Caledonia, a Roman word which means 'a land of dense forests'. In their conquest that extended to the west, the Romans also covered a good ground to North of England and just till the lushy areas of highlands. Today only a 6% of that land is under forest cover but one can imagine the dense forest cover this land once must have been under.
Scotland situated to the north of England will provide the same contrast to the observer that Mumbai and Kashmir will. Only Kashmir is hours away from a metropolis like mumbai and Scotland is next door. The journey from London to Scotland was an astounding one. We had barely left London and the country side already started, beautiful greenery, oddly spread out trees, a lone house or barn somewhere and sheep that dotted around on the grass. It was almost as if a huge farm land exists in the backdoor of the greatest metropolis in the world. And this picturesque scene lasts for 4 hours straight. The journey from London to Edinburgh could be seen as metropolis to country lands to old Victorian establishment, standing as an in between of the 2 ages and what they represent. Edinburgh is as far as the Victorians came to enjoy their holidays. And the rich Victorian architecture that Edinburgh sports can be attributed to that. But this place has a history almost older than England. Because lots before the Romans, the Vikings crossed the sea to Scotland. Found this country to their taste and settled in the highlands.. the later royalty cousins of the Tudors in manner settled in Edinburgh and their long wars with the English throne were and are to an extent waged from here.
Edinburgh in it's early days was a town centred around one street called the 'royal mile'. ( It's a little over a mile) and stretches from the Edinburgh castle over a canal ridge on one end to the sea shore on the other. All of Edinburgh was centred around this royal mile. It was such a nascent town that they did not have a sewege system even and citizen would fling garbage from their houses down to the street and wait for the perpetual rain to wash it away. Not exactly a picture of health and hygiene but that's the way life was for many centuries. It was after the Advent of 16th century that a more capital like appearance was assumed by Edinburgh and 2 more main streets were added, the queens street, the princes Street and of course the pre existing royal mile. The Edinburgh city to this day is centred around these roads and any part off it is just outskirts not really a part of the city. Despite being the capital, Edinburgh stands a small rainy Victorian town and the primary city feel and aligned effects are in Glasgow the other big and probably only city that Scotland has.
The Scots are essentially simple mountain people. Their primary occupations are whisky making, animal husbandry and for sustainance agriculture. Their population, occupation and involvement with the world is very limited, and that combined with a strong Scottish pride and sense of individualistic cultural up-keeping has kept the Scots least anglicised of all of the united kingdom. Religious, community oriented and simple will probably serve as the most apt adjectives for the Scots. Their weather, essentially a raining weepy and cold one, ( absolutely ideal and essential for scotch making) has seemed to make the Scots slightly sombre people. The ones in highlands are fairly merry (but that's probably because most of them work day in day out in whisky distilleries and purest mountain air) but the general nature is a little serious. Try cracking a joke or giving a friendly smile and your standard Scot might give you a straight face back. But there is a difference in their seriousness, the English too are famed for their stiff upper lip that's mostly the high classes, and this stiff upper lip is the product of strict English breeding and a tendency to find anyone other than them a little useless, the Scots on the other hand are just uncomplicated and serious by nature. They don't meddle in people's lives, they stick to their family and work and community with austere commitment and don't much appreciate it when others meddle in their matters. Their long wars and hostility with English might arise from this steady cultural contrast both have always exhibited. Though austere, the Scots are friendly, welcoming and once you are in their good books you are in ranks with family and not as friendly acquintance.
My stay in Scotland was most rewarding, though the weather is a bit rough for us tropicals, the beauty of all, people, architecture and nature is undeniable and alluring. The calm life is something one can get used to. I can't help but draw comparisons here, if Muscat was wet and old Tudor it could easily be Scotland ( and now you can see why I loved it the way I did). The Scottish straightforwardness can be seen in all aspects of their life; their politics, art and their daily conduct. They subsist on meat and potatoes and whisky of course and speak an ancient language called Gaelic. So much of English and england is new to Scots that their version and style of English speaking too is fairly impossible to understand and though the English have made steady humour out of it for years one can't deny that the Scots have a style...
Edinburgh apart from being the capital is also such a strategic part of the low lands that an hour away from it in coach you can go to the highlands.
The highlands are another ballgame altogether. Insanely beautiful and close to nature, the highlands are for people who wish to live a luxurious hermit's life. Nature is in abundance, it's bounty fresh and always available to all and most importantly it's retained as such and made enough into a commercial centre but just enough, not over the top. It's the perfect cross over between east and west Europe, both equally beautiful but one unexplored and the other overly so. A journey through the highlands and especially through it's glenns (valleys) and lochs ( huge water reserves, most fresh water and some salty) have made the highlands a veritable paradise. Their beauty is such that at times I would be afraid of going too close and there by disturbing and tainting it. I couldn't help but wish that Scots believed in 'devrai' the way we do. Somethings are too beautiful for human participation.
My visit to distilleries too was quite an eye opener. One can learn from the Scots a perfect balance between winning your bread and yet keeping it your own. Their ways of whisky making are rooted in their oldest traditions and just enough modernization is done. It's no wonder that the Scottish whisky is just as consistent and quality over the years. The Scots sell a bottle of whisky a minute over the globe, but 81% of that revenue goes to the coffers of the queen and that will justify it's price. How serious a business can alcohol making be can be learnt from the Scots.
My third leg of Scotland included meeting friends I made at conference last year; a polish couple Marcin and Beata, a Japanese scholar 'Hitoshi' and a true blooded hun, Atila. I also made aquaintance of the phadke couple (gaurav and shagun) and after their 7 long years here, a sense of the Scottish peace pervades in them too.
Scotland has come to mean many things to me. But above all, the land of tranquility, of familial and community balance and of austere commitment to all that you do. Do few things but do them well, love your land, pray to your God and gaurd the honour of all that you call your own. Old world values blended in the world view the everyone today lives with but no one truly finds their own.
Among the many things that I will bring back to the crazy world called Mumbai and the place that will always be my home, I will so bring a sense of inherent calm that is undetered with activities and jobs and endless days. The Scots 'live' their day, and if I only learn to see mine with clear open eyes it will be an attribute of the Scots, having a glass of glennfiddich will mean something really different now, not just a celebration of some achievement but a celebration of having a day to call your own, of having a fresh breathe and a steady heart. Nasdravi to the people of the mountains by the girls from the seas, a living tribute to being.