Sunday, March 23, 2014

Zipporah. – A Woman way ahead of her times.

I have just finished reading an amazing book Zipporah, by Marek Halter.  It tells the story of the Cushite wife of Moses, the grand old man of the Old Testament and mother of his two sons.
Zipporah grew up in the household of Jethro, a sage/ high priest of the Midian kings, an abandoned baby who grew up with his own children, apple of his eye for her dark skinned beauty and wisdom beyond her years.    In her adopted tribe, she is not accepted as a possible bride, but for the refugee from Egypt, Moses, Zipporah was the wife he felt was made for him.
The story of Zipporah follows the evolution of Moses from a refugee Eygptian prince to a leader of the Hebrew slaves of Egypt, prodded by both Jethro and Zipporah. The trip across the desert to Eygpt was a revelation for her: accepted as Moses’ destiny by both his adoptive and biological mothers, she is rejected by his brother Aaron and sister Miriam; animosity against Moses’ dark-skinned wife is instigated and eventually, she is forced to go back to her father’s land, with her sons, so that Moses may fulfill the destiny that brought him back to Egypt.
When news comes that Moses had succeeded in bringing the Hebrews out of Egypt and led them out after the parting of the waters – which Zipporah had earlier seen in a dream, she goes back to Moses, this time with her sons and Jethro.  
But the chaos and gross mismanagement of the exodus into the desert, the creation of the golden idol by supposedly beggarly Hebrew refugees wreck havoc with Moses and Zipporah’s emotions and cost the lives of both sons.
It is Zipporah and her father Jethro who prod Moses up the mountain again, from where he emerges with the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s command to accept strangers, but it is too late and she is forced to return to father’s home.  Too late – for after Jethro’s death,  another destiny altogether awaits her, leaving Moses bereft and adrift in the sands of the desert with his people for the biblical forty years.
It is another generation altogether that is led into the Promised Land by Moses’ favorite, Joshua, as the Grand Old Man stays back with his memories of the woman who was his, the woman who remains but a foot note in the Old Testament, despite her vital role in the life of Moses.
Zipporah emerges as a beautiful and strong woman, as intelligent as she is intense and loyal.  Her thoughts are strong and analysis immaculate, which make her an Epic Woman, despite being only a footnote in the Testament.
What perhaps makes this depiction of those times unique but sad is the narrative of the evolution of Mankind, with one segment wise and sober, repeatedly  overruled by the petty-minded and rabid mobs – a trend that has prevailed over centuries to our times.

Wonderful read for historical and religious fiction enthusiasts. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Kangana is Queen

Kangana Ranaut's Queen was a wonderful experience. 
How deeply ingrained are our prejudices against ourselves? 
That aspect was brought out so well in the beginning with Kangana's reaction to her rejection and her first day in Paris.
 How did she find the courage to go for her dream honeymoon by herself? to make friends with the Chamber maid and then make a buddy of her? to go off on her own and made friends across the board and yet retain her own innate dignity? discover her own sense of fun and capacities.
It was a mind blowing experience. 
Thank you whoever was the director and Kangana for that performance.
Perhaps the piece d' resistance was her so very dignified insistence that "we'll talk about it later" and then finally quietly handing him his rang and walking out so full of poise and confidence in herself.
Full on Kangana.  five stars.


March 2014

Tucked away in the lanes of the inner city of Udaipur is this gorgeous little restored haveli.  Paintings on the walls, floral and other stencils on the ceiling that reminded me of the pictures my son Mehirr had brought back of the ancestral havelis at Eminabad, now in Pakistan.
Lots of steep stairs to be negotiated, but worth the climb, from the first floor bedroom to the lounge and kitchen on the third floor --- awesome breezes and views of the Pichola lake, its palace and the city all around… a true roof top experience.
All the basic amenities were there --- not the clinical ‘nicety’ of a hotel, but cheery interaction with Caroline and Vikram who run the place and the motley fellow guests, from Delhi and Surat, from Sardinia, Hungary, England and elsewhere --- lots of views and experiences to exchange.
Perhaps best of all was a raucous Holi celebration, right at the doorstep, with a fire whose embers continued well till the morning of Duleti, plenty of color and beer and music and dance – basically good fun.   One high old man brought a batch of moong dal paapad to share with everyone.  My silver hair is still tinged pink, not the blue rinse I had dreamt of.  Sadly, no gewar (a Holi festival sweet) either.
Restored havelis offering roof top restaurants are a dime a dozen in the city area of Udaipur, I later learnt.  Didn’t visit any others,  but Little Prince was a good stay, with congenial company  and a break from routine, after a very long time.
The pity was that Udaipur did not live upto its promise. 
Perhaps because we had only a long weekend which was eaten up by the Holi break which closed up the town.   But Karrishma and I did squeeze in the Saheliyon ki Bari which was a welcome respite from the rising heat, with a sprawling verdant garden rich with the colors of  luxuriant blooming bougainvillea.
Built as a getaway for the royal ladies, it must once upon a time have been a haven for them outside the strict protocol within the palaces and havelis.  Now open to the hoi polloi too!!
The big disappointment was the City Palace with its tired looking museum, choc abloc with tourists least interested in the massive displays of ancient armaments.  So bored that few bothered to even look at a display of Babur’s banners seized once a time by the ancestors of Udaipur royalty five centuries or so ago.

Are museums supposed to be just boring displays --  not the recreation of history and its numerous interesting stories?   When will we learn those lessons, of creating museums that capture the viewers’ interest?  

Foresters in South Rajasthan Ahoy!!

March 2014.  

Low hillocks with vertical rows of vegetation radiating from the top.  Is this soil conservation or territory demarcation?   What about the cacti hedges?
The hills are bare and brown. Flame of the forest adds spots of color. On the road side hill, there are low stone walls – are they there to prevent mudslides onto the highway?
The area now boasts of some vegetation --- palm and other trees and fields too.  At one place, I spotted  three hovels amidst green fields, probably the field workers.  Beyond them was a hillock which was fairly green with bushes and trees and a kothi of stone  that looked like that of the owner, as it had a temple close  by on the top of the hillock.
Many of the hills show young trees amidst many stumps and large stones.   Are these the result of the afforestation drive during the Rajiv Gandhi era?
At that time, the Dungarpur  area was dotted with pits dug by the people and paid for by the government which also offered money to plant a sapling and tend it till it matured.  A decade or so down the line, those trees matured and captured the rain water so that the levels in all the wells in the area rose.  Plus the greening and spinoffs from the Indira Gandhi canal?
Instead of one precarious annual harvest, multiple harvests meant a cut back in migration to work in the cities of Gujarat. Those who came as household helps took more frequent holidays timed to agricultural operations (ploughing, seeding, harvesting), stayed away longer;  suddenly young people, even girls were being educated.  One that I know off, studied to be a nurse for which her father took a loan and which he insisted she would have to repay before he would get her married!!  Now that’s real development.
But a forester from Sardinia, Cecilia whom I met in Udaipur  was not very impressed.  She felt that a lot more could be done to green those hills.   She spoke from experience – over two decades of encouraging community participation in reforestation, creating trails for the public and fighting forest fires frequent in her part of the world.  “There’s so much more that can be done to make the whole area green.  We have little precipitation also in one season only and have to make do with that, just like here.”

Foresters Ahoy!!