Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Random Memories

There's been too much going on recently, that's good, in a way. So when I got some leisure time, a single malt with Ice in my hand and a surprising urge to write, I had no topic to focus on! So, here are some of my random memories of my travel days gone by.

A decade back when I did a lot of exciting trips, there was no blogging and I never kept a real diary of events and anecdotes that I should have written down somewhere, even on a piece of paper. In some cases I did record things in writing and in some cases I simply forgot to write. One such event was my adventurous trip into the jungles of Honduras, in a retired American school bus turned public transport, sharing seats with entirely Spanish speaking rural Hondurans and their chickens on bumpy mountain roads. I was on my way to see the Mayan ruins of Copan Ruinas, a fine example of the Mayan civilization with one of the best recorded historical evidence of how the Mayans lived. This is now just a slowly fading memory. I knew a smattering of Spanish then, having listened to tape recorded manuals for learning Spanish, available freely at the Miami Central Library in Miami, Florida (where else?). That was enough to equip myself to travel to a country that spoke no English and to wander around the little villages so equipped! That's another story to write, I know.

Maybe I should re-look at those photographs and try and remember little things to put down in a blog. The archaeologist hidden in me says, go and dig - Unearth those pictures and tell your story, my mind urges. After I take another sip of this fine single malt whiskey, I tell myself but never manage to go on this "dig".

There was this time, eight years ago that I went into the mountains in Central Cyprus to visit the famous lace making town of Lefkara. I still have some lace items from there hanging around. No blogging then either but I do have a few things written down for me to remember. That's a visit that I had enjoyed as well, the archaeologist hidden in me had the most fun. Lefkara was actually a diversion. My main goal was to visit one of the best preserved Neolithic settlement in Eastern Mediterranean, a site more than 8,000 years old (no, there is no mistake in the zeroes following 8). This place is unique in the sense that other than the fact that Neolithic people lived as a well organized society, there is also direct evidence, perhaps for the first time, of humans and cats living together. Human and cat remains have been found in graves, side by side, indicated a "master and pet" relationship. I am not surprised though, human - animal domestic relationship in my opinion, perhaps stretches far back in time than that. but here was direct evidence. Earlier schools of thought put the cat as being domesticated and living with humans, as recorded in Egyptian history. That actually came much later that's much later than this settlement in Cyprus. The bones of the cat are intact and there is no evidence of the cat having been hunted and killed. People used to be buried with their "wealth" and items that they held close. Anyway, that's another story for another blog. I've shot loads of pictures, need to dig them out too.

Let's see. Where were we? Oh yeah, I'm still in the "archaeology mood" and I just remembered another trip done around the same period. That was an inadvertent trip, afforded to me due to a technical glitch in the Airplane that I was flying (as pilot). I got stranded in Ahmedabad, a city in the Western State of India for a couple of days. This was a ferry flight and no one was really inconvenienced, matter of fact this trip ranks among my most favorite ones and became a part of my cherished memory.

I had been somewhat familiar with the so-called Indus Valley civilization (which now is a misnomer since the Saraswathi river had hundreds more civilized settlement 4,500 years ago than the Indus Valley). So, some drive away from Ahmedabad I stumbled into, what I would call, a spectacular site of ruins of the ancient city of Lothal. It took some doing to get there since most taxi operators in Ahmedabad, sadly, were not even aware of this place. Lothal was a rich "inland" port, a unique place of commerce and civilization around 2400 B.C.E. I know this "Inland port" statement of mine may have evoked some curiosity, that's got to wait till I write about it or one can find out about that on the net of course. I shot loads of pictures here too and I promise that's going to be a part of another blog.

Maybe I should write about the time that I fell into the river accidentally and broke my finger in Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka while ogling at Elephant herds, grounding me and the plane for some time. I remember the 6 hour ride back to Colombo for medical attention, multiple fractures that too. That incident gave me the opportunity of going uphill to Kandy to see the Buddha's relic (Temple of the Tooth) and to wander around some parts of Sri Lanka, a country I have visited many times.

Or maybe I should write about the trip to Guatemala with the threat of banditos lurking around in the hills or maybe about that beautiful walk I took, around a crater lake (caused by a Meteor, eons ago) in Central Grenada surrounded by total silence and nutmeg trees, not necessarily in that order! The silence is only broken by sounds of birds in the trees and the crunching of nutmeg shells strewn on the ground crackling under my foot. That's another experience I can never forget. You'll find the tiny Island of Grenada in the West Indies, just north of Trinidad and Tobago - cricket fans would know this place.

I promise to write about all of the above. How about the fabulous years I spent in the Maldives flying around the beautiful Islands until the Tsunami hit us?....and the time we saw hundreds of Dolphins and I mean hundreds. So many Dolphins that actually caused a flotilla of sea taxis to halt in their position mid sea. These sea taxis are called Dhonies in Maldives and thay ply between the Airport Island to the capital city-Island of Male'. The taxi on both sides of the channel actually stopped and waited for the entire herd to pass, taking more than ten minutes. I can never forget that sight, of hundreds of Dolphins going by, some doing spectacular flips and leaps out of the water. I could actually have died of contentment and joy that filled me then, nothing more needed to live for, having seen what I considered quite divine. And I had seen them from so close that I could have reached out and touched one, standing near the sea wall in Male'. What else is there to see on this otherwise strange planet, when one has seen divinity? When I think of that scene, I still get goose bumps.

I didn't die, of course, still sitting here in my tenth floor apartment in Singapore, typing in between taking sips from my depleting glass. Strange things it does, to the mind, this fine single malt going smoothly down my throat. I can go on and on but that would be pointless. Maybe I should not promise to write these stories and maybe you should not take me too seriously and wait for me to write them! Who knows when that will happen? Cheers! Hic...

29 comments:

Swaram said...

Oh! I loved this mixed bag. And the tsunami, u were a live spectator then?

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Swaram, I'm happy you liked this mixed bag. Yes, yours truly was a "live" spectator during the Asian Tsunami. I also did post Tsunami survey work with our Aircraft and I saw Islands that had simply washed away and some that existed as just sand banks, stripped off all foliage and mostly underwater. 90% of the resorts in the Maldives closed down for an extensive period for repairs. In all, the Government put the death toll in Maldives to about 90 people who were swept away. It was far less than the devastation it caused in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka.

It was a weird time. We knew it was headed our way because it had hit India and Sri Lanka and the Tsunami current was moving at the speed of a jet. I managed a call to home and let my parents know that I was safe and that communications would be down for a few days. They were worried till I called them back two days later!

When it happened, we had not launched our first flight of the day between Gan and Male'. We got notice from Male' to stand down and that waves were lashing Male' already. In Gan, I even saw the waters recede, exposing the shallow ocean floor, before the waves came back with a vengeance. While my Island of Gan (Southern most Island in the Maldives chain) missed the full brunt of it, there were others in some parts of Maldives that were badly hit.

You will be happy to know that Indian navy was the first to arrive on the scene with rescue and rehabilitation equipment and the first Indian Navy ship that docked in Maldives with supplies was the INS Mysore! It is a frigate actually but was first on the scene. Imagine what I felt like when they announced the name of INS Mysore! The Indian Air Force also came with transport Aircraft for relief work and my regional airline helped out with some ground support. It was a weird time. And I'm still here to tell the tale...

Swaram said...

The first personal update abt the Tsunami I am reading. What I only remember personally is that we had cancelled our Cochin trip owing to the same. Anyways, nice to c u back in the blog world Captain :)

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Swaram, what is also interesting is that I met a group of "Tsunami Survivors" in Singapore who had been caught up in Sri Lanka when it hit. They were a group of doctors and their families that went on vacations together. They still do that now, and they went to Sri Lanka again and also Maldives. I had briefed them about Maldives that time.

Encouraging comments from you and others keeps me coming back to blog sphere, thanks for that.

avdi said...

I know exactly how you feel. There are scores of books I read at times (pre blog days) and never even listed in a diary or something. Now I cant remember those titles no matter how hard I try. All I remember is that I read this great book with this kind of a story, and kick myself for not documenting them.

I will look forward to further additions to your blog, when the pictures have reminded you more about those exotic trips. I can imagine how you felt when you stepped on those archeological sites. I remember how I felt when I was visiting (whatever remains of) the Agra Fort. I was overwhelmed by the sense of history lurking in those walls.

Your recounts of the tsunami were awesome.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Avdi. The archaeology related trips were quite interesting but it was only in India that I felt somewhat depressed because Lothal was the only site that had no caretakers around, there were ancient pot shards strewn all around the site, no real guides and the entire site exposed completely to the elements. No shelters erected to prevent erosion of these 4500 years old structures.

Some of the bricks used 4500 years ago were so good that even in recent past, apparently people carted away some to use in present buildings, the lone museum caretaker told me I'd find houses in nearby villages with these bricks.

The British, god bless them the sods, when they ruled India, they too carted away some to be used in their Railway buildings nearby. Sad, isn't it?

There is a small "museum" on-site, the entrance fee was a measly Rs 2 then and and one caretaker dozing on a chair outside. The only book on Lothal with photos of the dig was out of stock and with no information on when new stocks would come in. I can't imagine they'd have printed thousands of books. No brochures were present there either.

The final insult was when my taxi driver asked me why we had come all this way to see a bunch of broken down walls and ruins. How could I explain? We really don't have any knowledge and hence no pride in our history. The way the Copan Ruinas of the Mayans and the other sites are preserved is something we need to emulate in India. I only wonder if there is any will.

avdi said...

Dont get me started on that ! Even the 'big' monuments are so abused, even Taj. Though you have a semblance of security there. Kutub Minar is my favorite place, but look at the shape it is in. Look at Purana qila, and scores of monuments around Delhi that are being used a peeing spots. Sigh !

And not a mite we can do about it.

In fact the place where I grew up, Jamnagar in Gujarat, there are so many heritage building that it qualifies to be called a heritage town, nothing is being done. That despite the owner - the ex-maharaja of Jamnagar - still being alive. All the magnificent architecture is just crumbling.

Lothal should be more guarded than any other 'sacred' place, but no. Just because people dont have any sentiments for it.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Avdi, I did not know so much about Jamnagar, sorry to hear the state of affairs. I still need to go back to Gujarat because there are many important ancient sites including and most importantly, Dholavira. I hope I get the time later this year.

avdi said...

Oh that is great ! I hope you have better luck this time.

YOSEE said...

WOW ! you do get around dont you ! And its such a pleasure to read of yr. interest in archeology.I am an archeo-freak too.

Heartening to read of the neoloithic pet-owner realtionship that extends beyond the grave in Cyprus. Stone-age or Cyber-age, humans are humans when it comes to bonding with pets.Eagerly awaiting the promised photographs.

Am turning green with envy that you visited Lothal.And your description of your walk among nutmeg chomping birds in silent Granada only adds fuel to it ! I do hope that sylvan silence endures to this day and has not been shattered by timber-terrorists.And the dolphin armada ! Unbelievable !Got those goosebumps, just visualising it.

Shuddered, reading of your Tsunami account( in comment section). (The closest i got to it was travelling to chennai the night of 26th, and seeing the incredible sight of a heap of fishing boats crashed against the compound wall of the A.I.R. building across the( still wet) road from the Marina Beach.It looked surreal.)
With such wonderful experiences, you can keep saying "Cheers" to yourself, even without the "Hic" !
Regards.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Yosee, yes I do get around perhaps these days more in the SE Asia region though. The photos I believe are in my parents house in Mysore, will get them next time and scan and post them with stories that I can still remember. When I was a child I used to read the Encyclopedia of historical places. These included Angkor Wat Cambodia, Egypt, Indus Valley Civilization (as it was known then), Mayan civilization and the Incas. Except for the Inca sites, I managed everything else (and a bit more)since I've grown up :)

Allen said...

I appreciate the labour you have put in developing this blog. Nice and informative.

Adam said...

While people may have different views still good things should always be appreciated. Yours is a nice blog. Liked it!!!

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks!

Jeffrey Synk said...

Capt.,

That is why blogging is wonderful. It allows people to share their wonderings and experiences whereas before they might have just stayed with those nearby.

You write wonderfully and I look forward to visit your blog and reading about your experiences and insights again.

Regards,

Jeffrey

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Jeffrey, for visiting and for your kind comments on my writing. Your blog about aviation is very informative and well presented and I'd recommend aviators and those interested in aviation to visit your blog. Thanks again.

Namita Chandra said...

Enjoyed reading your post. I feel the british are very good at preserving history and learning from it. The least we can do is take a tip from them.
It would be great reading about more of your travels. Few days back I was thinking the same thing about preserving memories in writing and this time on our trip I took out time to write down almost every day.

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Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks very much Namita, I had to come to India on an urgent trip and was not checking blogger earlier for comments, I apologize for the delay in publishing your comment.

Dippy said...

Hey,,,
I wanted to seek info from you about Macau..
Is Macau worth a one day visit?
We are basically planning a trip to Hong Kong with one night in Disneyland, I was just thinking should I include Macau in the package too.
I read your articles on macau and gets me interested... But was still thinking if I should visit that place as i am trying to cut down the expense of our package.. So whats your opinion on Macau? Should one visit it for a day?

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Hi Dippy, Macau is worth it for a day trip but you won't be able to do everything but may be able to cover a lot. There are ferry services that are high speed, mentioned on my blogs on Macau. These are quick and convenient. If time is really tight, just do HK and Disneyland, don't want to tire yourself out on a holiday!

Kamini said...

That was quite a dig! You have unearthed a real treasure trove of memories.
Wow, you have certainly traveled to some very interesting places! I hope that further doses of the memory serum - single malt - will result in further reminiscences and details.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Kamini, sorry for delayed posting, was in India tending to Dad who is not doing well. I just got back to Singapore after 3 weeks. Will start blogging again.

Kamini said...

Sorry to read about your dad. I hope he is doing better now.

Swaram said...

Hey Captain ... I was wondering n infact thinking of leaving a comment asking u abt such a long absence from the blog world. How is ur father dng now? My best wishes n sincere prayers. Welcome back :)

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Kamini, thanks, he is doing well under the circumstances. Swaram, It's a long story but related to cancer, bladder carcinoma to be precise. Last year's attempt at radiation did not help, actually worsened things. He underwent another Cystoscopy in Bangalore as soon as I went back. The tumor still persists and we are awaiting word on whether it is spread or localized still. Major surgery is the only remaining option but dad may not have the strength to endure that. We just have to wait this week and take a call on what needs to be done next.

In between, we had to take possession of the new flat we bought in Goa that was long pending. I took the opportunity to slip away to Goa for a quick trip by road via Jog Falls when the Monsoon had just started to get busy two weeks back. I have to blog about that shortly. Thanks to both of you for asking about my father's health.

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

It is such a pity that you were not able to keep records of your early explorations - they sound so interesting.

Your narration of the tsunami in the comments section is a post in itself.

Do you know, sometimes when you sit down to write, things you imagined you have forgotten, come back to you. Do try, - you write so well and interestingly.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Raji Madam. I agree, sometimes when I have the time and just sit down to write, there are events that I can clearly remember. Like you said, it just comes back in memory, need to rewind those old tapes stuck in my brain somewhere and clear some cob webs. I will attempt doing that sometime for sure.

About the Tsunami comment, yes I realized after I wrote such a long comment-reply, that it could have been a blog topic by itself. It was such a weird experience. We were not scared or anything, it was just a time when the whole day just felt wrong, in a weird sort of way.

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