The World in My Hands

Art of Pandering

 

daya dissanayake

 

'World in My Hands' by Dr. K. Anis Ahmed, is based in a country named Pandua (not the town in West Bengal), which could be any country in the world today, specially a country in South Asia, or even Asia or Africa. In his first novel, Ahmed has seen man who had roamed the earth for several millennia. 'The Daily Pandua' we read about in the novel could be a daily newspaper in any country, today.

 

"The Panduan land was shifting, as it had done countless times before, as powerful rivers casually turned new corners and wiped out entire communities and settlements, river banks and paddy fields, schools and roads. An equally momentous change was about to sweep across the political landscape. It was hard to know if one should stay put on one's presumed-to-be-safe perch, or take one's chances and float like a dinghy on the swelling waters." That is how Ahmed tells the whole story in a few lines. Pandua is threatened by the vagaries of the mighty rivers, while other countries could face other natural unexpected disasters from earthquakes, tsunamis, or landslides, but man's behaviour would be the same.

 

Man's life has been a gamble, ever since he succumbed to greed, greed for wealth and power. There was hardly any difference between a man who bets on horses, ridden by other people, and men who bet on politicians or business ventures. Yet there was hope for mankind, when business and political decision makers still showed humane considerations, by refusing to remove the editor who is lying in a coma, but let the deputy editor run the newspaper.

 

We see the rise and fall of Kaiser Karim, from being the son of a provincial teacher, to "throwing gastronomic spectacles of a molecular nature, catered by flown-in star chefs", to eating "a thick roti and thin dhal, the colour of muddy rain water". From his own luxurious bathroom, "sitting on a captain's chair by the large, ancient, lion-footed brass bathtub, a place for meditation", to emptying himself into a jerrycan in the corner of the detention room. A man who took risks with his overconfidence, "Caution is for clerks and widows". Kaiser also believes that it is a "terrible, terrible thing power was in the hands of dunces", because till the end he does not realize that he too had enjoyed such power, which was equally terrible.

 

Hissam Habeeb, who loved to read and reread 'I, Claudius', who fell even before he could rise to the heights he yearned for, a man who read management guides, think-tank circulars, self-help books and pornography, but built a bonfire out of them in the end, "the most useless kind of books I've ever read." Also a man who could not win the only woman he really loved, and failed the only woman who really loved him.

 

Among the women of Pandua, I see Natasha as a true descendent of the Mitochondrial Eve, a woman who lifts herself from being first a daughter and then a wife, steps out of the Lakshman rekha, to take over not only her own life, but that of her son, and also her husband's business empire, without expecting anyone to hold her hand. Duniya is still trapped within the Lakshman rekha, though she is not aware of it, a young, very energetic woman, trapped between the materialist world of the west and her ancestral traditional life in the east.

 

'The World in My Hands' tells us how man has always manipulated fellow man's greed and ambition, holding out the proverbial carrot. Even educated, intelligent human beings, who could see the stick behind the carrot, still yearn for the carrot, and plead with those who hold the carrot, "Do what ever it takes" as long as they can reach their goals. And such men feel their guilt, when "what ever it takes" has been done, and it is too late to undo it. Then they would try to make amends by making sacrifices, to no avail.

 

"You good people want your meat, but you want someone else to do the slaughter." That is what we are all doing, though we do not wish to admit it. Instead of trying to be useful to all life on earth, we are trying to use everyone and every resource on earth for our own personal gain and satisfaction. Kinship, friendship, social connections, loyalty to once country or place of work all have become empty words.

 

When the graffiti, "Daily Pandering - Regime's Lapdog" comes up, on the gate of the newspaper office, it gives a new meaning to 'pander', from what it used to be when the Oxford dictionary used the example, "newspapers are pandering to people's baser instincts".

 

Anis Ahmed has been recognized as an emerging young writer from Bangladesh writing in English. I would like to call him a writer from South Asia first, then a writer from Asia and ultimately a promising writer in the world. Writers should never be identified by meaningless labels created through barriers erected by man himself. Since the only way for us in South Asia to cross our language barriers is by writing in English, the only language which we all share in common, Ahmed has shared this novel in English. That is how I was able to read it. Even though Tahmina Anam had called it "darkly funny", with due respect for her, I could not find it so funny, and would like to call it "darkly illuminating".

 

In order to share this literary creation with all other South Asians, we should try to translate it into as many other languages as possible, perhaps under the 'Dhaka Translation Centre'.

 

daya@saadhu.com

May 21, 2014, 5:12 a.m. » Tagged:

Heritage Tourism. Who Benefits?

daya dissanayake

 

Tourism & Heritage. Who benefits?

 

 

 

Heritage Tourism Today

 

 

At 3.45 pm on April 5th, I visited Angkor Wat, for the first time, thanks to Dr. Sanjay Garg. You can also visit Angkor Wat, or the Taj Mahal, even from here. All you have to do is open Google Street View. That is how I visited the heritage site, and not as a tourist.

 

CHTSD. Cultural heritage, Tourism and Sustainable Development is the theme today. Sustainable Development is a contradiction of terms. All development means destruction. The environment is the first victim. Second is the culture. Tourism is one of the the main culprits in destroying culture and heritage. Culture is also the enemy of nature. From prehistoric times there has been a battle Culture vs. Nature.

 

There is a common belief that promoting heritage spaces among tourists benefits the country, her people and the tourists. However a close investigation of the visitors to the heritage sites, the interest shown by them about the sites, the information available to the visitors, and the benefits to the country and the people around the site, raises doubts on all counts. Tourism, like all other industries, leads to over consumption of natural resources and over production of waste. Tourism also demeans the local population, making them servile as waiters, cooks, cleaners, etc, and as prostitutes.

 

When we talk of cultural heritage where do we draw the line? In our country is it only the buildings and spaces which had come to being over the past 2600 years, when India first invaded Lanka, according to our chronicles, or to 4,300 years to settlements and burial sites in Haldummulla and Ranchamadama, or Maha Eliya much earlier. Do we consider Hunugalgala as a heritage or sacred space, where Prof. Raj Somadeva found these artefacts of human genitalia, which may have been used for fertility or pre-natal rituals. Or do we go back 35,000 years to the time of the people who lived in the Fahien caves., or 1.5 million years, if we find sufficient evidence about human settlements in Jaffna, based on the Acheulean axes found from Mayakkai in Point Pedro. The Colomboscope 2014, trying to keep us entrapped within a colonial mindset, considered the 19th century Whist Bangalow at Modara in Colombo, built by a Britisher and even the Rio Cinema of the early 1980s for 70mm films, as heritage sites.

 

If we accept pre-historic settlements also as heritage sites, then the entire earth surface could be a heritage site. We would not be able to build a house, open up cultivations, build roads or do anything in the name of culture or civilization. We have to draw the line somewhere, both in time and space.

 

'Heritage could be defined as anything of national significance which is handed down and preserved through generations. It is inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations'. This is the definition of heritage for the school textbooks by the National Institute of Education.

 

Our pre-history is also of national significance.

 

 

Kuragala, in the Sabaragamuwa Province has been in the news for the past few years. Is it a heritage site or a religious site? Caves had been gifted to Buddhist monks around 2300 years ago. The Sufi Saint Sheike Muhitadeen Abdul Qadir Jilani, had arrived in the 12th century and meditated for twelve years. Recent Archaeological excavations had discovered a skeleton which is said to be 8000 years old, and evidence of settlements going back 15,000 years. We do not know what further excavations would yield. Perhaps the drip ledges too could have been done during the pre-Buddhist era. The conflict today is between some sections of the Buddhist and Muslim communities.

 

Though there is no conflict, as a most visited religious space, Tirupati has also been claimed by Ambedkar and Jamanadas as being originally a Mahayana Buddhist site, with the statue of Avalaokiteshwara Bodisattva1, and there is also evidence of pre-historic settlements.

 

There is no conflict at Ellora, which appears to be a heritage space only, though it would have been a religious space during different periods, for Hindu, Buddhist and Jain faiths. Today it is just a cultural heritage space. Once at Ellora, when a group of European tourists were posing for photos seated at the feet of a Buddha statue, I tried to point out to their guide that it was wrong. He defended the action saying, "It is only a statue". That is also probably how Mahatma Gandhi saw the Kajuraho carvings, only as erotic images of which Indians should be ashamed.

 

The Dargah of the Sufi saint Khwaja Ghareeb Nawaz at Ajmer in Rajasthan, is an example of mass invasion by pilgrims, mostly local, which has turned this religious heritage space into a place extremely overcrowded, almost unmanageable and far from what the place would have been when the saint had been in meditation there and it is not a place for a true Sufi to find peace.

 

Ram Tirth near Amritsar in Punjab is claimed to be a cultural heritage site, where Valmiki is said to have written the Ramayana and where Sita's children had grown up. But today it is also a religious site where Valimiki has been deified, but the site is almost completely eclipsed and forgotten because of the attraction of the Golden Temple a few kilometers away, which has become more a tourist attraction as a heritage site than a religious space, almost pushing out the true devotees.

 

 

Heritage Business and Politics

 

Though Heritage is what we value as a people and choose to pass on to future generations, there have been many instances where this heritage and the heritage spaces have been used to rouse communal, racial and religious conflict and hatred. There have been conflicts on the claims for these sites, and restrictions on visits. One reason for such conflicts has been the revenue generated from tourism. The other reason is political.

 

Today Heritage is a potentially profitable, audience attracting business. Certain sites around the world have become great money spinners, not only for the administrators of the site, but for those who offer infrastructure facilities and to the traders. Unfortunately, by trying to make heritage an economic asset, and trying to conserve and maintain the heritage site as a self-supporting venture, it could cause immeasurable, irreversible harm. Commodification demeans the heritage, and in the end would mean its destruction. Commodification also affects the environment, the ecological balance and causes the displacement of people and animals from around the heritage sites. Where heritage and culture are intertwined, promoting heritage tourism affect the culture adversely.

 

A problem we face today is the overlapping of heritage and culture tourism. One reason is because it is often the same visitors who are targeted. But Heritage Tourism is fixed to specific spaces in a land, and they are mostly of historical value and their physical form has to be preserved. People have to visit such places personally, people have to climb a mountain, walk several miles and follow certain restrictions. The Culture is movable, it is displayed by people, who can move, who can shift their stage sets and their equipment and instruments, they can go to the people, or gather them in one place. Culture is not a static object or system, it keeps on evolving and changing and it is impossible to preserve it as it had been even a few years ago. This means even if the cultural and heritage tourisms overlap, the issues, the problems, the effects, are very different.

 

A heritage site could be a sacred space for one community, and there would be a strict code about visiting such sites. But for many visitors it would be just a tourist attraction, a historical building or a work of art. They may not understand, or realize any religious significance. This leads to conflict when tourists do not understand the local culture and religious practices, and they are not informed by the tour guides or the administrators of the sites. Tourism Management is often limited to selling tickets, and having a few security guards around.

 

Heritage is of immense value to the indigenous people of the region. It is our legacy from the past, what has been left for us by our ancestors, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. Most such spaces are sacred to us, or to some section of our people. It is our responsibility to preserve them, and ensure that they are not defiled, damaged, or destroyed, by people who visit them with no knowledge of their real value.

 

Our heritage should never be promoted for tourists. Anyone who is interested in a heritage space should be able to find out information on his own, with all the data available in cyberspace, and they would find their way to visit this space. Such people would understand the cultural and historical value of such a space, would respect it and would not intentionally cause any harm.

 

Are we really trying to promote heritage tourism? Sometime back the Archeological Department banned photography and even making sketches at archeological sites. The excuse given then was that such photographs were used for commercial purposes. I do not know if this regulation is still in force, but there are restrictions for the visitors. Recently I saw some beautiful night photographs taken by Keerthi Amarasekara at Galviharays, in Polonnaruwa. But he had to get special permission from the Archeological Department to visit the site at night. A true connoisseur of our ancient sculptures or architecture should have the freedom to visit such sites at any time of day or night, and spend as much time as he wished. Sigiriya gardens or the summit would be a wonderful place to spend the night, so would be Ajantha. A true lover of such a place would never be a threat and never even dream of harming such treasures. But there is also the practical difficulty of identifying the genuine lover of art and a person who could abuse or harm such a place. It happened at Sigiriya several decades ago.

 

Most tourists travel to our country to lie on the beach, relax, do shopping, and have fun. Out of the one million tourists last year there would have been a small minority who were definitely interested in our heritage sites, but we do not have any idea how many were pedophiles. Deborah McLaren, in 'Rethinking Tourism and Ecotravel' says "Sri Lanka and the Philippines attract the highest rates of pedophiles." (p.84)2. Sri Lanka is also listed as a popular sex tourism destination at sextoursim.net3.

 

While we try to promote heritage some of them come seeking other pleasures.

 

Some of the South Asian tourists spend more time shopping, than at heritage or religious sites, in our country and in India. SLTDA reports that in 2012, 74.4% or 748,000 had declared their purpose of visit as pleasure. Only 2.2%, or just 5,018 out of one million had declared religious and cultural as the purpose of visit. Others would have visited heritage sites, because it is part of their arranged tour, or out of curiosity, or for them to go back home and talk about them. If the figures are correct, only 61,392 tourists have visited Anuradhapura, and 5,115 visited Galle. Sigiriya had the most visitors, 284,964, but how many of them would have really seen Sigiriya for what it is? Very often, the visitors are so busy taking photographs that they do not have time to see anything around them. They really see the site they visited only when they go home and go through the photographs.

 

One of the most flouted heritage space in our country is Sigiriya. For our own people it is just one hard climb, puffing and panting. For some of them it is a torture. They do not have the time and they are not in a mood to appreciate what is around them, even the frescoes. As they get down from the vehicle, the guide or tour leader would announce a time limit, when they have to return, the same way they would be dropped at a shopping mall. For those who are strong enough to reach the summit, at least they have a view of the surrounding country side. The foreign tourists are taken straight up to see the frescoes, and then to the summit. I have never seen even one percent of these visitors, both local and foreign, who spare a glance at the mirror-like wall. Even if they do, it is just another wall for them. When I wrote my novel Katbitha, people have asked me where is the Katapath Pawura in Sigiriya, that they had not seen it on their visits. We hardly see any tour guide explaining the significance of the wall. If they explain, perhaps the tourists would realize that it is the oldest social media site on earth, 1500 years before facebook was built. The Western precinct is only a path leading to the rock, with a few half broken walls and foundations. They do not pause at the miniature water garden, to try to imagine what it would have been to be seated here, listening to the water flowing slowly over the pebbles, watching the frescos on the rock face, and the garden leading up to the rock. Would they stop to imagine what it would have been like, as they walked along the water garden, the boulder garden and then how many would see the Octagonal pond or the Cobra Hood Cave?

 

To see the entire Sigiri complex a visitor would need at least two full days, if it is to be appreciated as a heritage space. We need more time at Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. to visit the museums and get an understanding of what it would have been in the past, the art and technology of the era. How many tourists would have seen the Sakwala Chakra or the Gold fish pond, or the stone bridge near Mahakanadarawa tank, or how they would have been built?

 

This is not unique to Sri Lanka. At Ajanta and Ellora, foreign and diaspora tourists and, native tourists from all over India, rush through them like it is a task they have to get over with. Most of them cover all 29 caves, within about an hour or two, pausing only to take photographs of the paintings and the sculptures, and more of themselves. To study each cave in detail, would need a minimum of one week. It is the same at Ellora, with its 34 rock-cut temples stretching over 2 km. People spend more time traveling to these sites from Aurangabad, than they spend at the caves.

 

At Khajuraho, most people are simply attracted by the carvings, which they see as simply erotic art, without any consideration of the religious significance, and Mahatma Gandhi had wanted to destroy them, feeling ashamed that the Western tourists would see them as obscene, but it was Gurudev Tagore who managed to prevent the destruction.

 

A foreign visitor to Kandy, unless he is made aware of the significance and the history of the Tooth Relic, for him it is only a religious building. Then at Galle, how many of even our local tourists would be aware that the Galle Fort is probably the largest Dutch Fort in South Asia (even though it is nothing for us to boast of), and that inside the fort is preserved four different cultures, the Portuguese, the Dutch, The British and later the Muslim. And there is also one Buddhist temple. Perhaps this is the only such preserved historical space in the world. How many would have heard of the claim that the Galle port could have been Tarshish mentioned in the Old Testament.

 

We can go on about all our heritage sites in this manner. Even closer to Colombo, Kelaniya is as much a heritage space as it is a religious space. From the legendary visit of the Buddha, how it had continued to be a Buddhist place of worship, the destruction caused by the Portuguese, and the reconstruction, the paintings and the sculptures, If we are to promote it as a heritage site these are things that have to be highlighted, or just show them as a mere cultural site. That is where we have to have some distinction between a heritage site and a cultural site.

 

The heritage explosion today with commercial tv programs, interactive heritage museums and light and sound shows are all misleading. No one today can rightly imagine how an ancient building and the surroundings would have looked, how the people were dressed. By trying to thrust our imagination on the curious visitor we are insulting the visitor and our ancient people too. An example is the diorama created in the American Museum of Natural History, New York, based on the 3.6 million year old footprints found in Tanzania.

 

When ancient heritage sites are promoted for tourism, often the priority is to open up the sites for visitors. Then protection and conservation are not the major concern. Sometimes the restoration work is carried out so carelessly, often using the wrong stone slabs or pillars on the buildings, or placing the statues in the wrong places, which is an insult to our ancient builders. This photo is from an ancient Buddhist monastery, where you see the crude way the base of the walls had been restored. This next photo is of the placement of the statues, which has made many local visitors to believe they are the statues of Kavantissa and Vihara Maha Devi, worshipping Buddha..

 

There is also a lot of questionable information about our heritage sites. The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, on their website states that "Anuradhapura is also significant in Hindu legend as the fabled capital of the Asura King Ravana in the Ramayana." Who is this Ravana they are describing, is it Valmiki's Ravana, or our own ancestor, and what evidence do they have to make such a statement? SLTDA lists Sripada or Adam's Peak as a tourist attraction. Is it a heritage site or religious site? Why should we promote it as a tourist site? If tourists want to climb a Sri Lanka mountain, why promote Sripada for that?

 

There are so many examples I could bring up, to site just one, sometime ago I found a travel brochure where Avukana Buddha statue had been described as 'Sun Eating' Buddha.4

 

Perhaps we should adopt the policy of Bhutan. "High value - low volume" tourism, controlling the type and quantity of tourism. They believe that 'the unrestricted flow of tourism can have negative impacts on Bhutan's pristine environment and its rich and unique culture.'

 

Future

 

I accept that there is a need for heritage tourism. People around the world should be able to see how our ancestors had lived and what they had left behind.

 

The future of heritage tourism, using digital and audio visual technology, could be a solution, providing an opportunity to see all heritage spaces around the world, at virtually no cost, while also preserving the spaces and the environment. They could be Virtual Destinations. Digital simulation and non-corporeal travel. Virtual destinations would be like reading an e-book. Virtual travel also is a solution to avoid any cultural or religious misunderstandings or conflicts, specially when a cultural or sacred space is claimed by different communities.

 

We could see all the heritage sites in the world, on our own time, in our own private space, at leisure, enjoying and learning at our own pace, not rushing through a site in the hot sun, heavy rain or biting cold, spending many hours in travel just to visit a place for a few minutes, and seeing it as if in a dream.

 

Let us plan for armchair tourism when it comes to our heritage. It may not bring us revenue, but it would preserve our heritage and it will also provide an opportunity to everyone around the world to see and appreciate them.

 

And this future is already here with us. That is what I mentioned at the beginning of this presentation. I visited Angkor Wat relaxed in bed, with my laptop. The Carbon footprint I left would have been negligible, it was only to power my laptop, my wifi connection and the equipment of my internet service provider and a server somewhere. I did not cause any pollution, disturb the culture or the environment around Angkor Wat, but I was able to spend all the time I wanted, at any place around and inside this great heritage space. Some of you will not agree with me, saying it is not like visiting Angor Wat personally. I could spend the whole day arguing with you, but let me just end this saying we have to accept the reality.

 

Digital technology and virtual reality are probably the only means of achieving 'Sustainable Tourism' till someday more advanced technology is available.

 

 

daya dissanayake

 

 

1http://www.ambedkar.org/Tirupati/Tirupati.pdf

2McLaren, Deborah. Rethinking Tourism and Ecotravel. 2nd ed. 2003

3Some countries as a whole are renowned for being popular sex tourism destinations – particularly countries in south-east Asia including Thailand. Other popular countries include Sri Lanka, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Cuba and Kenya.

4http://lanka-houses.com/sightseeing/avukana-buddha.html

May 20, 2014, 12:12 a.m. » Tagged: Heritage , Culture , Tourism ,

Anti-green Valentine

Roses are not Green

daya dissanayake

The Carbon footprint would be huge. 9,000 metric tons of Carbon dioxide is produced when we produce 100 million roses for the Western markets. The high energy cost is because almost all of them are grown in greenhouses with artificially controlled heating and lighting. It is not just the Carbon we have to worry about, but all the agro-chemicals and hormones used to grow the plants and get the flowers to bloom at the right time, and all the chemicals sprayed on the flowers to keep them lively and bright and smell so sweet. All that add to the pollution of the soil, the water and the air we breath. The red rose that is offered in the name of love is really a symbol of our wickedness towards Mother Earth. Natural vegetation and virgin forests had been cleared in less developed countries to grow the roses, and airplanes and refrigerated trucks and warehouses are used for transport and distribute the flowers many thousands of miles away.

February 14th is celebrated in some countries as Valentine's day. It is said to be a day for lovers, to celebrate their love. But on this day in the name of love they do everything other than love one another, and love Mother Earth and all other life on her.

To remind ourselves of a few statistics, on 2013 Valentine's Day in USA alone, they had exchanged 36 million heart-shaped boxes, 180 million cards, 198 million roses, gulped down 881 million bottles of wine, and eaten 26 million Kg of chocolates. The pollution from production and transport and from the resulting garbage would have been incalculable. (http://visual.ly/environmental-impact-valentines-day)

Even though people in our part of the world are not as crazy, February 14th turns out to be very anti-green, at least in the city and suburbs. The damage to the environment and our fragile eco-system is enormous. To produce the gift wrapping boxes and paper, and the greeting cards, we have to kill so many trees, and pollute so much water. The electricity we burn up for illuminations and for lighting up the parties through the night means burning all that fossil fuel.

We like to believe that the e-cards we send to each other, the text messages and e-mail messages and Skype calls, cost us nothing, or just a fraction of the cost of telephone calls and printed greeting cards. All these electronic communications costs are very high financially and environmentally. We can only see the tiny tip of the iceberg, of the electricity cost in charging our phone or tablet, and any fees to the telecommunication provider. Below the surface runs the communication towers, data centers, servers, all of which consume power, and there is also the cost of manufacturing all these equipment, buildings to store them, and equipment to cool all the equipment. Most of the energy requirements are still met by burning coal, adding to global warming, polluting the air and the water.

Thus a short text message "I Love You", though it appears to cost us nothing would be as harmful as saying "I will Kill you" to Mother Earth.

If we ignore all the warnings about the environmental disaster looming over us, in a few years time we may not have the chocolates to offer on Valentine's Day, because the cocoa and sugar cane plantations are shrinking around the globe, due to global warming.

Even if we need one day for a year to remind ourselves that we love someone, and to remind the other person that we love him or her, we should try to find a greener, more nature friendly way to say it. Love should spread, it should radiate from one love to another, to all the people and all the living beings around us, and it is only then that the love will return to us, multiplied a million or a billion times.

To a person we really love, it would never be necessary to say it in words, for words are just empty gestures. A mother would never have to tell a child she loves him, in so many words, because she is saying it all the time, all through her life, and even after she is dead. A true lover would not have to say it in words or by offering a rose or a chocolate, because he says it all the time, with his eyes, with his touch and just by his presence.

We can of course cheat ourselves by using cards made of recycled paper or re-using old cards. Yet the recycling also costs energy and causes pollution and we could re-use a card may be just once. We could give just one rose, instead of a bunch. Even the single rose would add up to several millions around the world.

But we need not despair, even if we are desperate to express our love with a material thing on this Valentine's Day. We could always gift a rose plant, in a small pot, so the loved one could have a fresh flower everyday, instead of one flower which would fade away and has to be thrown into the garbage. When we grow a plant at home, we need not add poisonous agro-chemicals or hormones, and we would not be burning any fossil fuels. If the loved one lives in a house with a garden, we could gift a bigger plant, a fruit tree perhaps.

Be humane, on the day of the Lovers. Let's share our love and our happiness with our fellow men. Instead of going out to a dinner dance and spending an amount which could keep an entire family in food for one month or even more, let's think of having a simple meal, home cooked, and with the money saved, perhaps gift a few books to a deserving child in our neighbourhood.

Let's think of extending our love to the innocent animals on Mother earth too. Abstain, at least for this single day, consuming the flesh of a poor animal, who would have been murdered, just to please our craving for carrion.

Feb. 14, 2014, 12:59 a.m. » Tagged: environment , roses , valentine

selling our heritage

Art into Heritage

daya dissanayake

Today Heritage is a potentially profitable, audience attracting business. Unfortunately, by trying to make heritage an economic asset, and trying to conserve and maintain the heritage site as a self-supporting venture, it could cause more harm. Commodification demeans the heritage, and in the end would mean its destruction. Commodification also affects the environment, the ecological balance and causes the displacement of people and animals from around the heritage sites. Where heritage and culture are intertwined, promoting heritage tourism affects the culture very badly.

There is overlapping of heritage and culture tourism, because it is often the same visitors who are targeted. But Heritage Tourism is fixed to specific spaces in a land, and they are mostly of historical value and their physical form has to be preserved. People have to visit such places personally, climb a mountain, or walk several miles and follow certain restrictions. Culture is movable, it is displayed by people, who can move, who can shift their stage sets and their equipment and instruments, they can go to the people, or gather them in one place. Culture is not a static object or system, it keeps on evolving and changing and it is impossible to preserve it as it had been even a few years ago. This means even if the cultural and heritage tourisms overlap, the issues, the problems, the effects, are very different.

A heritage site could be a sacred space for one community, and there would be a strict code about visiting such sites. But for many visitors it would be just a tourist attraction, a historical building or a work of art. They would not understand, or realize any religious significance. This leads to conflict when tourists do not understand the local culture and religious practices, and they are not informed by the tour guides or the administrators of the sites.

Heritage is of immense value to the people of the region. It is our legacy from the past, what has been left for us by our ancestors, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

One of the most flouted heritage spaces in our country is Sigiriya. For our own people it is just one hard climb, puffing and panting, for some of them it is a torture. They do not have the time and they are not in a mood to appreciate what is around them, even the frescoes. Those who are strong enough to reach the summit, at least have a view of the surrounding country side. The foreign tourists are taken straight up to see the frescoes, and then to the summit. Many of them hardly glance at the mirror-like wall. Even if they do, it is just another wall. If the guides could explain, perhaps the tourists would realize that it is the oldest social media site on earth, 1500 years before facebook was built. For the tourists the western precinct is only a path leading to the rock, with a few half broken walls and foundations. They do not pause at the miniature water garden, to try to imagine what it would have been to be seated here, listening to the water flowing slowly over the pebbles, watching the frescos on the rock face, and the garden leading up to the rock. Would they stop to imagine what it would have been like, as they walked along the water garden, or the boulder garden? How many would see the Cobra Hood Cave?

The same at the Galle fort, how many of our local tourists even would be aware that the Galle Fort is probably the largest Dutch Fort in South Asia (even though it is nothing for us to boast of), and that inside the fort is preserved four different cultures, the Portuguese, the Dutch, The British and later the Muslim. Perhaps this is the only such preserved historical space in the world.

This is not unique to Sri Lanka. At Ajanta and Ellora, foreign tourists and Indian diaspora, native tourists from all over India, rush through them like it is a task they have to get over with. Most of them cover all 29 caves, pausing only to take photographs of the paintings and the sculptures, and more of themselves. It is the same at Ellora, with its 34 rock-cut temples stretching over 2 km. People spend more time traveling to these sites from Aurangabad, than they spent at the caves. At Khajuraho, most people are simply attracted by the carvings, which they see as simply erotic art, without any consideration of the religious significance.

The heritage explosion today with television programs, interactive heritage museums and light and sound shows are all misleading. No one today can rightly imagine how an ancient building and the surroundings would have looked, how the people were dressed. By trying to thrust our imagination on the curious visitor we are insulting the visitor and our ancient people too. An example is the diorama created in the American Museum of Natural History, New York, based on the 3.6 million year old footprints found in Tanzania.

The future of heritage tourism, using digital and audio visual technology, could be a solution, providing an opportunity to see all heritage spaces around the world, at virtually no cost, while also preserving the spaces and the environment. They could be Virtual Destinations. Digital simulation and non-corporeal travel. Virtual destinations would be like reading an e-book. Virtual travel also is a solution to avoid any cultural or religious misunderstandings or conflicts, specially when a cultural or sacred space is claimed by different communities.

Let us plan for armchair tourism when it comes to our heritage. It may not bring us revenue, but it would preserve our heritage and it will also provide an opportunity for everyone around the world to see and appreciate them.

Feb. 5, 2014, 5:59 a.m. » Tagged: culture , heritage , tourism

Painter's Palette

Painter's Palette

daya dissanayake

She is a painter, but she does not paint on canvas. She uses a pen and paper instead of paint. She herself said recently, "Initially, I wrote poems but within two to three years I realized that poems were not my form. I needed a larger canvas so switched to writing short stories and novels". That is how she painted Purno Chobir Mognota, which was published in 2008. The original title means, 'Engrossment of a Complete Picture'. It has now been translated as 'The Painter's Palette' by Debjani Sengupta, at Delhi University, who is a writer who is doing an admirable job trying to bridge the writings from the two Bengals, through English. Selina Hossain is the Bengali author, who had written thirty-two novels, seven collections of short stories, and has won the prestigious Bangla Academy Award. Her novels and short stories have been translated into English, Russian, French, Japanese, Korean, Finnish, and many languages of India. It is time to translate her books into Sinhala, but from the original Bengali and not from the English translations. Another of her wonderful novels available in English translation is 'Plumed Peacock', which is also a painting done with her pen and ink.

Purno Chobir Mognota is a biographical novel woven around the time Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore spent in Shahjadpur, Shelidah and Patisara and the river Padma. It had been written after researching this subject for over ten years, reading all the stories and poems Gurudev had written while he was looking after the Tagore family estates, and also his notes and letters. It is the Padma river and the river basin which turned a Zamindari (landlord) into the Gurudev and it is the story Hossain is telling us here. She puts these words into the mouth of the village postman, Gagan, "Padma flows inside my body....I feel the river coursing through my veins". It is the same river which flowed through Rabindra's veins, and that is what would have made him feel one with the people here.

Rabindra had spent the first thirty years of his life in the Tagore family home, Thakurbari, at Jarasanko, in the bustling city of Kolkata. "He was born into a family of intense artistic activities....At Jarasanko there was music and poetry...and there was a large household with servants and maids to look after the younger children". But he would not have known what poverty was, or what it would be to stand helplessly on the thatched roof of a mud hut when the whole village was under water during the monsoon. He would not have known the suffering of the poor tenants in the land owned by Zamindari, who bled the poor people to death on behalf of the white masters.

But Padma had changed him and his view of life. It was the pain and suffering around him which had made him a poet and most of his best creations had been done while he lived on his riverboat and at the Kuthibari (the house of the landlord) as the Babumoshai.

He developed the courage to face all such unimaginable suffering through his poems and stories, as we find in the story of the fate of the dark skinned beauty, Krishnakoli, or the youth Photik, and it is this strength which had enabled him to endure his own losses and his pain as his dear wife passed away in 1902, and then his daughter Renuka in 1903, while he waited at their death beds helplessly. In 1907 his youngest son Shomindranath died. Gurudev had written "When his last moment was about to come I was sitting alone in the dark in a room next to his, praying intently for his passing away to his next stage of being in perfect peace and wellness."

It was Shelidah which paved the way for him to receive the Nobel Award. When Rabindra fell ill just before he was to set sail for England, and the doctors advised him to rest, he decided to go to Shelidha. "He decided to translate some of his poetry and songs into English....He took his time, working slowly, without a sense of frenetic activity, savouring the words....The Gitanjali's English manuscript thus came into being in the salubrious climate of Shelidah, a place where the poet had always felt at home."

When Rabindra was leaving Shelidha for the last time, Hossain described his thoughts. "He was going back with the truth in his heart. Farewell Shelidah, Farewell. Shelidah, the playground of his youth, the workplace of his dreams, Sheildah of his heart!"

One discordant note in the book was the capture of turtles for their meat and consumption of turtle eggs. It is not easy to imagine Gurudev allowing it, or that Mirnalini, Gurudev's own 'Chuti', would kill the animal and cook its flesh. But no human being is perfect, and we all have our weaknesses and our oversights.

Reading Purno Chobir Mognota in the original, Selina Hossain would surely take us back to the end of the 19th century, 1891 to 1901, and make us feel we are there in Shelidha, listening to Rabindra's poems, or listening with him to a baul song or the singing birds. The translator has tried her best to give us the same feeling, but we would never know the wonder of the original creation.

Hossain had once commented, "At the end of the novel I express my theme by making a contemporary parallel saying that he dedicated his song ‘Amar Sonar Bangla Ami Tomai Bhalobasi...’ to the people of the land. This song was accepted as the national anthem of Bangladesh in 1971." But probably it is not what Gurudev Tagore would have wished, for his beloved Shelidah and the Padma to belong to another country now. He would also have wished for a truly universal anthem for all life on earth.

Feb. 3, 2014, 1:12 p.m. » Tagged: Padma River , Selina Hossain , Tagore

marketing our heritage

Art into Heritage

daya dissanayake

Today Heritage is a potentially profitable, audience attracting business. Unfortunately, by trying to make heritage an economic asset, and trying to conserve and maintain the heritage site as a self-supporting venture, it could cause more harm. Commodification demeans the heritage, and in the end would mean its destruction. Commodification also affects the environment, the ecological balance and causes the displacement of people and animals from around the heritage sites. Where heritage and culture are intertwined, promoting heritage tourism affects the culture very badly.

There is overlapping of heritage and culture tourism, because it is often the same visitors who are targeted. But Heritage Tourism is fixed to specific spaces in a land, and they are mostly of historical value and their physical form has to be preserved. People have to visit such places personally, climb a mountain, or walk several miles and follow certain restrictions. Culture is movable, it is displayed by people, who can move, who can shift their stage sets and their equipment and instruments, they can go to the people, or gather them in one place. Culture is not a static object or system, it keeps on evolving and changing and it is impossible to preserve it as it had been even a few years ago. This means even if the cultural and heritage tourisms overlap, the issues, the problems, the effects, are very different.

A heritage site could be a sacred space for one community, and there would be a strict code about visiting such sites. But for many visitors it would be just a tourist attraction, a historical building or a work of art. They would not understand, or realize any religious significance. This leads to conflict when tourists do not understand the local culture and religious practices, and they are not informed by the tour guides or the administrators of the sites.

Heritage is of immense value to the people of the region. It is our legacy from the past, what has been left for us by our ancestors, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

One of the most flouted heritage spaces in our country is Sigiriya. For our own people it is just one hard climb, puffing and panting, for some of them it is a torture. They do not have the time and they are not in a mood to appreciate what is around them, even the frescoes. Those who are strong enough to reach the summit, at least have a view of the surrounding country side. The foreign tourists are taken straight up to see the frescoes, and then to the summit. Many of them hardly glance at the mirror-like wall. Even if they do, it is just another wall. If the guides could explain, perhaps the tourists would realize that it is the oldest social media site on earth, 1500 years before facebook was built. For the tourists the western precinct is only a path leading to the rock, with a few half broken walls and foundations. They do not pause at the miniature water garden, to try to imagine what it would have been to be seated here, listening to the water flowing slowly over the pebbles, watching the frescos on the rock face, and the garden leading up to the rock. Would they stop to imagine what it would have been like, as they walked along the water garden, or the boulder garden? How many would see the Cobra Hood Cave?

The same at the Galle fort, how many of our local tourists even would be aware that the Galle Fort is probably the largest Dutch Fort in South Asia (even though it is nothing for us to boast of), and that inside the fort is preserved four different cultures, the Portuguese, the Dutch, The British and later the Muslim. Perhaps this is the only such preserved historical space in the world.

This is not unique to Sri Lanka. At Ajanta and Ellora, foreign tourists and Indian diaspora, native tourists from all over India, rush through them like it is a task they have to get over with. Most of them cover all 29 caves, pausing only to take photographs of the paintings and the sculptures, and more of themselves. It is the same at Ellora, with its 34 rock-cut temples stretching over 2 km. People spend more time traveling to these sites from Aurangabad, than they spent at the caves. At Khajuraho, most people are simply attracted by the carvings, which they see as simply erotic art, without any consideration of the religious significance.

The heritage explosion today with television programs, interactive heritage museums and light and sound shows are all misleading. No one today can rightly imagine how an ancient building and the surroundings would have looked, how the people were dressed. By trying to thrust our imagination on the curious visitor we are insulting the visitor and our ancient people too. An example is the diorama created in the American Museum of Natural History, New York, based on the 3.6 million year old footprints found in Tanzania.

The future of heritage tourism, using digital and audio visual technology, could be a solution, providing an opportunity to see all heritage spaces around the world, at virtually no cost, while also preserving the spaces and the environment. They could be Virtual Destinations. Digital simulation and non-corporeal travel. Virtual destinations would be like reading an e-book. Virtual travel also is a solution to avoid any cultural or religious misunderstandings or conflicts, specially when a cultural or sacred space is claimed by different communities.

Let us plan for armchair tourism when it comes to our heritage. It may not bring us revenue, but it would preserve our heritage and it will also provide an opportunity for everyone around the world to see and appreciate them.

Jan. 22, 2014, 1:08 a.m. » Tagged: culture , heritage , tourism

happiness

Gross National Happiness

daya dissanayake

For anyone in search of a people who could be considered as true followers of the Buddha Dhamma, this is the place to come to. They appear to have conquered their Tanha, or may be they do not know what it is to be greedy, and to suffer from envy. People wear the same style of dress. The houses we see even in the city, all look alike. They have the same design, the same looks, and no one seems to be flouting their wealth and power. Even the king lives in a small house, though it is surrounded by a high wall and a large garden. There must be much bigger houses belonging to commoners. It is believed to be a country where there are more Buddhist Monks, than their army and police combined.

Happiness is perhaps a very poor translation of the word 'Dekid' which could be described as tranquility or peace. It could have come from classical Tibetan. The ancient Greek word Eudaimonia could come somewhat close to the concept, as the stoics believed that virtue is sufficient for happiness. Cleanthes of Assos had clarified it as "living in agreement with nature". The word used in the Tripitak is Sukha. The Nepalese and Tibetans also use the word Sukha.

Very recently we in Sri Lanka celebrated a New Year, one of the New Years in our country. We shall celebrate a New Year in April once again. Everyone wished everyone else a Happy New Year. Yet there was a difference, because the Sinhala Greeting was 'Subha Nawa Wasarak Veva', meaning an 'auspicious' new year, which conveys something different from happiness. Then on the Wesak (Buddha Poornima) day, also we wish each other 'Happy Wesak', where the happiness intended would be different, and in Sinhala we wish 'Subha' or 'Preethi' Wesak.

Happiness has many meanings, many interpretations. How many of us would have paused for a moment to consider what was the kind of happiness we wished each other? Happiness could be interpreted in so many ways. For a few people it could mean the achievement of material wealth. Happiness is a word which has been very seriously abused for the past several centuries, ever since man's greed took control of all industry and business. Since then man's mind has been totally brainwashed to believe that it is the material wealth which brings happiness. Happiness has become a commodity, like all natural resources, so much so, that the head of a multinational giant had boldly stated that even 'Water is not a human right'.

Unhappiness is what we see, hear and feel, every day, every minute through all the media and all the advertisements, direct and indirect. We are made to believe that happiness can be purchased, that it has a price, measured in rupees or dollars. We try to purchase merit, believing it could bring us happiness. We are made to envy our neighbours' material wealth and prosperity, we are made to compete with one another, to out do everyone, to gain wealth by any means. We are made into the most selfish animals on Mother Earth. And we are never satisfied with what we have.

The Fourth Dragon King of Bhutan, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck has reminded us that "the rich are not always happy while the happy generally considered themselves rich."

It is the land where they measure the Gross National Happiness, instead of Gross National Product. It is the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan. "The 1729 legal code, which dates from the unification of Bhutan, declared that “if the Government can not create happiness (dekid) for its people, there is no purpose for the Government to exist.” In 1972, the 4th King declared Gross National Happiness to be more important than Gross National Product, and from this time onward, the country oriented its national policy and development plans towards Gross National Happiness (or GNH). The Constitution of Bhutan (2008, Article 9) directs the State “to promote those conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness."

"Gross National Happiness (GNH) measures the quality of a country in a more holistic way [than GNP] and believes that the beneficial development of human society takes place when

material and spiritual development occurs side by side to complement and reinforce each other." (http://www.educatingforgnh.com)

This concept of happiness has become a part of their life, their culture, their business and their aim. We see it in their faces, in their speech, and in the way they treated friends and strangers. Even in the tourist shops, we did not meet any trader pressing you to buy unwanted products at inflated prices. They were as courteous as we could expect from traders.

"We know that true abiding happiness cannot exist while others suffer, and comes only from serving others, living in harmony with nature, and realizing our innate wisdom and the true and brilliant nature of our own minds." (Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley)

The Bhutanese are happy to live in this Royal Kingdom, the young men here believe that they do not need the western democracy. They believe that democracy divides people. They believe that democracy creates conflicts, and hatred and would lead to greed for power and wealth.

Yet is it necessary to measure happiness, even if it was possible? If there is true happiness, there would never be a need to measure it, and the very attempt to measure could create unhappiness.

We read in the Dhammapada, Sukhavagga,

"197. Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the hostile. Amidst hostile men we dwell free from hatred.

198. Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the afflicted (by craving). Amidst afflicted men we dwell free from affliction.

199. Happy indeed we live, free from avarice amidst the avaricious. Amidst the avaricious men we dwell free from avarice.

200. Happy indeed we live, we who possess nothing. Feeders on joy we shall be, like the Radiant Gods."

(translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita)

In the Anguttara Nikaya there are several Sutta where Sukha (translated as Happiness) is mentioned.

"There's nothing so conducive to happiness as a mind that has been tamed." Adanta Sutta.

In the Anana Sutta Buddha explains to Anathapindika of the four kinds of happiness. 1. The Bliss of having (righteous wealth righteously gained), 2. bliss of making use of wealth (in a good cause) 3.

The bliss of debtlessness (owing no debt in any form to anyone), 4. The bliss of blamelessness.

In the Ittha Sutta, "It's not fitting for the disciple of the noble ones who desires happiness to pray for it or to delight in doing so. Instead, the disciple of the noble ones who desires happiness should follow the path of practice leading to happiness. In so doing, he will attain happiness, either human or divine."

Pariyesana Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya) offers advise for the four noble searches for happiness, is by seeking undefiled, unsurpassed rest from the yoke of aging, illness, death and defilement.

It is not the kind of happiness we need, what the world needs, and what our future generations need. But happiness cannot be pursued. In Bhutan it is there with the people, in most other countries, almost all mankind have lost it long ago. Bhutan is also at risk today, because of the influence from the rest of the world, and pressure groups in their own country who are beginning to talk of another kind of 'development', the development which always means destruction, destruction of all the human and humane values developed by man through the ages.

It is what we consider as civilization which has chased away human happiness, which has turned cultural values upside down, and has turned culture against nature. Yet so far Bhutan has been able to retain their ancient cultural values. One reason for this could be that barbarians from Europe who invaded our countries and destroyed our culture and our human values, did not come into this country. Their false values of material wealth and violence did not affect the people in this country. We should all hope and pray that the Bhutanese people are able to preserve their ideology and pass it on for the future generations.

Let us also hope that the multinational business octopus would not engulf and suck their happiness off, using the advertising demon to create greed and envy among the people. Let us hope they would not change their values and their tastes, and let us hope they will try to remain equal by continuing to wear the gho and the kira, so that all of them not only remain equal but also appear equal, just as their houses are. Let them preserve their values, which reminds me of what a young girl in Thimphu told us. She had taken her parents, who are from a far off village, for a dinner at one of the new restaurants. After the dinner her mother had told her, that what the girl had spent on their one meal would have been sufficient for them to live at least for one month, and eating more enjoyable and nourishing food. Let them not give up their traditional food and medicine, let them not forget their ancient folklore, let them not fall prey to all the imports that are now flooding the market.

Let them not disturb their natural environment. Let them continue with their run-of-the-river hydropower projects which do not harm their environment, let them leave all mineral resources where they belong, under the earth and under the natural ecosystem. Let them not pursue unhappiness through 'development' and 'progress'.

True Happiness could be achieved if only we could all 'Be Peaceful and Useful', useful for all life in this Multiverse (Universe and all other Universes).

Jan. 17, 2014, 5:14 a.m. » Tagged: Bhutan , happiness , sukha

money into art

money into art

daya dissanayake

Dr. Sanjay Garg (author of Sikka and the Raj: A History of Currency Legislations of the East India Company, 1772-1835) delivered the monthly lecture organized by the RAS on November 25th. It was titled, 'Power of Money: Money of Power. Probing Money as Mass Media'. As I listened the thought came to me that there is Art in Money and Money is also a form of art, besides the monetary value of art. Then I watched Mark Wagner on Vimeo use dollar bills as material to create works of art, cutting them into pieces and putting them together in new designs, disregarding the legal restrictions. (Defacement of currency is a violation of Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code.)

There is also the 'art of folding money', without damaging or disfiguring the notes, like Dan Tague in New Orleans, who creates messages by folding the dollar bills. When currency notes are used for the Japanese paper folding, it is called Moneygami, which is becoming very popular.

'The Art of Money: The History and Design of Paper Currency from Around the World' was published by David Standish in 2000. Standish claims that in a poll conducted among the staff of a currency service, the 50 guilder bill from the Netherlands was voted the prettiest. It shows "a glowing design of a bee on a sunflower". The British Museum comments, "the netherlands has deliberately moved away from patriotic themes, focusing rather on dramatic and colourful designs that can easily be recognized...more recent Dutch notes are dominated by geometric patterns, with naturalistic images of birds or animals hidden in security features.."

Art is used in producing money, or currency, as a value addition, to boost the image of rulers, who want to show their faces everywhere, and most often the artwork is just to increase its aesthetic value.

Art of money, also include the art of making money. making money has always been an art, even when we use science and technology. There is our old saying, 'hamba karanava and hari-hamba karanava', because our people differentiated between 'earning' and 'rightful earning'. There is a term 'Lucre' which is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as "money, especially when regarded as sordid or distasteful or gained in a dishonest way." "Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake" (Titus 1:11). This too may be the reason that Buddhist monks were prohibited from touching money in the old days.

Some people try to pretend they have no respect for money. There was a doormat I saw in Singapore, some years ago, which had an image of a dollar bill on it, while many people in Singapore really worship money. The Bible also says "Ye cannot serve God and mammon". Mammon is the false god of riches and avarice, and the pursuit of wealth as an evil. Mammon is also considered as Lucifer, Ahriman, the Sun Demon, Mara and all their evil manifestations in human individuals and the world. Then Mammon worship could also be called Moneytheism.

The 'Prince of Humbugs', P. T. Barnum wrote 'The Art of Money Getting or Golden Rules For Making Money' in 1880, where he had written "the public is wiser than many imagine" and the customer should be treated right. That is what the visual artist Andy Warhol also said. "Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art."

The Sri Lanka currency notes too depict our heritage and our own fauna and flora, on the prints and also on the security features. These security features mean the artistic skills of the forger too have to keep pace with the developments, even though forging money probably has been with us ever since money had been coined, and sometimes considered the world's 'second oldest profession'. As counterfeiting keeps up, the governments too have to keep pushing the designers to exert their artistic and creative talents to meet the challenge. The standard punishment was death, for counterfeiting, as it was an act against the state. Anne Rogers was burnt alive, and her husband Thomas was hanged, drawn and quartered. But Justinian decided to employ the forger Alexander the Barber to exploit his skills "in their finance department". Germany and Austria during WWII had forced artists in concentration camps to forge British and French currency. There is also the high quality forgeries, called 'Superdollar' by the U.S. Secret Services, alleged to be produced by North Korea.

Bahamas could be the only country to have a three dollar note as legal currency. But In America a 'Three Dollar Bill' could mean a queer person.

Virtual currency could be the future. Dr. Garg in his speech touched on the 'Bitcoin', "the new peer-to-peer cryptocurrency". Others call it digital-gold, and is trading around US$ one thousand for One bitcoin (BBC 06/11/2013). Though it is called a coin, it does not exist physically, but had been created by someone using the name Satoshi Nakemoto. A Bitcoin cannot be forged. There is also no opportunity for anyone to show their artistic skills on a Bitcoin. Not yet anyway. In a world with only virtual money, would art still have a place? It is too early to speculate.

There is always filthy money, which created the term 'money laundering'. If money is filthy, then could all the artwork found in printed notes also be considered as filthy? And there is of course King Wangchuk of Bhutan, who believes that "Gross National Happiness is more important than the Gross National Product". We cannot buy Happiness with money.

Jan. 8, 2014, 11:36 a.m. » Tagged: artwork , coins , currency , money