||Benares ( Varanasi) Revisited
the spiritual center of Pilgramage for Buddhists - centre of Hinduism and Sanskrit learning
By Srijit Maitra
Our trip to Benares was truly revealing. The city
is not majestic, but inspires awe. As you take a buggy ride into the
city, what unfolds before you is a four thousand-year old history.
of the structures, which include temples and kothis
(mansions), date back to seven hundred years. If one can overlook the
chaotic traffic and the occasional annoying cow dung on the streets, one
is sure to marvel at the labyrinthine lanes and by-lanes and the smell of
incense that pervades the entire Dashaswamedh Ghat Road, the road leading
to Dashaswamedh Ghat, regarded as the ultimate destination for a Hindu.
|The city is supposed to have 330 million temples,
which leaves very little space for any other structure. Along with my
wife, Joyita and son, Shinjon, I saw some ten out of them. The heavily
guarded Bishwanath temple (celebrating Lord Shiva), Durga temple and Ram
temple, all built around a thousand years ago, were resplendent in the
glory of their past. A trip down the Ganges in a country boat (they do
not allow motorized boats to prevent sound and air pollution) along the
many ghats (banks)
opens a canvas before your eyes – of a city standing still in time.
Munshi Ghat, Digpatiya Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat (the one meant for
cremation), and Ahilya Bai Ghat - you pass all of them, each one telling
or an anecdote from the Vedic history. To enjoy it more, one should take
a ride in the evening, slowly drifting away from the grand aarti
on the ghats.
During one of our shopping sojourns in the city,
I happened to meet one Mr. Debashis Kanjilal, owner of an eighty-year
old Benarasi silk shop – Mohinimohan Kanjilal & Bros, inside the
Bishwanath Gali – the serpentine lane that leads to the Bishwanath
temple. I was amazed to discover Calcutta’s cousin there! While Joyita
took a plunge into a sea of silk saris, I struck up a conversation with
the congenial gentleman. I was fascinated to learn that this middle-aged
Bengalee entrepreneur was the fourth generation migrated from Calcutta.
The shop, the humble wooden showcases inside, the iron safe –
everything was the same that his grandfather had built. In spite of
being born and brought up in Benares, he could read and write
and spoke the language with a distinct North-Calcutta accent. I was
saddened to learn that his two sons, who were in their late teens, cared
nothing about the legacy that they would inherit, and were more inclined
towards other careers. The shop, I mused, was not just a business, it
was a family heirloom.
I was also dumbstruck by an ascetic, replete with
matted locks, who declared somberly that his age was four hundred years!
Equally amazing were the ushers at the doorsteps of the scores of sari
shops (each claiming to be factory outlets, to add to the authenticity
of quality and price), who spoke broken English, Bengalee, Tamil,
Telugu, French and Spanish with equal élan.
Benaras has held on to so much of history. I spent
quite a few enchanting evenings on the ghats and inside the myriad
by-lanes. I returned home with one truth - Benares is not only about
religion or redemption, or even history; it is also about discovering
oneself. I am bound to
visit again, like the many Bengalees who do so every year.
Srijit Maitra is a Senior Executive in the
Materials Management department of a leading multinational
pharmaceutical company. But from the core of his being he is a true
artist displaying soul whenever he wields the brush, pen or camera.
boom in air travel will moderate this year on a possible recession in the
United States, but the region's growing wealth and business opportunities
may help it weather the storm.
rapid growth of air travel in Asia over the last few years was fueled by
emerging wealth in the region and the entry of low-cost carriers such as
Malaysia's AirAsia, Tiger Airways and Jetstar, but regional economies are
now faced with the threat of slowing Western demand for Asian exports.
think the aviation industry tends to reflect the state of the economies of
the world, so there will be some effect on demand for air travel,"
said Chew Choon Seng, chief executive of Singapore Airlines.
is forecast to be the largest single aviation market, accounting for 27
percent of all air travel and nearly 300 million more travelers than
today”, said Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of International Air
Transport Association (IATA) at the Singapore Airshow.
with airlines looking to pass on high fuel costs by raising surcharges,
and the possibility of a global economic slowdown, consumers may not think
about taking hops around the region. Yet the region's industry may prove
more resilient given its high growth, experts said.
areas that will be less affected will be China and India because they have
two fast-growing markets and Asia Pacific will be not so much
affected," said Bisignani, who added that North American carriers
will bear the brunt of the economic slowdown.
Tinseth, a vice president of Boeing's commercial planes division, said a
global slowdown would not affect air travel in Asia as much as it had in
the past. "We have seen significant growth in the Asian economy, it's
more diverse and it's more self-sustainable... what happens in the US or
Europe will probably not have the same kind of effect as it has in the
past," Tinseth said.
travelers -- travelers who fly business or first class -- form the most
profitable segment for many airlines. However, with the credit squeeze and
turbulent financial markets, companies faced with the prospect of cost
cuts would reduce business travel.
is deteriorating is the business travel, the travel with high
yields," said Bisignani.
economist Liew thinks that business opportunities in Asia will be a
buoyant factor for business travel in the region. "In the Asian
context, the business opportunity is here, so business travelling might
slow but will still be there," he said.
seeking viable biofuel solution within five years.
is bullish on the prospects for biofuels and hopes to have a commercially
viable product within five years. Technology Leader-Energy and Emissions
Dave Daggett said second-generation biofuels such as algae "show
added that he sees a regional solution, with differing biofuel sources
depending on native plant matter in a given part of the world. In Brazil,
for example, it could be the babussu nut from Brazilian Palm trees and in
Australia it may be jatropha plants, which can survive in a dry, harsh
environment. The big advantage of algae is that the liters/hectare yield
is 150 times higher than for soybeans or canola. A major factor in the
search for biofuel sources is the amount of CO2 emitted, with many of the
"solutions" requiring processing that would have a far greater
CO2 impact than using oil-based fuel to operate aircraft. Daggett pointed
out that "jet fuel from coal has twice the CO2, while liquid hydrogen
from coal has four times the carbon emissions."
INDIA LAUNCHES NEW YORK TO NEW DELHI DIRECT FLIGHT
India's launches its non stop flight AI-101/AI-102 on the Delhi-New York
sector, effective February 8, 2008. With the introduction of this new
flight, Air India will become the first carrier to offer non stop services
between Delhi and JFK, New York.
passengers traveling in premium classes - First and Executive - on the
Boeing 777-200LR (Longer Range aircraft) will get a free limousine pick up
and drop service to/from Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport and
JFK airport at the time of departure/arrival. Additionally, they
will receive a gift voucher of USD75 and USD50 respectively for each
sector of travel for onboard duty free shopping. On August 2007, Air India
introduced a daily Non-Stop flight between Mumbai and New York.
who purchase tickets in India for travel by the Non-Stop
flight from Delhi/Mumbai in the Economy Class on full published IATA fares
can avail of Air India's Companion Free Scheme. The scheme is valid
till March 31, 2008.