Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Vacation Recap

So, my vacation’s almost over. And a sad thing that is too.

What did I do this vacation, one might ask. Well, apart from the fun, fat wedding attendance in the first week, the second week has been dedicated to one of the things I love but don’t get to do as much as I would like. Sleeping.

In fact, it feels like that all the all-nighters that I did last year and all the anticipated ones will be made up in this one week.

However, before you get the impression that that is all that I have done, let me set you right. In between the bouts of sleeping, I have also been reading. Currently I am reading From the Holy Mountain by William Dalrymple, who is fast becoming one of my favourite authors – fiction or otherwise.

This book has Dalrymple tracing the journey of one John Moschos – a monk who travelled the silk route more than fifteen hundred years ago, in the then Byzantine empire. The journey starts from Mount Sinai, through Turkey and Syria and I am currently in a war-ravaged Lebanon in 1994 with Dalrymple.
Cover of From the Holy Mountain
What I find fascinating about Dalrymple’s style is that it is a beautiful and not-at-all simple blend of humour, knowledge, love and insight. So, while he is travelling though borders patrolled by militia, cities being shelled constantly, looking for places of archaeological interest, resurrecting glimpses of life from many centuries ago, he is also telling me, to what extent all the beautiful history is in the danger of being soon forgotten. The book is also supplemented with some heart-rending pictures – of the only survivor of an Oriental Christian faith, of the ruins of temples and shrines that once teemed with devotees and saints – both real and fake. The bazaars that would have been the envy of the richest businessmen today. All gone into the gaping maws of greed and intolerance. The essence of the book is summed up in the words of Pere Abbe Marcel abi-Khalil, a Christian priest that Dalrymple runs into unexpectedly in Chouf, Lebanon: “In this part of the world, for all our difficulties, religion has not just torn people apart. It has often brought them together. It is important to remember that.”

To temper the slightly heavy content of From the Holy Mountain, I am also reading some light-hearted romances in between and Bullfinch’s Age of Fable. The latter is a retelling of Greek myths, both popular and obscure. Reading through both Dalrymple’s book and Bullfinch’s compilation reminds me of how much I loved studying literature and how fascinating history can be.

I also managed to make time for a couple of movies – The Hunger Games (not as good as the book, too slow and tedious in parts) and The Amazing Spiderman. The second movie was good timepass. Andrew Garfield suffused the character of Peter Parker with a nervous, shy energy stirred with an innocent sense of wonder at his new power. And as Spiderman, he was wry, humorous, chivalrous and responsible. He admits to his failures and owns responsibility for them. Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey was adequate and way better than Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane. I just could not stand Dunst.

Am religiously following the new Masterchef season but it’s too early for me to get a sense of the contestants yet. I truly hope that Emma does not turn out to be whiner like Dani in the last season.

So, that brings me almost to the looming end of my vacation. Excuse me, while I observe two minutes' silence for its demise.

Until next time, ciao.


  1. Emma doesn't turn into a whiner :)

    She swings between ecstatic & cry baby but she's cute. I think you might start liking Audra.

    1. @ scarlett: Audra's the one from Singapore or thereabouts, right? I am still getting the hang of most names and faces :-)

  2. She's Thai I think. She's the Asian one who's always calm & composed :)

  3. @Bluestocking I went through my Dalrymple phase a few years ago when I read everything he wrote. My favourite was In Xanadu. From the holy mountain seems interesting. Worth a buy?

    1. I am enjoying it. It is funny and sad at the same time :-) Plus, I find the history of the Byzantines & Ottoman fascinating. So, if you enjoy history told in Dalrymple's signature style, you might want to buy it. It is a long book and the initial first chapters may be required to find a purchase on the narrative.