India Travel News

Window on India
December 13, 2006

News Bullets

Agra to be back on the air link
Agra will be back on the air tourist map after a gap of two years. Three private airlines – Air Deccan, King Fisher and the new MDLR Airways - have decided to start their regular air-service linking Agra and major tourist destinations like Jaipur and Goa to Delhi from next year. Delhi-Agra-Khajuraho-Varanasi-Delhi was a very popular air sector among foreign tourists. But strangely, under the influence of the daily road transporters the state-run Alliance Air had skipped Agra, though its airport had the international facilities. They forget foreigners come to India to see Taj Mahal.

Israeli Elbit to invest $1 bn in India
Israeli firm, Elbit Medical Imaging, has decided to invest $ one billion in India to build a chain of hospitals, hotels, malls, offices and residential complexes. They are joining hands with Ambuja Realty – a company of India’s famous cement manufacturers. The first of their 18 hospitals proposed in India would come at Kolkata with a thousand beds. The Elbit chairman Mordechay Zisser, and vice chairman Abraham Goren, were in India last week for negotiations.

India has 3rd highest number of mobile users
The number of cell-phone-users in India has crossed the magic 100 million mark. With the current rate of growth, India is sure to overtake Russia in three months time and become the third biggest mobile-phone user of the world – next only to China and the US. India has 136 million mobile-users while Russia 152 million and China 401 million. India adds 10 million cell-phones every month.

Sensex crashed
The BSE Sensex crashed sharply for two consecutive days this week and dipped below the 13,000 mark. Only the last week-end the market was bubbling with vitality and hoped to touch the all time high 14,000 mark. In India, the markets have been bullish since 2003 owing to the growth in the corporate profitability and falling interest rates. But since 2004, interest rates have started moving up and the corporate houses are required to pay more interests, they come out with excuse but do not explain why the market was bullish in spite of that in the past two years.

A Government Quote

"The Prime Minister says the Scheduled Tribes, Schedule Castes, weaker sections, minorities— especially Muslim minorities—deserve a first charge on Government funding. What has been done by the media, political parties and the leaders is that they have looked only at the last sentence of the paragraph which is a motivated way of projecting what the Prime Minister has said," said Dr Sanjay Baru, media advisor of Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh , on Sunday, after the version of Dr Singh's speech in the National Development Council evoked angry reactions from the BJP and the RSS.

Internet Quote

‘‘Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee uncle was misquoted when he said, "I am Atal not Bihari". So what is the big deal about this! Big people are often misquoted!! After all wasn't Atal uncle misquoted every week? Perhaps BJP has bad memory like Atal Uncle and don't forget LK Adwani uncle, when he was misquoted about Jinnah the secular and then whole book of Jaswant uncle about mole and his picnic in Kandhar was misquoted,’’…Amit Modi on December 11.


Ethnocide by new architecture! - By Pratap Thorat

Architecture is considered as the Mother of all arts and also the noblest of them all. It is the only art-form through which you can physically walk and also peep into the history, civilization, culture et al. American architect Ludwig Rohe rightly said – ‘‘Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space.’’ No wonder, if some architects in the history acquired some arrogance to believe they always sat at the right hand of the God and whenever God got up they took the chair to build up the world in materials, shapes and sizes. Architecture is such a potent tool that it has always lent an identity to the people and places.

In a world greatly shrunken, as the new constructions come up, we are fast losing these very identities. There is uniformity in designs and structures world-over. The stress is on utility and Xeroxing. Designs no more emanate from distinctly separate ethnic identities that are thrown up by the unique history and culture of the place. The monotony of forms will make places boring for sure. I dread to think of the assault on the eyes of the tourists, who come to visit places after a couple of decades.

Owing to the break-neck pace of the industrial growth, the world’s two oldest civilisations China and India, who together make over one-third of the humanity, are in a great hurry to metamorphose. Their architects have done little in pulling their rich past to blend with the needs of the modern times. The sole inspiration remains the West. Where they are going is not at all important to them. Their only concern is how fast they could go.

China, especially, has removed all the speed-brakers. Its ancient architecture was powerful enough to influence the Japanese. When Vietnamese king built his own palace, he chose to copy the Chinese Imperial Palace from Beijing’s Forbidden City. The 5th Avenue Theatre too, in Seattle, Washington, copied the three achievements of the Chinese architecture – the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace.

When astronauts went to the moon, among the prominent things from the Earth their naked eyes noticed was the long Chinese wall. China’s ancient buildings have heavy platforms over which float large prominent roofs. There is less emphasis on vertical walls and far more on the width of the building, a characteristic of Chinese expansionism. But after the Opium War of 1840 the western architecture gate-crashed into China. In the next century, the Thirties saw a feeble attempt to revive the Chinese national style. But big roofs created controversies. Then came the revolution. The leaders discovered residues of imperialism in the ancient architecture and it was almost abandoned.

Now China has opened up its parts to the world. Sky-scrappers are sprouting out. China is hogging cement and steel greedily. China has as if opened floodgates to the western architecture. There is hardly any difference between the Manhattan or some European metro’s skyline and that of the new Chinese cities. There may be a little blending in some parts and they may look a tossed salad of architectural flavours from the West and the East. German Consul in Shanghai once said if you took off glasses in Quingdao you might think you were in Germany.

After the Second World War, Japan too was required to rebuild itself from the ruins. In the process of building metros it surrendered to the Western influence to a great extent. The oil boom pushed the Middle East out of its medieval cocoon. Though the growth was hasty and they had to take help of lot many non-Muslim architects, there was a serious effort to retain the ethnic Islamic character.

We are not talking of just China or Japan or India. We are talking of the hasty growth in modern times and their option of losing ethnicity. True that culture is never static. It constantly evolves. True that only the fittest survive. But it cannot be forgotten that these ancient nations are so much weather-beaten and so much honed in the rough and tumble of the millennia that their thoughtless surrender looks odd and insulting. There is no need for the floundering and confusion even when their economic growth is in haste.

A lack of theme is an eyesore more than the borrowed architecture. It looks more a collage. A patch-work done in a great hurry! Just the transplantation after a butcher’s chopper has completed the ethnocide! Builders of modern nation ought to understand that the artists, architects and builders were far less equipped, when they built up the Pyramids or desert fortresses or carved out Ajanta Caves. They then thought of next centuries and next millennia. Though the work went on and on for generations and centuries the poetic expression and its continuity were never lost. I feel sorry for the next century tourists.

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