Sunday, November 21, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
You can read more about the complex in The Modern Architecture of New Delhi: 1928-2007, a brilliant little book. Discovered that the architect of the Teen Murti Bhavan extensions is Padma Shri Mansinh M. Rana, erstwhile Chief Architect of the NDMC.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
and the residents of the imagined cities, the kings and the prostitutes and the adolescent and the anile, the strangers who meet everyday, the traders moving to and fro between the cities. But most of all, it's about the traveller- it's about his (or her, if you want to be politically correct) perceptions and dreams and desires and emotions, his past (which influences his present and future), his inferences, his expectations and his understanding of the city.
Calvino recognized the feel of the city- not the physical, but the emotional aspect of it. In fact, he is entirely brilliant at recognizing and naming and writing down emotions- this book really makes you feel. And so, when you remember the cities, you remember the metaphysical- the blend of fantasy and reality described. Sure, they might be supplemented by some physical aspects- like a clock tower here or a dome there, but these are also just ultimately symbols of the people who lived there and what the traveller was feeling at that point of time, visible symbols of an abstract idea. It's all about perception, and that is different even for fellow travellers.
The author imagined so many different cities, each with its own character and people and emotions, and Marco Polo appreciated them all differently. He talked of the beauty of the whole and of the beauty of the part. Often he looked at the cities from two different viewpoints, both his own; like the two sides of a coin. Other times one side was just a lie, a facade, and the real city was on the opposite face. Sometimes his descriptions were easy to understand, and sometimes you had to reread them to grasp the full meaning, the subtext. You then had to fill in the blanks, think about what you inferred from the thoughts and images and visuals.
Nothing can exist in isolation- or, at least, it can have no purpose in isolation. Here too, the cities are connected, yes, but we are always looking at the micro level of the city, and so are, I think, fooled into thinking of it as independent entity on its own. And so when Calvino does zoom out, it seems a revelation. He does this often, in fact; during the course of the book you suddenly realize a lot of things you always knew in the back of your head, but which you had forgotten while reading about these individual cities. But, also, when you look only at the macro scale, and forget these singular parts, you again lose sight of the plot.
Because there are so many short descriptions of so many cities, by the end of it they start running together and thus lose their differences. From the reader you become the jaded traveller, and Marco Polo and Kublai Khan’s analysis of the rise and fall of cities, why they are what they are, how they’re different from, and yet the same as, one another, really becomes the focal point. I don’t know whether this was intentional or not, and of course, in a way they were always the focal point, but what I’m saying is that whatever role the cities played before is lost by the end, at least for me.
The short chapters, if you can call them that, are very disjoint, but remain connected, I think, because of the writing style. It’s very, very descriptive, long sentences, generally simple language, but lots of new words -I learnt quite a few: ephebe, lavabo, auguries, sirocco, odalisques. Like most good books, the writing stays with you a while; even now, while I'm writing this, I know that my sentence structure and wording are somewhat inspired from the book.
I enjoyed this book, and though I probably won't ever reread it, right now I feel as if it'll stay with me for a long time. In a way, it's answered a question I've often thought about: can a traveller, an outsider and a foreigner, ever truly understand another city? When he visits this other city, how does he perceive it? What is different, if not different from his own?
Remembered this quote from Travel and Living, and along the way, found two more, which I think describe perfectly what this book is about:
“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
When I was about seven, my cousins came over for a short trip and we went on a day excursion to the Doll Museum and the Railway Museum. (The cherry on top, though, was the Hero No. 1 show we went for later that day. Govinda was wildly funny those days.)
I chose to write about the Railway Museum because I actually remember it, even though it was over thirteen years ago, and I have a pretty bad retention span when it comes to stuff that happened to me. At first there were only vague images, and feelings rolling about in my head, but modern technology (aka google) helped jog my memory. And I’m really glad of the chance to revisit it, because it was such a good day. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it- I haven’t yet.
The Railway Museum, in Chanakyapuri, is ‘the focus of Rail Heritage of India’. I remember it as being huge, and it is, spread over 11 acres. It’s also very green. Most of the engines and carriages on display are on tracks laid over landscaped gardens.
The museum’s home to the Fairy Queen, Guinness certified as the world's oldest operational steam locomotive. It has, honestly, a pretty awesome collection of locomotives. There’s just something so charming about all those gleaming old-style steam engines. We got to explore inside some of them too, I think, and I distinctly remember going inside at least one coach, with its plush seats and wood finish.
The main attraction for us, though, was, of course, the toy train. It runs on a miniature track through the museum. You cannot imagine the joy that we seven-and-eight-year-olds felt when on it. Like I said, the feelings still stay with me- fighting for the window seat, the wind blowing through my hair, the excitement of it all.
Later we went for ice cream to the cafeteria, which I remembered as being in the middle of a lake. Google Images confirmed its location on the side of a much smaller man-made pond. But it looked exactly the same: a circular structure, open on all sides, with the restaurant on the first floor. When I think about it now, it seems like a really nice design. It has an amazing view, of the lawns and the water, and the outdoor seating meant that us kids could ‘hang out’ separate from the grown-ups, leaning on the railing and talking of dolls and trains and ice creams and whatever else seven year olds talked about in 1997.
That day was enchanting. Frankly, when I decided to write on this topic, I wondered for a second if I had such fond memories of the Rail Museum because I had fond memories of the whole day- whether it was the place or the company. But then I realised that I remember nearly nothing of the Doll Museum, and so much of the Rail Museum. (And, well, ALL of Hero No. 1. But who can forget that?) The place is fascinating, and so utterly charming. I enjoyed it- it’s right up there with Appu Ghar and that video game arcade that opened in Saket for a (too) short period of time.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Surrounded by family and friends, Bhavika Aggarwal passed away this Sunday at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences after succumbing to a sudden attack of periodontitis.
An intermittent architect and enthusiastic conservation activist, Ms. Aggarwal was most known for her interior decoration work. Educated at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, she got the opportunity to work with greats such as Varun Bajaj and Aditi Gupta early in her career, though she concentrated most of her efforts towards small scale projects. Her notable works include the interiors of the Snobsman Hotel, New Delhi (in collaboration with furniture designer Uzair Siddiqui) and the Yara chain of retail stores across India, as well the design of her personal residence in Vasant Vihar. Ms. Aggarwal was also noted for her attempts, with social activist Ammani Nair, to mainstream the cause of recreational reading, and she helped design and set up a number of public libraries. Her experiments with environmentalist Amri Chadha regarding sustainability and blue architecture occupied most of her latter career.
Ms. Aggarwal retired from professional life in 2057. She would have been 76 this May.