A Proud Indian
It was at the Bayon – the magnificent ancient monument of Angkor Thom, that I met with a group of tourists of Indian origin. One lady in the group wore a typical North Indian dress and I didn’t have to leave it to my guess that they were Indian. Pleasantries exchanged, we discussed the Angkor heritage and our respective impressions. They were NRI from London, originally hailing from Porbandar, Gujarat. They said that they were so proud of being associated with a culture which has emerged from such a wonderful civilisation and they were proud to be Indian. Me too, I said as we continued exploring the monument our own way. This monumental view of the centuries old Khmer civilisation of Hindu origin is probably unmatched in the world. In my view even the mighty Vijayanagra empire doesn’t come near to the magnificence of Angkor. Undoubtedly, something for all of us to feel so proud of.
Later that day, it was a joy to find the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) board outside another wonderful monument – Ta Prohm (of Angelina Jolie and her Tomb Raiders fame). The ASI jointly with the APSARA of Cambodia is into the restoration process of this famous monument. Big tree roots have pierced through joints of huge stonework and entwined the thick walls of the monument. Damages have occurred on a very large scale. That’s how nature is overwhelming man. Seeing the restoration work by the ASI in progress I felt more proud to be an Indian.
It was intense prickly heat of the equatorial region that was a big torment but the tourist to Angkor remains unfazed. Sunburn is quite common and I don’t know how many times the fair skinned ones dig into their bags for the anti-sunburn cream containers. People of all ages and from different regions visit Angkor. The US, Europe, Australia, Japan, Korea, China, and even Latin America and Africa; all have registered their presence. I met a couple from Brazil during trek to Kbal Spean. Indians have also taken to traveling. I met three groups in two days, all south Indian.
The man in the picture is a Chinese from the US. He appears to be holding a gun to someone’s head. Actually, he was holding a portable fan to his 87 yr old father who was travelling with him undeterred. I complimented the old man for showing so much of his determination to see places. He agreed for a photo together. I envy his spirit and wonder if I would be able to make it to interesting destinations when I reached anywhere near his age.