke, just as he was
was this test you told of, she faintly smiled
she was to pass away, with me by her side.
Rain clouds hovered to the delight of all
but my wet plight only, no one could gauge
I lost her that very night, her hands in mine
radiant as ever, her loving eyes upon me
was it in torrents, it poured from the sky?
The river, beside the village, rose in anger
submerged banks with all its people
the waves climbed the forsaken temple
did they also wash away our lost selves
I must be delighted to part with my body.
It all came back to me, I was driven here
a place where once, I loved a girl of glory
a divine Odyssey it was, that got me here
I now, left to reminisce the story of a ruin
a pleasure if She would come again for me.
I do not know how many of you have read this lovely story of Orpheus and Eurydice that ends in tragedy. I am repeating this story for the benefit of my readers as this mythological incident teaches us something important.
If anyone who reads the story wonders what we learn or why Orpheus failed to regain Eurydice in his memorably journey to Hades or the so called netherworld, it will come back to two simple words.
It teaches us how important it is to use faith and patience as our two legs in our journeys, and if you use them well, you will reach your intended destination with the person whom you set out with…
Orpheus is known as the most talented music player of the ancient times. It is said that god Apollo was his father, from whom he took his extreme talent in music, and the Muse Calliope was his mother. He was living in Thrace, on the northeastern part of Greece. Orpheus had a divinely gifted voice that could charm everyone who heard it. When he was presented first the lyre, as a boy, he had it mastered in no time at all.
The myth says that no god or mortal could resist his music and even the rocks and trees would move themselves to be near him.
Humans and beasts alike would be enchanted by it and often even the most inanimate of objects would yearn to be near him. Well into his youth he had mastered the lyre and his melodious voice garnered him audiences from near and afar.
It was at one such gathering of humans and beasts that his eyes fell on a wood nymph. The girl was called Eurydice,who was beautiful and shy. She had been drawn to Orpheus enamored by his voice and such was the spell of beauty in music and appearance that neither could cast their eyes off each other. Something inexplicable tugged the hearts of the two young people and soon they fell dearly in love, unable to spend a single moment apart. After a while, they decided to get married.
There was one man who was despising Orpheus and desired Eurydice for his own. Aristaeus, a shepherd, had plotted a plan to conquer the beautiful nymph. And there he was, waiting in the bushes for the young couple to pass by. Seeing that the lovers were approaching, he intended to jump on them and kill Orpheus. As the shepherd made his move, Orpheus grabbed Eurydice by the hand and started running pell-mell through the forest. The chase was long and Aristaeus showed no signs of giving up or slowing down. On and on they ran and suddenly, Orpheus felt Eurydice stumble and fall, her hand slipping from his grasp. Unable to comprehend what had just happened, he rushed to her side but stopped short in dismay, for his eyes perceived the deathly pallor that suffused her cheeks. Looking around, he saw no trace of the shepherd for Aristaeus had witnessed the event and had left. Few steps away, Eurydice had stepped on a nest of snakes and had been bitten by a deadly viper. Knowing that there was no chance of survival, Aristaeus had abandoned his try, cursing his luck and Orpheus.
After the death of his beloved wife, Orpheus was no more the same carefree person he used to be. His life without Eurydice seemed endless and could do nothing more than grief for her. This is when he had a great but yet crazy idea: he decided to go to the underworld and try to get his wife back. Apollo, his father, would talk to Hades, the god of the underworld, to accept him and hear his plea. Armed with his weapons, the lyre and his voice, Orpheus approached Hades and demanded entry into the underworld. None challenged him. Standing in front of the rulers of the dead, Orpheus said why he was there, in a voice both mellifluous and disquieting. He played his lyre and sang out to King Hades and Queen Persephone pleading that Eurydice was returned to him. Not even the most stone-hearted of people or Gods could have neglected the hurt in his voice. Hades openly wept, Persephone’s heart melted and even Cerberus, the gigantic three-headed hound guarding the entry to the underworld, covered his many ears with his paws and howled in despair.
The voice of Orpheus was so moving that Hades promised to this desperate man that Eurydice would follow him to the Upper World, the world of the living. However, he warned Orpheus that for no reason must he look back while his wife was still in the dark, for that would undo everything he hoped for. He should wait for Eurydice to get into the light before he looked at her. With great faith in his heart and joy in his song, Orpheus began his journey out of the underworld, joyful that he would once again be reunited with his love.
As Orpheus was reaching the end of the Underworld, he could hear the footfalls of his wife approaching him. He wanted to turn around and hug her immediately but managed to control his feelings. As he was approaching the exit, his heart was beating faster and faster. The moment he stepped on the world of the living and was in the light, he turned his head to hug his wife. Unfortunately, he got only a glimpse of Eurydice before she was once again drawn back into the underworld. When Orpheus turned his head, Eurydice was still in the dark, she hadn’t seen the Sun and, as Hades had warned Orpheus, his sweet wife was drawn back to the dark world of the dead…. In conclusion, when one runs out of patience, he loses faith and vice versa…
Commuters in an open train door at Churchgate Station in Mumbai. Notice the sign by the door which states the carriage is for ladies only during certain times. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Making a journey in a Mumbai Local is an experience in itself. If you have been to this city and haven’t boarded a electric train on any of the three routes that ply through the metropolis, it means you have missed half the fun or half the nightmare, depending on the experience….
The daily commuter first walks, then jogs and finally does the steeple chase run to complete the last lap towards the station. The steeple chase is chosen only when he sees the train pulling into the station. During such occasions, everyone like others, just run across the tracks, then on to the station platform. Maybe the local commuter can qualify himself for long jumps and…
Ganga had come late to school today also. The teacher chided her for being late every now and then. She was late most of the days in a month, let alone some days when she was absent. The only municipal school that stood at the periphery of the village had an assortment of pupils drawn from various walks of life from the village residents.
Little did the teacher know that Ganga’s day started at 4 in the morning. She had to supply milk from Lalchand Seth’s diary to around 25 households which used to get over by 5:30 and go to Ratan Seth’s house to wash and clean the dishes.
Today the teacher had had enough and decided to give the punishment to the little girl. As she stretched out our hands for the cane to land, the teacher’s eyes fell upon the marks on the hands. It was full of cuts and bruises. When asked what had happened, Ganga preferred to remain silent. She escaped the beating this time, but will have to sit outside the class for 2 hours as punishment. As she sat outside, her eyes fell on the chirping sparrows playing in the sand and the parrots flying to some far off land. If only, I was one among them, she wondered as she shielded her eyes from the hot Sun making his presence felt.
Bala is standing beside the road with an assortment of guavas and oranges. Like his elder brother Shiva he is also a bread winner for his family, berefit of their father, and with 2 more siblings and an ailing mother to support. Both of them are out all the time selling wares. In the case of Shiva he has a make shift stall outside the main market that he uses to sell bangles, beaded chains and all such items.
Bala used to buy 5 kilos of guavas and oranges and walk another 2 kilometers to a vantage scenic spot on the highway so that he could sell them to people or tourists frequenting the place. There were lucky days, when before reaching the spot, his goods would have been sold on the road itself. Bala had gone to school till his 4th standard and after that what ever knowledge he had gained in the last 5 years was from these very tourists; He had picked up a bit of few languages at least that came handy in negotiating during the purchase or the haggling saga. There were days when very few people picked his wares or gave him a decent money in return for them. Today was a hot summer day and there were not many people who even cared to look at him, let alone his fruit basket.
Rakesh was enjoying his vacation as his summer holidays had started a few days back. He along with his family is on the way to Nasik and planned to visit places that they had skipped in their visit last year. On the way, they saw some tourists have disembarked from the magnificent vehicles to see an attractive waterfall.
They also stop to get down to take pictures, selfies with all backgrounds possible. At this time, a boy of 12 approaches them. “Saab, madam, Peru, Santra lo na; yeh bahut sast hai, saab ” in a pleading voice (translation: Sir..please buy these fruits Peru(Guava) Santra(orange), these are very cheap). Rakesh looks at the boy aged same as him, he appears shabby and sun burnt. The boy is watching him with awe and wants him to negotiate the sale with his parents. No no, the father says, we have enough food and fruits stocked in our car, no point in buying from this boy, don’t even know from where he has plucked all these.
The large guavas, for Rakesh, seemed inviting as also the boy’s eyes but his pleas fell on deaf ears and he had to get into his car that was raring to go with his parents. But before getting in, he waved back to the dark boy with his basket of fruits who was still looking at him with one hand shielding himself from the afternoon Sun.
While speeding through, in the cool comfort of his Innova car, that was now negotiating a hump, his eyes fell on a girl sitting outside a small school veranda near to the road. Pointing to her, he nudges his father. Why is she sitting outside father? He curiously asked. “Maybe she hasn’t done her homework before coming to school ” was the quick reply..” Put the blinds on son for the sun is really hitting us even through the tinted glass”.
When Apsomji got up at 5 in the morning partly because of the alarm bell ringing and also because of the commotion caused by his few followers who had already entered his visiting room, he knew it was going to be a good day.
Sometimes he was wary of these followers who had been acting as his disciples, advisers and red tape, all put together. Their clamoring was so much that he had always thought of sacking them all or at least put sack cloth over their loud mouths. There was no privacy in the sense, as he could sense it from the bed room. Here he was only getting up and they were walking into the dining room now as enforcement sleuths would walk in uninvited and treat themselves to food leftovers in the refrigerator and on the table.
Still, Apsomji thought, they were needed to give him company and vet on his ideas that steamed from his head. Today was going to be a good day, as he stretched his arms, went through his yogic motions followed by the rush to the bathroom to complete his ablutions. When the warm water was falling from the geyser, he was wondering what pep talk should he be doing in front of the European delegation who were in town to gauge and most probably reward his city for its cleanliness and care of labor and destitute people.
Apsomji as Mayor for the last 2 years, had been made aware of this comprehensive clean city trust that was set up some place in Luxembourg. Apsomji was a poor reader and whatever information he got was from his sycophant gathering of the above mentioned followers. This award specially set up for cities in developing nations, they had told him was to be awarded if certain conditions were met. On top of the list was – There were to be well-managed slaughter houses, proper waste management, clean drinking water and no overflowing drains, no sight of child labor, no barking strays and polluting vehicles and of course presence of a few parks and gardens to counter the greenhouse effect. Apsomji was a little confused as to how a green park could counter a green house, but he left it to his intelligent team to figure out.
The past few weeks had been hectic for his supporters and people in high offices who helped him to design the itinerary and chart out the survey course through select places in the city, which would keep off-limits, the dark areas away from the sight of the trust members who had flown in 3 days back. If only he could trust them to deliver the coveted award to his city. Apsomji and the corporation members made sure that the award committee visited few looms (hand-loom enterprises) where no child labor existed, a few eateries where everyone who worked was above 18 or made to look like that. A visit to a park that was renovated this year and what was previously a deserted junk yard was also on the list. Slaughter houses were cleaned up and the animals lined up and cleaned up one day in advance. Drains were covered with hard sheets and very feeble concrete slabs that would break if a vehicle went over it. All these were laid out just in time before the motorcade of the visiting luminaries went that way. All strays were rounded up or those who could not be, were chased away in such a ferocious manner that the corporators knew they dare not enter the city limits again.
Clean drinking water taps were setup, 100 in all, at various points, around 30 across the course that the award committee were to travel and visit on feet. 70 sweepers were employed on a 5 day shift and most of them were child labor. The terms and conditions read – They were to sweep the streets early in the morning and never to be seen again in the daylight. Brooms were given to them but no collecting buckets for the filth they were supposed to sweep. These should be collected as heaps, so that in the morning run, the sewage vans would collect them. Since 2 weeks, around 100 traffic policemen were given the additional responsibility of noting and chasing down vehicles with polluting exhaust. Those who belonged to the polluting lot however belonged to the city corporation buses and these were asked to keep off the roads on the day of survey. It was rumored that a traffic inspector who went running after one such vehicle had his white uniform turned to black and was in the hospital wheezing it out.
The waste dumping yards, all three of them which the city had, had got a carpet of sand over the now rotting junk. This sand would help control the stink emanating from it, as per his genius corporators. Another set of volunteers of the CLEAN CITY CAMPAIGN promoted by the corporation had rounded up the rag pickers most of them children, beggars, the old and the infirm who were seen on the streets and packed them off to a home in the suburbs for a week till this thing would get over. After his bath and breakfast, Apsomji with his followers neatly dressed went over to the corporation office ground next to which a dais had been erected to seat the award committee members and the corporators. He made sure that the newly put up dais could hold the weight of at least 20 people sitting and 20 people standing and another possible 20 rushing on to it in the last-minute by doing a dry run.
Everything looked perfect. The dignitaries, 5 of them, were to start of from their hotel on their run up passing several points in the city as per the scheduled path that the corporation had charted out for them. They were thinking of using an open jeep for the purpose but the clouded skies that looked imminent to drop tons of water forced them to use covered cabs. After all, they could always get down with umbrellas to inspect anything if they wanted to. As they had their breakfast in the hotel, there came the rain that was helped by the monsoon winds which was holding out for so long. Now with no holds barred, the pouring rain stood its ground for a full 40 minutes to register a 4 cm rainfall.
With the high tide now against the Mayor and his corporators, the drains got flooded up in no time and as the touring party left the hotel in cabs, they were witnesses to the flooded conditions of the city roads in rainy times. Out came their notepads and drainage was given a very low score. When they visited the slaughter-house, it was pouring water over the tin sheets on to the meat and the animals huddled up. The stench was unbearable, as the drains had vomited out the filth back on to the well cemented floor. They left in a hurry in a nauseating state.
The water in the roads, in the parks and the waste dumping grounds had cleared up everything that was supposed to be hidden. A cow which had a fall in one of the covered gutters just managed to climb in front of the approaching motorcade to visually treat the guests with the black coat of paint it had acquired on its legs from the drain. The city was churned up with waste with all the money invested to make it clean going down the drain. There were still a few street boys here and there with gunny sacks on their shoulder trying to pick things that could have some salvage value from the flooded streets. Sadly, the dignitaries could not get down anywhere as most places had rising water till knee height. When they reached high and dry ground at one place, one of them got down and opened one tap to inspect. The sound of air gushing at first made him jump and then muddied water came out, all to his disgust. Grimaced with suffering at the plight of the city dwellers, the visitors rounded off the survey, half way, and made their way to the corporation grounds.
The corporation ground was in no way different from the streets. They barely managed to get themselves on the dais without water entering their shoes. The bright sunshine after the downpour did little to lift the curtain of gloom that had descended over the hosts and the audience. The results were expected to be as bad as they could get and the poor Mayor and his team had to leave the stage in disgrace. Nevertheless, they had high hopes for next year to make amends. One thing, they collectively agreed, while getting down the steps into the pool of water was – Never to invite anyone during the rainy days…
There is a time when everyone longs to fly. Some flap their hands, some jump into the air only to realize gravity that instantly grounds us. The air borne feature is a gift of the Lord to all those avians who survey us, as they fly around us and maybe wonder – what if all these two legged animals too had wings. They would never be secure then.
Coming back to the flying itch, I decided today to develop this flying story and the dream to fly. Yes in our dreams, we do fly once in a while or many a time, depending on our dreams. Most of the flying dreams end up with either us losing our wings or crashing like a plane that has lost both its engines. But yes, more than the fear of flying in airplanes, how sweet it would have to been to glide like an Albatross over the ocean or an eagle over the hills surveying the beauty below. How would one feel, if we would descend down in a swoop or fly into a spin and recover just in time and steady ourselves.
Like the Siberian Crane that flies thousands of miles, how great it would have been for us to flap our wings and start on a journey perhaps to the Andes and on the way pass over the Amazon river that spreads its tributaries as its wings on the ground below.
On second thoughts. can we fly to a place without our baggage that however we might shrink still weighs up a good 20 kilograms. How can we fly with that baggage on our backs. We definitely would break our backs midway and be seen breathing our last on some river bank, just a few feet away, from the precious life giving water.
But what about the work log, the emails and the calls and the food and the sun creams that we need to take along the airborne trip, you might ask. There you are, you never can think out of the box. If you really can, then you need to just dump the box altogether and fly carefree to a place which beckons you.
How can I cross the Libyan desert on my way to Egypt or do I need to fly around the hot desert, but then, will I have the stamina, or should I wait for winter to set in. I hope the thought has been ingrained and has taken shape in your mind. Once the feathers too appear, you can decide to fly any place on the earth, in your dreams of course, as in reality actual flights have been already handed over to the birds by the Lord. But then, He has bestowed the vision and the imagination to reach and traverse places as you like.
Thank him for that when you go to bed. Who knows, He might gift you a winged flight you had always dreamed of…