In search of paradise. In our shrinking globe there are not too many paradise’s that still endure. At the Red Fort in Delhi, one can still see decorative Persian script of the seventeenth-century over the arches illuminating the words, ” If there is a paradise on earth, it is here.”
aApparently, there is an elegance and delicacy of the architecture in the Red Fort, but it is also something of a forbidden place, with its high crenelated sandstone walls which are an uncomfortable reminder of the dangers that threatened this “paradise.” Now its surrounded by a mess of crowded Indian bazaars, impromptu wooden stalls, with poor and crowded life the norm of the streets. No longer really a paradise. All the same, the idea of a paradise on earth seems to be deeply a part of people’s imagination and longing, a place where life is easy and untroubled, fulfilling, where the people are friendly, good looking and bright and where nature and climate are bountiful and not forces to be subdued. A place where one never wants to leave. To meet these requirements people have, from time to time described imaginary lands: utopia, shangri-la etc. Between the remote, exotic, romantic and enchanted locales, we find that reality is less pleasingly strange, a chastening experience that seems to wear out the paradise mentality.
Joseph Conrad was ahead of his time in writing about the disillusion paradises were to bring to many people over the years. There are chillingly moving passages in An Outcast of the Islands when Willems surveys the dreary prospect of the village he must spend the rest of his life at. Everything seems fine: pretty girl who adores him, charming, palm thatched houses,lush tropical landscape; an undemanding life that will go on and on and nothing will ever happen to him until he dies. In a way, its a life sentence.