The best part of travel is the unexpectedness. No matter how much researches or reading one does in advance about a place, there is always something unanticipated to surprise the traveller. I always delight in these unanticipated surprises that get thrown my way and sometimes these surprises are so unexpected that it is difficult to even describe the feeling. Something like this happened when I visited the City Palace of Udaipur earlier this year.
But I’m getting a little ahead of the story, so first a little background.
About a year back I read a book that I can safely say enriched my life-like no other. It was Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay, which traces the history of how natural dyes, paints and colours were made for a European artist’s paintbox. The book is full of stories, anecdotes, histories and adventures inspired by the human quest for colour. (I highly recommend that you can read my review of the book here.)
To say that I liked the book is an understatement and I have lost count of the number of times I have read it. However clichéd it sounds, Color… opened up a deliciously new world before me and one that I continue to explore every single day in art, but also in textiles, interior design, music, porcelain, and craft. For me, Colour… was as perfect as a book could get for me.
The beautiful book cover, which depicted a stained glass window with panes of different coloured glasses, was an apt choice for the book. But the book gave no details as to where the window was, and even though it looked Indian, I knew that this window could be anywhere.
When I entered the City Palace of Udaipur that February morning, I was looking forward to seeing the Maharana Pratap artefacts, the Mor Chowk, miniature paintings, some wonderful views across Lake Pichola… I had an audio guide with me which gave me the perfect opportunity to explore the Palace at my pace. When I reached the Amar Vilas, a large breezy courtyard on the 4th or 5th storey of the City Palace, nearly 2 hours later, I decided to take a break and sit for a while on one of the many benches laid out there. As I looked around, I saw the multi-coloured shimmer of a large stained glass window across the courtyard.
The twinkling and shimmering lights and the jewel tones of the window was too difficult to resist and soon I had walked across to see it.
I knew instantly that it was the window from the book cover of Color… I had read the book enough times and had gazed at the cover for an even more number of times to know that this was the window on the book cover. I was so happy that I danced a little jig, quite oblivious to the curious stares being directed at me. I was so excited that I didn’t even take decent photographs of the window !
Back home in Mumbai, the first thing I did, before even downloading the photographs was to double check if the window was the window. The book cover and the photograph were identical, except for one pane, which was red in the photo and bright pink in cover. So, I surmised that either the pane had been replaced after the photograph had been taken for the book cover, or the pane in the book had been photo-shopped for better contrast. But there was no doubt that the windows were the same.
During the course of my travels, I have been to places which have featured in paintings like Canaletto’s “A view of Greenwich from River Thames” near London or Constable Country in Suffolk, United Kingdom, where John Constable painted his most famous landscapes. I have also been to places featured in films and also visited places inspired by photographs.
But this is the first time I “met” a book cover and the joy and pleasure that I felt is beyond words.The fact that this was an unexpected meeting only made it all the more exciting. Would you agree with this statement?
PS: Have you met any book covers?