Fate or Free will ….

Have you ever found yourself thinking ……

  • ‘Why me? What did I do to deserve this?’
  • ‘Why do these things happen? It is just so cruel’
  • ‘Oh he didn’t deserve this end. He was such a good man.’
  • ‘Life is so unpredictable. Why do kids who have a whole life ahead of them die tragically when an aged person with no will to live continues to and suffers the indignity of old age.’

There are fatalists who live by the belief that everything in life is preordained. And then there are those who rubbish the theory of fate and believe in their capacity to shape their destiny.

Most cultures in some way acknowledge or subscribe to the inevitability of Fate.

Followers of Ajivika, a contemporary philosophy to Buddhism and Jainism believed that a cycle of reincarnation of the soul was determined by Niyati (destiny or fate). Niyati was believed to be a precise and non-personal cosmic principle that was completely independent of the person’s actions. Ajivika’s absolutely and totally believed in Fatalism.

Hinduism believes in a combination of fate and free will. Fate is one of the fundamental tenets of the religion. The religion believes that the moment of our birth, the family into which we are born, the trials we will face in this life, all are created by Samskara (the result of Karma). Despite being largely fatalistic and feeling that they are chained to the fruits of their actions, Hindus also believe that it is possible to shape destiny. There is an ancient Sanskrit sloka supposedly authored by Kalidasa (although this is debated in literary circles), that roughly translates to:

Yesterday is nothing but a dream and tomorrow is merely a vision.
Today well-lived, makes yesterday a dream of happiness and tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day – such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

Buddhism believes that life and its events are not controlled by an external force but by their previous karma. Buddhists use the term destiny to explain the cause for events. Destiny they believe is the direct result of an individual’s karma from his/her previous lives. The belief is that Karma (both wholesome and unwholesome) may be accumulated.

Ancient Romans and Greeks believed in Moirai. The Moirai were the three goddesses of fate who personified the inevitable destiny of man that could just not be changed. Goddess Klotho, the Spinner, spun the thread of life. Goddess Lakhesis, the opportioner, who measured the thread of life and Goddess Aisa, the leveller cut it short. Zeus, the God of fate was their leader.

Fate and predestination, Qadar is a major premise of Islam, one of the six articles of faith. The general faith is that that God wrote the divine destiny in the Preserved Tablet – all that has happened, will happen, which will come to pass, has been written. However, human acts also affect what is stated in the Tablet.

In Christianity, the Bible teaches that Man was created with the capacity to make moral choices and that has responsibility for all these choices. There are some verses indicate the belief that God does have a plan, but humans do have some control over their own direction.

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

And then there is the theory of Determinism. Fatalism implies the existence of a conscious omniscient force that personally plans the course of events in the past, present and future, none of which can be altered. Determinism believes that human actions affect the future but that human action is itself determined by a causal chain of prior events. Their view does not accentuate a “submission” to fate or destiny. Determinists, holding a more generic view, believe that each event is caused by recent prior events and also by such far-extending and unbroken events as those going back in time to the universe’s very origins.  Determinism does not believe that the course of fate is controlled by an unseen power.

There is a famous proverb in Tamil ‘விதியை மதியால் வெல்லலாம்’ or ‘fate can be conquered by intellect’. I’ve always questioned the truth of this proverb. At a superficial level, this may be true but is it really? Events and incidents that contradict this proverb are many. My friend aged forty five died of a massive cardiac arrest last week with no prior warning or indication. Despite being young, fit and healthy, she didn’t wake up from her sleep. The end was as simple as that – no warning signs whatsoever. Nothing she did could have intervened with destiny.

The whole idea of Fatalism just does not seem remotely plausible in my mind. Personally, the existence of an omniscient force that holds the remote control to our lives is a bit too farfetched for me. What this also does is encourages a resignation to destiny and acceptance of fate. It dissuades effort.  Determinism is a little bit more acceptable as it places greater value on individual effort and action – it is aligned with the popular theory of Karma that is more palatable as a concept.

As I process all this information, I realise that I am left with more questions than answers.  In an effort to add some colour to this discussion in my headspace, I write this imaginary conversation between the Supreme Power and I in Tamil!  Needless to say, this is written tongue in cheek and I don’t profess to be a scholar of merit.  So I apologise upfront for possible errors : )

புவியிலே யாவுமே சமம் எனில்
ஈசனே ஏன் இந்த பேதம்
விண்ணின் உச்சத்தில் சிலர்
அதள பாதாளத்தில் பலர்

வாசம் வீசும் வண்ண மலர்கள்
எத்தனை எத்தனை வகைகள்
தெய்வ சன்னதி அடைந்தன சில
மண்ணில் வீழ்ந்து மடிந்தன பல

கொஞ்சிக் கொஞ்சி கதைகள்
பேசும் பஞ்சவர்ண கிளிகள்
மனம் போல் பறந்தன சில – கூட்டில்
அடைபட்டு தவித்தன பல

மணை மக்கள் செல்வத்துடன்
சுகமாய் வாழ்வோர் சிலர்
வறுமை வெறுமை வேதனையே 
சகித்து மாண்டோர் பலர்

அடுக்கடுக்காய் வினவிய எனைக்கண்டு
நயமாக நகைத்தான் ஈசன்
பிள்ளாய் நீ அறிந்ததோ மிகச்சில
அறியாததோ பற்பல

Advertisements

The floating village of Tonle Sap

There is a small floating village in Cambodia.   Inhabited by mostly Vietnamese migrants, this is a fascinating little village!

The village is on the backwaters of the Tonle Sap lake.  People in this village live on their boats in the middle of the lake.  The only mode of transport is by boat.   So, how do they build houses in the middle of the lake?  They all have tiny wooden houses that they take on a motor boat to the centre of the lake.  They carry bamboo stilts on boats and stick them into the ground to stabilise their wooden houses and make them stationary.

Men casting their fishing nets around the village, women cooking on their boats, children rowing back from school, vendors selling their ware on their boats, people doing their laundry and generally doing everything we would at home but on a boat in the middle of the lake – it was an awesome sight.  They seem to have most things they need to have for a living – including a little floating school and a floating church all within a kilometres radius.

We were told that the backwaters that they lived on would recede in the dry season, the lake would become cultivable land.  We were also told that they cultivated rice in the dry season and that the rice from these paddy fields was very tasty as the land was very fertile.  Well that’s interesting I said to my guide but what happens to the floating village?  The response was – “some of these people set up little huts in the dry area and cultivate and others move deeper into the lake where there is water and continue to live on the floating village.”

As we went on our motor boat through this village, I felt like I was in a dream world.  Hundreds of questions crossed my mind.

  • How do these people earn a living?
  • How do the kids learn?
  • When the waters recede and people stay back to cultivate, what happens to their children’s education?  The floating school floats away!
  • How do they get fresh water to cook and clean?
  • What happens when they have health issues and need medical care?
  • Where do they buy their grocery, spices, etc.?
  • What happens if it rains?
  • Do they have electricity?

The questions were endless.  I didn’t ask my guide all of these questions.  I thought every tourist he accompanies would probably ask the same questions and I didn’t want to torture him with typical tourist questions.  I tried to learn through observing.

The answer is really simple.  Like we have our definition of living standards, they have their own.  You just can’t compare the two.  Some work 9 to 5 each day, come back and watch TV to relax, go to the gym to get a physical work out, take a few weeks off each year to travel and our lives revolve primarily around the children, their education and their future.

The people in the floating villages live in perfect harmony with nature and in an environment where everything is spontaneous.  Their needs are frugal and their expectations are minimal.  They have no aspirations to travel or conquer the world.  They are satisfied to earn enough to eat and sustain themselves.  They work when they have to and rest when they can, their physical work out is what they do day to day (row, fish and cultivate), their children are taught the art of survival – that’s far more important than formal schooling.  Creature comforts are unheard of.   In fact, I don’t think I saw a television or heard a radio anywhere in the village!

Their primary occupation is fishing.  They catch enough to feed their families and sell the rest to buy other things they need.  They have minimal possessions.  They don’t aspire to buy cars or expensive clothing.  The children go to school in the day and work with their parents for the rest of the day.  They have learnt what can supplement their income.  They breed crocodiles for leather.  They make bags, baskets to sell in the markets.  They breed snakes and scorpions to make novelty wine and sell them to tourists (incidentally, they believe that rice wine flavoured with snake and scorpions improve virility … natural Viagra)!!!  They are happy, hard working and content.

Yes they don’t know much about the outer world; they are totally inwardly focused and will never see the wider world.  So what?  You don’t miss what you don’t know!!  The lure of this kind of idyllic existence is pretty strong but would I be able to do it long term – I don’t know!  For starters, I am vegetarian 🙂

Dum Dum Dum …

 A friend of mine mentioned in passing that in her younger days in Bangalore, she learnt compositions of Bharati in his original musical score from a close associate of Bharati.  Not many know that Bharati was a vageyakkarara (or someone who composed music to his poetry) My curiosity was aroused and I wanted to know more.

 She said to me, ‘Ana, it is so interesting to hear about the context of each song and how they came into existence.’  She went on to tell me this story.

 Chellammal, Bharati’s wife had this routine of cleaning his writing desk religiously every morning.  She would clean his desk, fill up his pen with ink and leave the pen on his desk with some writing paper.  After all she knew that her husband’s writing was the key to their livelihood!

 On one such day, when Bharati sat at his desk to write, their servant was pounding rice in the mortar and with each stroke created the noise ‘dum’.  So as she continuously pounded the sound of ‘dum dum dum dum’ resonated in the house making it very noisy.  His wife was very annoyed with the servant and admonished her for not allowing him to concentrate on his writing.  She asked her to stop pounding and to leave the house immediately.  The servant left.

 When Chellaammal went to apologise to Bharati, she found some writing on the piece of paper that she had left for him.  The writing on the paper read:

 manathil uruthi ven’dum’
vaakkinile inimai ven’dum’
ninaivu nalladhu ven’dum’
nerunggina porul kai pada ven’dum’

மனதில்  உறுதி வேண்’டும்’
வாக்கினிலே இனிமை வேண்’டும்’
நினைவு நல்லது வேண்’டும்’
நெருங்கின பொருள் கை பட வேண்’டும்’

 kanavu meippada ven’dum’
kai vasamaavadhu viraivil ven’dum’
Dhanamum inbamum ven’dum’
tharaniyile perumai ven’dum’
கனவு மெய்ப்பட வேண்’டும்’
கை வசமாவது விரைவில் வேண்’டும்’
தனமும் இன்பமும் வேண்’டும்’
தரணியிலே பெருமை வேண்’டும்’

kan thirandhida ven’dum’
kaariyathil uruthi ven’dum’
pen viduthalai ven’dum’
periya kadavul kaakka ven’dum’
கண் திறந்திட வேண்’டும்’
காரியத்தில் உறுதி வேண்’டும்’
பெண் விடுதலை வேண்’டும்’
பெரிய கடவுள் காக்க வேண்’டும்’

 mann payanura ven’dum’
vaanagam inggu thenpada ven’dum’
unmai nindrida ven’dum’
Om Om Om
மண் பயனுற வேண்டும்
வாணகம் இங்கு தென்பட வேண்டும்
உண்மை நின்றிட வேண்டும்
ஓம் ஓம் ஓம்

 Translation

Let my thought be firm and resolute
Let my words be sweet and gentle
Let my thoughts be noble
Let me attain what is close to hand
Let my dreams come to life
Let them come to fruition quickly and in time
Let me be prosperous and content
Let me attain name and fame
Let the eyes always be aware
Let me be determined in achieving my goals
Let there be freedom for women
Let the Great Lord protect us all
Let the earth be fertile
Let the heavens open up to us
Let Truth always prevail
Om Om Om

When his wife was dreading that he would not be able to focus, he had used the ‘sandam’ or sound created by the pounding, to write perhaps one of the most inspirational and beautiful pieces of poetry Tamil language has ever seen!  Genius and class as they say is inborn and permanent! 

 

Is Religion a dated concept?

My son, a strapping young Gen Y, a well read individual with strong convictions said to me – ‘amma, religion is an outdated concept and really needs to go.’  When I asked him why he said that, his response was – ‘well maybe people of the past needed the guidance of religion to help them define their moral code.  I don’t need it.  The set of morals that I follow are not really drawn from religion but my experiences in life’.

He then asked me – ‘what do you think amma?’  I said I agreed with him.  I believe that religion is unnecessary in this day and age.  Religion is divisive and creates more evil than good.  The terrorism and tension world over can be attributed largely to religion.  What good is it when people kill in the name of religion?  I don’t think I would have an issue if my children were non-religious but good human beings.  Although I admit that I would like them to be spiritual, I’d prefer for them to be more moral and less spiritual if these two values had to be mutually exclusive!

Despite feeling so strongly about it, I confess I like the idea of religion.  I feel the ‘presence’ in most places of worship – whether it is the Lotus temple of Baha’i faith or the Notre Dame cathedral or the Chidambaram temple.  I like the little practices associated with each religion – the festivals, the celebrations, the colour and the pomp that defines the celebrations.  For me life would just not be the same without Navarathri –  for me, a festival that involves doing arty things, socialising and dancing garba and dandiya.  It is the one time of the year that I look forward to every year.  Though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I love the festive atmosphere during the Christmas season.  I love Holi, I love Deepavali.  I am not sure if I am ready to live in a world without religion if all these festivals will be taken away from my life.  How boring and drab would life become!!

I say the same about castes.  I abhor the caste system and really don’t believe in its relevance at any point let alone today, but there is so much beauty in the traditions of each caste.  It is almost like a tribal tradition, that’s all it is but it is so beautiful.  Much as I hate what the caste system has done to society, I do love the traditions of a Brahmin wedding – kaasi yatrai, oonjal, kanyadhanam and sapthapathi.  How boring would a wedding be without these little rituals!

In principle I do agree with the concept of a society free of religion but not at the loss of the fun bits associated with religion!!  Why can’t everything be in moderation??!!

Nirbhaya – the cry for justice

A young woman raped brutally in Delhi – an oft repeated headline. Another victim of bestiality, another faceless person vanishes off the face of earth but this time it is different. She hasn’t vanished without arousing the emotions of the nation and the world. Maybe it was the last straw on the camel’s back. And the knee jerk reaction of the mob is evident – there are protests raging the capital – pleas for justice, cries for execution and vociferous demands that the government must do something about this.

The public rage and outcry is very valid and justified. Rape is wrong – period. Under no circumstance can it be accepted or condoned. There is a need for action. However, I don’t really understand if people genuinely believe that government intervention can totally resolve this issue. Yes, with the right policy and the right set of messages, the government can help deter criminals but the issue is far more complex than that. There is a social side to the issue which people largely ignore. It is easy to execute the offenders but how is it going to resolve the issue? In fact it is easy, painless death!

I’ve heard men say – ‘legalise prostitution. This will minimise crime.’ That is the most outrageous suggestion! The message that comes across loud and clear is – ‘men will ALWAYS have kinks and can become inhuman to satisfy these kinks if need be. A woman is merely a body that facilitates the fulfilments of these kinks.’ The issue is not whether men are allowed to have kinks or not. The issue is more about finding a willing partner. If you can’t find a willing partner, it is not right to abuse a person. Are men so sexually repressed that they feel compelled to look for easy release? Are we so inhuman that there is no remorse or pain whatsoever? Is this why we hear so many reports of abuse within the family, especially child abuse? What kind of a sick human being can abuse a child to satisfy himself?

As a society, are have failed. Over centuries, we’ve perpetuated the view that women are possessions. Until they are married, they are the ‘responsibility’ of their parents, after they get married this baton passes to the husband and then to the son. How often have we heard statements like these ..

‘Never go out after dark and if you do make sure you have a male with you to protect you at all times.’
‘Girls from good families don’t roam around town during nights.’
‘Never wear anything provocative. You know that’s asking for trouble.’
‘Women should never earn too much. If they become independent, they become arrogant and are unfit for marriage.’
‘If a man strays he is a stud but if a woman strays she is labelled a slut. Be very careful. Your reputation is the most important thing.’
‘A successful woman is one who keeps her husband happy and content in every way.’

Would anyone think of saying these things to males? Aren’t these just ridiculous? If a gang of guys decide to attack you at night, they will attack you regardless of whether you have a male accompanying you or not. They might beat the poor accompanying male to pulp before attacking the girl. If girls do go out at night or dress provocatively, are we as a society so morally bereft that we see her as easy prey and force ourselves upon her?

In the same culture that idolises females as Shakti, there is a Sanskrit sloka in Niti Shastra that sums up the six virtues of an ideal wife:
Karyeshu Dasi – as hardworking as a servant
Karaneshu Mantri – as fantastic an administrator and advisor as a minister (Brilliant)
Bhojeshu Mata – as caring and nurturing as a mother
Shayaneshu Ramba – as wanton and adventurous in bed as the heavenly nymph Rambha
Roopeshu Lakshmi – as beautiful as Goddess Lakshmi
Kshmayeshu Dharitri – as patient and forgiving as mother Earth.
Shat Dharma Yuktah Kula Dharma Patni – And one who possesses these six virtues is the ideal wife.

Is there a set of virtues that sums up an ideal husband? The whole society has been crafted with rules that reek of double standard. Females start their lives on the back foot. Is there not a fundamental problem with the social tapestry?

When a girl is raped, we are scared of the reputation of the girl who has been brutally raped, not her emotions. We don’t report the crime for fear of being judged and labelled. ‘What if I can’t get my daughter married? I don’t want it to affect her life.’ Don’t they realise that her life has already been affected. Physically and emotionally, she will never be the same person ever again.

The government on its part can bring about change but this will only address part of the problem. To bring about total social reform, we all have a part to play in changing the mindset. For starters, women have to start believing that they are equal to men and build future generations that believe this too.

Floating village on Tonle Sap lake

There is a small floating village in Cambodia.   Inhabited by mostly Vietnamese migrants, this is a fascinating little village!

 The village is on the backwaters of the Tonle Sap lake.  People in this village live on their boats in the middle of the lake.  The only mode of transport is by boat.   So, how do they build houses in the middle of the lake?  They all have tiny wooden houses that they take on a motor boat to the centre of the lake.  They carry bamboo stilts on boats and stick them into the ground to stabilise their wooden houses and make them stationary. 

 Men casting their fishing nets around the village, women cooking on their boats, children rowing back from school, vendors selling their ware on their boats, people doing their laundry and generally doing everything we would at home but on a boat in the middle of the lake – it was an awesome sight.  They seem to have most things they need to have for a living – including a little floating school and a floating church all within a kilometres radius. 

 We were told that the backwaters that they lived on would recede in the dry season, the lake would become cultivable lands.  We were also told that they cultivated rice in the dry season and that the rice from these paddy fields was very tasty as the land was very fertile.  Well that’s interesting I said to my guide but what happens to the floating village?  The response was – “some of these people set up little huts in the dry area and cultivate and others move deeper into the lake where there is water and continue to live on the floating village.”

 As we went on our motor boat through this village, I felt like I was in a dream world.  Hundreds of questions crossed my mind.

  •  How do these people earn a living?
  • How do the kids learn?
  • When the waters recede and people stay back to cultivate, what happens to their children’s education?  The floating school floats away!
  • How do they get fresh water to cook and clean?
  • What happens when they have health issues and need medical care?
  • Where do they buy their grocery, spices, etc.?
  • What happens if it rains?
  • Do they have electricity?

 The questions were endless.  Ididn’t ask my guide all of these questions.  I thought every tourist he accompanies would probably ask the same questions and I didn’t want to torture him with typical tourist questions.  I tried to learn through observing.

 The answer is really simple.  Like we have our definition of living standards, they have their own.  You just can’t compare the two.  Speaking for my family, we live in an environment where everything is structured.  We work 9 to 5 each day, come back and watch TV to relax, go to the gym to get a physical work out, take a few weeks off each year to travel and our lives revolve primarily around the children, their education and their future. 

 The people in the floating villages live in perfect harmony with nature and in an environment where everything is spontaneous.  Their needs are frugal and their expectations are minimal.  They have no aspirations to travel or conquer the world.  They are satisfied to earn enough to eat and sustain themselves.  They work when they have to and rest when they can, their physical work out is what they do day to day (row, fish and cultivate), their children are taught the art of survival – that’s far more important than formal schooling.  Creature comforts are unheard of.   In fact, I don’t think I saw a television or heard a radio anywhere in the village!

 Their primary occupation is fishing.  They catch enough to feed their families and sell the rest to buy other things they need.  They have minimal possessions.  They don’t aspire to buy cars or expensive clothing.  The children go to school in the day and work with their parents for the rest of the day.  They have learnt what can supplement their income.  They breed crocodiles for leather.  They make bags, baskets to sell in the markets.  They breed snakes and scorpions to make novelty wine and sell them to tourists (incidentally, they believe that rice wine flavoured with snake and scorpions improve virility … natural Viagra)!!!  They are happy, hard working and content.

 Yes they don’t know much about the outer world; they are totally inwardly focused and will never see the wider world.  So what?  You don’t miss what you don’t know!!  The lure of this kind of idyllic existence is pretty strong but would I be able to do it long term – I don’t know!  For starters, I am vegetarian 🙂

Cambodia and India

I am not going to bore you with trivia about Cambodia and Angkor because all you need to do is Google Angkor and there are millions of pages at your fingertips.  What I will do is tell you what went through me – my thoughts and emotions as I visited each of these sites.  Yes there were emotions – very strong ones too!

When we got off at the airport and our guide picked us up, the first thing he told us was that Angkor the word itself was derived from the Sanskrit word ‘nagara’ which means city.  He also told us that according to legend Cambodia came into being through the union of a princess and a foreigner. The foreigner was an Indian Brahmin named Kaundinya and the princess was the daughter of a dragon king who ruled the land of waters.  Kaundinya shot an arrow from his magic bow into her boat, causing the fearful princess to agree to marriage. In need of a dowry, her father drank up the waters of his land and presented them to Kaundinya to rule over. The new kingdom was named Kambuja or Kampuchea or Cambodia.

Right from the name to the structures to the food to the culture to the people, there is a very strong Indian influence in the Khmer culture.  The Khmer people look very different to the neighbouring Vietnamese or Thai people.  They look more Dravidian than their neighbours.  They are very aware of India, her history, religion and myths.  They have been introduced to Sanskrit and Pali.

The Khmers seem to be very proud of their Indian heritage.  Our guide said to us when he picked us up at the airport.  I love ‘Ramayana’.  When my daughter grows up, I want her to look beautiful like an Indian, like Sita in Ramayana.  He has named his daugher ‘Amara’ which means ‘eternal’ or ‘beyond death’.  During the rest of my stay in Cambodia, I heard many people say that – ‘Indians beautiful.  I want my child to look Indian.’

As we walked through the temples of Angkor, what stared us in the face was the strong Indian influence in almost every structure – the style of the temple architecture, the intricate carvings on all the panels based on Shaivite, Vaishnavite and Buddhist folklore.  Even the structure of the temples follow the ancient traditions of temple architecture in India.  There are so many little things that are so typical of India:

  • There are huge moats around the temples.
  • Tthere are tanks in the temple and we are told that the sacred waters from the rivers of India were brought to be poured into these tanks.
  • The structure of some temples resembles the structure of Mount Meru.
  • Temples are built at an elevated level because they believe Gods must be at a much higher plane than humans.
  • They talk about walking through many sanctums to reach the sanctum of God, which is so similar to temples in Tamil Nadu.
  • The script in these temples is like the ancient Dravidian script.

Enough said on this I think.  Yes there is a very strong Indian influence everywhere.  It is common knowledge for those who read history that the Indian rulers on the East coast of India, especially current day Tamil Nadu had travelled far and wide, built trade and cultural ties with almost all the South East Asian nations and exerted significant cultural influence in all the regions.

As I walked through these beautiful monuments, I felt an innate sense of pride in my heritage, my culture and the fact that my ancestors had carried the culture this far and wide.  However, I also had a very heavy feeling in my heart that largely people in India don’t realise the level of cultural impact their ancestors had made hundreds of years ago.  I felt sad that we have no real pride in our heritage.  The older generation may have a stronger sense of pride but the current generation has no connection with the history of India.  It’s all about survival.  Study of history or arts does not make enough money for sustenance.  So we study IT, Engineering and Technology and make a life.  The finer and the softer aspects are slowly vanishing.  Yes we all brag about our culture but that I believe is merely mob mentality.  It is popular to be proud of our Indian heritage.  We do nothing to protect our heritage.   We don’t even protect our architectural treasure.

Cambodia and its people really impressed me.  The country is a third world country.  It was ravaged by civil war and considered unsafe until ten or so years ago.  The people were subject to untellable cruelty by the neighbouring countries, by the Khmer Rouge (their own kin) but they have bounced back from their past to establish something I believe will take them ahead.  They take pride in their history and want to share it with the world.  They have created a city in the province of Angkor and made it tourist worthy.  The amenities, the infra structure, everything has been thoughtfully developed to cater to tourists.  The town of Siem Reap is truly a paradise for tourists.   During the tourist season, people come to Siem Reap to earn a living and during off season, go back to their villages to concentrate on their primary occupation – agriculture.

It is so easy for tourists that you can choose the kind of holiday you want based on your budget.  For those who want to travel in luxury there are private chauffeur driven cars with guides and interpreters who write up a program based on your schedule (and this includes EVERYTHING – entrance fees, parking fees, everything.  Once you pay them you don’t have to get your wallet out), for those with a smaller budget there are tuk tuk drivers (who are honest) and for an even smaller budget, you can hire push bikes for a day for as little as USD$5 and travel at your own pace.

The mind does compare this to the roads in Agra that lead to the Taj Mahal where all you see is bad roads, filth, stench and squalor until you turn the corner and see the Taj in all its glory.  The proud Indian in you wonders – with all our money and power, why could we not do in Agra what the Cambodians did in Siem Reap.  When will we learn?  Will we learn?