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Posts Tagged ‘Taj Mahal’

(Continued)

India on the Travel Itinerary

  • In The Heart of a Goof, we come to know of Felicia Blakeney. Her brother, Crispin Blakeney, is an eminent young reviewer and essayist. He is said to have gone off to India to study its local conditions with a view to delivering a series of lectures.
  • Many of us would recall that in ‘Bertie Changes His Mind’, Carry On, Jeeves, Bertie Wooster tells Jeeves that he has a sister in India. She is likely to return from there with her three daughters. Since Bertie wants to break the monotony of his life, he plans to move to a large house and invite the gang to stay with him. He looks forward to have ‘the prattle of childish voices around him’. Jeeves uses his tact and resource to make Bertie change his mind.  
  • In ‘Best Seller’, Mulliner Nights, we discover what happens to a young lady whose heart throb has gone off to India. Miss Postlethwaite, the sensitive barmaid, imagines that the lady is ‘standing tightlipped and dry-eyed in the moonlight outside the old Manor. And her little dog has crawled up and licked her hand, as if he understood and sympathized.’
  • ‘Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest’, Carry On, Jeeves introduces us to Lady Malvern, a vicious specimen (to quote Bertie). She is said to have been in India for less than a month whereupon she has whipped up a book on social conditions in India, entitled ‘India and the Indians’.
  • ‘The Ordeal of Osbert Mulliner’, Mr. Mulliner Speaking narrates the story of Osbert Mulliner who intends to board the boat sailing for India. His idea is to ‘potter awhile about the world, taking in en route Japan, South Africa, Peru, Mexico, China, Venezuela, the Fiji Islands and other beauty-spots’. When Major-General Sir Masterman Petherick-Soames hears of this, he claims to have been out there for years. He offers to give him all sorts of useful hints. He also claims to know the old ‘Rajputana’ area (the present day state of Rajasthan in India) well.

Indian Handicrafts, Taj Mahal and Tagore

  • In Leave it to Psmith, we find that the noise which had unduly perturbed the Efficient Baxter had been caused by ‘the crashing downfall of a small table containing a vase, a jar of potpourri, an Indian sandalwood box of curious workmanship and a cabinet size photograph of the Earl of Emsworth’s eldest son, Lord Bosham.’
  • Taj Mahal, the ivory-white marble mausoleum located in the city of Agra, remains a key attraction for those who have India on their itinerary.  Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it does not get left out in Plum’s references to India. In ‘Bingo Bans the Bomb’, Plum Pie, when Bingo Little sees a ray of hope for getting a coveted raise in his emoluments from Mr. Henry Cuthbert Purkiss, the proprietor of Wee Tots, he is said to gaze at the latter with as much appreciation as he would at the Taj Mahal in moonlight.
  • Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, a Nobel laureate, finds a brief mention in ‘Rodney Has A Relapse’, Nothing Serious. Rodney is of the opinion that the family can survive on wholesome and inexpensive vegetables. He thinks this will help his poetry. ‘He says look at Rabindranath Tagore. Never wrapped himself around a T-bone steak in his life, and look where he fetched up. All done on rice, he said, with an occasional draft of cold water from the spring.’

(Continued)

Notes:

The inspiration for this essay comes from the scholarly work done by Ms. Masha Lebedeva, who had earlier whipped up a research paper entitled The Russian Salad by P. G. Wodehouse.

The author expresses his sincere gratitude to an eminent expert on Plummy matters for having spared the time to go through a part of this composition and provide insightful suggestions. Some fans of P. G. Wodehouse have also suggested improvements in its contents.

Thanks are also due to Mr. Suvarna Sanyal for dishing out the main illustration in Part 1; also, to Ms. Sneha Shoney, who has edited the text.

Those of you who wish to cruise through this essay in its entirety may kindly write to akb_usha@rediffmail.com for a PDF version of the complete document to be mailed to them.

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When one speaks of an Indian-Italian courtship these days, one’s imagination invariably veers around to the recent diplomatic row between the two countries on a matter involving the highest ‘court’ of India and the unfortunate death of two Indian fishermen at the hands of two marines of an Italian ‘ship’. But the ‘courtship’ between the two countries is much broader and deeper than this!

Italy and India are so similar, yet so different. One is a developed country; the other is striving to meet its Ajanta_Padmapanidevelopmental goals. One has a population of 62 million; the other is struggling to cope with its 1.2 billion! Italy is placed 10th in overall GDP terms globally, whereas India is placed at 3rd. In per capita terms though, Italy (USD 30,116) is 29th in the world, whereas India (USD 3,851) is placed 129th!

Yet, the two countries are very similar to each other! Both Italians and Indians tend to be warm-hearted, open and talkative. Both share a common disdain for their politicians and judiciary. Whether it is art and culture, variety of cuisine and language, history and geography, heritage and movies, both share several common characteristics. Both are famous for their movies, motor scooters, cars and gossip magazines.

The Italian Charms!

Indians have fallen for Italian charms since quite some time. During the 1970s, the preferred choice of a scooter in India was Vespa, an Italian brand. Espresso coffee soon followed and quickly became a household name. Pizza was the next to captivate the taste buds of Indians of all age groups. Gucci, Prada, Armani and Versace are already the favourite brands of the well-heeled. Several other major brands – like Alberta Ferreti, Fendi, Byblos and Scorpion Bay, to name only a few – have already firmed up plans to woo the Indian customer in the days to come.Colosseum_in_Rome,_Italy

Each state in India has its own delectable cuisine. Likewise, all the 20 regions of Italy boast of their own cuisines. If India has its paranthas, chhole-kulche and dosas, Italy has pizzas, risotto, lasagne and pasta. In each category, both offer a mind-boggling variety to choose from.

Mamma Mia!

Both countries place a high emphasis on family values, especially the affection their own brand of tiger moms bestow on their respective precious cubs! Culturally, within a family, the male adult comes first, is served first at the table and is fussed over better. It is never in doubt as to who wears the pants in the family. Females in both countries play an important role in the kitchen and like to focus on displaying their culinary skills better.

Both Italians and Indians tend to be passionate and express their feelings loud and clear when upset! In both countries, weddings are increasingly based on love, as opposed to being ‘arranged’ in the past.

A Soulful Connection

For Indians who have perfected the art of living with filth and squalor all around them, visiting Italy is like a sophisticated and upgraded home-coming of sorts. Despite being a European country, Italy has a unique Indian touch which captivates and enamours the Indian soul quite effectively.IMGP9042

Taking a leisurely stroll near the Rome Termini Train Station, one is gently reminded of similar surroundings of the railway stations in India. Running into few homeless vagabonds sleeping in a corner is quite likely. The stench of stale urine emanating from a boundary wall makes one feel quite at home. However, one still misses the graphic art masterpieces in various hues of maroon so lovingly created by our paan-chewing brethren on all kinds of walls back home.

One will find laundry drying and ladies squatting and chatting away merrily on roads and streets. Driving on roads is the same, that is, on the left side. Also, there is no difference in driving habits; in India as well as in Italy, the values of Freedom, Fraternity and Democracy are upheld with remarkable zeal on the roads, holding all rules in sheer contempt!

How We Hate Our Courts and Politicians

There is a shared contempt of courts. Emblem_of_Italy.svg was sentenced to a year in prison but does not appear to be going to jail anytime soon. The Indian legislative bodies can justifiably claim to have a liberal sprinkling of criminals. If Italy has a strong presence of the mafia, India has its own share of the underworld dons.

People in both countries are perhaps tired of the ruling dispensation as well as the opposition camps of all hues. Recent elections in Italy have thrown up a hung parliament. India has been experimenting with the coalition model of governance for more than two decades now and can offer rich expertise to Italy on managing Emblem_of_India.svg‘coalition compulsions’!

The Begging Bowl Syndrome

Italy and India share the same level of income disparities amongst their populace. If one were to go by the UN Gini index, Italy was assessed at 32 in 2006, whereas India was assessed at 33.4 in 2005. (Nil disparity would mean the Gini index would be ‘zero’; maximum disparity would mean the Gini index would be ‘100’). India has a middle class which keeps suffering in the space of public delivery of services in dignified silence.

It comes as no surprise that begging is an invariable part of life and is an art practised in both the countries. However, it is far more sophisticated in Italy. Boarding a train, one could find a pretty young lady claiming to be deserted by her boy-friend openly seeking money to raise her kids. On the streets of Florence, one could encounter statuesque artists dressed up in plaster-of-paris-like costumes, seeking alms.

History and GeographyVitruvianMan

Historically, India had been mostly ruled by the Mughals and the British. Italy had been under the influence of Austria, France and Germany. Both were cobbled together by several princely states, distinct kingdoms or regions coming together.

Geographically, both countries have similar profiles. Italy has the Alps on its Northern side, just like India has the Himalayas. Sea beaches are in abundance in both the countries. Italy shares its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. India does so with China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal. In fact, Andaman and Nicobar share a maritime boundary with Thailand and Indonesia.Luciano_Pavarotti

Fine Arts and Science

Both Italy and India have had truly illustrious people in the realm of fine arts, literature, sculpture and science. If Italy can boast of Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, Enrico Fermi and Dante, India can talk of Aryabhatt, C V Raman, J C Bose and Rabindranath Tagore. If Italy has Pavarotti, India has Pandit Jasraj and M S Subbalakshmi. If Italy stakes claim to as many as 47 UNESCO World Heritage sites, India does it for 29.

Language, Religion and Regional InitiativesPandit_Jasraj

Italian language has several dialects. Indians cope with as many as 26 scheduled languages, many of which have several dialects.

More than 91% of Italians are Christians. India has Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and Jains as major groups of a diverse religious landscape.

Italy is a founding member of NATO and EU. India had espoused the cause of Panchsheel and is a founding member of BRICS. Italy is home to the Vatican. India is home to diverse ethnic groups and religions. Both are held to be important regional powers.

Architectural and Artistic Elegance

India boasts of the Taj Mahal which took 16 years to build. Italy boasts of St. Peter’s Basilica which took 120 years to get compTajleted. India has the Qutab Minar; Italy has the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The difference surely lies in the attention paid towards maintenance of museums, heritage buildings and the exquisite paintings and sculptures Italy possesses. Visiting ‘The Last Supper’ by Leonardo da Vinci in Milan, one would notice the exquisite care with which the humidity and temperature are controlled in the hall containing the famous fresco. The care with which Michelangelo’s original masterpiece of ‘David’ is maintained in a Florence museum is something to be learnt from.

In India, tourists keep defacing the Ajanta and Ellora murals as well as all historical monuments with utter disregard and impDavid_von_Michelangelounity, slowly destroying a very rich heritage that the country possesses.

Lessons in Governance

When it comes to governing the ungovernable, there is a lot that Italy can learn from India. The latter has unique expertise in managing a complex country which can justifiably boast of flourishing black markets, mobsters, super-slow courts, crooked politicians, warring business families, hosting mega religious gatherings like the Kumbh Mela, cities which think they are states, states which believe they are independent countries and regions which believe they are continents.

Coming back to the marines imbroglio, diplomacy has won the day. Both Italy and India have managed to avoid embarrassing each other in international forums.The_Last_Supper

One has no doubt that despite occasional friction which is the hallmark of a deeper engagement, the two countries will continue with their courtship for a long time to come!

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