India is not only an area of the world that currently has a lot going on, both politically and economically, but it is are also an areaa of the world that I am watching for Global Journalist. We do a segment called Free Press Watch and World Watch, where we discuss important things happening worldwide as well as significant things that are happening with the press worldwide. I have a number of countries to watch including:
and last but not least, Antarctica
Well, knowing this, I decided to look into The Condé Nast Traveler “Book of Unforgettable Journeys” Volume Two for some of these countries. I found a few. India has two articles (that I read for this post), Pakistan has one and Bhutan has one. I’ll save Pakistan and Bhutan for you next time.
The first of the India chapters is written by E.L. Doctorow. It is titled “The Taj, the Tiger, and the Treepie.” The Taj is the Taj Mahal, which he sees on his way out of India. It is otherwise insignificant except to mention that the birdwatchers with him are more fascinated with passing birds than they are with the architectural majesty that is the Taj Mahal. Momentarily skipping over the tiger, the Treepie is a species of bird that Doctorow describes as “a lovely, long-tailed bird with a rufous belly and back, dark gray head, and blue-gray wings.”
Here’s a quick video to give you an idea:
Now onto the tiger. This is what Doctorow has come to see. He has traveled with these birdwatchers to get a glimpse of the majestic Bengal tiger, which is rarer than the Siberian tiger. He goes through all of his emotions when he is telling us about his journey into the jungle in a jeep with his guide and companion Helen (not wife? not girlfriend? interesting). They almost die from the birdwatchers all running back and forth across a bus at each shout of a bird name.
Finally he sees one in the first national park they enter. He describes the forest, dead silent, and then the awestruck response he has to the giant tiger walking across the path. The tiger is followed by elephants, which the group climbs, in a process involving ladders and blankets, and rides to look at the tiger basking for a while longer.
He describes this feeling of harmony he feels when he’s watching the tiger, with the elephants right there and the birds and monkeys overhead. It’s a somewhat symbiotic relationship he kind of longs for– that he feels humans were certainly once a part of. I definitely understood that part. Many of the feelings he describes as a traveler are ones I have related to once or can imagine myself feeling. That’s what I liked most about this particular chapter.
“Maximum India” by Pico Iyer. This one was written in 2011 and was a LOT different than the first. It focused on Varanasi, a city of great religious significance. That’s not to say, just one religion finds this city significant, but in his stay alone, Iyer describes Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim celebrations and details how many religious figures gather here- especially at the beginning of the year.
To me, though this chapter was very “busy” describing the city (which was very busy, and clearly conveyed), it really got to the point that is often discussed in journalism– you can’t just parachute into a place and expect to understand it. Iyer is constantly kind of berating the city’s never-ending mish-mash of goings-on. By the very last day you can tell he starts to understand the people and their way of thinking. If this is true, it would be awfully hard for a journalist anywhere to drop in and expect to understand the people and their culture in a few days- long enough to put together an accurate story. Iyer is Indian, born of two Hindu parents (who actually suggested he avoid Varanasi), and it takes him a while to understand why so much chaos is so concentrated in one city.
You can tell that even though the culture is very different, and likely overwhelming, it is beautiful. I tend to think the faithful are beautiful. I have a hard time putting all my religious eggs in one basket, so I admire those who can so blindly believe in something. I saw this in the India Iyer describes. It seems, to me, to be a glorious culture.