Whilst Shah Jahan was building the Taj Mahal as an ode to his beloved wife, the European Christians in Agra were creating their own fairy-tale like mausoleums in a cemetery dating back to Akbar’s time. Not perhaps on the same scale, they are however, no less delightful in carved red sandstone, yellow basalt, and whitewashed plastered walls. These tombs in Agra’s Roman Catholic Cemetery are the resting places of initially the Armenian Christians in the 1600s and, thereafter, of other European Catholics in the city. Continue reading
Iran has a complicated relationship with the rest of the world. Whilst on one hand it has been labeled as an “axis of evil” by the West, the war with Iraq lasted for eight years and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives as trench warfare and poison gas were used for the first time since the First World War. Yet Iran’s only retaliation to it all is a couple of banners and a handful of painted wall murals outside the now ex-United States of America embassy in Tehran, and a Martyrs Cemetery where young, impish school children sing songs and pay homage to their country’s dead heroes. It makes you wonder.
As the world ostracizes this ancient nation nestled between Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran itself carries about its own business as usual. It has a largely flawless infrastructure throughout its vast expanse, a wonderfully rich heritage, and an educated and graceful people with ready smiles and laughter. “Iran good?” is the question asked by everyone you meet. There is such an eagerness to be accepted. To be liked. To be understood. Continue reading
I traveled through Iran in 2007. My last stop was the Behesht-e Zahra, the main military cemetery for the millions who died in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). The cemetery was beautiful. Calm and serene. I know, it sounds kind of strange to describe a war cemetery with such words. But death is not mourned at these infinite rows of flower covered tombs. But rather celebrated, with flags, banners and children singing songs. These are the country’s heroes, and they have not been allowed to be forgotten. The faces smiling from the pictures placed on the tombs are still alive. The dreams and ideals of the activists still ablaze. Continue reading