Friday, February 21, 2014

Indian Explorer : 2 : The Disappointment

If you have read my last post about Siddhagiri Gramjeevan Museum, you would wonder, after such a wonderful experience, what disappointment am I talking about. 

The disappointment was not about any part of the museum, but about the visitors, the Indian people. Yes, that's what the real topic of my few blogs with the title Indian Explorer is. It’s about our attitude towards our heritage, places, and history. It's about how Indian mind works when we plan our trips.

This chain of thoughts started when I saw two completely different families visiting the place. Particularly, in the cave where statues and scenes narrate you about the great Indian scientists, doctors, king and their legendary work. I have written about this in my last post, and how proud it made me as an Indian.

I saw a large Gujarati family visiting the museum. A mix of all age groups, the children, very young, and slightly elder, their parents, grandparents, the entire family on a trip it seemed. And, they looked like a rich and educated family. Some members were keenly observing everything, and taking time, and some were clearly bored. So they were hurrying the others to quickly move ahead, and so they all did.

Another group was Marathi, children with their moms. May be the ladies were group of friends, or siblings. They took their children for a picnic. It’s a really nice thing to do. Those ladies didn't seem to be much educated, not more than primary schooling. Children were definitely school-going. They were gathering together in front of each statue of each eminent personality, and reading information about them together. And I heard their mom telling them "just look at the statue and move ahead, don't read."

In contrast, our group was reading and discussing everything we saw. And actually that was the thing, which made us feel so amazed, and we had the enriching experience. Both the other groups missed so much information, knowledge that was easily available there in the most engaging manner. The elder might doubt the worth of this knowledge, but children would definitely benefit from it.

This is the attitude I am talking about. From above two examples you can see that education does not change this attitude. In fact, if you remember your school trips, or so called educational trips, you can remember how most of the teachers also behave like those moms. Well, they have responsibility of hundreds of kids away from parents, we have to consider that.

But this is the general tendency. When on a trip, we are always in a hurry to get over with the current destination, and reach the next quickly. And that is the reason we don't explore any attraction in enough details.

We rely on package tours instead of personal explorations. And on such tours, multiple destinations are included in limited time duration. And the operator has to keep the tourists on toes, to be on schedule. Otherwise if any destination is missed, the tourists will blame the operator. 

If you go on a trip, try to observe the Indian tourists and the foreigner ones as well. In most of the cases, you'll see foreigner tourists are much more relaxed than their Indian counterparts. They come to India, roam on bike, go for a walk in a city they come to visit, try Indian clothes, and wear them for a day. They want to try a ride in Auto Rickshaw, and everything unique in India. They experience the culture here. 

The package tours we see are like Kerala in a week, Kashmir Vaishnodevi in 4 days, Shimla Kulu Manali in 5 days. Even abroad trips are similar, europe in 2 weeks, Thailand Malaysia in 1 week. We can’t explore one state in one week, and here they wrap entire country in 2 weeks for us. 

Agreed, that due to currency difference, foreigners find it very easy to spend months in India, and the only 2 weeks we plan our trips be it in India, or abroad eat a big chunk of our hard earned money. 

That's exactly my point. We spend our hard earned money on these trips, and we must ensure that we make that spend worth. How should we do it? I started writing on this topic to tell my ideas for it. The previous post was just to set you in a background, and tell you about a very nice place I visited. This post was to explain our attitude that I think should be changed. Wait for my next post, to read my ideas to change it, and be Indian Explorer rather than just Indian Tourist. :)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Indian Explorer : 1 : Siddhagiri Experience

Few weeks back, me and some of my friends were on a trip to Kolhapur, Maharashtra. A friend of ours was getting engaged in Miraj, near Kolhapur. So we planned to attend the ceremony, and visit places nearby. 

We went to a beautiful place called Siddhagiri Gram Jeevan Museum, Kaneri Math. It is actually a peaceful monastery, with beautiful temples inside. Their spiritual leader came up with an idea of this museum and encouraged his people to build one.

Spread across a very large area, they have built a life size traditional village in India. Across that village, there are statues of ordinary people doing all kinds of activities in village. Actually calling them statue would be an understatement to describe the experience you have while watching them. 

As you start moving towards village, you are welcome by lovely farms in the outskirts. You notice people are working in farm, children are playing around, some animals also. It seems so real, that only when you go near them, you notice that they are actually statues. Such is the beauty of their creation.

They worked on minute details of the village, villagers, colonies, shops, temples, offices, different professionals, classes of people, and different styles of living and clothing according to their identity. The vastness of those details tells you that how well the creators of this place know life in India.

Over these few years, they are continuously developing and expanding this project. 

One part of the museum is a kind of "cave of fame" or tribute to ancient Indian saints and scientists. The combination seems strange, but in India, we call Rishis to people with wisdom. The area of knowledge may be different from person to person, but knowledge was respected everywhere. Many debate that these Rishis, were actually scientists or researchers, exploring different arenas of world.

In this cave, you find statues of different Rishis, who excelled in different streams, like medicine, drama, agriculture, mathematics etc. Many geniuses of Ayurveda, who invented treatments on many diseases, tried their hands in very first surgeries of world. 

Again, calling them statues is an understatement. These are not simple half size or full body statues where the statue simply stares at you. These are people in action. A doctor performing surgery, a chemist in his lab, a teacher with his students. Detailed information about each of these eminent personalities and their work is written next to their statue. 

We were truly amazed and feeling proud after passing each statue in this cave. Many facts came as surprise to us. That so many incredible things were done in Ancient India, so many arts or sciences India taught to world, in addition to the concept of Zero. Many theorems, trigonometry was known to Indians, but we believe them today to be invented by Greeks. Ayurveda is such a powerful sect of medical practices, but its potential is not fully realized today.

This was an enriching experience. It told us aloud that everything Indian is not backward, everything ancient is not boring, and everything rural is not uncool.

I highly recommend this place to everyone. Go visit the beauty of Indian heartland. Understand the history of India and feel proud.