Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Rocks Speak

ANTARCTICA : 28.11.07

India is a country full of statues carved out of small and big rocks. They are as live as could be. They have been part of our culture and history from ancient times and give us a vivid account of life of people of a particular era and area. They are now major tourist attractions. The caves of Ajanta and Ellora are awe-inspiring, how in that era people went into those hills, discovered those caves, and just with chisel and hammer produced wonder to last till this planet lasts. Or for that the famous erotic sculptures at Khajuraho or Sun Temple at Konark only leave you spellbound. Similarly, the marvels of near Mysore are just breathtaking. Each and every piece of art is not only to admire but it gives living account of the history, culture of its people. That a piece of rock even without it being transformed into a piece of art could tell us about the evolution of world, I only recently learnt in Antarctica.

We have, in India, seen any number of movies where sculptures are important part of the main story line, or sculptor plays a crucial role in the movie. Who can forget the immortal scence of 'Mughal-e-Azam' where the seductress of that era, Madhubala playing Anarkali, makes her grand appearance in the court of Emperor Akbar disguised as a magnificent marble statue. Any number of movies, for example, Guide, Neel Kamal, can be named. One movie takes the cake 'Geet Gayon Pathhron Ne' (Song by the rocks) made by none other than legendry Shanta Ram.

I accompanied the team from Geological Survey of India for their study and collection of samples from some rocky area of Schirmachar hills. By the way, GSI is one of the earliest scientific institutions established in India, in 1851. It was a very educative experience for me. I felt truly "Antarctican" of being in the white desert. All around us was just ice and ice, and then you understand why it is called a white desert. It reminds you of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer areas of Rajasthan. You only have to think of sand instead of ice and snow. Some rocks here and there and not a blade of grass. Not only that, you also see dunes here similar to sand dunes of the desert. The only difference is that in a typical desert the sand dunes keep on shifting, but the crests and troughs here are kind of permanent. Secondly, the language used by these geologists was as if they were describing some living specimen, for example, words like veins, corona, age, full of character, no character etc. A piece of stone that I found beautiful was dismisses as of no signicant character, and what they found as 'full of life' was clear to me only when they explained to me its physical, chemical properties and its evolutionary history. They gave me some pieces of rocks to carry home as souvenir. I was reluctant. Chitra would certainly chide me that I go to Antarctica via South Africa and do not buy a diamond, but bring some big, heavy and uneven piece of stone as a gift.

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