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Diwali celebrations

11/12/2012

The past week has been good to me, with both my exams passed and a new course which is very interesting.  Cultural Conflicts is basically my life in a nutshell, well, I suppose it is everyone’s really.  We live in a globalised world where borders are more fluid than ever before, and it is a trend which will continue for the foreseeable  future.  The other surprise on that course is that one of the course materials is Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M Coetsee, a fellow South African.  It shows just how our identity is a result of what we are not.  The countries, colours, cultures and religions with which we come into contact, which are not our own, only serve to reinforce this.

I was intending to visit Ypres today, since it is Remembrance Day after all, to pay respects to all those who died in the First World War.  Remembrance Day is something I have mixed feelings about,  feeling great sympathy for the men who lived and died in such horrible conditions, while having great distaste for the governments and generals who sent them to be slaughtered.  The famous Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, famously defined the events of 28 June in Sarajevo as the beginning of the twentieth century in his book, The Age of Extremes.  Indeed it was an age of extremes, with the totalitarian regimes which grew out of the First World War only finally collapsing in 1991.  Hobsbawm painted a strong visual connection to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand  by described Francois Mitterand’s visit to Sarajevo in 1991, as sniper fire peppered the city.

What I remember strongly from my last visit to Ypres were the names of fallen soldiers on the Menin Gate.  They are men who have no known grave and, in many cases, came from very far away.  Since so many of the names I saw belonged to Indian soldiers, I decided to take a fellow UVA student up on his invitation to attend a Diwali festival instead.  This is the Hindu festival of light, and he described it as “like Christmas eve.”  We collected wood for a large fire, and I got into the spirit of things by producing some mulled wine and biscuits.  The weather was quite co-operative and the rain held off until midnight, which was a relief, as the turnout was very impressive.  We were not the only people celebrating Diwali, as some Chinese lanterns floated above our residence, which seemed very appropriate for a festival of light.

I know that many of you will be heartily sick of seeing my photographs of Amsterdamse Bos on my blog.  My only excuse is that visiting the forest is such a pleasure at this time of year, with the golden leaves drifting from the trees and fine crisp morning air being so bracing.  It is quite a family tradition amongst Amsterdammers, with many people visiting with their kids and dogs when the weather is good.  There always seem interesting new scenes to photograph as well, with the interplay of the light on the golden and russet leaves being so beautiful.  I have, as many of you have probably noticed by now, sold out and joined Facebook.  This does not mean I will be abandoning my blog, and I hope you will keep visiting it.  So here is wishing you all a good week, and the following clip is in memory of John Lennon, and the young men whose premature deaths we mourn on Armistice day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwp&NR=1&v=RkZC7sqImaM

 

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