Thursday, May 25, 2006

the chernobyl museum

after the uk, the contrast that ukraine offered in some ways was all the more striking and stark. for starters, there we were, gleefully drinking tapwater in uk. in ukraine i guess youd have to be pretty much crazy to try anything like that. chernobyls terrible legacy is still with them.

our hostess was telling us how she bought supplies only from certain supermarkets because she was worried about ground contamination post-chernobyl. she admitted that it certainly made life more expensive; but considering that she actually went and saw the ghost villages and towns around reactor 4, i dont blame her at all for being so worried. because of mom's penchant for feeding people we took 15 kilos of veggies for them when we went, but really, all the jokes that we all cracked apart, those veggies were "loaded" (pun unintended for once).

though we saw and admired kiev's several beautiful churches i didnt expect to see the chernobyl museum designed almost like another one. as soon as you walk up to the museum's entrance, there's this very simple figure to the left. it about sets the tone for the rest of the tour.

you walk in and see the reception hall's walls covered with black and white photographs. each is a story related to the disaster. there are scenes from the contaminated zones, children's wards in the hospitals that deal especially with the chernobyl related health complications, from cancer hospitals, from deserted villages and houses.

the museum is like a memorial. it has simply hundreds of photographs of the personnel who worked in the reactor, the army staff who patrolled and guarded the area, the scientists who were associated with it, and the villagers who lived nearby. there are quaint photographs of young couples garbed in wedding clothes, holding hands and smiling shyly at the camera. of young men and women proudly receiving awards and medals.

there are glass boxes elaborately filled with military coats, epaulets and badges, handwritten log books, change of shift records, letters, press clippings. theres no mention of whats happening under the sarcophagus built around the 4th phase. the museum doesnt discuss the subject of the sarcophagus now cracking and the reactor still throwing off immense heat. it doesnt mention how even if you walk into the ghost villages, its not a great idea to handle anything there.

it doesnt speak of how some old people decided they had nothing left and would return to die in their hometowns. we dont know what happened to them, or how long they suffered the effects of radioactivity.

when my hostess went to the inner zones two years back, people were mechanically scanned before and after approaching the reactor although the geiger counters couldnt register anything because of the massive large scale contamination.

the museum isnt about the spirit of scientific enquiry. its about being almost numb with shock. the kind of sorrow that the disaster brought about, its as if people feel so drained that even their grief is gentle and still. theres no rage, no railing against the authorities or fate, no savage rejection of everything associated with the power plant... nothing. the museum seemed to simply be a symbol of the sad sepia world of the survivors amidst normal hustling-bustling life.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006


im back from an ab-sho-lootly gorgeous holiday. while the uk has really fantastic museums and galleries (and whopee, the jersey conservation trust!), i must confess i lost my heart to kiev. it is an awesome place! do go if youve the chance. avoid winter though - it hits minus 30 degrees only. and this time, because of the fight with russia, gas was totally cut off for a week or so, so everyone just shivered in their homes. to put it mildly, brrrrr!

saw some very interesting stuff art-wise and politically. kiev provided much food for thought. (er, and for hogging. our hosts spoilt us silly!) the chernobyl museum was striking partly because of its incompleteness, the streets for sheer local flavour, the churches for architecture and history (the oldest one was built in 1012 and it still stands)... so generally, im full of blah and hope to post properly this weekend.

until then, this is sofiskiy which i flipped for (despite its being strongly baroque in style, but then most of 'em are) -

truly archaic eh! :D

oh - and madras airport really outdid itself. i found something even better than the inconvenience thing! on arrival, we passed a closed room. it bore the notice "Refusal Room (Ladies)". ahem. no comment.

also, several places in london and cardiff had "lifts for disabled use". enter lift only if dead drunk and nearly passing out?! one wonders :)

and now, i go back to drowning in backlog. glug glug me hearties!

my life


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