Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My First Wine Museum Visit

Called Museu Do Vinho in Portuguese, this nice small exhibition tucked in the basement of a big building is the first wine museum in Asia. I was attracted to this place because it was in the same building as the Macau Grand Prix museum where I was headed. Also I had not been to any wine museum before. 
It is supposed to be in the shape of a wine cellar, but I had no clue of knowing this. There were no guides and very few visitors inside. The corridor leading upto the main hall displays posters on the genesis of wine making and drinking, how it reached Portugal and then China. Interested visitors may know many aspects of the subject from these write-ups. In the display hall I saw many wine making and vine growing tools followed by actual bottles of wines along with the dresses and culture of the different wine making regions of Portugal. The mannequins provided a lot of photo options.
Lastly near the exit we came to the wine testing area. Although the museum entry is free for testing you have to pay minimum of 15 patacas. You may test while the person in charge answers your queries. 
I met a visitor from New Zealand testing from many of the samples, who appeared very knowledgeable about wines all over the world. 
As you come out you are greeted by the sight of the wine store with a good stock of varieties of wines. You may take your pick, if you liked the wine inside.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Indomitable Spirit

At the furthest corner of the muddy lane she sits, huddled up like a cat in winter. Besides her lies her rag-bag, containing the motley collection of fabrics, and may be some of her memories. She is old and shrunken, her face more furrowed than the newly ploughed paddy-field. She sits there close to the rickety mud wall, as I pass by, many times a day. I find her sitting under thatched roof of someone’s house, whenever I return home—from work, from the market or from an outstation trip. Her forlorn figure has now got deeply etched in my psyche, something I cannot simply wish way.

I am often bothered by questions about her existence. Where she gets her food from: why does not she move out to a drier or cleaner open space of the city? There she may easily draw the attention of some charity. Why does not the administration provide her food and shelter, maybe the old age pension and the like? How can government come to her rescue when she has chosen this back alley to be her shelter?

She appeared in our locality one day from nowhere. Someone said her sons had shut her out. Someone else held that she was insane and pointed to the rag-bag and her knotted hair to support this view. Well, that suggestion was accepted widely, as that way her condition looked natural and justifiable. It helped easing the guilt conscience of every rational member of the locality, who didn’t want to do anything about her yet felt a vague discomfort in her presence.

I was also a member of this group which did not want to see her suffering, yet do nothing to ameliorate her plight. But can we impose lunacy upon her just because it suits our traditional thinking patterns and to wriggle out of our predicament? To me she looks a completely normal person, constantly reminding us about our hollowed civilization and progress. Her very condition reduces to naught all the high sounding ideas like social welfare, welfare state, responsive administration and so on. And when she mutters—as she occasionally does—I feel as if she is mocking at our high claims about safeguard of human dignity.

She also reminds me of the indomitable human spirit. Like Hemingway’s gallant old man she fights the harsh elements single-handedly, without aspiring for society’s succor. Society for her is a rude bunch of self-seeking individuals, absorbed in their own affairs.

As the monsoon rain lashes the whole world in the middle of the night, accompanied by the rolling thunder, I shudder in my bed haunted by the image of the wretched old woman. I know many others like me must be experiencing the same uneasiness inside the security and comfort of their homes. But the resolute character seems to reassure us all, “Sleep on, you sentimental fools, for I can take care of myself.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Waiting for the Book

However much he wanted to, my twelve year old son could not hide his strong yearning to possess the forthcoming Harry Potter book. Ever since the news about the new book in the Harry Potter series hit the headlines, his mission to track all developments about the forthcoming publication had begun.

As he bombarded me with all the tidbits about the book, I found myself getting interested. Then one day, an online bookstore announced taking preorder of the book. The image of the book cover in the preorder page became our computer’s wallpaper. Every time I switched on the computer, Harry Potter’s tranquil face stared at mine. Other Potter trivia got piled up in the house and clamored for attention; soon it became impossible to put the magic boy out of our minds.

Amid this entire build-up one thing struck me as unusual. Although the coming of the new book had set my son agog, he had never asked me to preorder one for him. A little prodding dug out the reason—he didn’t want to burden me with the prohibitive price of a brand new American hardbound edition. He could wait for a moderately priced Indian version that was sure to come out in a few months. Very thoughtful for a twelve year old in-deed!

But how could the indulgent father in me capitulate to this kind of the considerate thinking of a child? I could not allow my son’s excitement to wither away like this. Next morning, I preordered the book that was to release in a week’s time. A brimming son was seen profusely thanking his contented father for this thoughtful gesture. The countdown for June 21, the book release date, had begun. With the magic date approaching, the air of anticipation became so palpable that you could stab it with a bookmark. As my son waited for the book with bated breath, I felt a strange sense of déjà vu.

The English teacher of our new class had suggested that we all referred to a particular dictionary for proficiency in English usage. A few students got it immediately. When I checked it up in the library, I fell in love with the book instantaneously. The dictionary was complete with pictures, usages, and many useful appendices—something we were not used to in our knowledge about dictinaries. The desire to own one possessed me. But this foreign edition boasted a price that was too steep for my limited monthly allowances as a hostel border. I wrote to father to send extra money immediately, and he suggested that I should wait till his next visit which was due soon. I can still recall my mounting expectancy as I waited for the appointed day.

The magic moment came, the book was purchased, and a contented father did not mind the absent-mindedness of his son, absorbed with the new book, for the rest of the evening. I remained preoccupied with my prize possession for many weeks to come. I still proudly possess the very same dictionary thirty-six years after it was purchased that evening. I feel more comfortable looking up a word from the yellow pages of the old dictionary than the glossy pages of the newer editions which I purchased in my later years.