Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Slightly abrupt ending, but it made me laugh.

Again, by Amit Varma, published at India Uncut.

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’[1]. 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.

Awesome Awesomeness!


That's the website of Paul Neace, a British interaction designer. It's oh-my-god brilliant. And the GAMES! Shit. Space Invaders and Frogger and Pac-man and Tetris and Snake and all-that-you-remember-as-holy-and-sacred.

Is it me or are they more addictive this time round?

P.S. Thanks to Rikki for telling me about this!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Requiem for a Me


Bhavika Aggarwal


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.

Monday, August 2, 2010

What's the big deal about blogging?

Amit Varma answers the question in his most recent post. He publishes India Uncut, one of the most popular Indian blogs, and is also the author of My Friend, Sancho, a humourous look at the reporter-solving-a-crime-and-falling-in-love-at-the-same-time genre. An easy-read which I would definitely recommend, but then I like most stuff. Ammani found it quite average.

Theory of Settlements: Book Review

Angry River

by Ruskin Bond, 1972
Illustrations by Trevor Stubley
Published by Rupa & Co.

It was a small island, set in the middle of the big river, yet large enough for Sita and her grandparents to live there, together with their three goats, their hens, their vegetable patch, and the peepul tree.
Then one day, as the monsoon clouds were gathering, Grandmother was ill and had to be taken by boat to the nearest hospital. Sita was left alone, and the river swirled angrily around the little island. It rose higher and higher as the rains came down, and Sita climbed into the peepul tree. But the old tree groaned and shook in the wind and the rain, it left its place in the earth where it had been standing for years, and moved to join the river, carrying Sita with it.

I enjoy reading. I've gone through quite a large number of books, and while I like to think that I remember them all, there are some that I have never forgotten. Angry River is one such. I found it, one day, in the bookshelf out in the drawing room. I was very young, but Angry River, like most of Ruskin Bond's work, is meant for children. It has a big font and is beautifully illustrated.

I always liked Ruskin Bond, though I haven't read much of him. I've read some Rusty, and I remember The Woman on Platform 8 from school. But his work is different; it has an almost haunting quality to it –not in the supernatural way, even though both Angry River and, especially, The Woman on Platform 8, seem to have some of that. It is just somehow more evocative than other young fiction. It always seemed as if there was a hidden meaning, a subtext in there somewhere, though I never quite understood this until I reread Angry River for this assignment.

I won’t go into the story, although I highly recommend that you read it. A warning though, there are some spoilers coming your way. Along the course of the book, Sita finds herself on a boat with the boy who rescued her, Krishan. Since they don’t want to spend the night on the river, they make way for the flooded forest on the banks.

It’s beautifully described, the magical quality of the moonlit water as it winds through the tall, tall evergreens, with their submerged trunks and overhanging branches. I can almost see the patterns the moonlight makes on the now calm water through the closely packed trees, and feel the damp and smell the wet earth. The flooding has forced the animals out and snakes, stags, elephants are all looking for shelter and dry ground. But Sita and Krishan are safe because the animals are too busy to bother with them. Even Sita’s exhaustion and fatigue and the sense of safety she now feels are perfectly depicted- as she falls asleep in the gently rocking boat you truly somehow identify with her. With morning the wet of the night is replaced by the warmth of the sun, and Sita and Krishan find their way to a nearby village while light falls through the still dripping branches.

The entire book is wonderfully written, but this episode stays in my mind as something beyond ordinary. The simple words and uncluttered language of the narrative add to the appeal. With this I suddenly remembered that you don’t need fancy words or embellished phrases to make an impression; it is the content that truly matters.