In a little park, near the United Nations’ offices in Geneva, Switzerland, is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi reading a book and with a look of utmost concentration on his face.
The statue was unlike any Mahatma Gandhi statue I had seen or come across before — I had always seen his statues in a standing or walking position. This one of him reading seemed more like one I could relate to.
And to think, in retrospect, that I almost missed seeing this. Let me elaborate.
“Where is the bawri?” I ask a group of men playing cards on the road. I am at Fatehpur, a large town in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan and searching for a nearly 400-year-old stepwell, locally known as bawri.
“You’re standing at the entrance to the bawri,” drawls one of the men.
I look at where I am standing and then behind me. All I can see is an arched entrance and garbage beyond that. Heaps and heaps of garbage.
“This is the bawri?” I ask in disbelief.
Loud, raucous laughter erupts from the group. “This used to be a bawri. It used to contain water, now it only has garbage. Therefore, it is kachre ka bawri (or a well of garbage). Why have you come to see this kachre ka bawri?” says another man in the group.
More laughter, this time mocking and derisive, as I look on in horror and recall all that I had read about the bawri or stepwell in Ilay Cooper’s book.
The cow looked up coyly at me through her false eyelashes. Her golden horns glinted with the light of Surya on her forehead. The various gods and sages on her flanks looked stonily at me — Brahma, Hanuman, Saraswati, Agni, Ganesha, Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi… Only the sage Narada had a cheerful smile for me.
The fact that she was boxed in a transparent cage and leg deep in money did not seem to affect the cow at all. And as for me, I stared at the cow with a touch of disbelief. You would have done the same if you saw a cow like this.
May 20, 2009. Oxford Street London.
It is the opening day of special sales at the Marks and Spencer store on the occasion of their 125th Anniversary and there’s a long line of people waiting for the store to open. As opening time nears, the crowd swells and so does the restlessness. That’s when a group of entertainers come out to interact with the crowd keep them occupied till its time for the store doors to open.
One of the entertainers is a magician who moves down the line chatting a bit to each person and sharing a magic trick or two. It’s a smooth, practiced routine and quite predictable, not to mention boring. And then something happens…
One of the people waiting in the line says something and the magician bursts out laughing and continues laughing.
I love watching works of art being created. Be it a painting or a sculpture being made or an embroidery being done or a sweater being knitted or a pot being shaped at the wheel, I love to see creation happening. So when I saw this silhouette at the Kumbhalgarh Fort during my Rajasthan visit in winter last year, I just stopped in my tracks. It was a painter at work. He was seated on the steps of one of the many monuments in the Fort and painting the vista in front of him. It was mesmerising to watch him at work as he mixed colours, changed brushes and painted. His brush strokes were almost hypnotic – a dab of blue here, a swirl of green there, with some browns and yellows thrown in for good measure.
I would have loved to go and take a closer look at what he was painting and perhaps chat with him, but I sensed a “do not disturb” sign about him. I left after a while and almost stumbled upon another painter. Luckily for me, this second painter had a ‘do disturb’ vibe. :)
Ranakpur in Rajasthan is synonymous with its world-famous Jain temple. So much so that another, older temple located less than half-a-kilometre from the Jain temple lies virtually forgotten, visited only by the someone who knows about it existence – the 13th century Suryanarayan Temple or Sun Temple.
It is around 3 in the afternoon when our group arrives at the Sun Temple. Looking back, I’m still astonished that we made it to the temple for there are no signboards or markers to guide a visitor to the Sun Temple. If the manager of our tour group had not known about the Sun Temple, I doubt we would have visited it.
Built from low-grade marble, which has weathered beautifully over the centuries, the exterior of the temple is intricately carved with Surya or the Sun God seated on a chariot drawn by horses. The temple faces east, and has a sanctum topped by a shikhara in the nagara style, and an octogonal mandapa preceding the sanctum. The mandapa has some of the most exquisitely carved pillars and sculpted toranas I have seen. This is the first time I’m visiting a sun temple and I’m fascinated by the unusual motifs and iconography on the walls here.