Outside, the bus station buzzes with activity. Already our ears seem attuned to the familiar mixed noises: travelers, conductors, salesmen, eccentrics. Among the smells that stream in, the most prominent is a stench of urine. Over the months we will recognize this as the unifying trait of bus stands across the country.
…..Robert Svoboda’s Aghora. Apparently, the only sense spirits employ is that of smell – the reason why across cultures incense is employed to show respect to ancestors or household gods and goddesses. Now, overripe jackfruit and bananas and strong oily pickles have a fecund musk that attract spirits – mostly naughty ones at that – to themselves. And with naughty spirits at play, cacophony ensues. Bad things might happen.
Gujarat is, of course, famous for ice cream …..
…..jodi hao sujon, tentul paatay no ‘jon (If your heart’s in the right place/ Nine people can be accommodated on a tamarind leaf)
….the aroma of chickpeas, that most favoured ingredient in Gujarat.
It took me quite a while to become an experienced vacationer, because travelling was not something you did much in Russia, at least not by your choice. Because we were not allowed to move freely, we used to approach our vacation time with a different attitude. We used to brag about places we couldn’t go. A typical vacation discussion sounded something like this:
Alexei: I can’t go to Miami this year!
Nikolai: Miami? You call that a vacation? I can’t go to Paris!
- Comedian Yakov Smirnoff
….Mathura is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in India. If in the age of the Buddha, it is recorded that Mathura suffered from bad roads, dust storms and an infestation of wild dogs, between the second century BC and third century AD, it was a leading metropolis on the trade route, renowned for its magnificence, prosperity and the generosity of its populace.
…..Mathura ki beti/ Mathura ki gai/ Bhaag phute/ Toh baahar jai.’ (A daughter of Mathura/ Its milch cow too/ Only if her luck runs out/ Will she look for a city new.)
Not only is it a rich and ancient civilization but you wouldn’t BELIEVE what you can get in the chemists without a prescription.
- Dexter Mayhew in a letter to Emma Morley……..
Sair kar duniya, ki gaafil zindagaani phir kahaan?
Zindagi gar kuchh rahi, toh raujavaani phir kahaan?
Wander the world, ay drifter, where will you get this life again?
And even if life remained, where would you find this youth again?
- Immortal lines by Ismail Merathi. Quoted by Rahul Sankrityayan in his famous essay ‘Athato Ghumakkad Jigyasa’.