Category Archives: Travel

Backpacking in Rome

I was able to capture this view by pushing myself against some nearby fence.

Rome’s Most Historic District

Imagine a week of sumptuous food and lodging… lavish coffee houses… and one-of-a-kind cultural exposure in one of the world’s most fascinating cities. Imaging again, where you’re booked in one of your favorite hotels, one built like a regal palace, where only loving and caring human beings who are so passionate about many of the same things you care about, are available there to serve you. And just for you, your special service is one that includes breakfast of freshly-baked croissant, a sesame bun still respiring pleasant aroma, and pancakes served with a garlicky sauce for dipping. Okay, enough. The next time, this is how I would want to spend any vacation in Rome, instead of being a buck, and just sitting there at home all day, watching… ho…how they call it, TV? Oh well, I would call it the ultimate idiot-box.

It was 8:21 a.m. in Rome, Italy, and my stay thus far, near the Rome Fiumicino Airport, about 27 kilometers from the site of the Colosseum and the famous San Benedetto Oligominerale Naturale, one of the oldest historical spots in the city, was ready to begin. Though Rome is relatively still a small city, I was about to find out how difficult it can be for anyone who wants to cover all the important points in one single day. I didn’t know that it would take several hours to complete Centro Storico, which includes some of the most puzzling architectural marvel still on the continent. But I felt very lucky though, for being there, because I could easily access important historical sites and the Altare della Patria- also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II- the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” built under the statue of goddess Roma, with the eternal flame on one side. The huge marble building itself stands majestically against Rome’s skyline, and it outshines all the nearby mansions in the area, and the Piazza Venezia. In short, the Altare della Patria is strikingly very attractive and easy to locate amidst the city’s many Church domes and rooftops.

I managed to get passed a female who stood guard at the entrance, cautioning impatient tourists about what and what not to do once they were on the premises. The first thing I did when I entered was by making sure that I was near at the top of the stairs to get a better view of the building’s magnificent designs and the many carefully carved statues which, I suspect are latter additions. Once I was up there, I leaned my backpack against one leg to grab my notebook– a Bible-size, brown writing pad I paid for back in Kolkata. I began to hastily write down notes, ignoring the stares of a uniformed guard who stood very nearby. It took me about fifteen laboring minutes to scrabble down the notes for this blog. A lot of my attention also went towards the fine outlines I saw in between the smaller statues. Statues of manor goddesses– those that are attached to the front of the great hall. When I was all done, I returned dear diary back to its favorite spot, the exercise was over. I was now ready to close that chapter. I have just been transfixed by one of Europe’s late 19th century Neoclassical architectural marvel!
After successfully taking and completing a visual art class, my appreciation for the Fine Art has transcended that of any culture or place. And this new sensibility only gets better with constant exposures to Hindu and pre-Buddhist temple architectures and Pagodas. The habit which began first briefly in Sri Lanka, as a mere admiration of temple designs–and then to a considerable degree in northern India, and Nepal, may very well explain this broad appreciation I now have for structures.

But it’s Rome’s rich history and the lay back lifestyle with its coffee houses and walk-in cafes which still fascinate me even more. The large, fancy street gatherings, solo street artists and coffee -houses have created a kind of stimuli that will keep Rome always as an intellectual and artistic society. No wonder why the country is so well known today for being home to some of Europe’s best artists. The “coffee house culture” has flourished here so much that residents may see them as “extended living rooms” to spend portion of their day. This makes city- life in Rome to remind me of ancient Greek philosophers spending much of their day socializing at the public gatherings. Athenians enjoyed the same lifestyle- organizing political meetings, performances, and lively discussions. Socrates was known to stroll through the Agora and question his fellow market-goers about life and philosophy.
On my way going food hunting I passed several street painters and street musicians on Via Dei Fori Imperiali– a principal street in the center of the city of Rome—. This street runs in a straight line from the Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. I followed the course towards parts of the Forum of Trajan, Forum of Augustus and Forum of Nerva, parts of which can be seen on both sides of the road. I stopped halfway in the street to buy myself a bottle of San Benedetto mineral water for 1.50 Pounds. An hour earlier, I remember turning down the same battle of water right under the shadow of the colosseum for fifty Pound less.

Next, I crossed over a one way street to reach a mobile Food -Vendor. The guy behind the counter charged four pounds for a vegetarian sandwich. But I noticed there wasn’t much of anything– apart from a piece of slice tomato hanging out– to call it a sandwich. I grabbed my food and walked nearby to a bench and sat down to watch the traffic moving several feet away, along the grand Piazza di Campitelli. This place has a special significance in Rome’s history. One local resident who I stopped to ask a few questions, was kind enough to give me a short lesson into Rome’s medieval past. He explained to me that the location was important to many Italians because it has witnessed the birth of Rome.
While trying to find my way back to the metro, I stopped over at the Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano. I later learned that the site is a burial ground for Saint Cyril, Saint Methodius of Byzantine Thessalonica. I approached the building carefully at first but soon found out that there were people inside taking selfies. I stood around in there for a while and at some point, I even sat down on one of its long, wooden benches. I got up and joined the team and took me some holy-selfies.

The best part of my journey came almost at the end. I was heading for the airport and didn’t know which subway train to catch. I have just passed the Colosseum and had secured for me a subway- metro pass and was already on a train before realizing that I was on the wrong train. I quickly got off at the next stop. A lot of people were either too busy or were simply reluctant to help because of the language barrier. I was trying to find someone for help at this point when I ran into Gabriella, a professionally dressed, selfless young lady who helped me to find my way back into the metro and on the right train. I found her standing just at the top of the stairs, perhaps waiting for the light to turn green to cross the street. Gabriella, who is in the middle of her study to become a medical doctor, had no trouble abandoning her own duty to help me out. She followed me underground, and when my metro pass failed to work, she gladly passed on her own card, and even did so as if she runs into people like myself every day. Because of her art of kindness, I was able to arrive on time at the airport and was able to change my flight to an earlier one which was on its way to the Netherlands. Gabriella’s effort is a classic example of how to be a Visible Helper.
I arrived back here in Eugene several days before I was finally able to re-organize my cloudy brain to send a “Thank You” email to Gabriella. Her art of kindness really was a teaching moment for me.… Of course, I Love Rome and I am looking forward to going back there….
Video credit: Youtube Video:

In Layers of Gears, Offering Healing Hand to Ebola Patients in Liberia

Ebola protective gear

This blog was researched from several  online Journals, including The New York Times’s article; “In Layers of Gear, Offering Healing Hand to Ebola Patients in Liberia,” originally written by Sheri Fink. In here I chronicled some of the terrible agonies the Ebola Virus is capable of causing. This version however, is an excerpt from a paper I wrote during the summer, in which I shed light upon the great sacrifices of aid workers and international volunteers who rushed over to Africa to help save those dying from the Ebola disease. The original version from which this article draws heavily upon, is itself among a chain of several works I did that involved lab experiments, including real-time handling with different types of microbes. In some cases, I had to use several Petri dishes taken from campus to culture microbes and then incubate them under different types of temperatures. I had to use my refrigerator to culture  certain samples swabbed from inside my mouth and my nose.  Many other microbes were simply captured just by leaving the Petri dishes opened for as little as 10 minutes, and with in several hours, the microbe had already formed colonies that became visible to the naked eye.

I did my best however, to describe in here some of the deadly symptoms of Ebola, after the virus takes hold of its victims.  As a matter of fact, I only followed the New York Times’ author’s original description by listing the types of precautions that volunteers and Medical Aid Workers, including ordinary local citizens living in Liberia, put in place to make sure that the deadly disease didn’t spread any further. In conclusion, I briefly reinforced the main objective which was to educate more people about the disease. While doing this, I managed to delve into the morbid interactions between the disease and those it infects in those final days of death and recovery.

The Virus

ebola

Image Credit:/ Getty’s

The Ebola Virus overtakes its host by disarming the immune responses, leading to whole range of symptoms such as diarrhea, muscle pain, sore throat, fever and eventually dehydration.  But according to the article, majority of the survivors were among those receiving supportive care, including oral or intravenous re-hydration, which helped delay the disease long enough for the body to fight off the infection. In one particular case, according to the article, which involved a sick man who lived outside the city.  The man began sweating profusely before collapsing, and according to one eyewitness, health workers imagined “every inch of his body was covered with billions of Ebola particles, a remark, I supposed, helped kept emergency medical workers on high alert.

Typically when a person is affected by the Ebola virus, it takes up to a couple of weeks before symptoms start showing themselves.  Treating the disease at this early stage is imperative but difficult. In Emergency: Mass Casualty: Ebola, Anna Easter explains why: “Early diagnosis is difficult because the presenting symptoms include those evident in differential diagnoses such as influenza and sepsis. Differential diagnosis is time consuming and extremely costly”.

E

Health workers had to rely on bleach solutions and chlorinated water throughout the outbreak in Liberia, to combat the spread of the disease, and it worked.   The methods used for precautions are straight, plain and simple. For those at the full-front; zip-up in a special suit made of rubber that contains layers upon layers of protective material from feet to head, equipped with goggle, gloves and face-mask. Even after this measure of care, one had to still be sprayed with the bleach solution before actually entering the contaminated zone. On your return trip from the contaminated zone, you go through an equally thorough decontamination face before leaving the facility.

Using bleach solution for disinfection, played a very important role combating the Ebola outbreak in Africa, and this aspect of the article enriched my own understanding about the effect of bleach as a powerful disinfectant chemical cleaning agent even in our homes. For instance, when I used the household bleach with active yeast during one of my labs, I noticed that the result was almost immediate. The process of life seemed to had ceased entirely. The budding process of yeast-cells that at first was going on rapidly seemed to had been interrupted when the bleach was introduced. What was going on here inside the experimental container became quite obvious to me; the bleach was inhabiting and destroying the yeast-cells. This powerful illustration, for instance, shows how extremely potent a chemical cleansing agent bleach is.

The importance of the Ebola story cannot be over-exaggerated since it involves several people with different backgrounds who have had first-hand experience of the deadly disease while living and breathing among those infected with it. It shows us, for example, the level of bravery and sacrificed of the men and women who were there in the heavily impacted zones of the Ebola outbreak to help those awaiting death.  Their stern determination in the face of danger to risk their own lives must have revealed again the indomitable nature of the human spirit. The willingness of volunteers to intervene and wrestle with death to help other men, indicates that man– for the most part– is good-by nature. It clarifies the point that the soul in man is infinitely compassionate, and that nothing can ever stand  before the soul in its onward path to altruism—Indeed I am convinced that all men are helpers, they are Visible Helpers.

Perhaps more than anything else, their story set a plain guideline about how to protect oneself and those we love from most disease outbreaks like the Ebola virus. Following the simple but effective methods that those health-workers put in place to ensure their own safety, is something that’s worth remembering in any viral disease outbreak.

In a split-second, the article shows readers that in the final days of the outbreak, those that survived, for the first time, began to see a glimmer of hope again, and for those who died, for them, their agony was greatly lessened with the help of hundreds of empathetic health workers—further proof that man’s only hope is in man.

 

 

The Secret World of Monuments

The Sun God Surya

god shiva

Man is neither kind nor respectful, say I, of the strong among us to ever care whether this act or that act is just or unjust, whether to love whether to serve, all the same, they just don’t care! Give man a chance I ask, and see if he wouldn’t haul his God from out of the heavens and bring him down here on the Earth, and then make of him a public exhibition, thinking little of the need for such a venerable one. Thinking still less whether that’s what the saints and the prophets of ancient time had ever wanted, fame it’s called,- when they walked the Earth. Profane, profane I shout ….isnt’ this all that man cares about; fame- this fleeting experience? He then blinds himself into thinking that he can still make the life of those great ones still greater, and so he goes and built a whole monument of some poor saint, some tired soul, some loving heart who had died a long, long time ago trying to change the world. I pray you please tell me, what more do such a pure soul, one who had seen it all, heard it all, and therefore understands it all, can ever again want from man? The making of those great ones standing guard in the center of our  immoral cities, please tell me, is this not unkind?

This magnificent statue of the Sun god, sits here in eternal meditation at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, in New Delhi. Known all over India as Surya, he soon caught my attention while heading towards the passenger lounge.  What a pity, I thought, that man, in his conceit should bind even a god in this public of squares.

As I moved passed the sculpture, I couldn’t help but wonder what this mute statue would say to the world if for the first time it were allowed to talk. “What would it say?” I asked myself before finally disappearing among the people “It’s pure arrogance for man in his bliss, to think that this does me any good,” was the last thought I heard inside my quiet mind.

In a country that is home to a whopping 17 percent of the world’s population, this famous statue literally sees millions of passengers coming in and out of the country.

 

Guruda,  The Humble Giant

Garuda image

Behind me on a pedestal, stands Garuda, the lustrous legendary bird-like creature that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. This very humble giant is indeed the “vahana” or vehicle of Lord Vishnu. This is Durbar Square, in Kathmandu, Nepal. Exhausted from many days of road travel, and looking gaunt, I decided to shake it all off with a visit to this famous square, to learn something more about this really great culture.  Here, I was able to get involved in some cultural diplomacy with non-beings.

Unlike many western sculptures, in the east, the people provide more than maintenance for their sculptures, they bring gifts of all kinds, such as beautiful roses and money offerings  to these stone gods on a daily basis. To add even more flavor, the Hindu faith believes that every form for that matter, has something of a consciousness of its own.  I could imagined that this beautiful form behind me was saying; “Why wouldn’t this guy ask me before posting to take a picture.

Join by thousands of ordinary Nepalese, everyday this Garudar sculpture partakes in a rather playful atmosphere regularly. Nepaleses consider the square like this one, a shopping mall.

The Homeless Jesus

S. Francis, Public Figure

“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hand and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist, says .” (St. Francis of Assisi)

In considering the world’s contemporary history in light of saints, especially those saints who most recently walked the Earth, St Francis is one I often find in my thoughts. But in downtown Manhattan, sits the bronze statue of the “Homeless Jesus,” in front of the St. Francis Church, on 31 St. The statue looks entirely pensive, and it’s also shameful. Even I, with my poor self, I couldn’t help but stick a quarter in the Lord’s hands. But does he have need for it, or is this just another condescending behavior of the human race?

Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to want to know what this rather benign sculpture of the lord, if it could talk at all, would be its voice. ” To man, it was never enough after they impaled me on the cross, after they beat me, and cursed me, and put on displayed my naked body, now here, in the public of squares they have turned me into a beggar, and they have dressed me into rags and have assigned me here, under rain, under sun and under snow !

This is New York City, and as you know, it’s home to almost nine million Americans, and this section of town, which is very near Pan Station, on 34 St, serves as New York City’s most populous transit district. Therefore, apart from the hundreds of churchgoers, my guess is that this statue sees it lot more people  from its roadside canopy than anyone can possibly count.

    The Heroic Rosa Park

Rosa Park, image

Walking by this demure figure, one would have to wonder about that moment on the bus. What was she thinking? What could have been the source of her motivation? What type of courage is that, to ask for certain death?” So, this then brings me to what a great man once said; “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Who then was that someone that loved Ms. Rosa Park so deeply? Who was that someone whom Ms. Park had loved so deeply? Was Rosa Park, herself just a bunch of love? But if there are no answers to these questions, perhaps this stern expression, frozen on her face is the very epitome of courage motivated by love, the reflection of an inner war–the spirit of that one virtue which when once awakened, when once whispered, it becomes an echo throughout the corridor of time.

My thoughts were that perhaps this woman  who sits here frozen forever in time, and is holding in her bosom my water bottle, that maybe her last wish was for everyone who passes by her shrine, she hope would take with them a little of her courage, a portion of her will, and then  add to it, and then eventually each can change something of the world.

Every single day, Rosa Park sits here quietly watching thousands of pedestrians passedby. But once in a while someone would stop to study the small-looking statue of this Civil Right icon, and perhaps ask quietly about the dept of her courage, the power of the human spirit, the elements of her dauntless will which stood firm before the whiteman’s army.

India’s Water Crisis

India's Water Crisis

 

By degree, water is increasingly becoming one of the scarce resources in some parts of the world. The government of India and many other Asian countries have begun finding ways to circumvent the pending water crisis in their countries. But it’s in India, a country that seems to have more use for water, that water shortage is becoming  more pressing. The tens of millions of Temples, spread out all over India, depend on the use of groundwater. Each major Temple in India must have its own man-made lake or reservoir which it uses for many things, including for purification during ceremonies and rituals, and this is just one of many ways that Indians have evolved over the centuries with the use of water. But part of the blame is on India’s ambition to become a major economic power in the region, a choice that has welcome the influence of globalization and The result is that; more and more farmers in India are now using efficient means to exploit more groundwater in short period of time than they did in the past, which help exacerbates the water crisis.

The last two decades of the twentieth century helped propelled India well up the rank into becoming an industrial giant on the Asian continent.  With the impact of open-market economy, fair-trade deals and booming domestic high-power manufacturing plants are constantly dumping capital goods on local markets. For the first time, more and more Indians are investing in capital gain, and millions of people are now taking the leap from a relatively small subsistant farmings sector to large scale commercial farming business.  More and more farmers are upgrading their farming capacity by drawing upon ideas of agribusiness and other Western methods– all of which in some form, needs more and more water to grow crops–  The result had been that, at the close of the  last quarter of the 20st century, India had begun to notice changes within its groundwater systems.

Much more than this, India is home to a whopping 17% of the world’s total population, and majority of the population are people who still live off the land. Most villages in India depend on groundwater to grow their own food and to feed their animals. Proper sanitation continued to be rare in India, and many homes lack indoor toilets, so  It’s very common to see people attending to nature in open spaces. Whole rivers have turned into a soup of debris  filled with human waste and all sort of unimaginable filth. These elements along with poor management by local government officials, guaranteed a sustaining water problem for the country, and is surely a serious economic barrier for this emerging economy.

In 2012, India sent a special delegation to Israel, to gather information. India and Israel, before that year, signed an agreement to support cooperation on urban water system.  But at home in India, other steps have been put into practice in big cities, some in the form of public restrictions on water usage, but also the use of state-of-the-art technologies that can monitor and record where and how the water is being used at any given location, are at the moment under consideration.

In the meantime, according to Parthasarathy, in the New York Times, even “the Mullapreriyar Dam, a 112- year-old reservoir, located on the Periyar River in Kerala, is no different. The dispute over the dam, distinct as it may be in its historic makings, is ultimately symptomatic of a festering federalist crisis.” The mention of this truely historical Indian landmark, explains a lot more than it seems. The water crisis has sprout into a dispute between two major southern states; Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and then to the federal government. It has now become an issue of whether federal officials would consider the eminent domain clause as an option.

You often hear people refer to India as a Sub-continent, or the Indian subcontinent, but what they are referring to is a southern region of Asia that is situated on the Indian plate, and extends southward into the India Ocean from the Himalayas. The country India, is in southern Asia, and it borders the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and Pakistan. The country also ranks 7th in the world in terms of size, and second in terms of population. Indian borders six countries, China, Burma, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. Both Nepal and Pakistan are in the northern part of the country. The Bay of Bengal, where Kolkata lies, is the part of India that borders the four other countries, including Bangladesh. The entire northern part of the country is home to the great Himalayas mountain ranges.

India is perhaps the most religious country in the world today. For thousands of years, religion has continued to play primary role in the lives of most Indians. Even today in modern day India, almost every home you enter there’s an altar in it which is kept sacred, and is approached several times a day for Puja. Some families, that is those who can afford set aside a special room inside their home for this purpose. When it comes to religion, India has a long history of religious tolerance. For ages, the Hindus live alongside other religious groups peacefully. But there have been cases of violence sparked by religious sentiments. The most recent ones have been between adherents of the Islamic faith and members of the Hindu religion.

More than 79% of the population goes to Hindu Temples.  Islam is only 14% of the population. Christianity makes up little over 2% in this great country, and the most Christians adherents are found in Kerala; India’s southernmost State. City like Punjab and Kashmir are predominantly Muslims. The Sikh and Jain religions are perhaps the smallest religious groups in India. Buddhism is almost missing in the south, but there are few Buddhist Temples in places like Sikkim, Ladakh and Dhamasala, where the Dalai Lama stays. The government of India has no religious restrictions in place in the country, though most politicians, including the current prime minister,  belong to the Hindu faith.