“Look up, at the ceiling.” I am broken from my reverie, as I drift through a forest of 172 stone pillars, by my guide Manoj’s voice prodding me to halt in my tracks and raise my eyes, heavenwards.
High up, inside a dome above the main mihrab is the most exquisitely carved sculpture I have seen to date. And I find myself gasping in awe. Is this for real? I am not too sure what stuns me more. Its immense size, the fineness of the swirling leaves, or its incongruous placement—I am in a 500-year-old mosque in Champaner in Gujarat, 50-odd kilometres outside Vadodara, and the sculpture is Hindu-Jain in style and content. Continue reading
Welcome to my Pune series.
I decided to start my collection of posts on Mumbai’s less glamorous neighbour with the story of the above deity, Dagdusheth [Halwai] Ganpati. It reflects, perhaps most aptly, the depth of Pune’s cultural heritage in its seemingly commonplace everyday places—a heritage which is felt many times over at a pan-national level. Don’t believe me? Read on. 🙂
At first glance the effigy appears to be merely an oversized kindly Ganpati, Maharasthra’s most loved god, and the remover of obstacles. Covered in 8 kilograms of gold, and insured to the tune of US$150,000, the Ganpati is a devotee’s gift to the city and birthplace of the annual Ganeshotsav [Ganesh festival]. Continue reading
Did you have a good year? Was it placid and calm or one roller coaster ride? No matter which, it helps to have a friend to talk to. One you can unburden yourself to, without the “I told you so” or a bunch of preaching.
The lady above has been my closest friend since I moved to Mumbai. I have gone to her with tears rolling down my eyes, bursting at the seams with anger, and starry eyed, in love with every colour and nuance of life. I have had conversations with her where I have poured my heart out or just sat in stony silence, confused to the core with life’s mysterious incongruous ways. And at the end, before I left, I’ve looked at her face, and whispered “Thank you.” Thank you for listening and giving me whatever she felt was best for me.
To a non-believer she is merely a wooden statue of Mother Mary in The Basilica of Our Lady of The Mount, brought all the way from Portugal to Bombay in the 16th Century. To a believer she has miraculous healing powers. Continue reading
When the bus dropped me off at Auschwitz II–Birkenau—a former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp on the outskirts of Krakow in Poland—on a summer day in 2012, I was not sure what to expect.
I was no stranger to scenes of debased humanity, having wandered through the Killing Fields in Cambodia, and explored the corridors of Robben Island in South Africa. I knew I would see pain, suffering, and the manifestation of an absolute ruthless version of humankind. But to what extent and how it was mourned 70 years on in Auschwitz II–Birkenau gave me both the jitters and hope. It still does. Continue reading
You may well say, Aah, I have seen this sculpture before. That is, if you are a museum buff. Wrong.
Allow me to make a confession. I often find myself torn between awe at the cultural treasures with which India bursts at its seams with, and angry at the apathy, neglect and state of degradation in which many lie. I know I am not alone in this conflict.
Exactly a year ago I visited the sculpture gallery at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India. Like very many others, I fell in love with one piece. Continue reading
Thought I would do a self-portrait for a change. 🙂 The above picture, hence, is of me in Persepolis, Iran. Continue reading