Sadhna Shanker and Pujya Priyadarshni
by Pujya Priyadarshni@Smashwords
Pujya Priyadarshni 2017
Table of Contents
they say makes you a story teller. This collection of travelogues
seems to prove that saying.
place visited has unveiled a new aspect of life, humanity and
civilization. It has sparkled and shone much like a firefly in the
huge expanse of our mesmerizing planet. Long after, its glow has
ensured that its essence is captured in words.
all those who love traveling, this collection of ‘stories’ is a
glimpse of all the other stories that lie awaiting discovery….
a glimpse of history
Mahatma Gandhi's footprint lends a majestic aura to the place.
clock struck ten. The chimes rang out loud and clear in the pleasant
skies of Pietermaritzburg as we crossed the road towards Mahatma
Gandhi's statue. It is interesting to see how cities acquire stature
and meaning by the happening of some occurrence in their limits.
Pietermaritzburg, the capital city of the province of KwaZulu Natal
in South Africa is a mélange of cultures and a repository of
history. However, it is undoubtedly Gandhiji's footprint that lends a
majestic aura to the place.
me begin from the start of the journey. The city of Pietermaritzburg
is 90 kms or 56 miles, and about an hour's drive, from Durban. A
scenic drive, through hills ablaze with bougainvilleas of vibrant
hues leads to the city, which retains a quaint country character.
Nestled in hills, it has sprawling structures with sloping tiled
roofs. There are neither skyscrapers nor other urban structures that
lend uniformity to contemporary cities all over the world.
most people, especially visiting Indians, the first stop in the city
is the railway station. With British style colonial architecture, it
has on incomparable old world charm. Still a functioning railway
station, it reminded me of some of India’s small-town railway
stations. On the platform, an empty train stood as we walked towards
a small plinth installed at one side. In black granite, the white
lettering immortalizes the spot around which on June 7, 1893, Mahatma
Gandhi was thrown out of a first class compartment. The story is now
young barrister fresh from England boarded the train to travel from
Durban to Pretoria. Although he held a valid first class ticket, he
was asked to move to the van compartment because a white man objected
to his presence. When he refused, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was
unceremoniously thrown off the train at Pietermaritzburg in the
night. The momentous journey to India’s freedom had begun on that
I stood there, it seemed such an ordinary place. Across the fence on
the street, one could see signboards of ‘Station supermarket' and
‘Station café' in red.
that memorable night, Gandhiji had shivered inside the waiting room.
Today, that waiting room has been preserved as it is. A small room
with a wooden floor and a single wooden bench. The only addition is a
small oil painting of Mahatma Gandhi hanging above the bench. In
1939, before his 70th birthday, the missionary, John R. Mott, asked
Gandhiji to single out the most creative experience of his life.
Gandhiji remembered the night at Pietermaritzburg.
entered the dark waiting room. There was a white man in the room, I
was afraid of him. What was my duty? I asked myself. Should I go back
to India, or should I go forward, with God as my helper and face
whatever was in store for me? I decided to stay and suffer. My active
non-violence began from that date,” he said.
next morning, he sent a telegram of protest from the Pietermaritzburg
Post Office to the General Manager of the Railways. Gandhiji's
journey of revolution had begun. A night spent in a small room on a
wooden bench had changed the course of his life. That change was to
impact humanity in a momentous and continuing manner.
in the entrance hall of the station, many plaques about Gandhiji are
displayed. A poem by the late Fatima Meer on the Municipality of
Pietermaritzburg granting ‘Freedom of the City' to Gandhiji in 1997
is very moving.
tryst with Gandhiji's sojourn in Pietermaritzburg does not end with
the station. In the centre of the city is a beautiful red brick
building. Websites will tell you that the Town Hall is the largest
brick building in the Southern Hemisphere.
is beautiful with a lyrical sense that is slowly disappearing. The
bells of the clock tower of the Town Hall chimed at 10 a.m. as we
walked to Gandhiji's statue installed on Church Street. Bishop
Desmond Tutu inaugurated the statue in 1993. At the bottom inscribed
is a simple quote “My life is my message”
meeting hall in the Town Hall has been preserved as it was 110 years
ago. When we peeped in, a meeting was in progress. In this meeting
hall on 7-11-1912, Gandhiji and Gokhale had addressed a public
meeting. The visitor's book signed by them is available for viewing.
Pietermaritzburg has many other interesting things to offer.
can visit museums, the old prison, get a flavour of authentic Zulu
life, or get a truly British experience with a picnic basket in the
botanical gardens. It is however the connection with the Mahatma that
lingers. Sometimes in life, a fall makes one realize the potential of
one's own destiny. As you stand in that bare waiting room and wonder,
it is the only thought that stays.
A WALK THROUGH CENTRAL PARK
is but a park, a public space for people to enjoy, but Central Park
a balmy summer evening, with a serene lake littered with ducks and
tortoises, and majestic New York skyscrapers as a backdrop, I watched
as a wedding took place. The couple, surrounded by a small group of
people, was taking vows while the minister blessed them. The minister
announced “you may now kiss”. The two men, both middle aged,
overwhelmed hugged each other in response. The small group
surrounding them broke out into applause.
the conclusion of the ceremony, onlookers like me continued on our
walk, run or returned to our books or mere contemplation. It was
simply another day setting in Central Park. Created in the 1860’s
as the first public landscaped park in the US, Central Park is spread
over 843 acres. It has several lakes, theaters, ice rinks, fountains,
tennis courts, baseball fields, many meadows, elm trees, statues and
wooden alcoves. It is also home to the Central Park Zoo and the
Metropolitan Museum of Art. What it contains would be long, even more
difficult is to capture what it represents.
visit to Central Park is invariably listed as one of the must do
things in New York on all websites. For a visitor, who has barely
half a day to stroll through, Central Park represents a microcosm of
the cosmopolitan, varied, pulsating energy of New York. Although one
can see only a small part of the huge park in a short visit, it
leaves an ever lasting impression. If you pass through the walk that
is lined by grand statues of great writers towards the Bathsheba
terrace, as a Bollywood lover one recognizes the fountain where many
movies have been shot. Maybe you cross the Bow Bridge and walk
through the rambles on your way out, mesmerized by the thick foliage,
the multicolored birds chirping away in the heart of the mega polis.
In corners, people play music, enthrall children with puppet shows,
or sell the ubiquitous hot dogs or pretzels.
long duration residents of Manhattan, who can walk in Central Park on
a regular basis, it becomes an integral part of life. The change of
weather is captured most eloquently in the ambience of the park.
Walking a dog or walking with someone you love, in any season can be
an uplifting experience. During spring, flowers of all hues bloom
across the meadows, trees and hedges. The grass is lush green, trees
in full splendor, and people are out doing all the things they love.
Summer sees the disappearance of flowers, but the activity and hustle
bustle in the Park take on an energy that is palpable.
brings another riot of color in the changing colors of the leaves.
From bright yellow, burnt red, majestic maroon to myriad shades of
brown, Central Park is crowned in the colors of autumn. As the winds
cool down, leaves fall rapidly and once the snows capture the
landscape the Park becomes a sheet of snow. Encircled by bare brown
trees, the snow laden grounds become the arena for people frolicking
in the snow.
the weather, Central Park remains a magnet for people. Even when it
rains, people are there with raincoats and umbrellas.
walk through Central Park will take you past lovers lost in an
embrace, solitary reapers of books under a tree, children playing,
groups on picnic, teachers of zen or dance with a bunch of students,
or newlyweds posing for photos against its iconic structures. There
would be people running to stay fit, horse drawn carriages with
mesmerized tourists floating down its pathways or a horse mounted
NYPD cop waiting patiently while his horse drinks from a fountain.
You can see protest marches, support groups, music concerts, plays,
impromptu performances or get your portrait sketched for ten dollars.
You turn a corner and under a stone awning, a lone artist would be
playing music to earn a living. Myriad nationalities walk its spaces
everyday; the strangest languages hit your ears as people pass by.
The water bodies in the park have ducks, tortoises, and even otters.
There is life, movement and joy spread out.
is but a park, a public space for people to enjoy, but Central Park
is special. It throbs and pulsates with all that encompasses the
human spirit. Freedom sways in its trees, beauty blossoms in its
flowers, respect and heritage reside in its statues, endeavor is
strung across its pathways and open spaces. It inspires hope and
makes one acutely aware of the beauty of life.
YOU WONDER WHAT THE MAGIC IS
fantasy and fiction, a tour of the Universal Studios in Los Angeles
is like walking through a dream
does one infuse something already magical with a dream-like quality?
Welcome to Universal Studios in Los Angeles, USA. If you have at
least a day free in that city, then a visit to Universal Studios is a
must. Doesn’t matter if you are old, young, a honeymoon couple or a
child – it is a place that can enthrall everyone and set their
of the most famous and still functioning Hollywood studios, Universal
started its modern tour in 1964. Back then it included a series of
dressing room walk-throughs, peeks at actual production, and later,
staged events. It has now evolved into a full-fledged theme park. The
theme park is replicated in many parts of the world, but the original
is in Los Angeles. A day spent in Universal has a dream-like quality,
especially if you love cinema.
you have enjoyed watching Jurassic Park, or Simpsons,
or Shrek, or are a fan of the minions of Despicable Me, then
ride along with your favorite characters in the imaginative
attractions. I discovered the sheer joy of simulation and 3D in these
rides. Sitting in a room, simulation takes you along mountainous
terrains, sharp turns and u-turns, thuds and shoves. The characters
play out a small story in the surroundings, at times seeming to touch
you and at others lunging at you. One dodges sparks emanating from a
fire, and the rolling car that seems to come hurtling in front. When
exiting the hall, the exhilaration and fatigue is the same as that of
a real rollercoaster ride. But if you have motion sickness like I do,
then you can simply shut your eyes when the ride gets tough. After
years I sat through a rollercoaster ride, without the attendant
theme park was also a first brush with 4D technology. While watching
the Shrek show, water sprayed on our faces when it rained
in the scene, the chairs we sat on rumbled in coordination with what
was happening on screen, and all of us jumped when it felt like the
rats on screen were scurrying past our feet!
real treasure of the park is the Studio Tour. In a long open
carriage, a drive through the iconic studios of Universal is a
the avenues of New York, to Wisteria Lane where the Desperate
Housewives live, to the eerie plane crash of War of the
Worlds, they are all recreated. One understands how floods occur in
movies, or that subway stations are built entirely to recreate the
ambience. When an earthquake occurs, pre-planned vehicles tumble and
break out, while small water bodies mimic oceans and rivers. Movies
are make-believe, we all know that. During that studio tour I
realized that the make-believe too has a reality, which is equally
the stories that the studios tell is part of an era that is slowly
passing us by. When we sat through the special effects show it was
show narrates the journey of special effects from the time they used
red fluid for blood to computer generated imagery. With nothing but a
dark color backdrop, any atmosphere – flood, forests, fire, age,
injury, crowds, castles or rain can be recreated.
world of movies is moving from the brick and mortar sets to the
virtual world. The magic is now only on the screen and nothing real
is left behind for memory or for visitors like us. The virtual world
is now transformed into attractions of simulated entertainment. The
cycle goes on eternally, but in a different form!
food stalls, lots of popcorn, dressed up characters, peppy music, and
hordes of people from all over the globe create a world of fantasy
the magic of movies and encapsulating the thrill into a dream-like
day is the essence of a visit to Universal Studios.
is a never ending process, from one art form there sprout endless
artifacts. It is simply a matter of imagination and execution.
with all its beauty is dreamlike. Its languor, endless lanes, colour
and vibrancy of an old culture is like time travel
people go there for their honeymoon; others like us go there because
there is a fable like mystique attached to the city built along
canals. And Venice doesn’t disappoint. Walking through the lanes,
bridges and along the canals of the city is like time travel. One is
transported to some bygone era. Situated in North-eastern Italy,
Venice is a city built on 118 islands. Time travel begins when one
disembarks from the train and looks for the ‘vaporetti no 5.1’
indicated by the owner of the B&B we were headed to. It took a
descent down the stairs of the station to realize that it meant a
public transport boat. Crowded by locals and tourists like us lugging
bags, the boat takes a long route towards our stop. On the way, the
waterfront on both sides is ornamented by buildings of immense beauty
and old age charm.
got off the boat, and the handsome conductor did not charge us for
the journey. We followed the precise instructions Roberto had sent in
the email. In the quaint area of Castello, below a house with flowers
in its small yellow balcony we waited for Roberto. An old man of
70-plus opened the door, took my hand to his lips in the old manner
and then led us through a narrow lane of houses to our abode for the
next two days. “All the main areas are walking distance from here,”
he told us. He was right. Everything in Venice could be walked to,
unless you prefer to take a boat. To walk you need a map, and since
it is a walker’s city a map has to be necessarily bought. It is not
available for free even in the tourist information centre!
are no cars, no cycles, no motorcycles, no mode of transport except
the boats that glide by. The ‘vias’ or ‘calles’ of Venice are
like a labyrinth, however once we mastered the map our time travel
truly began. The Piazza San Marco is the main square of the city.
Everything is measured by its distance from that bustling area. It is
where the imposing and beautiful Basilica of St Mark stands,
surrounded by a host of important buildings.
the bright sunny winter morning that we were there, there were
seagulls in plenty in the sky and people thronging the ground. Cafes
had set out chairs on the waterfront to take advantage of the sun;
while at the square people were busy trying to capture the ambience
on their various appliances. The square leads to various parts of the
direction one walked the lanes were lined by shops that sold some of
the best brands of the world. At small corners one would walk into a
small church or chapel. Old ornate community taps had water running
continuously, while in the canals that one crossed black gleaming
‘gondolas’ streamed past. In some the smartly attired gondoliers
were serenading young couples, while in others families were simply
gazing in wonder at the different world around.