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Monday, November 16, 2015

A visit to Napier museum and Sri Chitra art gallery

      My long cherished dream to visit Napier museum and art gallery in my hometown finally got realized during my recent stay in Trivandrum. This museum was built during British rule in 19th century and designed by a British architect, Robert Chisholm. The museum, which is one of the star attractions of the city was built in a particular architectural style with Gothic roof and minarets. The ceilings are built in such a way to enable natural ventilation and air flow.
                                         But it was not a star attraction for me when I was a child nor for my parents. The adjacent zoological park with lots of flora and fauna, and of course animals and birds, was visited many number of times. The museum is nothing but a building showcasing lifeless objects to drive us to sleep!! I do not have much memory of visiting and 'enjoying' our museum.  So it was a visual treat for me when I visited the Government owned museum after ages. The Napier museum, which is the main building, is a storehouse of artifacts like bronze idols of various Hindu deities belonging to various eras, ivory statues, statues made of stones lot of them being Bodhisattva's, artifacts like puppets belonging to Balinese or Indonesian culture, intricately carved temple chariot, dressing table used by royal families,  are among few I can remember and not to be missed. Because camera and mobile phones were not allowed to be used, I could not take any pictures and I controlled the urge with great difficulty!
                                                If that is not enough, there is one Sri Chithra Art gallery to the side of the museum, which exhibited different mural paintings depicting ordinary lives, wars, important incidents during the rule of various Travancore Maharajas. This is one place where a visitor has to spend time in depth to study the paintings and read about the history related to that. It will be better if art lovers visit alone and not with families. In the center of the hall, the royal chariot belonging to the Travancore kings stands majestically.
                                            There is another Sri Chithra Art gallery almost inside the zoological park which treasures original and priceless Ravi Varma Paintings, the one which I was looking forward to see and admire. I couldn't believe my eyes when I was seeing this maharaja's original paintings for the first time in my life. Many of his paintings depicting Gods, Goddesses, scenes from the mythological stories, historical battles, ordinary people's lives, queens, contemporary cultures, self portrait, are all somewhat familiar through various prints. But to admire those original ones, is something else! Most of them were done painstakingly with oil paints, and I cannot say all of them are flawless or perfect, but with an eye to the detail. Some paintings which attracted more attention were the portraits of Travancore queens in the traditional attire wearing jewelry and their royal beauty captured through the eyes and the form. There were a handful of paintings done by other members of the royal family. There was another separate area where more recent and contemporary paintings were displayed in addition to Japanese and Chinese paintings. The highlighted ones were those done by Roerichs- Nicholas Roerich and his son Svetoslav Roerich who is more well known as a painter and also happens to be the husband of one of the first female film stars, Devika Rani. The paintings captured the beauty of nature, namely sky and water, and so many of them were in different shades of blue but are striking to the viewer's eye. Rest of the more recent paintings were abstract ones, each beautiful in its own way. Aspiring artists or painters need to visit these art galleries repeatedly to study the depth of all these art works.


                            Lush green lawns, trees, gardens, trellises, adorn the surroundings of the museum making it a perfect place to hang out. I was happy that I could capture at least some of it in my phone. I felt those few hours were well spent.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Where is that ubiquitous crow?


                      I always look forward to go to my hometown Trivandrum to be with my parents who are alone. The city of Trivandrum is less polluted, unspoilt (or 'townish' as my husband puts it) compared to the hustle and bustle of big cities like Mumbai and Bengaluru. The everyday life is not fast paced and stressful as in big cities , and so I feel one can lead a better quality of life there.
                          As I moved to Bangalore after my wedding, the one thing I found which was conspicuously missing was our neighborhood friend, crow. I used to think that this black beauty is present in every corner waiting to have the scraps of the leftover food items. The nature's scavenger, as we learnt in schools, is not omnipresent in the city of now high-rise buildings, Bangalore.  That was when I realized that crows need trees to survive, build nests and move about and not concrete buildings. Buildings are more pigeon-friendly.

                                                           In our Brahmin community, we have the tradition of feeding the crows the steaming hot rice with a drop of ghee with some lentil daal, before sitting for lunch. My mom and grandmom still follow this today. That handful of steaming rice with a drop of ghee and daal should taste better than what I put in my plate later on, I have felt. As this ritual is followed regularly, there will be a regular group of crows waiting for that. My dad, who is not a believer of many of our rituals, somewhat feels attached to these visitors and asks my mom whether she has put some hot rice for crows before his lunch.  On the third day of Pongal (the harvest festival of Tamilians), the leftovers of rice items, sweet rice made of jaggery (pongal), sambar, vegetables are served by the female members of the families to the crows while praying for the well being of the family members and the departed souls. The presence of crows are very important for this annual ritual as they eat all these items. As for people like me living in multi-storeyed complexes in Bangalore, this ritual is hard to follow because crows do not come to high-rise buildings.
                                       A crow sitting on my mom's saree.....
                              Talking about crows in my hometown, my parents are only too happy to have them around, as lot of perishable food can be easily disposed by keeping on the wall of our backyard. Leftover rice, vegetable curries, gravies, vegetable preparation with lentils, lots of deep fried but perishable items like bhajjis, vadas, bondas (masala with gram flour covering), breakfast items like dosas, idlis, upmas, bread, bakery items which have crossed expiry dates, and voila!!, you have a flock of crows waiting to feast on these 'unwanted' items!People who eat non-vegetarian food will have another list of items to be disposed to be eaten by these wonderful birds.  If only I had crows coming to my place so that I do not feel that lot of the leftover food items are not 'wasted.' Of course, I did have that bitter experience of those yucky crow droppings on my head during my childhood, but they are nothing compared to the service they render to the society of mankind. But for them to render yeomen service, we need to have lots of trees around us which is clearly lacking in some metro cities. What I have observed is that black raven crows are less in number compared to the female ones. In my parents' place, I have observed that whenever a raven crow touches his beak on the food, the female ones patiently wait and also with a sense of respect to the male crow to finish his share!!!If only I had taken the snap of that!!! Being in Bangalore, I miss all these and also the sounds of crows I used to hear in the mornings during my childhood days. Yeah, being in some cities, you get to gain a lot, but lose these simple things in life! Everything in our lives ultimately does come with a price!!