Saturday, 26 April 2014

El Mina, the sea port of Gaza

I am in Gaza city in Palestine, and I am staying in an apartment in front of the sea port of Gaza called El Mina. This is a photo-essay about the Gaza sea port.

El Mina, Gaza sea port

Stories about the sea port in Gaza go back to antiquity.

The port is like a "T" with the long vertical leg jutting out from the coast into the sea. As you enter the port, there is a monument with a round globe at the top. It has some names at the base along with the Turkish and Palestinian flags. It was built by Turkey to commemorate the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara and activists who had tried to force through the Israeli blockade of the port in May 2010.

El Mina, Gaza sea port

As you walk down the vertical leg of the T, on the right side there are red-roofed sheds for the fishermen.

El Mina, Gaza sea port

At the end, where the vertical leg of the "T" meets its horizontal leg, there is another monument that I call Aeroplane monument. It looks like the front motor of a fighter plane, set in the centre of a round-about. (PS: My friend Adriano told me that it is the propeller of a ship and not the motor of an aeroplane!)

El Mina, Gaza sea port


El Mina, Gaza sea port

A few days ago, one early morning, before 6 AM, I went down to take a walk at the seaport.

It was absolutely marvelous. There were few people and boats were coming back with the fish they had caught. In the boats, men sat around sorting the fishes and putting them in plastic crates. Other men took the crates and piled them in carriages run by horses to distribute them in the city.

Parallel to the vertical leg of the "T", there is another thin strip of land going into the sea for the bigger boats. A truck had brought a new boat and was putting it down.

El Mina, Gaza sea port

Cats and young children from poor families with plastic bags stood around the fishermen, waiting for fish scraps.

If they came too close, the fishermen glared at them and they retreated. But the fishermen were not too hard on them. Every now and then, someone took pity on the cats or the kids, and threw a torn or headless fish at them.

El Mina, Gaza sea port


El Mina, Gaza sea port

The horizontal leg of the "T" on the left, it continues with the beach of Gaza. On the right side, it goes and ends suddenly in the sea, creating a small bay. If you stand at the tip, in a distance you can see the long chimneys of some industrial plant spewing smoke in the sky. Those chimneys are on the Israeli side of the border.

El Mina, Gaza sea port

On the skyline of Gaza, you can immediately see the new and the beautiful Abdul Aziz Khalidi mosque, built by a rich Palestinian, who lives just across from the mosque, in the memory of his father. Next to the mosque is the "Beach camp" or the Shati refugee camp. They are widening the road along the seacoast of Gaza with money from Qatar, so soon, the Beach camp will disappear and hundreds of families living there will be shifted to the south of Gaza city.

El Mina, Gaza sea port

As the sun came up, I walked to the tip of the land that protects the port. There I met an adolescent boy called Mohammed, whom I asked to take my picture. Soon we were joined by a group of his friends who all surrounded me. “I am Hindi” I said, and suddenly we were friends, many of them smiled. I already knew that in Palestine, they do not understand if you say "India", for them India is "Hindi" or "Indi".

Bollywood is well known in Palestine and many persons have told me about their love for Indian films and how these make them cry and how much they like Amitabh Bachchan!

El Mina, Gaza sea port

At the port, in the morning most persons are male, you hardly see any women or girls. Children are every where, some playing and others working.

El Mina, Gaza sea port


El Mina, Gaza sea port

That morning walk, it was a wonderful experience.

I was back at the port, one evening as well. In the darkness, it was quiet and peaceful.

El Mina, Gaza sea port

It is beautiful to wake up in the morning and see the boats come alive and see the sky change colours. In the evenings, often I sit in the balcony with a book and look at the sun going down and the persons walking around the port.

Here are a few images of the morning and evening at the port, taken from the apartment.

El Mina, Gaza sea port


El Mina, Gaza sea port


El Mina, Gaza sea port


El Mina, Gaza sea port

As I write this post, occasionally I glance out of the window at the port. Today, dark clouds are hanging low and the water has a silvery-leaded sheen. It is deserted. Except for an occasional boat that leaves a soundless trail on the water, it can even be a painting that I am looking at.

Last night it had looked so crowded but then it was the Friday night! On Friday evenings,  the seaport is like an ant hill, full of people, more persons joining them from all the sides and cars blocking the road, parked till the end of the tip of the port.

The picture below, shows the apartment building on the right, where I am staying.

El Mina, Gaza sea port

To conclude this photo-essay, here is another image from my early morning walk at the port of Gaza.

El Mina, Gaza sea port

The word "Gaza" brings on images of Palestinian struggles with bombs and wars. In these days, I have met so many Palestinians who seem tired of wars and bombs and who dream of decent lives for their children. This post is dedicated to them.

***

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Indian Soldiers in Italy 1917-1919

A coincidence brought me a book about Indian soldiers passing through Italy during the last years of the first World War (1917-1919). This post is about Camp 3, the resting camp of the British in Faenza (Italy) based on the information I found in this Italian book by Enzo Casadio and Massimo Valli.

British rest camp Faenza - book cover

Introduction

I know that my maternal great-grandfather had been in Europe during the first world war. I had heard the stories of his coming home from the war with a bag of British pounds and how this had brought prosperity to his family. He must have passed through the port of Brindisi or Taranto, because that was the way used by Indian troops for coming to Europe. I don't know if he had stopped at Camp 3 of Faenza, but I would like to immagine that he had been there!

My great grandfather Hiranand (from Karyala, Jhelam district of undivided India - in 1947 this had become part of Pakistan) had died in the 1970s. However, when he was alive, I was not interested in the family history and had never asked him anything about his European experience.

Indian soldiers had been in Italy in both the world wars. During the second world war they had taken part in the war in Italy as shown in the film "The English patient" (1996) where Naveen Andrews had played the role of the Sikh soldier Kip. Different Indian cemeteries in Italy are testimonies to those Indian soldiers, and there are some books about those days. I had visited the cemetery of Indian soldiers in Forli once.

However, there is much less printed material about the Indian soldiers in Italy during the first world war.

Ethel Graham and the Zauli Naldi family

Faenza is a small town, about 50 km south-east of Bologna. It is famous for its ceramics.

Enzo Casadio and Massimo Valli from Faenza have done research and written about the history of their town during the second world war. Some years ago, they found about a collection of pictures from the first world war during a casual meeting with Prof. Francesco Emiliani Zauli Naldi.

The Zauli Naldi is a well known noble family of Faenza. The pictures were taken by a British woman called Ethel Graham, who was living with the Zauli Naldi family between 1914 and 1922, as a governess or companion to Ms. Maria Zauli Naldi, mother of Prof. Francesco. He remembers meeting Ms. Ethel in 1930, when she had come to visit them in holidays. Ms. Ethel died around 1939. (Image below: Ms. Ethel Graham with Camp 3 commander and officials in Faenza)

British rest camp Faenza - Ethel Graham with British officials

As the only British civilian living at that time in Faenza, Ms. Ethel had access to the British officials and could visit the British Rest camp 3. She also must have been a photography enthusiast and thus could keep a memory of those days in her images.

British Rest Camp in Faenza

During the first world war, British soldiers were engaged in wars in France, Italy, Turkey, Balkans and middle east. Persons from the British colonies around the world were also involved as part of the British troops. Transporting troops from one war front to another through the British ships had become difficult because of the threat of German and Austro-Hungarian submarines. Thus, train travel through France and Italy to the port of Brindisi and Taranto in south of Italy, and then with ships through the Suez canal up to Bombay was preferred. It also reduced the journey time.

After reaching France, the British troops started their journey in Cherbourg, called British Camp 1. The end stop on this journey was the port town of Taranto in Italy, called British Camp 4. On the way, two rest camps were set up, where soldiers could get hot meals, take bath and receive medical care - Camp 2 in St Germain au Mont d’Or near Lyon in France and Camp 3 in Faenza.

As the number of persons increased, additional smaller satellite camps were set up in many other cities, towards the south up to Pescara and towards the north, up to Bologna.

Among the famous persons who passed through the British Camp in Faenza, there was colonel T. E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, on whom David Lean had made his famous film in 1962.

Indians in Camp 3

The camp for Indian soldiers was set up in Piazza d'Armi (The Armaments square, today it is Bucci park between Via Marozza and Via Oberdan), not far from the Faenza railway station.

Compared to the camps for British officials and troops, which had more decent houses and shacks, Ethel's pictures of the Indian camp show open spaces with soldiers making tea and cooking chapatis on makeshift chullahs. In the background some tents can be seen in a group. The pictures were probably taken in summer, since the Indian soldiers can be wearing dhoti, half-pants and shirts.

According to the research done by Casadio and Valli, there was a group of Santhals among the Indian soldiers, who had built the canals for draining the camp and then divided the camp in separate areas so that persons of different castes could live and cook in separate groups. They had also built the Tennis court for the British officials.

From the pictures taken by Ethel Graham presented in the Casadio-Valli book, two are presented here. In the first image, a group of soldiers pulling a carriage through the city centre, probably to collect water from a fountain. The second image shows soldiers cooking chapatis.

British rest camp Faenza - Indian soldiers

British rest camp Faenza - Indian soldiers

Conclusions

History remembers only empires and the powerful kings and queens. So much of our recent history remains forgotten, especially in terms of lives of ordinary persons. How many Indian soldiers died in Europe during the first world war, and who were they - who knows and who remembers it today?

Personally I find it very moving to come across images that tell something about those nameless figures who had travelled to far away places. Some like my great grandfather had come back to India to tell the stories, others must have died in the war.

Notes

If you wish to get this book, it is called "Il campo inglese a Faenza nella grande guerra (1917-1919)" (The British camp in Faenza during the big war 1917-1919). It is written by Enzo Casadio and Massimo Valli, and published by Casanova Editore Faenza.

I also wish to thank notary Paolo Castellari of Faenza, who shared this book with me.

Thanks also to Richard Burton for the correction of location of Camp 2 and for sharing the memoirs of his father Philip W. Burton, a signaler in the British army during WWI.

***

Monday, 7 April 2014

Rainbows in the night

This is a short story I had written in 1976 when I was a final year student in a medical college in Delhi. It was published in our college magazine. These days I am going through all my old files and papers, as I get ready to go back to India after almost 3 decades in Bologna (Italy). Hidden in those papers, I found it along with an illustration that was used with the story.

Even though I feel that it is a little juvenile, I am happy to share it with you! :)

***
Rainbows in the Night

The bluish-grey smoke enveloped the room, forming halos around the faces making them look remote and unearthly. The soft lilting voice of the singer filled the room, reminding him of a murmuring waterfall. He gazed at the singer through the haze of the smoke, she was standing in a corner with a guitar in her hands. Dark, shining hair covered her coffee brown face. Her body, dressed in a dark blue low cut gown, moved slowly with the rhythm of the music, while her fingers softly strummed the guitar.

Illustration by Sunil Deepak, 1976

Ravi felt self-conscious, sitting alone in a corner while all others were enjoying themselves. Two guys and three girls were dancing wildly in the centre of the room. Some boys and girls were smoking reefers while some freely consumed whisky and rum. Mukesh, his cousin brother, whose birthday party it was, was sitting in a chair among his girl friends, looking smart and very mod, talking and laughing.

Ravi had come to Bombay for the first time and as he had always lived in a small village, far away from the fast changing life of cities, coming to Bombay had given him a big cultural shock. Mukesh, who was the only child of his rich parents, lived alone in a posh apartment. Mukesh had taken Ravi to show him all the tourist spots of the city and this was his last night in Bombay as he would be back to his home in the village on the next morning. As he had become aware of the big social and cultural gap between himself and Mukesh, he had felt inferior and backwards and now seeing the free and open life of Mukesh and his friends, deepend that feeling of inferiority.

Ravi shifted his cramped legs and tried to make himself more comfortable, while he kept looking around to make sure that nobody was watching him. A feeling of jealousy creeped into his mind as he looked at the boys fashionably dressed, talking confidently with the girls without any hint of self-consciousness and danced freely without any inhibitions. He also felt angry with himself for not being able to enjoy the life like others.

He looked at his watch, it was about ten PM. The night was still young and the thought of spending the whole night sitting there alone, terrified him. Suddenly the train of his thoughts was broken as a girl sat down near him. She looked young, pretty and mod: her eyes were hidden behind big blue glasses and curly dark hair surrounded her face. She was wearing a sleeveless flaming red colour mini frock, the same colour was reflected in her lips and cheeks. She smiled and asked, Do you have a fag? No, said Ravi, I am sorry but I don't smoke. His gaze rested for a few moments on her thighs and he hastily looked away. The girl arched her eyebrows and then sensing his discomfort, suddenly laughed.

Ravi felt as if everyone was looking at him and he could feel the blood rushing into his face and his ears burned red. Another boy offered the girl a reefer and lighted it. She inhaled the smoke deeply and then turning towards Ravi, blew out the smoke near his face. The strong pungent smell of the smoke made him wince and involuntarily he screwed up his nose. The girl laughed again and joined the group of dancers in the centre of the room.

For a few minutes Ravi sat there, feeling stunned and humiliated. Then a feeling of anger slowly replaced the humiliation. "I must have sounded like a real prude", he thought bitterly. Then he got up and left the room and went to the bedroom.

The bedroom was bathed in the darkness of the night and Ravi didn't try to search for the light switch. He lowered himself in the bed trying to lose himself in the anonymity of the darkness. For a long time he listened to the sounds coming from the party room, but gradually the tired eyelids gave way to a deep dreamless sleep.

***
In the morning, as the first sun rays entered the room, he opened his eyes, feeling refreshed. The house was quiet. He looked at the big grandfather clock hanging on the wall. O God! It is five o clock and I have to catch the train at six, he thought, and quickly got up from the bed.

He went slowly towards the party room, trying to recall the scene of the night. The brightly decorated room looked dead and forlorn like a coffin. Boys and girls were lying haphazardly in the room.

The girl who had been singing last night was sitting down on the floor, her eyes dull and vacant, looking at some distant point in the wall, still wandering in the fantasy land of the drug-trip. The girl with the mini frock was lying in the arms of a boy, her frock had moved up, exposing her body indecently. Big blotches of alcohol stained the carpet and cigarette butts were littered all over the room.

Mukesh was lying on the carpet, his expensive suit crumpled, his cheeks hollow and the dark shadows around his eyes. In fact, everybody was looking like Mukesh, like a rag doll. A boy was lying with his head in a pool of dried vomit. Suddenly Ravi felt nauseated.

He ran towards the washbasin and vomited there. Then he washed his face with cold water and looked in the mirror. The mirror reflected a healthy glowing face with eyes sparkling with life. His lips curved into a smile. Suddenly he was very happy.

What a fool I had been, he thought as he packed his things, to be jealous of those poor people who need pity and love more than anything else. They are just like rainbows, glittering and shining, and yet look at them without their drugs and makeup, and they are only shadows.

He picked up his bag and walked out of the apartment towards the railway station, whistling tunelessly and feeling ridiculously happy and serene.

***


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Boats from around the world - 25 amazing wallpapers

Boats with the background of lakes, rivers and sea can make for some wonderful pictures and thus make great wallpapers. Here is a selection of 25 of my favourite images of boats from South America, Africa, Europe and Asia as high resolution wallpapers for you. These are images that I have clicked during my travels to different countries over the last deacde.

You are welcome to use these images in any way that you wish, in your blogs or websites. Please do remember to give credit to me (Sunil Deepak) and give a link to this page.

Click on any picture below to open it in high resolution in a new window. If you do not know how to use the wallpapers to change the appearance of your computer, laptop, Ipad or other devices, check the Wallpapers tab above for more information.

Remember that each of these wallpapers is in high resolution. Thus, each file can be from 0.7 to 1.3 MB. If you have an old computer with limited RAM (less than 1 GB), you may need to downsize the image before using it as a wallpaper.

So here we go with 25 amazing high resolution wallpapers for you!

***

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Boats from around the world - amazing wallpapers by Sunil Deepak, 2014

I hope that you have liked these wallpapers. Please share the link of this page through Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus.

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