Mo H Saidi

Around the World

A Voyage to India 2015

Mo H Saidi

The fact that visiting India is an experience and not a vacation indicates that beneath the mountains of rubbish that piles up in every city, town, and village, lies an indescribable way of life measurable only by a different standards than we are accustomed to. What we encounter in India from the onset was masses of people living in the symbiotic co-existence with nature and human by-products..  Half-naked men cooking and selling chicken biryani on the sidewalks share the space with wondering holy cows and stray dogs. Seeing public urinals in the intersections are also commonplace not only in Kolkata but in other big cities, and actually everywhere else. However, after a few days of contemplation, we immerse in the crowd ignoring the pollution, noise, and the waves of bathers of the polluted Ganges River. Thereafter nothing that could be shocking in the West---like bathing in the public in the sidewalks---seems extraordinary.

It was seven in the morning when we arrive in the new Kolkata International Airport. After several hours of waiting, the tour agent found us in Banyan Café guarding the luggage. It was a long flight from New York that after two stops in Abu Dhabi and New Delhi airports brought us to Kolkata. A comfortable van drove us through the slow morning traffic that was moving in the English style direction. The air was thick with smoke spewing from the old but colorful heavily dented buses, wall-scratched taxis, small overloaded trucks, motorcycles, and tuk-tuks, lest bicycles and man driven rickshaws. The roads are shared between all of these vehicles as well as the mass of pedestrians who crisscross the heavy traffic in every directions. Honking horns and making noise is not only permitted, it’s highly encouraged (after all in Hinduism, the world was created with a big bang.) The uneven sidewalks are mostly occupied by vendors forcing the pedestrians to mix with the street traffic. The first shocking discovery visiting India is the largest democracy in the world with the population of 1.2 billion people’s inability to deal with its rubbish. Yet, here in India I'm floating in Paradise. There is a sense of contentment, security and freedom that I detect in the faces of people.

After recovering from the jet-lag, I begin to visit historical places and read about Indian religious and political history, about Indian-English writers and the origin of yoga. I’m now used to the largest landfill on earth, and surprised by the measure of placidity amongst Indian population. Like other adventure-seeking tourists, I intermingle with the flow of people and seek the clue to the meaning of life Indian style. I ignore the garbage-filled roads, holy cows, and playful monkeys as a few of my fellow travelers cursing the vitriolic stench and smog and contemplate these questions:  How could the 1.2 billion people with 22 languages, 7 major religions (with many more minor ones,) and huge young population live together democratically, almost peacefully? According to the United Nations reports, it’s noteworthy that the rate of Homicide---The annual rate in 2012 was 2.8 per 100,000 people compared to 4.5 for the United States---as well as other major crimes in India has declined by as much as 70% during the last 20 years while the population grew by the average rate of 1.7% annually.

Internal Exile of German Writers, Artists, and Intellectuals

during the Nazi Era

Mo H Saidi


I want to show how basically simple it is to have paradise on earth. Only those who think and live creatively will survive in this life and beyond.

Hundertwasser, a Jewish painter, architect, and author who survived the Nazis.



During the summer sabbatical from the United States while visiting arts and literary places, museums, and exhibitions in the communities around the Bodensee in southern Germany near Switzerland, one gains an understanding of the plight of thousands of German writers, painters, architects, and intellectuals albeit Jewish or Gentiles before and during the Second World War to not only save their lives but protect the artistic treasures and the work that they had created. One of these notable German artists and authors was Hundertwasser, a Jewish painter, who succeeded in surviving the Hitler regime’s brutal persecution even though over 60 of his maternal relatives were sent to and murdered in the concentration camps.

Innocently, assuming that the Hitler regime which had come to power after chaos overwhelmed the post First World War I German Democratic Republic in the 1920s would be short-lived, many of these individuals chose internal exile to remote corners of Germany at a safe distance from the shadows of the brutal regime. However, as the Nazis expanded their brutal control over German society and began to eliminate political opponents and initiated their murderous campaign against Jewish citizens, thousands of these “at-risk” people began to take protective measures to save their lives and work.

After 1933 when the Nazis came to power, about 500,000 people in the area controlled by the National Socialists were driven from their professions—a rather insignificant number compared to the six million Jews and thousands of gentiles who were murdered by police and Gestapo or massacred in concentration camps—around 360,000 of these were from Germany itself and another 140,000 from Austria after the annexation of 1938 including Berthold Brecht, and Sigmund Freud. These émigrés also included social democrats and members of the inner circle of the liberal bourgeoisie as well as communists and avant-garde writers and artists and, finally, a considerable number of scholars most of them Jewish. Many of these people were discharged from Academia for political reasons or because they were Jewish or from non-Aryan descent. (For more info:

Among the artists who took internal exile in small towns near Switzerland before or during the war, were young people like Hundertwasser, and former leaders of elite art and academic institutions like Herman Hesse and Otto Dix. Hundertwasser developed his artistic skills early on; a son of a Jewish mother and catholic father, Hundertwasser was born in 1928 in Vienna, Austria, He was a teenager during the Second World War and survived the Nazis regime by hiding his Jewish identity, avoided persecution by posing as Christian, a credible ruse as Hundertwasser’s father had been a Catholic. To be safe, he was baptized as a Catholic in 1935, and to remain inconspicuous, he also joined the Hitler Youth organization, though a few years after the occupation of Austria, he took an exile in New Zealand and eventually became a dual citizen. Hundertwasser lived for 71 years and died in 2000 aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth 2. Hundertwasser became a staunch liberal, environmentalist, hugely successful painter whose paintings were transformed into woodcuts and lithographs with sometimes applying up to 27 vivid colors in one canvas. As an architect, he

    Coming of age during the Weimar Republic, Bertolt Brecht had his first successes as a playwright in Munich and moved to Berlin in 1924, where he wrote The Three Penny Opera with Kurt Weill and began a lifelong collaboration with the composer Hanns Eisler. Immersed in Marxist thought during this period, he wrote didactic
Lehrstücke and became a leading theoretician of epic theatre (which he later preferred to call "dialectical theatre") and the so-called V-effect. During the Nazi period, Brecht joined other anti-Nazi intellectuals and lived in exile, first in Scandinavia and during World War II in the United States. Returning to East Berlin after the war, he established the theater company Berliner Ensembl, with his wife and long-time collaborator, actress Helene Weigel.stood out as an opponent of the “straight line" concept in building design. He was fascinated by spiral shapes reflecting the nature of life and called straight lines "godless and immoral." His best-known work is the Hundertwasser House (see the picture) in Vienna, Austria, which has become a notable place of interest in the Austrian capital, characterized by imaginative vitality and uniqueness. Presently, samples of Hundertwasser master-works are owned by the most significant museums of the world, including in the United States. To read the list of Hundertwasser works, political manifests, books, and architectural master buildings around the world visit:

By 1941 around 7,000 German and Austrian writers and artists had immigrated to the USA. They included several authors whose work was already known in the United States in translation: Thomas Mann (1875–1955) and Lion Feuchtwanger (1884–1958) amongst them. The winner of the 1929 Noble Prize in Literature, Thomas Mann, who despised the rise of the Nazis, left Germany in 1933 and became a lecturer at Princeton University. The outbreak of World War II prompted Mann to deliver anti-Nazi speeches (in German) to the German people via BBC radio. In October 1940, he began monthly broadcasts, recorded in the U.S., and flown to London, where the BBC broadcast them via longwave band to Germany. In these eight-minute addresses, Mann condemned Hitler and his supporters as crude philistines completely out of touch with European culture and values. In one noted speech, he said, "The war is horrible, but it has the advantage of keeping Hitler from making speeches about culture." Although Thomas Mann lived in the United States for 15 years and became a US citizen, he returned to Europe and died at the age of 80 in Zurich, Switzerland.

Unlike Thomas Mann, most of those who fled Germany after the rise of National Socialism did not initially set out for the USA. America was seen as a point of no return, which made it unattractive to political refugees and literati. It is this group, which is the focus of this article, and they are meant when one speaks of "exiles.” Initially, they took to internal exile or immigrated to countries bordering on Germany: Czechoslovakia (app. 9,000), France (app. 100,000), Switzerland (app. 25,000), the Netherlands (app. 10,000) and Scandinavia (app. 8,000). There were significant publishers of exiled authors in Prague, Paris, Zürich, and Amsterdam, and politicians and writers hoped both to reach German-speakers outside of Germany and also to influence the future of the Nazi state via clandestine radio stations.

Even though the internationally known German painter, Otto Dix, was denounced by the Nazis as a degenerate artist and ousted from his teaching post, Dix stayed in Germany, opting for what he called ''internal exile'' and abandoning provocative works for inoffensive landscapes and religious themes. The exhibition, ''Otto Dix: Drawings From One War to the Next,'' in New York, and now at a museum near the Bodensee, Germany, presents examples of Dix's art during that period, although it points only a tiny spotlight on his life's work of hundreds of paintings and some 6,000 works on paper.

In 1927, already a recognized artist, Dix took up a teaching post at the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden. Drawings from this period include several studies of drapery, hands, and pregnancy, as well as a sketch for ''Melancholy,'' a 1930 painting that hints strongly at Germany's darkening political mood. ''Seven Capital Sins,'' a drawing dated 1933, went further by depicting a Hitler-like figure, although the distinctive mustache was only added to the painting after the war.

Three months after Hitler came to power, Dix was fired from the Dresden Academy and began a long period in the wilderness. More than 200 of his works were seized by the Nazis, and eight of them were in the ''Degenerate Art'' show in Munich in 1937. Standing in front of one of those oils, Hitler is reported to have said, ''It is a pity one cannot lock up people like that.'' By then Dix was living in isolation near Lake Constance, within walking distance of Switzerland.

Lastly, a visitor to the Herman Hesse Museum in Gaienhofen near Lake Bodensee, which was the residence of the poet, novelist, and painter and the winner of the Noble Prize in Literature in 1946, will discover how he like many other writers and artists survived the brutal regime of Hitler by first retreating to internal exile in this quiet area of Germany, and then moving to nearby Switzerland until the end of the Second World War. Hesse’s best-known works include Damian, Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game, each of which explores an individual's search for authenticity, self-knowledge, and spirituality.

Representing so many different fates and artistic choices, this group of impressive exiled artists and writers deserves a fresh look at their life and art; fortunately, their courageous move lets us enjoy their creative work today.

A Trip to Antarctica

the Frozen Desert

March 2012

If angels had blubber instead of flutter; if they sang Holy Cow instead of Hosanna, Antarctica would be paradise.

from Robert Flynn: Antactica-Standing on the Bottom of the World

Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Antarctica is considered a desert, with annual precipitation of only 200 mm (8 inches) along the coast and far less inland.The temperature in Antarctica has reached −89 °C (−129 °F). There are no permanent human residents, but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent. Only cold-adapted organisms survive, including many types of algae, bacteria, fungi, plants, protista, and certain animals, such as mites, nematodes, penguins, seals and tardigrades. Vegetation where it occurs is tundra.

Pictures from SoHo Walls and Times Square, NYC, NY