Year end diary

Not a day without a line, advised the older Pliny

I have been a regular diarist since 1983.

Year end diary

“He is not courageous, but there was no flight out, and he does not like to go by land or sea,” one friend summarized this year as we recalled the days of uprising-the failed uprising of February, the months of preparation and the successful insurrection of August 20,2011.

Feb 17 Revolution of Libya

As I went through the diary notes of this year in Libya, and picked up some threads,  I browsed through some of the books which my library gained as many expatriates made a hasty exit as NATO started implementing its no fly zone. Some of them were members of “Tripoli Reading Group”

A collection of Dante’s poems . A copy of Ramcharitramanas in Devnagri script.

Pickles left by workers in camps run by Indian companies. Soup concentrates left by a well wisher.

Tortoises left by another friend who knows I keep tortoises in my back- terrace

In happier times gone by-playing with tortoises in the back terrace- 2009 ...This year 2011 my sons asked their mother- Is it so dangerous in Libya that people have to start praying for the people there? Their school would jointly pray for us. It was unnerving for them, as it was not "Robert's Uncle" for whom they were praying but their own father.

Some Narratives of those who have stayed  behind.

The art of Diary writing-A spiritual exercise

In his introduction to Penguin book of Diaries Ronald Blythe writes that the reason why diaries spellbind is that they admit us, not to a great many pasts, but to seemingly endless variants of the present. The diary-keeper is an interventionist, the transmuter of what would be normally perishable into what  must last. Without a diary, almost everything we do or say or think or feel slips very quickly into oblivion. The born or natural diarist-he is a special being and not like the rest of us- cannot bear that this should be so. It cannot be egotism which makes him write, “Saw Price the grocer uncrating oranges, “ or “Rain shakes the line of poplars”, but a kind of spiritual craving for holding such actions in his personal vision for ever, or until the final entry.

Thick smoke seen from my back terrace during Tripoli uprising August 2011

Deserted streets during the peak of the Insurrection

Little girls with the Flag of Freedom..The Future of a Free Libya

The rewind

“The old tape was rewinding in my mind as I heard one of my local friends tell how much he was opposed to the previous regime. I silently remembered how he used to tout his contacts in the regime and tell that he was going to open a Club and Spa using his contacts, ” one friend who was returning after nine months told.

Writing a diary can be a very useful tool to note the shifting narratives.

“Run away! Think about your family,” one friend told me while escaping the violence and now very smugly tells that he was never frightened.

We silently hear them out.

In our weekly discussion group we recalled the answer of the mythological character Karna of Mahabharata when asked whether he was scared.

“It is only cardboard soldiers who do not get scared.”

It is how you deal with fear that makes one brave.

These are the testing times when we are able to separate the men from the boys.

Through art

Shifting perspectives can be gauged through art.

As I spent the holiday going through old notes, folders, photographs, books, momentoes this series of photographs added some further insights into the shifting narratives.

Portrait of Balzac, by Auguste Rodin-Art Institute of Chicago

Commissioned to create a commemorative statue of the great French writer Honore de Balzac, in 1891, Auguste Rodin seized the opportunity to do “something out of the ordinary.” He spent months obsessively reading about his subject and immersing himself in Balzac’s ungainly physique, alternating between models that were nude and clothed. Rodin also attempted to beyond what he dismissively called “photographic sculpture,” here depicting Balzac as a heroic nude with a massive torso and aggressive stance. This full-length model was fashioned in plaster between 1892 and 1893 but met with disapproval, as did the final version, draped in a robe, which was unveiled in 1898. Portrait of Balzac been called a double portrait of the artist and his subject, and it is now hailed as one of the touchstones of modern art.

This portrait is from Art Institute of Chicago. I photographed it from various angles one quiet afternoon spent in the galleries.

Portrait of Balzac, by Auguste Rodin-Art Institute of Chicago

Portrait of Balzac, by Auguste Rodin-Art Institute of Chicago

Portrait of Balzac, by Auguste Rodin-Art Institute of Chicago

Portrait of Balzac, by Auguste Rodin-Art Institute of Chicago

Double portraits and perspectives:An afternoon at Bab-Al-Aziziya

“Gaddafi did not become Gaddafi in one day. It was these very powers who bombed him out who encouraged him in various ways over the years. He did not realize till the end that the old game was over.” One foreigner who has stayed and watched this country and region over the decades observed.

Below are photographs from the Bab-Al-Aziziya compound showing the building where the former dictator Gaddafi would give his speeches. It was hit by US strikes in 1986 and he preserved it in the same condition and gave many rhetorical speeches over the years.

Bab Al Aziziya

View standing from the balcony where the former dictator used to give his rhetorical speeches

An end note

While many thinkers have  mused over how to start a revolution, not many think of how to end it. While historians define, politicians declare, writers narrate and lawyers legitimate a revolution things are so current that it is not possible to give a clear picture for now.

While we were discussing the beating up of a senior doctor in a big teaching hospital (if it can happen to him, lesser mortals should take care) one doctor gave another take on the whole affair, while most medicos were sympathetic to the person on the receiving end.

“How many senior doctors are seen after 11 am? If you leave the dealing to the junior doctors things can go out of hand. Trying to intervene later is not only futile, but can also be counter productive as happened in this case. In our big public hospitals, senior doctors are usually not seen dealing with patients after 11 am. These people are not our enemies. They have taken lot of risk, helped during the collapse of basic services. When they felt that they were being given a raw deal now that the situation is better things turn ugly.”

We went through writings on Anthropology in Medicine by Elisa Sobo-  As Scotch noted back in 1963, “Medical scholars have literally for centuries been aware of the social dimensions of health and illness and have focused on a variety of social and cultural variables, while anthropology has only lately indulged in similar research.”

Ending the year on a sober note, my “11 am senior doctors leave” friend and I read through the Chapter and have decided to do a silent survey in different teaching hospitals to see the working culture, as part of our Anthropology of/in Medicine project.

Some of them-maybe we will share, the remaining will be noted in my diary.

Off for a walk now

A walk -Khadra forest-Tripoli

As Ronald Blythe said – Although diaries and journals became indistinguishable very early on, the latter retained some reputation for being of greater public importance, and the former always spelt privacy.The operative – and mystic – force in both was the day

(Blythe:Penguin Book of Diaries)

Not a day without a line, advised the older Pliny.


About prashant bhatt

A psychologist, interested in mindfulness practices. I practiced medicine as a radiologist for 23 years in India and Libya as a radiologist before shifting to Canada. A regular diarist, journaling since 1983 Reading journal :
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7 Responses to Year end diary

  1. Pingback: Some musings on Art « Prashantbhatt’s Weblog

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  5. Pingback: Year end diary-2014..Remembering walks and readings | Prashantbhatt's Weblog

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