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Leaving home was a bit hard this time. I couldn’t bear to leave behind my cat, Mishti. Still, I had to go. As I was on my way to the airport, I looked wistfully at the busy streets of Mumbai, thinking about how I wouldn’t see them for almost a fortnight. We had already checked [...]
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“Average US citizen consumes five times more meat and milk and twenty times more eggs than the inhabitant of Bolivia – miners are below national average; of every 2 children born in mining camps, one dies soon after opening his eyes. The other survivor will surely grow up to be a miner. And before he [...]
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Maryland State and its famous city, Baltimore, old America. I call them manicured spaces. Beautifully landscaped, low congestion, large homes, lovely community areas and water bodies. East coast entry, a gateway to Hell. Many were brought in as slaves to payback their passage moneys; later immigrants queued up  at the bustling port. Baltimore grew and [...]
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Today we became students of history, as gathered by the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. The exterior itself is imposing. Long glistening corridors, multi-height ceilings, willing staff, hundreds of art pieces organised for visitors to do their own thing. So I made up my unresearched story, trying to imagine which images I would like to reflect [...]
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I had a glimpse of Michigan (Anne Arbor) during my first visit to US. The university and residential areas were the main recollections. The house with Sun room was my favourite and also the deck which would be snow-covered in winter. I did not visit Michigan this time.  So the magic is portrayed through my [...]
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We went to stay with my trader friend in Delaware; a school friend who migrated to US and like the true early European Traders, set up his final trading post in Delaware after a long stint at Pittsburgh. He has the “doer“ spirit so well perfected by the American culture which benefits from diversity that [...]
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We learnt many things at the world’s learning mecca, BOSTON – MIT and Harvard being the niche and fifty plus other learning places. The best way to get a feel of Boston is to stand on one of the bridges of Charles River and look at the distant outlines of the Hancock and Prudential buildings, [...]
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When you look out of the window these days, its all about vehicles on roads and in crowded places, people on streets. You have to really look carefully to differentiate. I admire the artists for their patient looking; they often capture reality unknown to their subjects. Some believe, when you look out you tend to [...]
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“MALL”, in my view, stands for man’s affair with leisure love. America has the final say in entertaining and wooing consumers. An affair is usually short-term, so a Mall must constantly innovate. Leisure is no longer a by-product while consuming; so a Mall needs to package the leisure theme well. Shoprite, Bed-Bath & Beyond, Home [...]
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Its fun to visit a place you have never been before. Uncertainty churns up anxiety, a much detested and unwelcome intruder. Little do we realise, worrying has kept us alive and fear is good for health. With such deep philosophy, we chalked out our travel plans during the long US stay. Multi-modal it would surely [...]
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3 Clayton is home coming. I love the stone buildings and the manicured inner lanes surrounded by ancient trees. When I walk these lanes, I go back in time when there were dirt roads, big cars and earlier the horse and wagon days; the fur trade and the slavery. The lanes look neat and washed [...]
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We got invited by our cousin; the one who took us to the Jazz show, for their daughter’s  new home-inaugural. A Good time to catch up with scattered cousins and their children and grandchildren. Under a light shower, the google driven Uber got us to a nice residential area. Two identical houses were constructed, enjoying [...]
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1965 etched on the aluminium Tiffin box. The day at the school picnic, my sister and I sat and had the puri-bhaji at Arrey’s Picnic Point garden. Over the years I have visited that area, passed through and stood before the lake, where the Sunday goers and occasional couples haunt. The memory recall was a [...]
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Years ago, I had walked that walk and framed a picture posing with the Wall Street Bull. Today, we posed before the same strapping old bull and a new bronze, nimble statue of a kid-girl, defying the Bull and trespassing over his domain. I had heard about the neighbourhood Trinity Church where the Great Depression [...]
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 I remember that day in September 2001 so well; during discussions  at the office with TV on, someone cried, “Gosh, the pilot misjudged!!!” seeing the plane hit one of the Towers. And when another hit the other Tower, we were speechless. “How can this happen?” The sight of tumbling skyscrappers and  bombs of flowing ash [...]
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The visits to US were now more to understand, feel, adapt and enjoy as home and learn from people what it means to be USAnian. And we – my wife Shetal and I had some splendid teachers – many veterans with decades of being there and some novices with days which seemed like decades. There [...]
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Part 5 “In our culture food is connected with our emotions, our happiness, our festivals. Every region has its unique food culture, completely different from the other, undividedly netted with our social and emotional aspects. We even have prickles of hundreds of varieties; the recipes keep passing from generations to generations.” Purvi said with an [...]
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Part 4 The foreigner sitting on the opposite lower berth clapped his hands looking at Titli. “You have a very talented girl here, Mr.” he said addressing Nikhil. He was a tall man in his mid forties, with a face kept unshaven for days. His wrists are double the size of Nikhil’s and his body [...]
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Part 3 Nikhil was still with his phone, typing mails and sending them. “Someone said it would be romantic to go by train”, Purvi whispered leaning closer to Nikhil. Nikhil looked up and took a glance at Purvi. Her beautiful deep eyes were looking straight into his. Age had added up a little weight on [...]
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Following the blue haversack which continuously Intending to vanish into the thick congestion of people Purvi hurreled holding her two litter gems in two hands who have equal potential of getting vanished into the crowd as the blue haversack . Even in this early hours the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is crowded enough to lose someone [...]
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Prologue Following the blue haversack which continuously Intending to vanish into the thick congestion of people, Purvi hurled forward holding her two litter gems in two hands who have equal potential of getting vanished into the crowd as the blue haversack. Even at this early hours, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus was crowded enough to lose [...]
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Date : 31st December, 2017 Place : Vancouver International Airport After ten days of intense travelling, it is time for us to head back to Mumbai. I am quite relieved, because even though these past few days have been wonderful, I am home-sick and frankly, very tired. You may go to many amazing places, they [...]
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Date- 31st December, 2017 In the flight from Vancouver to Paris My dad is native to a town called Aligarh. It is a small, yet busy town in the west of Uttar Pradesh. Papa loves the town and has many fond memories of it. He also remembers a lot of friends and acquaintances in Aligarh [...]
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Synopsis When eyes see, they report facts. When the heart observes, they make a story. Vancouver is a coastal seaport city in Canada, located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. It is the city with the highest population in Canada, which may or may not be due to the fact that it has a [...]
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Day 7 We wake up at 5.30 in the morning, get ready and go around the ashram. The sunrise is yet to happen though the sky has already started assuming colours. The ashram is situated in the middle of the woods. There are some 1500 apple trees. An artificial water body next to the dining [...]
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From the ruins of Sun Temple, Bajee drives us to Wani uncle’s place. He is an ex-colleague and a very close friend of Bajee. We stop over his place for a late lunch. Like Hamid uncle, Wani uncle too is very welcoming. Everyone starts chatting̱ up in Kashmiri and I sit there observing. The feeling [...]
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Day 6, Pahalgam This morning we were supposed to start early but we wake up with rains outside. Arvind Bhaiya has to leave for some work. He tells us an incident which again depresses me thinking about this entire façade we create for religion, easily giving up our life-long values, love, logic or education. Before [...]
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Day 5, Srinagar This morning we meet Bajee’s friend and ex-colleague for tea. We talk about the flood situation that happened last year. We are told that the water level had reached till the second floor of the guest house and people literally floated out from the windows to escape. And now there is no [...]
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Day 4, Srinagar For Lolab valley, Hamid uncle too is set to accompany us. It is nice seeing Bajee enjoying his time with uncle while Mehak & I are busy plucking walnut from trees and roaming all over the campus while Arun is busy with his work. After he wraps up, we drive off to [...]
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Day 2, Sopore After leaving Bijbehara, we are on our way to Sopore where we are supposed to put up for the next 2 nights. On the way I get the first sight of the ruins of Kashmiri Pundits’ houses! Half burnt, broken and shattered, more a haphazard arrangement of bricks rather than buildings, once [...]
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Day 0, Pune It is late in the evening when I reach Pune. Ahh! “I need a vacation!” As I thought my phone rings. Arun, my hubby, is calling. Best person to vent out the frustrations of a tiring official trip and demand for a vacation! After listening to my exaggerated version of the unfairly [...]
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DAY 4 Today we went about everything in a relaxed manner. We went to a guest house that is constructed and managed by Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), my parents’ old University. It was currently under renovation but from what I could see, it looked lovely. We walked through a forest littered with dried pine leaves [...]
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DAY 3 Today we went to a small river called Gomti river. Well, at least it was called a river. More like a small stream, it was very shallow and although the water was clean, there were many empty wrappers lying around. We sat on the rocks around and enjoyed the cool water running over [...]
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DAY 1 This year when we were planning our summer holidays, I stumbled upon a beautiful place called Ranikhet. One of my friends had suggested it to me, describing it as a very beautiful hill station. So we quickly planned and the tickets were booked. Soon it was time for our trip. First we spent [...]
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Synopsis Reviewer Analysis Ranikhet is a hill station and cantonment town in Almora district in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is home for the Military Hospital, Kumaon Regiment (KRC) and Naga Regiment and is maintained by the Indian Army. Nainital is a popular hill station in the Indian state of Uttarakhand and headquarters of [...]
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EPISODIC-45 ‘I’m sorry, Nilanjan. You can’t go in!’ I can see Tahmineh struggling to get these words out of her chest. I can see her face turn pink, her large eyes floating in deep disappointment. What? Someone puts out the bright November sky. We are standing outside the tight-shut gate of the Zahir-od-Dowleh cemetery. I [...]
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EPISODE-44 “Attar traveled all seven cities of love, While I’m still at the bend of its first valley.” I hear Fayizeh softly uttering these lines. I know this couplet. I also know most educated Iranian know this by heart. This is Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi paying his tribute to one of the great Sufi poets of [...]
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EPISODE-43 The fabled city of Neyshabur is about two hours’ car drive from Mashhad. The road offers the same monotony of dirty-yellowish undulated fields merging into nude grey hills in the horizon, which appears to remain unchanged all over Iran. It’s starkly different from the usual scenes we watch beside the highways or railway tracks: [...]
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EPISODE-42 Mashhad, the capital city of the Razavi Khorasan province in eastern Iran is known to the world for a shrine. I spend a whole day in that shrine. I have no friends in Mashhad, so I go alone. Haram-i-Imam Reza is about 10 minutes by taxi from my hotel. I leave the taxi mid-way [...]
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EPISODE-41 The word "Shiraz" always conjures up in my mind a nostalgic picture of my college-days. Late-1980s. As a boarder of the historic Hindu Hostel, which within its notorious walls had sheltered among numerous other celebrities, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, India’s first President, my general routine was to swim past the day in deep slumber, wake-up [...]
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EPISODE-40 Architectural engineering, art, religion, tenets of kingship, dynamics and dimensions of socio-economic relations, history of empires: Persepolis offers all these, and more, depending on the Musafir’s interests. More than anything else, however, Persepolis proclaims the evanescence of human achievement. Lost for hours in the ruins of gates, halls, columns, staircases, bizarre animals and birds, [...]
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EPISODE-39 “So you see what your Alexander the Great had done!” says Somayeh as a deep sigh escapes her. The oblique emphasis on ‘your’ and ‘great’ doesn’t escape me. ‘Parsa’ in old Persian. Parseh in modern Farsi. Takht-i-Jamshid in popular parlance and Persepolis in English: the vast palace complex of the Achaemenid Empire, two and a half millennium [...]
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EPISODE-38 “Azizam, my friend, is this a town of closed small scale industries?” I ask Shahram. Yazd, central Iran. Located by the fierce Bafgh desert, it is one of the oldest living cities in the world, with its history firmly rooted in the Median empire in the 6th century BCE, if not before. As I [...]
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EPISODE-37 Returning from the salt-lake, just before entering Varzaneh, I am transported to this Bishnupur-afternoon, as I notice the pond, and ask my driver to stop the car so that I can spend a little time on its banks smoking a few cigarettes quietly. Of course no one is taking a bath here, nor is [...]
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EPISODE-36 Varzaneh, however, is not just about the Desert. Nor is it about the uncanny Salt Lake alone. Villages for me hold a deep attraction, no less fascinating for being tedious. I find it difficult to put my finger on the exact pulse, but villages seem to have an intrinsic rhythm of life that can [...]
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EPISODE-35 Someday I must traverse a desert. My first engagement with such a vast expanse of lifelessness left me unsettled. Flying from Chicago to San Diego I had seen from above the vast Death Valley. And the dark crumpled Badlands. It’s frightening. I was to see the same heart chilling face of Nature flying from [...]
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EPISODE-34 My initial plan was to head for Yazd city, the capital of the central Iranian province of the same name, from Isfahan. But my friend Javed insists that I visit his home-village Varzaneh, about an hour’s drive from Isfahan. Javed is a student of Mathematics at the Isfahan University. He, however, apologizes that his [...]
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EPISODE-33 I come out of the Sheikh Lotf-Allah Mosque drained. I come out lonely and sad. I am not a believer. I have no business hypothesizing on the subtleties of spiritual attainment in the scriptural sense. But the Sheikh Lotf-Allah mosque has driven into me the realization that intense art does not lead the heart [...]
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EPISODE-32 The engagement between a non-believer and a shrine is always fraught with tense uncertainties. In most cases the engagement doesn’t happen largely because of disinterest of the non-believer and at times due to the strict exclusive nature of the shrine. But when the heart is inquisitive enough and the sanctuary welcoming, the meeting is [...]
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EPISODE-31 Water in the Zayande-Rud was a happy spectacle of course, but it looked familiar. Much of my childhood memories are filled with very similar evening gatherings of lovers seeking a moment of proximity and old people seeking a moment of quiet breath on the bank of the Hooghly River, which was about three minutes [...]
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EPISODE-30 Hind – the magic of this name truly dawned on me in Iran. Only in two other countries have I confronted such deep interest in India: Pakistan and Bangladesh (It has never ceased to surprise me, however, that I haven’t met a single Bangladeshi, ever, who despite sharing my mother tongue, refers to my [...]
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EPISODE-29 The first thing that I notice on return from Iran is a friend request from my Neyshabour friend Malihe. Facebook is prohibited in Iran! In no country have I seen such widespread and random use of proxy servers. I wonder though, isn’t the regime watching? Foe sure it is. The number of people thrown [...]
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EPISODE-28 Walking around the streets of Tehran, Isfahan or for that matter any major city of Iran quickly leads you the intriguing experiment that this nation is. The memory of Tabriz, for example, conjures up in my mind a series of snapshots each of which could be translated into a huge note of interrogation, none [...]
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EPISODE-27 Our exploration of the culinary-cultural space of Nizam Restaurant continued even after I went to Presidency College and stayed at the Hindu Hostel, made famous by many ex-boarders, including Rajendra Prasad, India’s first President. Here of course there was no discipline at all. Indeed on the door of our room we had put up [...]
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EPISODE-26 Unlike the Americas, Christopher Columbus, or his ilk of civilization never arrived at Kandovan. This small village, therefore, is not a carefully preserved relic, unlike the Tyunyi Village, although it’s completely a different matter that a republic without a pub is a relic, and yet Iran does claim to be a republic without a [...]
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EPISODE-25 Murghi keh nawai dard ranad ishq ast Paikee keh zaban-i-ghayeb danad ishq ast Hasti keh keh bah neestit khawaneed ishq ast Wa-aanach keh az tu tura rahanad ishq ast What is here that is associated with the great Sufi Saint Shams-i-Tabrizi? ‘Nothing,’ says Mehdi with supreme disinterest. Mehdi looks typically Greek. Six feet tall. [...]
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EPISODE-24 I return to the Cultural Center with confused heart and mind. When I had planned my trip to Khoy to pay my respects to Hazrat Shams-i-Tabrizi, I had at the back of my mind a whole lot of curiosity buzzing about the place. The visit to the tomb had so prosaically put an end [...]
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EPISODE-23 In the tomb of the great Sufi Saint Shams-i-Tabrizi if there’s no high-strung celebration of faith, there’s no restriction either. This place surely is one of the holiest Sufi pilgrimages in the world, yet anyone, at anytime can come, spend a quiet moment and leave. Anyone indeed. As an Indian I find that phenomenal. [...]
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EPISODE-22 Allowing opportunities to the tongue to take rest is not among Iranians’ many virtues. They love to talk. So, between Khoy Airport and Mortaza Barin’s home, I once again hear from him all that I had read about Khoy on the net. I am also told that his friends are eagerly waiting to meet [...]
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EPISODE-21  I begin my journey to the land of Shams with a hundred butterflies in my tummy. Again. Because it involves flying, again, and indeed a little more.  Soon after Sayad drops me at Mehrabad domestic airport in Tehran, I realize not a single sign here is in English. Every announcement is being made in [...]
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EPISODE-20 “The flavour of the bait overcame the sufferings of the trap. Otherwise existence would have been impossible.” Mortaza Barin was deeply surprised. Khoy is not really a hot tourist destination, so what really induced me to mark it in bold fonts in my Iran tour plan – he asked point blank in his mail. [...]
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EPISODE-19 Our train is panting at a small nondescript station. It’s quite late in the evening. Namaz stop. Many passengers have gone to offer their evening prayers at the adjacent mosque. But not all. Many are using this as a cigarette break. Some others are simply stretching their legs. I see no point in sitting [...]
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EPISODE-18 Kalisa-i-Vank. The oldest Christian church in Isfahan’s Armenian quarters, New Julfa. A fairly large courtyard beyond the plain light-brown clock-tower gate. On my right is the main cathedral, a stern brick building with an Islamic dome, and on the far side of the courtyard is a belfry, some more buildings, and a black stone [...]
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EPISODE-16 Colours, flowers, fountains and gardens are not enough to hold me back too long from the raw hurly burly of the streets and bazaars. I am a guy lost in the labyrinth of life, as lost as we were the other day searching Tehran’s unmistakable landmark the Milad Tower. Milad was quite high in [...]
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EPISODE-15 But Ali Qapu is not the only palace that the Safavid kings had erected to entertain royal guests. Shah Abbas II had also got the Kakh-i-Chehel Satoon constructed in the middle of the 17th century. The comparatively small edifice again with a talar facing a long rectangular fountain studded pool, stands in the middle [...]
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EPISODE-14 In spite of being a terrible map-reader, I am a neat traveller. Barring once in Nepal’s lake-studded Pokhara, I have never found myself completely out of my depth after stepping into a new place. I always have an itinerary in place that leaves enough space for getting lost in between ‘must visit’ destinations. For [...]
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EPISODE-13 Opulence repulses me. It’s very difficult to explain. Opulence, I have noticed, evicts the natural bustle of life. It evicts “everything loud with big voices”. It evicts the “deep baying of feet and hands swelled in the streets”. And the deep hollow left by that eviction, opulence fills with measured nature, tranquillity, beauty and [...]
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EPISODE-12 Swiss educated Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was a very fine example of the falsity of the term ‘objective history’. He was full of himself. Shah was not good enough a title for him. On October 26, 1967, six years after a guy orbited the earth for the first time, and two years before another [...]
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EPISODE-11 The world order that the World War I devoured also included the Qajar reign in Iran. 1921. The Russians, the British and the Ottomans all wanted a piece of Iran. Sultan Ahmed Shah Qajar, in his early 20s, was completely out of depth. Brigadier General Reza Khan of the Cossack Brigade struck at the [...]
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EPISODE-10 In Iran’s history, Tehran is yesterday’s affair. At least the Tehran that we roamed around in the squeaking and groaning Peugeot Sedan, which Sayad had received as a gift from his dad. We followed the list of must-visits which Tahmineh had drawn-up on her dressing table mirror! That Tehran really came into being during [...]
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Episode 9 Reviewer Analysis The bazaar at Isfahan, which is often cited to have the most classical architecture of all the bazaars in Iran, is comparatively less crowded. I roam around freely, until at one point the rasteh appear to be completely jammed with a crowd that is clearly headed for one particular shop. I [...]
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EPISODE-8 We keep walking. At one point the crowd thins. An open space. A Timche. Colours. Carpets, laid out on wooden platforms, one after another, till the other side of the hall. Some hang from the walls. Others simply rolled and dumped on the floor. Most of them appear to have designs in blue, green, [...]
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EPISODE-7 One major Silk Route passed by Shahr-i-Ray (pronounced Rayi), which today is a residential district in south Tehran. This habitation was founded between 3000 and 2000 BCE. William Shepherd’s map of ‘medieval commerce’(1) is a wonderful guide to Asia’s Silk Routes. It shows how various silk routes originating from Beijing passed through Kashgar, went [...]
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EPISODE-6 I did see many things in Iran that appeared huge in my Bankura-borne small-town gaze. The Persian cat for example. Cats that I saw at Tehran’s parks, or the one that Mehdi, my friend from Tabriz, picked up from the road to cuddle in Kandovan, a strange village, about an hour’s drive from Tabriz, [...]
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EPISODE-5 My conservation with Tahmineh meanders into why doesn’t she have a child? Her reply is startlingly candid, “I do want a child very much. But Sayad is not willing.” “But why?” “You ask him.” I did. It was primarily economic insecurity. I did have a very long chat with Sayad over this. Tahmineh and [...]
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EPISODE-4 Much of the living room’s floor is covered with a beautiful rug, which Tahmineh informs me is really of a cheap quality. On that she has spread a table cloth, over which she arranges food. Wah! I tell myself, dastarkhawan, a pure Mughal tradition! Butter, honey, yogurt, olive pickle, walnuts and dates. I notice [...]
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EPISODE-3 ‘Breaking bread’, I was taught in a gruelling copy-editing training many many years ago, is a dated Biblical expression for sharing a meal with someone. But I will insist on calling the sharing of my first meal with my Tehran hosts, Sayad and his wife Tahmineh, breaking bread, even at the cost of sounding [...]
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EPISODE-2 By the clock, Tehran is exactly two hours behind India. Sharp at quarter to five, a voice - first in Farsi then in laboured English - announces that we are ready to land at Imam Khomeini International Airport. The enormous lattice of lights, fast closing in, tells me we have arrived at a bustling [...]
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EPISODE-1 “Musafir az Hind amad-ast. Ma beh zoodi beh khaneh khwahim raseed.” Even my tattered Farsi lets me understand that Sayad is telling his wife on cell phone that I have arrived at the Tehran airport and will be home soon. And my heart freezes. Musafir? Me a Musafir? A few lines flash in my [...]
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