Friday, 11 September 2015

Mardi Gras 2015

This post has been due for a long time. So I told to myself, better late than never and here it is.
Aari and I don’t like crowds and Noisy gatherings- we try to avoid it as much as we can. But 7th of March was something that I did not want to miss- the Sydney Mardi Gras parade. A parade to celebrate among others; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and intersex pride.

Interestingly, it would be the first carnival that I would ever attend (the closest I have come to a carnival would be the annual parades of the Dasara festival in Karnataka and Ganesh festival in Mumbai). I wanted to be there to show my support to a section of society that has been discriminated against, for illogical reasons that I can only call as bigotry.

It was a Saturday and the parade was to be held in the heart of Sydney along the Oxford Street.  Aarina, was not sure if she could take the crowds and loud noises and asked me to go alone and she would be there in spirit ! Public was strictly discouraged from bringing their cars and hence I took a train to St. James  station, a very prudent decision indeed.

The moment I exited Hyde park, where St. James is located, I was taken into a world of colour, music and laughter. I was just in time for the commencement of the parade and could see a lineup of tableaus, set up on various vehicles charged up for the parade.

I walked the entire stretch of the Oxford street and could not find an inch of place from where I could view the parade. The first and second row along the Oxford street was completely taken; terraces and balcony’s were overflowing with people. I kept walking along the street, when someone in the crowd moved from their position along the street and I managed to sneak in that slot. I did not move from here for the next three hours. It was not the best of the views, but at least I could see and cheer.

The first in line were the bikers- a cavalcade of Harley’s, with its characteristic Vroooom sound, set the noisy crowd alight. The cheering was so loud, that I felt it could even drown the sound of a jet liner taking off.

The Mardi Gras parade in Sydney started in the late 70’s when a small, motley group of people, walked along the oxford street, demanding equal rights- irrespective of sexual orientation. The next tableau was of these very people, who are now called the ‘First Generation’ 78er’s.

The long spectacle of tableaus then started, one more colourful than the other, one more cheerful than the previous. Although I am tempted to enumerate many of these colourful montages, I must refrain from doing so, to maintain the brevity of this post- but I hope the photographs convey what, words fail to do.

It was heartening to see not only many local clubs and organizations but also multinationals like Google and Air BnB having their own display’s. The surprise to me was a display, by a local parish and choir- A case of compassion overcoming religious ideologues perhaps.

Well, it was also during this week, that there was hullabaloo in the Indian media over the use of the word ‘lesbian’ in one of the movies! (rabble-rouser’s don’t need much to incite crowds) and I was pretty much dismayed by such a development in India; but what delighted me was to see a very big Indian flag- proudly fluttering during the parade. Whoever was carrying it has my standing ovation for the act.

Well, the atmosphere of the place was great. There was a lot of cheering, dancing, hugging and kissing around. I could see smiles all around the place, you just had to look into someone’s face, and sure enough there would be a warm smile.  I have probably never seen such a loving crowd ever before. Well, I must also mention that there was a couple standing next to me and the guy was carrying his not so petite girl on his shoulder, so that she could see the parade from a vantage point. Yes, he carried her for the entire duration of the parade- which neared three hours.
Well, for the entire duration of the parade, I felt I was in a very different world; a better world in fact.  As I walked back home, I had a sense of hope- that someday, as humans accept other humans for what they are, rather than what they want them to be- the world will be a much better place to live in.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Australian Museum, Sydney

We chanced upon this museum during one of our unplanned noon wanderings in the city! This is the oldest museum in Australia established at its present location in 1849. We were taken up by its sheer size! Being a Natural History museum, it covered a vast array of subjects and we felt lost, not knowing where to begin with, this despite two wings of the museum being closed for expansion and renovation!

The museum itself is a lovely maze of floors connected by spacious elevators and grand stairways. They have a decently stocked rooftop cafe too!

We headed straight to the section on “Skeletons” since that was what intrigued Del the most! Since skeletons are not really something that interests me, I kept nudging Del to keep moving on just when he spotted a cycle which he could ride on with a skeleton by his side! The delight on his face and the spring in his step racing towards the cycle would make anyone believe that it was one of a kind of a discovery in the museum itself!

The dinosaur section was engaging with interactive displays, as well as, miniature set ups for those interested in trying their hand at excavation. Infact, during our visit, a large piece of sedimentary rock was kept on a huge table, and the entire area cordoned off with yellow tape with a little board requesting visitors not to touch any of it and that a team of young researchers were working on it. It was wonderful looking up at the huge dinosaur casts!

Coelcanth - Living Fossil
It was exciting seeing a living fossil, so called because the Coelcanths were thought to have become extinct about 90 million years ago. However, in 1938, a living Coelcanth was netted in the Indian Ocean!

It was enchanting looking at the different birds of Australia. They were stuffed and well preserved which made them appear to be alive, seemingly posing, so that we could have a good look at them! A couple of artists equipped with various kinds of pencils and pieces of lead made themselves comfortable on the floor, lost in the sketching of the different birds and mammals on display. There were plenty of insects and reptiles too!

Cone shells - Stinging shells
Since Del and I love collecting shells, we were attracted towards the exhibits displaying them. We were stunned when we read that live cone shells could be very dangerous to the extent of immobilizing humans with their lethal venom, unfortunately for which no anti-venom is available!

Ten day old Polar Bear cubs
Another area which caught my eye was the section on Mammals. We were moved looking at the two ten day old Polar bear cubs who died in the London Zoological Gardens and were acquired in 1924.

Eastern Quoll
Also, fascinating to look at was the Eastern Quoll, which became extinct from the mainland in 1963. This quoll was hit by a car and acquired in 1948.

Marsupial Lion
Then there was the extinct marsupial lion (a crafted exhibit I assume) who is closely related to the wombats and koalas.

An extensive collection of books sits in their library with an adjoining section housing the various kind of equipments and articles used by our early ancestors. Also sections of cupboards with narrow drawers holding various specimens of insects, eggs etc. were on display. Many young scientists and researchers were busy at their computers examining specimens, researching matter etc.

It was interesting seeing a 2800 year old mummy in a coffin having a lovely display of artwork, probably indicative of the status and position of that person in society.

Our visit concluded at the mineral section of the museum, an outstanding collection by Albert Chapman.

Even two whole days wouldn’t suffice to do justice to this rich institution, let alone a couple of hours! Be that at it may, we were content with an opportunity to spend a noon at this amazing place!

- Aarina