29 December 2001

Book Review/Recensione: "In light of India" (1998), by Octavio Paz, ****


Testo in italiano di seguito

Synopsis

This collection of essays recalls the author's days in India, first as an attache in the Mexican Embassy, then 11 years later as Mexico's ambassador. He brings insight into India's landscape, culture and history in a series of discourses. "The Antipodes of Coming and Going" is a remembrance of the sights, sounds and smells of the subcontinent. "Religions, Castes, Languages" gives a survey of Indian history".

"A Project of Nationhood" is an examination of modern Indian politics, comparing the respective Islamic, Hindu and Western civilizations through the course of history. "The Full and the Empty" is an exploration into what Paz calls the soul of India, its art, literature, music and philosophy, and an indictment of the self-centred materialism of Western society.

Octavio Paz is the author of "The Double Flame: Essays in Love and Eroticism".

25 December 2001

4. - 25 December: drive to Kanchipuram, Mahabalipuram

Early morning depart for Kanchipuram (2hrs), the city of a thousand temples and famous for its handwoven silk fabrics and saris. Sightseeing visiting temples fo Ekambareshwaran, Kamakshi, Vardarajaperumal , Kailashanatha. Also visit the weaving handloom center. 

Christmas is not celebrated in India, of course, unless you belong to the minority community, of whom there are quite a few in Kerala but not so many here in Tamil Nadu. So we basically skip it today.

Proceed on to Mahabalipuram (1/half hr drive).  Mahabalipuram is on the seashore, city of 7 pagodas and is the 7th century seaport of the Pallava empire. On arrival checked at the unremarkable and definitely not so "ideal" Ideal Resort Hotel.

23 December 2001

3. - 24 December: Chennai

The cool and foggy weather does not make for a great day to walk around so it's going to be mostly indoor time.

Morning depart for city tour visiting the National Art Gallery, housing exquisite Chola bronzes. Proceed to Fort St George, St Mary's church, Fort Museum, drive along the Marina Beach, Senate house to San Thome Cathedral and the Kapaleshwar Temple dedicated to Shiva. The usual tourist stuff...

Lunch with N. Ravi, editor of “The Hindu”, one of the most important newspapers in India, published here. A very sophisticated and highly cultured person, gives us a most interesting perspective on the Indian debate on globalization. He is very well informed of global affairs. India fears globalization because of China which is penetrating local markets at a fast pace.

He comes to pick me up at my hotel and offers to drive to the restaurant in his car. I decline as I have my own car, and figure will need it later. But he was not just being polite, he was being practical: traffic is horrendous and it would take us longer to get to the restaurant than the time we would spend at the table.

He also gives us names and phone numbers of “The Hindu” correspondents in each and every city we are going to visit over the coming days in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and these will prove to be interesting sources of local insight and suggestions!

2. - 23 December: shopping in Delhi and flight to Chennai

Morning with Massimo, an Italian friend who is a diplomat at our embassy here. Has lived in Delhi for a couple of years with his family. It’s not easy he says, despite the obvious advantages provided by the service. They imported a container of mineral water from Italy, which I found a bit excessive: it is definitely not advisable to drink tap water here, but there is plenty of mineral and mineralized water to buy.

They also had a robbery in their house and had to intervene to moderate the reaction of the police that is usually very violent with thieves.

We go for a round of shopping in the warehouses of south Delhi, enormous stores of old stuff from the houses of old nobility, dusty remnants of the era of the Maharajas. I am tempted to buy everything! Prices are reasonable and shipping costs by sea are negligible, but this is big and important material, difficult to keep in a normal home. I end up buying nothing, though that will only plant the seed for a shopping spree in Cochin later in the trip...

In the afternoon transfer to the airport for departure by Air India for Chennai. We stay at the Hotel Taj Connemara. Dinner at the hotel with a rather fake touristy dance performance. But then again, we are almost the only foreigners, so if this is meant for Indians perhaps it is not so touristy after all...

22 December 2001

1. - 22 December 2001: Start of trip to Southern India

Arrive Delhi at 2300hrs by Air France. This has been a troubled flight plan. We were supposed to fly with our miles via Sabena, which had a direct Brussels-Chennai flight, but Sabena went bankrupt a few weeks ago and we had to re-route ourselves via Delhi. It’s a waste of time and money but we have no choice.

As we leave the arrivals area the usual mob of unlicensed taxi drivers, porters, fake guides etc. assaults us in the dark humid Indian heat. The stink of latrines and waste is a very unpleasant first impression one gets when landing in this major capital city. Anyway, we don’t have to suffer much of it as we are welcomed by our agency and transfer to the nearby Hotel Radisson, very high standard.

Southern India will have to wait for us until tomorrow!

21 December 2001

Itinerary of a trip to India 2001-2002

Trip to Southern India, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, 2001-2002

itinerary
Day
Date
Visit
Night
Km
hrs
1
22 Dec
Arrive Delhi via Paris
Delhi
0
0
2
23 Dec
Shopping, flight Chennai at 16:45
Chennai


3
24 Dec
Chennai, city tour
Chennai


4
25 Dec
Kanchipuram, Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram


5
26 Dec
Visit Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram


6
27 Dec
Depart to Pondicherry, visit
Pondicherry


7
28 Dec
Depart to Chidambaram, visit
Chidambaram


8
29 Dec
Depart to Gangaikondacholapuram, Darasuram and Kumbakonam, arrive Tanjore
Tanjore


9
30 Dec
Brihadeeshwara temple
Tanjore


10
31 Dec
Depart to Trichy, visit Srirangam en route
Trichy


11
1 Jan
Depart to Madurai, visit Meenakshi Temple
Madurai


12
2 Jan
Vishnu temple and Alargarkovil as well as the Tirumala Nayak Palace
Madurai


13
3 Jan
Depart to Periyar
Periyar


14
4 Jan
Boat ride Periyar, depart to Kumarakom
Kumarakom


15
5 Jan
Kumarakom, sunset cruise
Kumarakom


16
6 Jan
Depart to Cochin
Cochin


17
7 Jan
Visit Cochin
Cochin


18
8 Jan
Cochin
Cochin


19
9 Jan
Flight to Delhi and connection to Europe
In the air


20
10 Jan
Arrive Europe