Monday, February 29, 2016

From ‘Mumbai to London on a Vespa’ by Bharat Kumar Jhaveri

….Teheran….Women here are extremely beautiful too! Especially the women of Dzhulfa to the north of Tabriz are said to be indescribably beautiful, with long, luscious, silky hair reaching down to their knees, and in some cases, even to their heels! This beauty is believed to be thanks to the pure Armenian race that had come to settle here.

….Iran…there is a small sect of Moslems here, going by the name of ‘Al-Jaini’ with customs very similar to those of the Jain people of India. Their customs and culture are very strict regarding the principle of non-violence, and it has been given so much importance by their religion, that even in such unfavourable circumstances and conditions, they have remained strict vegetarians. Besides this, like the Jains they too do not dine after sunset.

Though mountains of Afghanistan are comparatively lower in height than those in Iran, lack of valleys, plains and water make it very difficult for cultivation of any vegetation there. …inclement nature ….resultant poverty. Therefore, to a certain extent, one can understand their lack of hygienic sense. But in Iran, there are vast valleys between the mountains where cultivation is certainly possible if attempted. But being backward, people don’t even try, and this adds to their poverty. This results in its rural areas being very dirty. Even though clean fresh water can be available to them if they try, they do not have the slightest hesitation in using filthy water. Hence their total lack of hygienic sense does not make much sense.

If there is one country in the world which completely apes the West mindlessly, it is Turkey! Apart from the mosques and buildings standing like the ghosts of some by-gone era, everything else is completely Westernised, including lifestyle, written script, attire and attitude! …..did I come to know that I would have to travel another forty miles to the city of Hatay before I would find any shelter…..I inquired of an officer about the condition of the road ahead, he said, ‘…passes through forest….some danger from wild animals.’ I pleaded with him to allow me to spend the night there….but he flatly refused….I clearly saw the difference between the Western and Eastern mentalities! In the East, no matter what name the boundaries of a country gave it, the people there would not only have readily offered shelter to a traveler in distress, but would have treated him as their honoured guest! But in the West? …People are too selfish to give any thought to their duties as human beings….only intellectual and logical calculations about their personal gains and losses.

….Turkey… At a little distance from Aksarai, is situated the historic town of Kayseri, which is famous for its frescoes and architecture very similar to that at the Ajanta-Ellora caves in India, dating back to 300 A.D. Because of their ignorance the people of Turkey consider it to be one of the oldest arts, but what astonishes us Indians is the similarity and therefore contemporary art forms which are thousands of miles away from each other. It also makes it seem logical that there was some contact between the two places even then.

….Ankara …went to the Indian Embassy ….it was a rare pleasure to find the Indian staff very polite, friendly and sympathetic. Some of them…told me that the attitude of the people there towards Indians was quite prejudiced, especially towards the few Sikhs, who were treated with astonished amusement….

In 1300s, in deference to Eastern philosophy, Allauddin Kakubat built large caravan-like rest houses at various places….And today, leave alone a shelter, a traveler is not offered even a little space in his compound! …, even if he pleads, he is turned away! ….it was bound to happen! Turkey has lost all faith in the East. It just wants to ape the West …….

…Bulgaria….Though sturdy and well built with medium height, nature has been quite miserly in granting these men and women good looks.

…the German woman…at her request, I also posed for a photograph with her! …The young wife had expressed her wish to her husband…. I had never before encountered such innocent frankness, and couldn’t even imagine how a woman can express such a wish to her husband! I felt that such candour could never become a part of any eastern woman’s personality, especially that of an Indian woman steeped in total hypocrisy in her personal life! This quality of casual simplicity in entirely a characteristic of the western culture…

People of Yugoslavia are sturdy, tough and good looking. One rarely comes across an obese or a flabby person. Their wheatish complexion makes them look quite attractive, and the lack of variety in their attire makes them look quite simple too. ….people here give as much importance to recreation as they give to sincere hard work. One can easily understand why these people are so healthy and have such shapely and well-built physique. They seem to be some of the best-looking people in the world. Their scientifically developed and maintained good looks give a tough competition to the Caucasian race of Irani people whose beauty has a kind of rare natural softness.

I noticed that unlike young people of other European countries, German youths prefer to cook their own meals rather than have recourse to hotels.

Though the mountains in Switzerland are very high, they run parallel to each other with broad valleys in betweem. In Turkey, there is a continuous stretch of mountains without any valleys, whereas in Lebanon, they are scattered in different directions, resembling those of Kashmir in India. The mountains of Afghanistan can be called ‘dwarfs’ and have practically no base where Nature can blossom, and scanty rainfall makes it very difficult for much vegetation.

The French officers create a lot of difficulties for travelers by their lack of knowledge or stubborn refusal to use the English language.

As I was leaving, the duty officer asked me if I needed any help. …I had never experienced such personal attention from any Government officers in India. But then I realized that it was the greatness of the British people, which made them so concerned… the Government considered its duty and honour to help me

In no other country in the world, except perhaps for Iran and Sweden is the police force held in such respect and affection as in England…this is indeed well deserved and well earned. The honesty and integrity of the English police are a byword, as are their civility and willingness to help anyone in need, no matter what the call….they enjoy the trust and confidence of the public, which is in direct contrast to the fear and loathing with which the citizens of some countries, especially in the East, look upon the so-called custodians of their safety and security. That they carry out their duties unarmed, not only demonstrates their own courage, but also provides a reflection of the civilized society of which they are the guardians.

Visiting Manchester, I had great difficulty in finding somewhere to stay. Colour discrimination dogged me everywhere and I was refused accommodation in so many places……..

…..there is quite a lot of Indian influence on the British food habits. Especially the custom of adding milk to brewed tea is obviously Indian, as it is not done anywhere else in Europe ….for a vegetarian, food in England offers the maximum relief and variety compared to any other country in Europe.

….in London ….One type of entertainment which may perhaps be castigated as obscene in the East is that of the striptease clubs… The English think in logical terms like the Europeans and do not subscribe to the traditions of hypocrisy prevalent in the East, especially in India. They recognize that men and women ….interaction ….do not believe that its license need be permitted only within the boundaries defined by the traditions of matrimony. They are convinced that such belief is but hypocrisy and consider it wise to allow sensual feelings a certain amount of free expression.

Sweden ….the general freedom and lack of false hypocrisies means a healthy attitude towards sexuality ….sex education is taught at primary school so that it is assimilated into one’s normal and natural being without the artificial boundaries and taboos with which it is treated in the countries of the East. …I met another Indian youth….He wanted to travel across Europe…he was hoping to work his way around Europe….But the prevalent racism and discrimination against foreigners meant that he had been unable to find any work at all; not even washing up in hotel kitchens or any of the lowest meanial work, let alone anything remotely suited to his qualifications.