Rome : A city-sized tableau of history, up-close

October 18th, 2013

(First appeared in Air India Shubh Yatra, October 2013)

Rome is no beach resort to be experienced sensually with the skin, mind locked up. Rome is intellectually engaging as a city-sized tableau the interplay of politics, religion and art has created. So the monuments exist, some in ruins, as they were in the unaltered, timeless settings of River Tiber and the ‘ear bud’ foliage of Cyprus trees. Rome, like most other historic Italian cities, has resisted the modern temptation to grow vertically. Yet, unlike the city states of Venice and Florence, a Roman holiday is a challenge of distances. After all, it was caput mundi (capital of the world). Rome overwhelms you with its magnificence, and the mega scale on the three physical dimensions – plus the sense of the eternal, on the fourth dimension. Wrapped in a time warp are monuments, distanced by centuries, coexisting contiguously. This delightful puzzle has to be unravelled by joining the dots with the logic of chronology. Then one can decipher the entangled ribbon of human history spanning over 25 centuries.

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Of a hate-love relationship

October 16th, 2013

(First appeared in the New Indian Express, October 16, 2013)

In an otherwise happy school life in rural Kerala in the 1960’s, my gravest dread was not snakes or ghosts, but Hindi. Text books presented it as rows of clotheslines, on which hung squiggly shapes. Staring at them, the pages would turn dismal black, pockmarked by bright yellow-rimmed white circles – the exact colours of stage fright. I came to recognise in Hindi the only real threat to my passing my exams. I was relieved to bid adieu to my nemesis by scoring 50% in my School finals.

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