Sardarsahar

Sardarsahar

In the medieval era, Rajasthan stood divided into five large and several smaller principalities. The big 5 were Amber (Jaipur), Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur (Marwar) and Udaipur (Mewar).

The founder of Shekhawati region was Maha Rao Shekhaji, a descendent of the Kachhawaha Rajput Clan which held Amber-Jaipur for centuries. The chieftains of Shekhawati were the descendants of Baloji, the third son of Raja Udaikaran of Amber, who succeeded to the throne in 1389. Shekhawati, named after its founder, meant ‘Garden of Shekha’.

As the Mughal Empire fell into decline after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the descendants of Maha Rao Shekhaji, who had already spread themselves in the east of the Aravalli, began to encroach the west and north through the Udaipurwati and Sikar gaps in the hills. Shekhavat Rajputs wrested land from the ruling Muslim Nawabs (governors) to expand their fiefdom. By 1730, the Shekhavats grew very powerful and Shekhawati was flourishing.

Shekhawati comprised of towns like Jhunjhunu, Bikaner, Sikar, Ramgarh, Fatehpur, Sujangarh and Sardarsahar. It also had within its fold many large and small villages.

From the turn of the 19th Century till about 1822, a vast amount of trade was diverted through Shekhawati and more and more merchants got attracted into this region. This was a meeting point of the camel caravans from the Middle East, China and India.

Trade in opium, cotton and spices flourished. The merchant community that grew then were called ‘Marwaris’. These Marwaris built palatial havelis (villas). They also financed and built temples, baolis (step wells), schools and Dharamshalas (inns) in their home towns and villages.

Sardarsahar1

The flourishing cross desert commerce wilted away as the British political set-up grew stronger. More and more stress was being laid on the ports of Bombay and Calcutta instead, to establish monopolies for the East India Trading Company. By the 1820s and 30s, it became obvious that the future of trading did not lie in the sands of Rajasthan.

The Marwaris of Shekhawati would not be so easily put down. Leaving their native land, the menfolk migrated all the way to Calcutta, the colonial capital. They also migrated to East Bengal (now Bangladesh), Assam, Burma, Bombay, Surat, Hyderabad, Chennai, etc. Here too they flourished and inspired their brethren to join them.

When Shekhawati started flourishing, words went around and my forefathers also decided to move into that region. They chose Sardarsahar as the place to settle down. They moved from Hissar, which now is part of present day Haryana. A rough estimate is that it happened in late 1700. I am the ninth generation.

Chowdhary’s of Rajasthan was a highly respected name in Sardarsahar as apart from being rich, they had done a lot for the society. They had built a school, a baoli and a Dharamshala. School and Dharamshala were later converted to a Guest House. Baoli still continues and provides sweet water to about 100,000 citizens, in old part of the town. A family trust operating from Calcutta looks after the maintenance of these facilities. There used to be a street which had haveli’s of Chowdharys lined up and was named after my great grandfather, Surajmull Chowdhary Street.

When trade started wilting away from Sardarsahar also, my great grandfather decided to set up a base in Calcutta. Elder brother of my grandfather was mandated to move their and set up a base.

My grandfather was directed to a place called Barisal, in Bhola of East Bengal, which in present times is Bangladesh. This place was chosen as it had vast cultivation of Areca Nuts (Supari). From what I had heard, this was inhabitable, full of mosquitoes and flooded during monsoons. Hardly any food was available, except coarse rice, lentils and some vegetables. Malaria was rampart. Business was to buy areca nuts, process, grade, pack them and ship to Calcutta by steamers. There was no banking system. Money used to come in gunny bags.

Travel time one way to Barisal from Sardarsahar was about six months, using modes like camel, camel carts, bullock carts, trains, bus, steamers etc. Minimum stay time was 8 years for all male adults.

As infrastructure improved a base was set up at Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) where Areca Nuts were transported. Couple of Munims (accountants) were stationed there to trade and collect money. Munims as per the Marwari traditions were considered members of the family.

My father, after completing his graduation from St. Xavier’s, Calcutta also moved to Barisal to assist my grandfather. He was later joined by his younger brother.

The story does not end here. Post partition East Bengal became East Pakistan and my family decided to shift to Allahabad, where they already had a small trading post. In this migration, my grandfather boarded the last train out of East Bengal and was nearly killed. When the train reached India, it was full of copses. My grandfather’s life was saved by a Bengali Muslim who knew him. He was also in the line of migrants whose heads were being cut off. Luckily one of the killers knew my grandfather as he had received some help from him. He placed my grandfather along with the corpses and covered him with a bloodied cloth.

Taking into account my grandson, we are eleven generation connected to this history, which saw the best and worst of times.

In Sardarsahar, I have stayed in the beautiful haveli couple of times, which my forefathers built. It was like a small fortress, with Rajasthani Murals painted all over and carved doors and windows. Sadly, just a decade back it had to be sold off, as most of the family members were not interested in holding it. It was destroyed and a mall was build there. Members of our extended family still have their Havelis on that Surajmull Chowdhary Street. Baoli still provides water to residents of the old city. Guest house is available for marriages at a nominal token amount.

Property in present Bangladesh is lost. In Calcutta, part of our family continues using the original Gaddi (office) we have in Burra Bazar.

Memories remain and will remain till my generation.

Allahabad side of family, except few, have migrated to Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, USA, UK, UAE and Luxemburg. Most members of the Chowdhary family reside in now called Kolkata. A family tree in print is maintained which has all the names of male members of ten generations.

Princess of Ayodhya, who Became a Queen in Korea

Korea1

In my last visit to South Korea in 2009, my old time friend Ian Lee took me for dinner to a newly opened upmarket Indian Restaurant. Chatting over drinks and food, I happened to mention about an Indian Princess, who traveled all the way to South Korea to get married to a King. I asked him if he knew about this story. He simply jumped up from his seat and remarked “How do you know about this? You are talking about my great, great, great grandmother.”

Next day he narrated this incidence to all his staff in his office and took me to the grave of this Queen located at Kimhae. He said that all her descendants gather here on a particular day to pay respect to her. He said that most of the Kim and Heo and a few of Lee are descendants of this Great Queen.

Korea3

King Suro and Heo had 10 sons together, 8 of them were given King Suro’s last name – Kim of Kimhae, but 2 of them were given their mother’s last name to honor her – Heo of Kimhae. Kimhae is the name of the region where Gaya was located. About thousand years later, one of Heo of Kimhae branch became Lee of Incheon. So, Kim of Kimhae, Heo of Kimhae, and Lee of Incheon are all related – in the old days, they couldn’t intermarry.

The holy city of Ayodhya in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India plays host to hundreds of South Koreans every year – who come to pay their tribute to their legendary Queen Heo Huang Ok. The Queen, also known as Princess Suiratna, was the Princess of Ayodhya before she went to Korea and married King Kim Suro of Karak Clan in 48 AD.

It is because of the presence of her monument in Ayodhya that around 6 million people of Karak Clan consider the city as their maternal home. The memorial was inaugurated in 2001 in Ayodhya. Six million Koreans representing the Kimhae Kim Clan, Heo Clan and Incheon Lee Clan, trace their ancestry to the Royal Union.

An analysis of DNA samples taken from the site of two Royal Gaya tombs in 2004 in Kimhae, South Gyeongsang Province, confirms that there is a genetic link between the Korean ethnic group and certain ethnic groups in India.

Back in 42 AD in South of Korean Peninsula, there was a kingdom called Gaya. The founder of the kingdom was King Suro.

In Ayodhya, parents of Princess Suiratna had a dream, in which the Heavenly Lord told them to send the Princess to King Suro in Korea who had been chosen as the King of Gaya. The dream showed that the King had not yet found a Queen. Princess’ father told her to go to King Suro.

The journey took two years by sea. It is said that the Princess, during the sea journey, carried a stone tower which allowed the Princess to safely travel the perilous sea voyage from India to Southern Korea. It’s named “Calm Wave Sutra” and is now part of the Queen’s tomb.

According to the legend, the courtiers of King Suro requested him to select a wife from among the maidens they would bring to the Court. However King Suro stated that the selection of a wife would be commanded by the Heavens.

He commanded his senior courtiers to take horses and a boat to Mangsan-Do, an island in the South. In the island, one of the courtiers saw a vessel with a red sail and a red flag. He sailed to the vessel and escorted it to the shores of Gaya (present day Kimhae or Gimhae). Another courtier went to the palace and informed the King of the vessel’s arrival. The King sent nine clan Chiefs, asking them to escort the ship’s passengers to the royal palace.

Princess refused to accompany the strangers. On King’s orders a camp was pitched on the slopes of the hills near the Palace. The Princess then arrived at the tent with her courtiers and slaves.

The twenty slaves carried gold, silver, jewels, silk brocade and tableware. Before marrying the King, the Princess took off her silk trousers and offered them to the mountain spirit. King Suro told her that he knew about her arrival in advance, and therefore, did not marry the maidens recommended by his courtiers.

When some of the Queen’s escorts decided to return home, King Suro gave each of them thirty rolls of hempen cloth (one roll was of 40 yards). He also gave each person ten bags of rice for the return voyage. A part of the Queen’s original convoy, including the two courtiers and their wives, stayed back with her. The queen was given a residence in the inner palace, while the two courtiers and their wives were given separate residences. The rest of her convoy were given a guest house of twenty rooms.

Korea1

Today the population of South Korea is 51.25 million, out of which the percentage of Indian Princess’ descendants is 11.70%. A large percentage of the country’s politicians, businessmen and intelligentsia have been and are descendants of the majestic Queen of Korea hailing from Ram’s birth place Ayodhya, in India.

My Nani Bari

Moulmein

My grandfather was a second generation Marwari businessman in Burma. His family moved to Burma looking for greener pastures, when the trade route going thru Rajasthan dried up and they were left with no means of earning. This is the ordeal lot of families in Sekhawati Region of Rajasthan faced. Sekhawati Region consisted of towns like Bikaner, Sikar, Sardarsahar, Jhunjhunu, Fatehpur, Pilani, Ramgarh and so on. It was because of the trade route drying up, we see Marwari businessmen in every nook and corner of India. Migrating to other parts of India was not by choice, but because of compulsion. It was, for sure, a plight.

My grandfather was in timber business. He used to buy tree lumbers of Burmese Teak and get them sawn on contract in saw mills in a town called Moulmien in Burma. He used to ship these to Calcutta. His father and younger brother were based in Kathgola in Calcutta. Kathgola, as the name sounds, was a timber market (Kath in Hindi means wood and Gola – Center). Burma Teak is hardwood and is called king of woods. It was supposed to be the best wood for furniture.

My grandfather bought a composite saw mill in Moulmein from an English Company in the year 1926. The owner of the company Anglo Burma Teak Company had decided to go back to England. The property was huge in the sense that a road ended there. On the back side was River Thanlwin. It made it convenient to bring in timber from the forests, towed by a steamer. Lumbers were stacked and tied which became a floating platform; it was then hooked to a steamer. The compound had owner’s large colonial house, houses for staff, saw mill, timber stacking yard, a shed and fodder storage area for elephant, two jetties, steamer deck and a small garden.

When my grandfather informed his father about the purchase, he was very angry and was worried from where the money would come for such a huge property. It was then that my mother was born. This announcement condoned the first one and the family indulged in rejoicing, for she was the first child in my grandfather’s generation.

Life in that small colonial town was very good and peaceful. People had time to relax in the evening. Men used to play cards in clubs or with friends in one of the homes. Women, as usual, were involved in the house affairs. My mother grew in this free environment, having a host of Burmese friends. She grew up more like a Burmese girl and spoke Burmese fluently.

There was a small but not insignificant population of Marwaris, Gujaratis, Punjabis and Keralites along with Thakurs and Brahmins from Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Moulmien is now called Mawlamyine. It is the main gateway to South Eastern Myanmar and is on the mouth of River Thanlwin.

Moulmien was called ‘Little England’ in colonial times. Both Moulmien and Rangoon were capitals of the once British Colony of Burma and that has left the city with a treasure trove of colonial era architecture.

The British chose Moulmien as their capital after the first Anglo-Burmese War, because of the safe harbour it offered at the mouth of the Salween (Thanlwin) River where it enters the Gulf of Martaban.

Between 1826 and 1852 the British built Government Offices, Churches and a massive prison in Moulmein.

As a child, I remember Moulmein as a small beautiful town, surrounded by hills and rivers. The city had a mix of Burmese and Colonial architecture.

Moulmein1

Being a Buddhist country, the city was dotted with huge numbers of large beautiful Pagodas.

Moulmein2

In the mornings, you could see many Buddhist monks of all ages going house to house for alms, as per the tradition. Every Burmese house had a small temple or alters of Buddha. Every boy had to be ordained for certain period as a Buddhist monk and had to live away from family.

Moulmein3

People were peaceful, pious and fun loving. As men are the world over, they loved drinking in the evening. Their dress was simple – a shirt and a lungi to wrap around. Formal dress top was different which went along with a cap.

Moulmein4

It was a female dominated society where the men moved to bride’s house after marriage. Women were invariably beautiful and knew how to carry themselves. In the evening they would cover their face with a cream made out of herbs, to tone up their skin.

Moulmein5

The Japanese invaded Burma in 1942 and occupied it up till 1945 during World War II. Fearing safety most of the Indians residing in Burma moved back to India. My grandfather also moved to India along with his family. His property was taken over by the Japanese and was made Regional Military Headquarter. After occupation, when my grandfather moved back to Moulmein, his found his house in a very bad condition, steamer sunk and one of his pet dog blinded by a bayonet. Japanese were very cruel and more than 200,000 people died during occupation.

This period of 1942 to 1945 was very critical for our family, as during this period my parents got married. My father was studying in Calcutta in St. Xavier’s and was also involved in the family business, as well as in independence movement.

Nani Bari word itself carries lot of excitement. All the children during summer holidays look forward to go to their maternal grandparents’ house. Why not? Change it provides loaded with tons of pampering.

My two brothers, my sister and I were a privileged lot. My mother used to go to her parents in Burma once in two years. We kids, obviously went with her. From Allahabad it was train ride to Calcutta, from there by Union of Burma Airways to Rangoon. From Rangoon, a short flight to Moulmein. Also getting visa every time was a big hurdle. My grandfather had to pull lot of strings in Rangoon to obtain visas for us.

My grandfather was always there to receive us at Rangoon Airport. What an imposing personality he was! Tall, lanky, receding grey hair lines, he used to stand erect. I always looked up to him. I had the confidence, that he is the one man who can do and manage any and everything in this world. I always dreamt to be like him. From Rangoon, we were taken to Moulmein by another short flight of UBA. Train and road journey from Rangoon to Moulmein were considered dangerous.

First thing which was organised for us were white boxer shorts and Burmese lungis. We have to be like Romans in Rome. Why boxer’s short? This is the question which comes up in mind. We were supposed to wrap the lungi around our waste. As an insurance plan, we were to wear shorts, just in case somebody pulls away our lungi or it decided to open on its own.

My grandfather’s working area was ground floor. First floor was the residence. It was a huge teak wood and concrete house with back veranda facing the river. All flooring end to end was of Burma Teak. Furniture was very simple and functional.
The household had four Malayali maids, with origin from Kerala. I remember they were Christian and my grandmother had no problem with that, though she was a very religious lady.

Staff in the mill consisted of Burmese, Muslims, Hindus, Christians from Kerala and Thakurs from Eastern UP. The mill had one elephant to pick up lumbers from the river and stack them in the compound of the mill. The mill had two jetties, one each for low and high tide and a large steamer. Steamer was used to bring in lumbers from the forests.

Moulmein7

Work would close at sharp 5PM with the whaling of a siren. I still remember a Chinese guy, who would come exactly at 5PM. Dressed in white, donning a white cap, he would carry salted peanuts in a white wrap around bag. Below the container holding peanuts, there was a small mud stove, with burning coal, to keep the nuts warm and crispy. Even today I have not been able to wipe out the memory of that Chinese peanut vendor nor the taste of warm salted peanuts.

My grandfather’s working dress was a white dhoti and a white shirt. After business hours, after bathing he would change into a lungi and a white vest. Sheets were spread on the floor and he along with his senior staff, neighbours would sit in a circle to play cards. A servant’s duty was to light up a chilum and ensure that it remains lit. Turn by turn the card players, rather gamblers, smoked it. Surrounding my grandfather would be four of his pet dogs.

My grandfather was a thorough professional. He would mount the elephant, whenever the lumbers were to be picked up from the river. It was quite a tedious and dangerous job of keeping the elephant on the nerves. Mahaout could not manage the elephant at this stage. My grandfather had the knack of managing the elephant. I always thought he spoke elephant’s language. In the evenings, he would swim and float in the river. We kids would sit on the jetty and watch him swimming and floating. Along with us sat a bunch of Burmese kids dipping fishing rod in the river.

My mother would become a different person while in Moulmein. She would also wrap around a lungi and chat with Burmese neighbours in their language. She would go around meeting and spending time with her childhood friends, most of whom were Burmese. The life for her here was quite in contrast to her life in Allahabad. Actually, we also did not need her in Moulmein.

My times at Moulmein remain very nostalgic for me, memory of which will remain with me throughout my lifetime.

Family

family

I was born in a family. I mean family in real Indian sense of the word. When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by my Grand Father, Grand Mother, my Parents, one of my married chacha (uncle) and chachi (aunt), another of my unmarried chacha, third uncle – one and half year older than me, my father’s unmarried sister, a cousin sister and host of Maharaj (cooks), servants, maids and chowkidar (gate-keeper). All lived under one roof. My father had five brothers and seven sisters. The day I was born, by then six of his sisters were married and a brother as well.

When I started going to school, our family consisted of 16 members. We used to eat our meals in kitchen called Chowka. Eating elsewhere was not allowed, accept breakfast.

During mangoes season, fruit was divided into two, with one kid getting one half. We were never deprived, but were also never had abundance.

All festivals like Holi and Diwali were celebrated together with preparations starting a week ahead of the festival date.

In school, our bill was combined, having serial number one and the largest in school. We were seven uncles and nephews studying in St. Joseph’s High School, Allahabad, at any given moment. My sister and a cousin used to study in adjacent St. Mary’s. In the mornings, three cycle rickshaws used to line up to take us to school and then to bring us back in the evening. As we grew, every new teenager was bought a cycle. All rickshaws and cycles used to go together and back together in the evening, as mandated by the elders of the family. A great security strategy it was for sure.

Starting of each new session, we all used to go to Universal Book Company in Civil Lines along with our eldest uncle to buy books, copies, etc. We had a bargaining power because of numbers.

What fun it was! After coming back in the evening and before study and home work time we used to play cricket in our small courtyard. We did not need anything for entertainment. We were self-sufficient. Everybody had a favourite magazine which they bought, including Phantom Comic, Raja Bhaiya, Chanda Mama, Parag and of course Dharmayug, which was a family magazine and was primarily meant for elders. These were shared by all, turn by turn. Of course, the person who bought it had the power to decide the turns. Not a single page was left unread by any one.

When we fought, we fought like mad. Ladies of the house had to get involved to separate the fighting boys. There was a room which was like a class room. Each of us had our own table and chair. In front of us Masterji (teacher) used to sit, to help us do our homework and resolve problems we faced. Immaculately dressed in a Bengali dhoti and a shirt, I believe he used to work in the administration department of Allahabad University. Evening study session used to be serious and dedicated. Masterji was responsible for our performance at the school.

Such was our relationship with him, that on every Durga Puja we were invited to his house. We were offered Bengali delicacies prepared by his wife. This was the event we used to wait for. After seeing the Chowk Dusshera Chowkis, we all boys used to parade down to his house. I still miss it so much, that whenever I visit Allahabad I take a peak where his house was, behind our house. Sadly it is there no more.

During summer holidays, apart from doing homework, we were assigned to write two pages of Hindi and two pages of English text every day. This was to keep us partly busy and also to improve our hand writing. Not doing this was a punishable offence. We all boys used to cycle down to Yamuna bank in the evening. Our family boatman, Sangam, used to wait to take us on his boat to teach us swimming. In the mornings, turn by turn, on Sundays we used to go with our eldest Uncle to bathe in Gangaji. On return, we would to buy a large water melon. In evenings, the whole family used to assemble in the courtyard to have a slice or two of that melon.

During afternoon we use to shut ourselves in a room and read whatever comics, magazines and books, we could lay our hands on.

Our distant family used to love coming to our house during summer holidays. With cousins joining us, it used to be fun all the way.

Marriages in family, of which we had many, were most sought after events. Mostly, it was a week’s event. First to come were a team of Halwais who used to set up big chulahs on the roof. A store was prepared to store sweets and namkeens. Over the halwais were staff and over them a supervisor, who had deep knowledge of sweets and namkeens. We had free hand to pick and choose what we wanted to eat, twice a day. The house used to be full of relatives, who were all assigned tasks, from peeling of soaked almonds to peas.

Today when I look back, I analyse that whatever I am today, it has lot to do with the joint family. Having good habit of eating all kind of vegetables came from my eldest uncle, who taught us to eat everything. Flair for gardening came from my second uncle. From my father I learned to be system oriented. Joint family teaches you so much, to face the world and to evolve as a good person.

Sadly, the families are becoming nucleus, for now everybody wants space. In the process they fail to realise the benefits of getting born and growing in a Large Indian Joint Family.

Peacock’s Tears

peacock

No doubt Peacock is the most beautiful animal in the Universe.

It is said that Lord Krishna cleanses the holy feet of Radha with Peacock feathers, during their play-times in Vrindavan. It is a symbol of beauty and knowledge. The eye in the feather represents the divine wisdom or the third eye of Krishna.

Lord Krishna adorns peacock feather on his crown. Story behind it is that, in Govardhan hills, once when Krishna was playing his flute, the sweet melody that poured out made the peacocks dance in joy and excitement. At the end of a long dance they spread their feathers and the King Peacock offered with great humility its feathers as an offering. The lord accepted it and adorned himself with it.

Questions remain that why Peacock’s feather are so much revered? There are two parts to it. First is mythology and other is the fact. I believe that both are equally important.

Mythological Part:

  • Folk lore is that the peacock is the only creature in nature that observes complete chastity in life. When he is happy, he dances with his wings and his eyes are filled with tears, Peahen drinks these tears and conceives. Peacock does not have, even a tinge of lust in his heart. That is why Krishna adorns Peacock’s feather in his crown. This is actually a myth. Peacocks do mate.

Fact:

  • They are one of the largest flying birds. Their length (including tail) can reach 5 feet. They can weigh between 8-13 pounds.
  • They are omnivores (eat both plants and seeds). They like to eat insects, arthropods, amphibians, flowers and seeds.
  • Colours of their tail will look different every time you change the angle of looking because of reflection of light. The tail feathers have eye like spots, surrounded with red, green and gold feathers. The brightness of the feather is due to the presence of barbules that helps reflect light. Presence of barbules on both sides makes it highly divine. The barbules help the colours to shimmer and different hues appear at different angles.
  • Peacocks are polygamous (mate with more than one female) and usually form a harem with 2-5 females. Left alone peacocks are very sad and heart broken.

Stories do develop around a bird of such an extra ordinary beauty and personality. Poets automatically start composing poems when they see Peacock spreading his wings and dances. It is just a matter of faith that how you behold use of peacock feather. It is belief only that converts a stone into God. I fully endorse that Facts and Beliefs have equal role in life.

We are like that!

We are like that

We Indians are very shy and still are over a billion!

We Indians get nervous when we encounter a policeman rather than feeling safe.

In India, shoes we wear are sold in Air Conditioned Show Rooms, whereas the vegetables we eat are sold on footpath.

In India, everyone is in hurry, but, no body reaches in time.

In India, we consider dangerous to talk to a stranger, but consider it fine to marry one.

We Indians spend more money on daughter’s wedding than on her education.

We Indians are obsessed with Screen Guards on their smart phones but never bother to wear a helmet when riding a bike.

In India, artificial lemon flavour is used in welcome drink and real lemon in Finger Bowl.

In Rudyard Kipling’s written movie Jungle Book, Baloo the Bear says to the child Mogali, when he sees elephants ‘Give them respect’. In India it is important that you give respect to SUVs, the Mercedes, the BMWs, the Audis and the Skodas, when they are on the road. The owners of these come with lot of history and brawn.

In India do have foot path, but, these are not meant for the use of pedestrians. This is additional space provided to shop keepers to extend their shops or park their cars. In any case pedestrians of India do not prefer to walk on footpaths. They prefer roads instead.

India or Bharat

Bharat

Sometime back my daughter Nupur sent a message on WhatsApp, which read – How we Indians describe beautiful places of our country “Go there and you will not feel as though you are in India”. True!

This time while staying with my son Ankur in Gurgaon, on being insisted, we went to Cyber Hub. Had I not remembered what Nupur had said, I would have exclaimed “For sure this is not India”.

Nupur’s statement triggered a thought process. Why do we say so? I agree with her. It comes out naturally when we come across a place or a building which is beyond our expectations or is something very Western.

What is India which I would prefer to address as Bharat? India is not wilderness of Africa, nor war zones of Israel and Palestine, or a modern country of Europe and USA and as primitive as Amazon. India is a combination of all. India also lives in ages. You go to a high altitude village in Himalayas or a tribal village in deep forest of Jharkhand or Chattisgarh; you will see people who have been living like this since thousands of years. There are people who have not seen a bicycle or a car forget about a train or a plane. For majority of people, flying in a plane is not even a distant dream.

In comparison there are people in India, who are part of the list of the world’s richest, fly 365 days in a week, own huge mansions, yachts, jets and the world’s most expensive cars.

India lives in thousand years at any given moment.

A good thermometer is the roads of Delhi. When a delegation of UK’s traffic police came to Delhi, sometimes back, for study, they remarked that Delhi has the strangest mix of traffic in the world. Just see what we have there – Cows, bulls, dogs, horses, elephants, camels cycles, man driven rickshaws, Electric Rickshaws, bullock carts, man pulled carts, Trucks, mini trucks, pick-ups, auto-rickshaws, tempos, scooters, motor cycles, buses and cars of huge variety and era.

On Delhi roads, we have old rickety Fiats, Ambassadors and the newest and the best of Porsche, Phantom, Aston Martin, Bentley, Audi, Skoda, Mercedes and all brands of Japanese, Korean, American, German, British, Italian and French Cars.

India, as you say, is evolving, in modern sense of the word. I defer here. India is fully evolved. India has been evolved since thousands of years.

In his book ‘An Era of Darkness’ Author & Politician Shashi Tharoor wrote: ‘At the beginning of 18th Century, India’s share of the world economy was 23%, as large as all of Europe put together. It has been 27% in 1700, when the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s Treasury raked in Pound 100 million in tax revenue alone. By the time British departed India, it has dropped to just over 3%. The reason was simple: India was governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain’s rise in 200 years was financed by its depredations in India’.

India has been on the height of culture, science, administration, art, trade, medicine, manufacturing since the days of Ramayana and beyond, which dates to more than 10,000 BC. Ramayana and Mahabharata, as depicted by West and Pseudo Intellectuals in India, are not mythology, but history.

We Indians, were made to believe that we are poor, backward and what not. This is not the fact. We see development in the Western World as modern. We do not consider ourselves to be educated till we hold a degree from West. Our greatest people and sages were educated in this land. Swami Vivekananda, Maharishi Yogi, Prabhupada, Pundit Ravi Shankar, JRD Tata, GD Birla, Narayan Murti and so on were all products of this land.

Ruled by British for hundreds of years, we have learned to not to appreciate anything Indian, rather look down at it. Today we have started revering Yoga and Meditation, after it was endorsed by the West.

We need to start appreciating our history, culture et al. We need to seriously look into what has been created by our ancestors. See Asoka Pillars. See Khajuraho. Think of the first Global University like Nalanda. See how Yoga has become world phenomenon. Indulge in these things.

India is unique. There is no country nor was parallel to it.