Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Changing technology

Changing technology
Monday, January 16, 2012 AT 09:08 PM (IST)


This happened less than two decades back. A jeep from the tehsildar's office arrived at Ralegan Siddhi to take social activist Anna Hazare to Parner town. The tehsildar's office had received a message from the Prime Minister's Office, seeking telephonic contact with the social activist. At that time, the electronic revolution was still some years away in future. The entire  Ralegan Siddhi village did not have a single landline telephone connection. The only way to make Hazare's telephonic conversation with the PMO possible was to transport him to the tehsildar's office, which did have a landline telephone connection.
Hazare was given a lift to the tehsildar's office. The telephonic contact was established. And Anna spoke to the then prime minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao. The prime minister spoke with Hazare in chaste Marathi. He said his government was planning to confer Padma Bhushan on the social activist. Rao wanted an assurance from Anna that he would not threaten to return the title in the course of any of his subsequent agitations. Anna had earlier threatened to surrender his Padma Shri in protest against the government's failure to meet his demand in an anti-corruption agitation. The prime minister did not want Hazare to use the Padma Bhushan in his campaign. Hazare had then assured the prime minister that he would not use the civilian honour to embarrass the government. 
In the absence of a telephone at Ralegan Siddhi, mediapersons from Pune too experienced difficulty in  communicating with Anna. Those days, I used to post my newspaper reports and articles related to Hazare to him to Ralegan Siddhi. Some days later, I would get back a letter by Hazare, acknowledging the receipt of the clippings. The typed letters would carry Hazare's signature, Ki (Kisan) Ba (Baburao) Hazare alias Anna. Those days, courtesy environmentalist Mohan Dharia, Hindi Rashtra Bhasha House was Hazare’s camp site in Pune. He used to meet journalists there.
These incidents flash before my eyes now when I witness the live television coverage of Hazare addressing the gram sabha in his village or speaking to mediapersons there on his next plan of action on the Lokpal Bill. With the mobile and email facilities,  one can contact any person in any part of the world almost instantaneously. A tehsildar’s jeep carrying Anna from Ralegan Siddhi to Parner only for a few words with the prime minister on telephone now seems an occurrence of the past century. I am simply left marvelling at the tremendous pace of development of technology.
A scanned image of the letter  written by Anna Hazare to me, dated  January 30, 1991:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Visit to the Sistine Chapel, Rome

Visit to the Sistine Chapel, Rome

Amid the masterpieces
Sakal Times, Pune 


Published on December 25, 2011
 Parkhe recalls how he soaked in the ambience of Sistine Chapel during his recent tour of the Vatican Museums 
While entering the Vatican Museums, which include the famous Sistine Chapel, one’s mind is filled with rich expectations. There is so much written about the paintings of the Renaissance artists Michaelangelo and Raphael. Therefore, I almost grew impatient as I, along with my family, waited in a long serpentine queue to enter the Vatican Museums. There were many touts approaching tourists to offer them entry tickets with premium Euros to jump the queue. But not prepared to take the risk of being duped, we waited patiently. To our pleasant surprise, we soon reached the entrance, and purchased the entry coupons.
While the visit to St Peter’s Basilica and its spacious campus is free of cost, the entry fee for visiting the Vatican Museums is 14 Euros for adults and eight Euros for children below 16 years. There is some concession for Catholic priests wearing the Roman collar. Having visited other museums and tourist attractions around Europe, I found this fee quite exorbitant. But the desire to visit the museum made me think beyond those calculations.
The museums in the Vatican are a series of galleries adorned with statues, paintings, relics and draperies from the ancient, medieval and the Renaissance periods. For the connoisseurs of art and culture, research scholars in history and archeology, and anthropologists, a visit to these museums is a golden opportunity.
But, the movement in the Vatican Museums is one way and the visitors cannot turn back to the entry point. They are constantly on the move towards the exit. So for an average visitor, there is not much time to stand at one place to admire an exhibit for a long time. There are thousands of exhibits, and visitors must rush from one gallery to the other to see them. It can take a few weeks to observe minutely all the art pieces.
We decided to go slow when we entered the illuminated galleries that are decorated with draperies.  As we walked, I suddenly realised that we had entered the famous Sistine Chapel, which used to be the venue for the conclave of cardinals to elect the new pope, and where Michaelangelo created his wonderful paintings. Michaelangelo, who was commissioned by the Pope in 1508, took several years to create these paintings.
Soon it became clear that the atmosphere and the mood in Sistine Chapel, named after Pope Sixtus IV, is far different from the other Vatican museums. It is a chapel — a sacred place, and tourists have to maintain decorum here.
Ignoring our complaining necks, we looked up — and were thrilled to see the precision and aesthetics with which the great artist used bright colours to create the masterpieces. Equally thrilling was coming face-to-face with the Last Judgement. Just behind the altar at the Chapel, this grand painting made me speechless. The scale of all these frescoes put me in a trance, as I soaked in the ambience to my heart’s content.
And after all that, I changed my opinion. The entry fee may have been heavy on pocket, but the masterpieces at these museums are so priceless and fascinating that it is worth every Euro.