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Showing posts from May, 2009

ST. PETERSBURG DIARY

Our first stopover in Russia was St. Petersburg, formerly known as Leningrad. In fact, it had been known as St. Petersburg since its inception in 1709, but was renamed Leningrad in 1924 following Lenin’s death. What a better way than to begin Russia from St Petersburg, which is in Russia but not Russian! I was to attend the conference here, 12th Multi-disciplinary International Conference on Neurosciences and Biological Psychiatry with conference theme of “Stress and Behaviour”. I was to chair a scientific session as well as make a presentation. And with my continuing preoccupation with Antarctica, what else would I speak other than ‘Psychobiology of Mood and Behaviour in Extreme Climatic Conditions of Antarctica’, more on this subject in some other post. This conference was being organized by two Ukrainian scientists settled in the US with support from local scientists and professionals. They were organizing successful annual meetings year after year in St. Petersburg. I was told abo…

FLYING AEROFLOT

As if once was not enough, I happened to choose Aeroflot, the Russian airlines, once again. However, this time it was to fly into Russia only, and I was not looking for a cheaper ticket to fly to Europe or US. This year, in any case, air tickets for flying to London or New York are way down the price tag even on prestigious European airlines, and it does not make sense to go there by budget airlines. The first time I was on board Aeroflot was way back in 1983 when I was working in Addis Ababa. I was to attend a conference at London (it was ironic that Pan-African Psychiatric Conference was being held in London), and with limited resources was looking for a cheaper air ticket. People advised me to fly Aeroflot as it offered London ticket at half of the price. It only involved a change at Moscow. With very limited international flying experience, I had no idea what this ‘change’ involved. Buying the ticket was another issue. Aeroflot office in Addis Ababa would sell cheaper ticket only …

TIBETAN INSTITUTE OF PERFORMING ARTS

The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) was founded by the Dalai Lama on reaching Dharamsala, after his exile from Tibet in August 1959.It was one of the first intitutes set up the Dalai Lama within 4 months of his arrival in India. It was established to preserve Tibetan artistic heritage, especially opera, dance, and music. After the occupation, the then Chinese authorities had attacked and destroyed every aspect of Tibetan culture, and it had become essential to preserve the rich Tibetan culture and promote it in successive generations before it was lost forever. That also became a major source of entertainment for exiled Tibetans.

We enjoyed good music and vibrant and live performances by the dancers. Dancers were dressed in traditional bright and colourful dresses. Some of the dances were very vibrant. Some focussed on rhythm and quick-stepping. The numbers where girls challenge boys in martial arts as well as romance and activities of daily living were very entertaining. T…

NORBULINGKA INSTITUTE

We visited the famous Norbulingka Institute known for keeping the Tibetan culture and values alive in India for the Tibetans living in exile. It is named after the traditional summer palace of Dalai Lamas in Lhasa, Tibet. It was established in 1995 for preservation of ancient art practices of Tibet, especially the crafts.
Norbulingka is dedicated to handing down tradition and restoring standards by providing training, education and employment for Tibetans. It supports an environment in which Tibetan community and family values can flourish. It reconciles the tradition creatively and respectfully with the modern, and seeks to create an international awareness of Tibetan values and their expression in art and literature. It offers training in Tibetan statue making, thangka painting, printing, thangk applique and tailoring, wood carving, wood and metal craft.
We saw the young students working painstakingly on all these arts. I have always admired the intricate designs and pattern of than…

VISITING DHARAMSALA AGAIN

It just occurred to me that Dharamsala happened to be one of those towns where I have gone a few times. Of course, Dharamsala is a hill station, but mercifully it is not in the same league as Shimla, Nainital or Mussoorie. For more than 20 years now, I have stopped going to the ‘mainstream’ hill stations. They are not better off than Delhi during the tourist season – hot and humid and civic amenities breaking down. And then there are traffic jams, and familiar food corners selling chholey-bhature and jeera chow-mein fried in ‘pure desi ghee’. You hear the same bollywood numbers blaring out from the cars of puppies, and then also bump into the same people whom you assiduously wanted to avoid back home. These hill stations, and Manali included, remind you of Lajpat Nagar or Sarojini Nagar. But Dharamsala is different. It is less frequented by hill-station hoppers, and the presence of Tibetans with their rich heritage of culture, politeness, crafts and variety of food make it an interest…

BLOGOSPHERE FROM ANTARCTICA

When I started this blog in October, 2007 to post my Antarctica experiences, I was too preoccupied with a number of things and could not get opportunity to look for other people blogging live from Antarctica. Over the time I learnt that many expeditioners to Antarctica have been blogging live from Antarctica. However, most of these blogs remain active during the summer time which most of the blogger spend there, and cease their postings afterwards. Blogging occurs during wintering period too, but not as frequently. There are some expeditioners, explorers, and scientists who have been taken so much by the issues concerning Antarctica that they have devoted their life time in doing scientific projects related to Antarctica and have spent many summer and wintering periods in Antarctica. And then, there are some who are bipolar, that is, they are active at both the poles periodically. When I was blogging from Antarctica, this blog was picked up by a Norwegian doctor who had reached Antarc…