I am almost done with “A. A. Gill Is Away”. After India, there are bunch of places Gill talks about. Two things that stuck with me were Japan and Monaco. Gill hates almost everything about Japan. He hates food, religion, people. Same thing about Monaco, he calls in sewage of money. Sometimes, some places invoke strong feelings in you. But it is very difficult to get a balanced view of the place by visiting it. I remember my impressions about US when I was living in India and how different they were from the country. I personally find it hard to believe a place can be all wonderful or all bad. It is a perception. I blogged about Gill thinks about Taj. There is no doubt that it is one of the most beautiful creation but if you think of legend about what happened to the workers ( They say, ShahJahan, cut fingers of everybody who worked on Taj because he did not want to create something like that every again) than it makes you see red of blood running in the joints of white marble. Gill might say it still does not diminish its beauty and for some it might be true.
I have never been to Japan but I have been to Monaco and though I was there for very short time and I did not really spend time with the people, Gill talks about, I thought the place was pretty. But I was surprised Gill hated everything about it. One other thing that stuck with me is how Gill justifies use of Atom bomb in Japan. He says “Bomb was the best thing that happened to Japan”. He also implies they got what they deserved based on atrocities performed by Japanese Armies in China. I first came to know about the second holocaust through a book called “Rape of Nanking”. It is horrible and it is shocking. I must admit that it changed how I had perceived Japan in the past but still it does not justify killing of more than 200,000 people. It sounds like Gill applies almost ‘High School Fight Logic”. I have problem with this on many counts…
- First of all Atom bomb was not used because of what Japan did in China.
- NOTHING, I mean NOTHING, can justify killing 200,000 people, many of them were not related to War. If the justification is that they helped the war in some way then with that Logic, we will have to kill lot more people in Germany for what Hitler did.
- There is always tendency to only paint second world war as the battle of good Vs evil. But we have to realized many of the allies (France, Britain), had their own colonies and were just as again freedom of people they were ruling. On their part, that war was act of defending their own empires. Otherwise how can they explain their inaction again many acts of aggression Hitler did before they declared war against fascist Germany. They did so when they say their own interests were threatened. I see it as pure act of saving your own skin.
I think this was good book. It is about countries, people and the subject being so highly subjective, it will always be opinion of somebody. Many times we look for culture for a country in museums and tour books. But that is just history, is not it?, culture lives among people. You meet culture when you interact with a cab driver or you meet culture when you ask for a glass of water from somebody, you meet culture when you wait at train station. If culture is alive then you cant find it in inanimate objects such as paintings and buildings. Those paintings, buildings were about people of that era and great way to understand people at that time, it cant define who those people are today. PEOPLE is the most important thing. Many times we tend to forget that. I remember when I went to Italy and visited some places I have read since I was kid, MichelAngelo’s David, Tower of Pisa but the best memory I have about Italy is the dinner that we had in a very small restaurant where we spent almost 5 hours. two hour of which was after the restaurant was closed where owner closed the door, took out his own favourite wine and we chatted about his visit to Calcutta, his driving skills of Italians and Indians. That is what I will remember as culture of Italy more than great marble statues and overwhelming churches.
That is what I liked about this book. I don’t see Gill as the expert in history or Politics but he is good with People. He can connect to variety of people and be comfortable with them. He can read them. His experience making a porn film in LA was definitely interesting. His languages skills are definitely great but his people skills is what I would like to have. I am going to look for other books written by him.