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October 2009

 

 

 

 

In summary

 

India was amazing. It was just as I had been told, read, seen on TV and so on but quite different to what I expected; a physical experience (noise, reactions of and interactions with people, smells and other sensations) rather than an intellectual appreciation.

 

Photo: Elephant in the Street
In the street in Udaipur

 

I've been all over Europe, N America, the UAE, China, Morocco, Turkey, Malta, NZ, PNG and various pacific islands but of these only Morocco is remotely like India in terms of poverty (over 20%), population growth (largest country in the world within 20 years – and already so by a good margin if you take in pre 1947 India) terrible treatment of women (in some areas and castes) and environmental destruction.

The main differences are that while the environment is even more degraded, Morocco lacks cows and deliberately (uniformly) maimed beggars; and is cleaner, more honest with strangers and better organised - due to Islam? In Rajasthan, where you still hear 'the call to prayer'. India is perceptibly better organised (but not much cleaner).

 

Photo: Morocco
In the Souk Marrakech Morocco

Unlike Morocco, where the food (even from street stalls) is excellent; the common person India has possibly the worst food in the world - only chicken or 'mutton' or vegetable stew (that all look much the same) and rice - covered by the excessive use of chilli and 'curry' (whatever that contains). As I am quite allergic to chilli I had to be very careful and thus largely avoided the ‘delhi belly’ suffered by others. But there are fresh fruit and vegetables (not bad) for those who can afford them and commercial drinks and confectionery and cigarettes are very cheap.

Most hotels for the higher castes and tourists have a good continental breakfast and a reasonable and relatively inexpensive restaurant serving westernised dishes, so I didn’t starve.

A few international restaurants can be found in Mumbai or New Delhi (eg serving venison, duck, lobster, quail, shellfish, edible fish etc) but then you pay much the same price as here for the food; and a lot more for the wine. These are not for the average Indian. We had my birthday dinner at Indigo (duck, quail and even beef!); very nice but expensive.

There are also a few physical places and districts more or less reserved for the Indian upper classes, business or government (like parts of Mumbai, New Delhi and Shimla) where the public spaces are relatively clean and well run - if a little shabby up close (Katoombaesque) where the Indian food is either less (or more?) authentic; but edible.

Except for recent concrete and glass constructions in business areas (commercial offices and hotels) and infrastructure in economic growth areas (like the Delhi Metro and airports) most substantial structures (public buildings, palaces, forts, monuments etc) are generally left over from the Raj or even the Moguls (like the Taj Mahal) and now sometimes a little worse for wear.

 


photo
You know where

 

Yet on the whole, and throughout, I found India enormously stimulating.

 

 

 


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Travel

Berlin

 

 

 

I'm a bit daunted writing about Berlin.  

Somehow I'm happy to put down a couple of paragraphs about many other cities and towns I've visited but there are some that seem too complicated for a quick 'off the cuff' summary.  Sydney of course, my present home town, and past home towns like New York and London.  I know just too much about them for a glib first impression.

Although I've never lived there I've visited Berlin on several occasions for periods of up to a couple of weeks.  I also have family there and have been introduced to their circle of friends.

So I decided that I can't really sum Berlin up, any more that I can sum up London or New York, so instead I should pick some aspects of uniqueness to highlight. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Meaning of Death

 

 

 

 

 

 

'I was recently restored to life after being dead for several hours' 

The truth of this statement depends on the changing and surprisingly imprecise meaning of the word: 'dead'. 

Until the middle of last century a medical person may well have declared me dead.  I was definitely dead by the rules of the day.  I lacked most of the essential 'vital signs' of a living person and the technology that sustained me in their absence was not yet perfected. 

I was no longer breathing; I had no heartbeat; I was limp and unconscious; and I failed to respond to stimuli, like being cut open (as in a post mortem examination) and having my heart sliced into.  Until the middle of the 20th century the next course would have been to call an undertaker; say some comforting words then dispose of my corpse: perhaps at sea if I was travelling (that might be nice); or it in a box in the ground; or by feeding my low-ash coffin into a furnace then collect the dust to deposit or scatter somewhere.

But today we set little store by a pulse or breathing as arbiters of life.  No more listening for a heartbeat or holding a feather to the nose. Now we need to know about the state of the brain and central nervous system.  According to the BMA: '{death} is generally taken to mean the irreversible loss of capacity for consciousness combined with the irreversible loss of capacity to breathe'.  In other words, returning from death depends on the potential of our brain and central nervous system to recover from whatever trauma or disease assails us.

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Opinions and Philosophy

The Prospect of Eternal Life

 

 

 

To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream:
ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause:
… But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

[1]

 

 

 

 

When I first began to write about this subject, the idea that Hamlet’s fear was still current in today’s day and age seemed to me as bizarre as the fear of falling off the earth if you sail too far to the west.  And yet several people have identified the prospect of an 'undiscovered country from whose realm no traveller returns' as an important consideration when contemplating death.  This is, apparently, neither the rational existential desire to avoid annihilation; nor the animal imperative to keep living under any circumstances; but a fear of what lies beyond.

 

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