When you search online for the greatest achievements in human history, you find under the category of greatest explorations, the following:
• Columbus’s discovery of the New World (America)
• Lewis and Clark Expedition (They traversed the uninhabited territories of the USA from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast in the early 1800s)
• Marco Polo’s journey to China
• Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe
• Amundsen’s journey to the South Pole
Before these pioneers explored beyond the boundaries of conventional thought there were vast parts of the earth that was absolutely unknown to man. Seems inconceivable today doesn’t it? The Atlas as we know it today has been there forever or so it would seem. Every child in school has been made to learn the names of countries, their capital cities, the principal mountains, the chief rivers and lakes, the distribution of forests and deserts and even the crops that grow in the different parts of the country depending on the climate! As children, we have all cursed the very existence of the book of maps and on more than one occasion even changed the face of maps when memory evaded us, but if we could travel back to a time when the maps were being created, we might see the beauty in it, the sheer joy of watching the shapes come alive for the first time. Of course it was not without its own problems with society being so firmly entrenched in their own notions about the world and further back in history, in the age of kingdoms when maps were regularly redrawn to reflect the might and power of the kings in question. These explorers in fact had their work cut out to convince the people in power that their journeys would reveal anything at all! So now when we may even a casual glance at the map of the world, it is with the secure knowledge that there is little else to discover. Every piece of land and water body is neatly demarcated by multicoloured lines; which goes to show just how far we’ve come. Of course we’re far from being sure of what all goes on beneath the surface but even that, with today’s technology is not that hard to project. What we’re forgetting however is that no matter how advanced things are now and how easily and carelessly we can access information, we are still poorer than our ancestors in knowledge. This day and age is wasted on us. Once upon a time, people with much less information on their hands, were more hungry for more knowledge and they made sure they got it, the scarcity of it making it all the more precious so that every last drop had to squeezed out of it. People ‘read’ languages different from their own instead of merely learning and forgetting them; people read books to know about places, things, people and cultures that they had never seen; society was a closely knit community where people looked to each other in times of joy and in times of need; there was time for work and there was time for play and last but not the least, there was an appreciation for all of these things that is missing in today’s life. The word culture was originally coined to mean the cultivation of the soul and mind. How many of us can honestly claim to doing that? Or even attempting to? It isn’t easy mind you, even if you did decide to wake up one morning and start enriching yourself. We are limited by our own passion for speed and anything that doesn’t quite match our pace gets left behind. The internet, that wonderful platform that literally brings the world at our fingertips is rarely used to discover something new unless circumstances demand it. We have become a servant to the technology, blindly following glitter instead of gold, instead of technology serving us. We have the means to read about anything we wish to; visit almost any places that we may wish to and find entertainment in any number of ways but how often do we actually do take that crucial step towards the unknown. It gets easier every day to arrange for anything to be delivered straight to your doorstep but it gets harder and harder to break out of the comfort zone. Its like having an entire ocean at your disposal and being content to live in the bottom of a pond of stagnant water. For that is exactly what our lives have become: stagnant. Of course one may argue that we after all are not completely at liberty to always do as we please and that we have responsibilities to fulfill but unless you put some passion into it, nothing you ever do will feel like worth it. It is heartening to hear about people who have broken the mould of ordinary and ventured into the unknown; we follow their lives with breathlessness and wish we could be the same and yet at the end of the day, we scoff at their foolishness and lack of wisdom. I’d say that people had it much better when they knew little and thus wanted to know more. They would journey across the world by the only means available to them which took them months to reach their destination (such cruel waste of time I hear you say!) but they used their time to enrich themselves like we never have. Think back to the years spent in school, how often have you sat in class and strained to hear the bell ring that would signal the end of the lesson? Did we ever even then think about learning something new, get excited about knowing something more than you did yesterday? We didn’t and reason for that is just that the world and our society has made us that way, looking out into the world and seeing only the present (and an exaggerated version of the future!) and nothing else. So, sometimes, we should take the time to cast our eyes back to the time when explorers set out to discover the world (in every sense of the word) and then drew the maps which in a sense was almost like creating the world all over again; and then when we come back to the present, find some way to bring into our own lives, a passion for discovering something new and extraordinary.
PS # I am going to be practicing what I preach. When caught in the middle of a conversation about the Philippines and having only a very vague idea of where it was, I actually used the erstwhile internet to pinpoint the exact location and a very helpful website also enlightened me about the capital city, the principal mountains, the chief rivers and lakes, the distribution of forests and deserts and even the crops that grow in the different parts of the country depending on the climate (Not that I remember even one tenth of this, but it was good to know that I could know anytime I want). Cheers!
Today morning was the most brilliant example of ironies. After an entire week of dark cloud cover over the city, suddenly there was dazzling sunshine everywhere. Pale blue skies, patches of white clouds with no hint of rain and miracle of miracles, pleasant breezes and no humidity! That in itself is an aberration in Mumbai. I’m told it didn’t last all that long and eventually it did rain but the early morning impression stays with me, fresh and clean, like what I imagine spring would be, if we had one. The trees and grass, glistening with last night’s rain and their colour shining because the showers have washed away all the dust from their surfaces; the swings in the children’s playground looking like toys with their bright colours and of course the bright yellow sunshine everywhere. It was too lovely a morning to leave curtains shut and as I went around the house drawing them back and throwing open windows, I could hear the music and the singing in my heart. It was a beautiful feeling and all the useless worries just drained out of my head leaving me feeling peaceful and content. In a minute I would have begun to sing out loud and then the rest would have been history but having recognized the signs, I made an effort to come back to reality and hurried over the mundane tasks of everyday as I was by now running late. On the long journey to work, I finally gave in to impulse and began humming along with the music on my phone. Another thing that pleases me today is that I have finished reading the novel ‘Gone With The Wind’ for the seventh time. It has become a tradition really to read this book every summer since I was in the class 9 and I am yet to get tired of it. Every time I read it again, I see something with new eyes, which I hadn’t seen before and thus the exciting mystery goes on. The vivid descriptions of the scenery, the way of life, the war and the characters that come alive over the course of the book all contribute to the pleasure of reading it yet again. Moreover, wound into the beautiful and intricate embroidery of the story are the home grown common sense observations that hold true even after a hundred and fifty years since those days. Society will always be averse to something that is different from the normalcy that they have defined for themselves; wars will continue to be fought because orators fill people’s heads with foolish notions; there will always be people on the lookout for a quick buck by twisting circumstances in their favour; money at the end of the day will not buy you happiness and human beings will continue to be baffled to see changes around them that they never thought possible except for a handful who learn to see which way the wind is blowing. An interesting thing to note here is the place of women in society in those days, they were held in high esteem no doubt but it was inconceivable that they should think for themselves. Apparently sheltered from the harsh realities of life, these women were far more intelligent than they let on to their men folks but their greatest wisdom lay in the fact that they allowed their men to continue believing them the helpless creatures who needed protection from the world. It was this wisdom that ensured that the society was peaceful and life went on smoothly, never changing even in the face of utter destruction of their world. It just make me curious to think what it would be like if it had remained that way. The world today has seen women striving towards the same things that traditionally been strictly the domain of men and nobody would dare suggest that anything was beyond their reach but if we step back and think about it, things are not as pleasant as they seem, there has been a large price to pay for realizing our potential. Women now are faced with the prospect of managing the home (a full time job in itself!) and proving themselves at the workplace; which they do admirably but I can’t help wondering if its worth. At the end of the day, wouldn’t it be easier to just let men think we’re fools and do all the work for us? 😛
On that very twisted note, I think I’ll end this post which has traveled light years from where it began and await the wrath of womankind. Cheers!
It rained last night. With a vengeance. Sounds like a horror movie or atleast an action flick? Nope it was just Mumbai on 2nd of June 2011. There is something about the first rains that is absolutely spectacular and completely transforms the city which for so long has been ravaged by the summer heat. It was nothing like the usual storm and light drizzle which normally characterizes the first rains, it was magical and ferocious all at the same time and it threatened to bring the city to it’s knees right away. A bus ride which normally takes an hour, took two while the streets (even the highways fared no better than streets!) slowly flooded with muddy brown rivers of rain and slush (I really don’t want to name the kind of things I saw floating around!). The sudden change from day to night, growling thunder and flashing lightning all took on the appearance of a drama that nature was enacting for us lesser mortals; only it soon ceased to be merely a drama and threatened to turn into a full scale battle. Nature is wise however, for it reined itself in and decided to spare us for yet another day. It knows that it is capable of complete and utter destruction and also that with great power comes great responsibility! But jokes apart, I love the rains, always have, always will and its making me realize that by extension, I quite like this city too. Its been two months since I have been back here, the city I used to detest so much finally redeeming itself in my eyes in the strangest of ways. I find joy in the simplest of things like the fact that they have installed TVs in the newer buses, which actually air some good stuff, believe it or not, I’ve been watching a black and white serialized version of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Cunningham Inheritance”. Of course the serial is interspersed with advertisements on everything, ranging from ‘Save the girl child’ to ‘Say no to drugs’ and ‘Join our computer institute’. All in all a very enriching experience I think :P. There are other things too, I am fascinated by the increase in the number of bus routes all over the city, where earlier there would be one, there are now atleast five buses going the same route, again a point of redemption, I get to pick and choose the emptiest bus while going to work :). The millions of new construction sites may cause a riot of dust and noise but it just shows that there is no end to growth and development. Of course the streets are more crowded than ever before and there are more people taking the train and it takes longer and longer to get places but strangely I feel more at home now than I ever have. There comes a time when you get tired of finding faults and nursing grudges and then you begin to accept things for what they are and appreciate the best in them instead of trying to change what you can’t. This is true of human relationships as well. The more you get to know a person, the more you find things you don’t like about them (lets face it, there are no saints any more!). So what do you do? Shun them for their faults or learn to live with the good things and leave out all the rest? (love the song by Linkin Park!).
I remember a quote from Julius Caesar:
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones;
Why let that happen? Let the good that men do live on after them and let the rest be gone with him. Life gets a lot less complicated and who knows, by accepting someone wholeheartedly with no reservations, you might just bring out the best in them. With that thought I’ll sign off and wish a warm welcome to the impending monsoons and while you sip some coffee on a rainy day, take some time to see all that is good around you. Cheers!