Friday, December 7, 2012

Restless in Paradise

Kovalam                          Dec 7th, 2012

I'm getting itchy feet here now. Too many beaches, crashing waves, palm trees and sun. Time for an interlude elsewhere. Trouble is both of the places I chose are terrorist hotspots. Both Jammu and Kashmir are no-nos although Jammu city, according to the foreign office is safe. Think I'll leave that. The other place Orissa, is cripplingly poor and has a crew of Naxalite rebels who have just kidnapped two Italian tourists who were visiting remote tribes. In fact the foreign office has India down as a somewhat unsafe zone. Great!

Classic Keralan scene. A lagoon nearby.

The walk past this lagoon is one of the loveliest I have ever been on. The range of flowers and birds and people is rather too much to absorb. I take this constitutional every two days, but while people are generally gentle but there is also some attitude here. Perhaps people are resenting their poverty finally. the ads are appealing to a wealthy middle class but the people I'm seeing couldn't afford any of the items on offer; food, hair products, cell phones. I was invited into the house of one guy, his wife and another relation popped in while I sat on his bed. he was watching just the commercials I mention. The place was eyewateringly without.

My tormentor in chief, Murugan the Peacock God.

It was a fabulous festival parade. There are no tourists whatsoever in my village so that's wonderful. On less good days that is so exhausting. the priest daubs some pigment on my head, one or two women get demure and men stick their poker faces, hit the tabla drums harder and harder. You stay in the western style resort like the one 4km down the coast and India is absent.

A queue forms. To buy dresses that aren't white.

To see these ladies was quite a sight. I have gone as brown as a berry but can't quite bring myself to use a parasol. Some men are happy with them.

Just a brief addendum here. This is for those two people who disliked my plan to visit Tibet because of its apparent crossing of the moral line of visiting a country under occupation (I'm sorry I didn't pick this up since you wrote in September). To Snow Lions and BhoRangzen. I have read statistics that say the Chinese have killed well over a million people in Tibet since their invasion a half century ago. My dilemma is whether to go against the belief that to visit Tibet is to endorse the Chinese government. I do not endorse the Chinese government. Unlawful killing can never be supported and the persecution of Tibetan Buddhists a heinous crime. Programmatic ideologies tend to frontload their injustice whereas fully freemarket economies operate in a more subtle way with their inequities.

Buddhist Prayer flags strung along the high peaks and ridges of the Himalayas

However my staying out of Tibet will have no effect on China's position. China's emergence as a superpower will mean that Free Tibet protests will fall on more deaf ears while both countries are worth visiting. We visit the USA despite what it did to the Native Americans. Do Tibetans want the world to stay away from their doors? Are we supposed to ignore its cultural offerings?
Another reality is that the bureaucratic dimension of a visit to Tibet makes life very difficult and I have long since abandoned the idea of visiting. There is also a vibrant Tibetan community in Himchal Pradesh, India.

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