Monday, January 05, 2009


Whenever there has been total chaos I have been drawn there. As if led on a string that’s been pulled in. The last time was right after 9/11, I remember. Something leading one to the worn stone, the serenity, the “removed from this world” pace at the Prince of Wales (POWales) Museum.

I take the local train, second class. The girl sitting by has a letter from the Economic Offences Wing, someone has taken away their power of attorney and taken a loan on their flat. The girl sitting opposite commutes for an hour and half all 365 days, or something close to it- she’s a cook at four homes. Nothing like a train trip to shake me out of my ivory tower existence in a hurry.

Yes, you can take photos at the POWales but that’s 200 bucks. Steep. No, you can’t step on the lawn or take a closer look at the handsome man chiseled in black granite, Prince George V- not after the 1993 bombings.

Security’s been tightened, there are CCTVs, but later I see that the “backside” as we so comfortably call it, is open.

I loiter. I am drawn, as I knew I’d be, to the Indian sculpture gallery, the displays from Taxila and Mirpur-khas in particular, mostly 2-5 C AD. I spend an hour there, easily. I find what I’m looking for.

The rest of the time there passes in a blur, I do look at some fine art, paintings on India through the centuries, durbars and common man alike, work that’s been loaned from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; as also a display of maps on India starting from the 1490’s. I’m amused to see I look for the home town in all the maps, see that tiny dot on that map from 1740? Yes, we’re there, thank you.

And I gape at the coin collection, chunky in gold and silver with perfectly proportioned motifs, apparently Emperor Akbar had appointed his chief calligrapher the head of his mint…

After all this, the mad melee at Westend where I dutifully stop by to pick up a purse, that passes like a breeze. No streetside bargaining this once.



8 comments:

Arunima said...

oh! touched by the mention of the lady who cooks at 4 homes.

snkgrewalz said...

Yes, that girl travelling an hour-plus 365 days to cook in four homes - she caught my attention, and has my admiration and respect too!

About you, reading your posts makes me wonder as to whether I should think of you as a reservoir of knowledge, or a passionate traveller, perpetually hungry for information on eras gone by - unravelling history in all it's mysterious magnificience, and lovingly draping it out on paper, as it were, so others could educate themselves!

austere said...

arunima, kash- thank you.

AmitL said...

POW Museum?Looong time since I went there-would love to go,during the next visit.
--
The train journey-sigh! at the 'cook at four homes'and the economic offences wing lettered lady..makes one feel pretty humble when realizing how lucky one's self is to be able to live a simple existence.Honestly!!

PQ said...

Reminds me of my visit to an Art Museum...I really love being at places that celebrate Art

quin browne said...

reading your posts makes me wonder as to whether I should think of you as a reservoir of knowledge, or a passionate traveller, perpetually hungry for information on eras gone by - unravelling history in all it's mysterious magnificience, and lovingly draping it out on paper, as it were, so others could educate themselves!


yes. to all. plus some.

austere said...

quin luv, you're way too kind. but thank you.

PQ- the two sparse hours that I was at the Smithsonian, I'd magically been drawn to the Hirschhorn, so beautifully intelligent the art there.

smit- indeed, we are blessed. Does your hi tech city have anything comparable?

Baby Island said...

I spent a day in the city with Paige, the 2nd minion on Sunday and she was wide eyed at the culture of the outdoor market, the sidewalk violin players and singers, the crepe shop my friend from massage school owns. She danced in the middle of a crowded sidewalk, stopping heavy foot traffic in both directions.

Makes me feel llike so far I've done something right.

MUAH