December 12, 2015

[Travelogue] A Rendezvous with Nature and Culture!

After a late and laid-back start, we reach Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali, Mumbai. How fortunate are the people of this crowded city to be blessed with 100 Sq. km national park within their municipal limits. In a city, where the only growth seems vertical and buildings dot every nook and corner of Mumbai, it’s great to gaze upon this green cover. In the past couple of days,I had glanced at the most expensive private building in the world, situated in Mumbai, seen many glass floor upon floor of dazzling multi-storeyed apartments and even heard of huts in a particular area costing 40 lakhs. Still, to me, the epitome of the wealth of this city, is this forest area. Taking a short trip on the tiger safari caught a few glimpses of tigers sauntering in the afternoon, glancing left and right, seemingly well fed and satisfied with their lot. Exotic monkeys with black faces and tails, and with beards look at the visitors, some shyly and some cheekily. Still, amidst all this beauty, had to encounter the painful scene of a deer gobbling up plastic, as if it were a rare delicacy. Man, you are strangling nature with your bare hands!

Where you only expected to find nature, there’s culture, in the form of Kanheri Caves within this park. I read that this forest used to lie on an ancient trade route and Buddhist monks have been busy creating art out of stone for 1000 years, between 1st century BC and 11th century AD. The serenity of those gigantic Buddhas is seen to be believed! Even after all these years, the magic of that smile calms you. There seems to be more 109 caves in all, of which, there are monasteries, rock-cut benches, engineering marvels storing water for the summer and halls portraying Buddha in various forms. One could spend an entire day being awed by the magic of this work of men of long ago. This made me wonder why in spite of all the technology we have today men don’t go carving mountains and creating art. To see it an opportunity of art seems to be a thing of the past. When I wondered out aloud to Madhan, he responded saying maybe it’s because mountains belonged to no one then and also that, perhaps now, man sees mountains as quarries of stone, the source of boring but useful things like roads. Pragmatic materialism seems to be at odds with spiritualistic creativity!

After relishing the evening breeze with windows open and breathing in through the lungs of Mumbai, we returned to the urban desert. Dinner was at a place called ‘The Tasting Room’ within Raghuvanshi Mills, an old textile mill transformed into a new age shopping centre. In the ruins of materialistic industry, there is art, blooming once again. The restaurant had left the walls as is, in the old dilapidated state with minimal retouching but a clean look, with faded, rusting mirrors dotting the wall. Here was proof that man is constantly reinventing. Thousands of years ago, those Buddhist monks saw rocks and created art. Now, men see ruins and create art again. In the days of yore, religion was the fountainhead of those artistic pursuits and now, wealth is the goal of these artistic reinventions. Whatever, as long as art lives on!

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