Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Family’s day out!

We were out all day on Sunday. We left home early and spent the morning at the Mughal Gardens. This was my second trip to the gardens and my third to the President’s Estate. The Mughal Gardens are open only for a month or so between February and March and going there is almost like a ritual for most people here.

I enjoyed the walk in the gardens. It was a visual treat. Being able to see so many flowers in such different colours, made the long wait in the queue worthwhile. I also liked the fact that arrangements had been made for rest rooms and drinking water. What I didn’t like was the indiscipline of my fellow country beings. And people would take a plastic cup, fill it Bisleri, and wash their faces with it. Where a path had been blocked by flower pots, people thought they were at the Olympics and jumped over. What can one security guard do when there are 20 people unwilling to listen? When there were clear instructions to not step on the lawn, despite the fact that a security guard kept telling people otherwise, a whole bunch of people walked across a patch of brahmi. Shame on us!

We also went to meet a family friend who took us to Akshardham. It is a huge temple complex and I am amazed at the amount of money that has gone into building and maintaining this place. The carvings on marble are beautiful. Each pillar, each door, each ceiling is a piece of art in itself. And when they are all put together, the end result is simply out of this world. I was told this temple was built in record time in this day and age. I couldn’t help comparing this to the temples of Palitana, Gujarat. I have been there twice already and they continue to fascinate me. 1000 temples or so, built somewhere in the 11th century, on a hill. It took me almost 2 hours just to ascend… imagine what it would have taken for the people who built it. I, at least, didn’t have to carry rocks or tools, and I definitely didn’t have to build the steps to get there.

While at Akshardham, I asked my mother if the money that went into building this temple could have been put to better use. She felt that spending in the name of religion is not necessarily wasteful. A religion could die if its followers did little. There are so many things that we do which others would find wasteful, so I couldn’t say much. We talked about Palitana and about how Akshardham was made in the 21st century with so many tools, with motorized vehicles to transport materials. How did they manage it back then? Why did people build temples then? Why was it important? Was it because of their interest in the arts or their appreciation for all things beautiful? I figured that it was probably one way to leave their legacies… one way for the world to remember them, long after they left the world.

Both these places did not charge us for admission. So, it didn’t matter that we were Indians and the gentleman with us was German. But I’ve always wondered about this dual pricing in India. When you visit France, even if you traveled across the seven seas to see the Eiffel Tower, you pay the same amount to get to the top of the tower as you would if you lived right down the road from there. I wonder how I might have reacted if I had to pay 260 francs to see the Louvre instead of the 26 francs that I actually paid. I am sure that is how all foreigners would feel in India, when they find they have to pay ten times of what locals pay to see a monument.

A fun weekend in all, but one from which I emerged confused about my country. I am proud of my country, but I wish I could say the same about my fellow citizens.


lipstick said...

Well did you see my comment on janani's blog? Same reason...

Raaga said...

I saw that too... and agreed with you wholeheartedly :)