Elena Part 2

Elena: like so many Europeans of her generation who had endured the Nazi occupation, she had experienced horrors which after the war, she had put behind her, determined never to inflict her sufferings upon her children. But during the last days of her life, she had told her great granddaughter Andrea, her and her alone, about what she and her husband had endured.

 It was story from another time, another world, and Andrea, very much at odds with her country, suddenly realized how fortunate she was. The terrible events which Elena’s generation had experienced seemed to put everything into another perspective.

 In 2016 Andrea thought, along with everyone else, that the past was a scene from another era. That Elena’s story, kept secret for so long, was destined to die with her passing.  

 But what if the past could be reincarnated like a mythical figure out of an ancient Greek tragedy?

Could come back from the nether world and haunt the living?

 Elena’s story begins in Bucharest in the 1930’s, almost a century ago. It begins with an innocuous scene: two teenage women and a young man in love.

 But soon enough, Love will be in very short supply and vastly overwhelmed by the beast called Hate…..

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Aspasiya Part 1

As my flight neared Athens airport, I looked out my window. 

Beneath me was a barren, dry landscape of rocks, low hills and ocean. There were very few areas of arable land, let alone rich farmland. There were no rivers or lakes. It was a country which at first sight seemed to me more likely to be a place where humans had to struggle just to survive, never mind to think great thoughts and ask big questions…… Read more

Songs of Central Australia Part 1

It took two men, father and son, and the passing of almost eighty years to write it: ‘Songs of Central Australia’, one the greatest non-fiction books ever written and a precursor to the revolution in attitudes towards the original inhabitants of Australia.

The story behind the writing of Songs in Central Australia is no less remarkable than the book itself…….

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Blueprint for Genocide

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When I flew from capitol of  Cambodia, Phnom Pen, to the town of Ban Loeng, lying in the east of Cambodia, it was with a simple aim in mind: I wanted to see the jungles where during the 1960´s a small group of young idealists forged their blueprint for one of the greatest acts of genocide ever committed…..

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Joining the Pilgrims – Part 1

 

Located in the state of Gujarat in the west of India, Junagadh was a pilgrim town with a difference.

A few kilometres outside of town, on top of a high ridge, were famous temples.

But to reach the temples, the pilgrim had to climb stone steps: 10, 000 of them.

That was a lot of steps.

I didn’t have a problem with the idea of ascending all those steps. A pilgrimage, as far as I was concerned, wasn’t meant to be easy. My conviction on this point emerged after previous visits to the famous pilgrim towns on the coast of Gujarat: Dwarka and Somnath.

In Dwarka and Somnath there were temples which were famous all over India and which every year were visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims – and their number was increasing rapidly. It was in these sacred towns that I got to see the contemporary Hindu pilgrimage industry first hand.  The pilgrims came in luxury coaches or cars, stayed in luxury hotels, dined out and bought souvenirs – and in between visited the temples. They were a part of a corporate pilgrimage industry.

Vendors did a brisk trade selling trinkets and souvenirs and in the temples, the priests had thoughtfully installed ATM’s to facilitate the donation cash flow.  The spirit of consumerism had scored a complete triumph in India – supposedly a ‘spiritual’ land. 

At the outskirts of Dwarka and Somnath, armies of peons worked like ants to build new luxury hotels and kitsch parks full of statues, avenues, ponds, swings and rides.

The Holy Site converted into a theme park.

In the past, pilgrims who went to sacred towns like Dwarka and Somnath had to endure great hardships to get there. More than a few of them would have perished on the way.

Of course, climbing ten thousand steps wasn’t the same as experiencing the ancient pilgrim’s uncertain, primordial world, but it did at least put more emphasis on the notion of the pilgrimage involving physical effort; of the means of getting to the end destination being at least as important as the end destination itself…….. 

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