India Uncut

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Late at night after the game at Rawalpindi, a friend and I take off to Daman-e-Koh, the point from which all of Islamabad can be seen. (Islamabad and Rawalpindi are twin cities, by and by.) It’s a remarkable view from there. Islamabad is a city that was planned from scratch, like Chandigarh, so all the lights below us are set out in neat geometrical formations, as the haphazard and organic growth that takes place in other cities – and that I love about cities, in fact – has not taken place here. But the most stunning aspect of the view is the Shah Faisal Mosque.

From on top, one realised how big it is. It is huge. Later, we drive down to the mosque itself, and it is just as impressive when one is close to it. Awe comes.

One of the ways in which religion has inspired awe in its followers through the ages is through the grandeur of its monuments. Architecture on such a scale is humbling. Being an atheist, of course, I can see through the façade: good tactics, I think to myself, but I don’t buy the message. I am less interested in 'God' than the people and the world we live in, and the monuments I would respect most are the ones that are good for them.

And there are two monuments, not of stone or cement but of human actions, that I’d love to see being built in the subcontinent: an open society and a free economy. To guarantee individual freedoms to everyone in the true sense of classical liberalism would be, well, what I’d call divine.

I’m not holding my breath.

amit varma, 1:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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