Sounds of Heidelberg

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Some things have not yet changed.

Rural India has always held a fascination for me. As the urban life changes very quickly in India, the interior parts of India still manage to retain a lot of the life as we remember from many decades ago. This time we had the luck to drive through the interior parts of Karnataka.

Driving through the interiors was something my parents used to do a lot as we grew up. Driving through now 2 decades after I made my last such trip with my parents, I almost felt that the clock had been pushed back. It was a different matter we had not driven much in interior Karnataka. We did drive a lot through Kerala and Tamil Nadu but each state gives us a very different experience. Kerala, this time, was very different from the olden days.

Karnataka has managed to preserve those aspects of Rural India that made me regret that I did not know about IRMA until it was too late for me to do anything about getting an admission into the institute. It also took me back to 1.5 decades ago when we went on our honeymoon to Green Valley Resort in Doddaballapur – neighbouring the rural borders of and at that time away from the Bangalore city. Now Doddaballapur is on all the real estate advertisements on the way to the Bengaluru airport.

Our road trip to Hampi reminded me of the small village near Green Valley resort we had visited and that had captured my heart. One of the aspects that remained preserved in time this time was the usage of bullock carts. I saw sights imprinted in my memory from the past – was it from this birth or from the last birth? All these memories came back one by one:

  • as the bullocks stood patiently waiting for the farmer to load the cart with the haystacks


  • as the bullocks pulled the cart with its haystacks in the villages or on the highways


  • as the bullocks even trotted ahead faster at the behest of the master who urged them to go faster in order to clear the way for the massive trucks – there was an earnest look on the master’s face and an anxious speed at the feet of the animals



  • as the bullocks calmly stood tied to the trees in the villages we drove past
  • as the bullocks being driven through the streets of the towns


  • or as the bullocks were transported on the back of the small auto like truck – I hoped to the place where the cart was awaiting but then feared, perhaps for slaughter. Beef of a cow is banned – beef from bullocks are not…



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Day 2: Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna

Apotheuses of the Rennaisance – glorification of the art of the Rennaisance.


19-th century. Grand staircase leads upwards just as in the museum. A connoisseur walks up the stairs – his goal is the atelier of the Rennaisance masters. He the foreground we can see the young Raphael and the elderly Leonardo Da Vinci. They seem to be engrossed in a conversation. Rene… Works on a large canvas. In the center Tizian dressed in red clothes and black cap instructs students in sketching nude figures. Below the models Michelangelo leans on the balustrade holding his sculptor’s hammer. Painter of fresco Mihali Munkuchi can be seen above the reclining nude. 

There are two of Tizian’s pictures with “nude” women. In both I took a look at the figures of the women. They were curvaceous and round in several parts just as the ones I had seen at Ufisi. It struck me as interesting that the waist was not as inside as I would have thought. If I had looked at just the waist or the hip, it could very well have been that of a man. If you look at the woman in the first painting or the woman on the floor on the right in the second one. The hips are more manly for these two. 



I was walking out of a gallery when like an apparition, this painting caught my eye suddenly! The light falling on this lonely lady in a corner had a silencing effect – as you looked at her longer, her face became strict and then sleepy – the strictness remained. As I read the description, I found this was not a lady but King Louis II of Hungary as a child. The long hair and the hairstyle had mislead me. Painting by Bernhard Strigel after 1515.


“Facing death calmly” – said the description, the mirror has skulls and the faces are grim. Was it an immediate eminent death or an inevitable one later? It is also interesting to see that the German of the time is not that different from that of today. Painting of painter Hans Burgkmair and his wife as they aged by his pupil Furtenagel.



These are the first of the two portraits I saw of Holbein. The description talked about the preciseness of Holbein’s portraits. It was interesting for me to see that the older man’s portrait had a softer look against the darker background- perhaps to decrease the harshness of the wrinkles on his face and the pursing of his lips. The younger one has more angles and shadows with all the folds of his clothes being highlighted. As mentioned, the smoothness of both painting techniques were interesting.


There are times when some flashes of history comes to your brain. Portraits in Keerikad had small little beads on them. This painting by Lucas Cranach is explandent in its colours, in its details and one can see elements of beautiful accessories used. One can also see elegance and the “slim” figure of ladies.


The Cupid depicted here has an interesting serious expression – hardly naughty at being caught. 


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An afternoon in Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna 

As I walked into the museum, the townscapes caught my attention. After watching Museum hours, I knew I should watch for smaller scenes in bigger paintings. This particular one, The Freyung in Vienna by Bernado Bellotto, caught my eyes – the people bowed down in reverence to the passing carriage. It reminded me of stories of generations ago in Kerala.  


And yet, as I take a step back, I see that it is not to the carriage that they are bowing but to something else completely – it is only then I notice the carriage driver is bowing as well. A scene from my visit to Italy unfolds on the left as a procession comes out of the church. Practices over centuries have hardly changed. Italy of Caneletto remains! 


One of the statements in my audio guide makes me start at the painting above this one. As a photographer, there are several times I have been a slave to the rigidities imposed on me by the landscape – several times when I have moved right and left to get some structure into my view finder and they never cooperated! Here all Caneletto needed to do was paint the church a bit more to left and pull the wall in front to avoid being eclipsed by the hospital! 

Zoffany’s Portrait of Emperor Francis II at age of seven first caught my attention because I thought the carpet was real one superimposed on the portrait just as you have babies picture books these days where you can feel the skin of the animals. As I went closer I realized that all textures were just paints. The audio guide spoke of his education artifacts showing the different areas in which he received education. Today a common child is busy with education in all areas. 


Duplessis’s portrait of Gluck talks about the moment of inspiration where he seems to get a light from above that flows all the way to his fingers poised over the harpsichord – the placement of the portrait seemed to be done deliberately to have his eyes look up at the light.


I slowly came, in search of my husband, to the Breugel section of the museum. Here hung two paintings side by side. There were several relationships portrayed here. Some of these were pointed out  in the description. Whether it was because of my hunger or my love for food I cannot say. The butchered ox on the right side at the back of the big painting caught my eye. The goriness of this was lightened by the extensive use of light colour. The tail standing stiff on top seemed like a hook around the stick on which it hung. Contemplating on how many people this would feed and whether the peasants butchered this for the nobility visiting them or just for themselves, I moved to the next painting. It was startling to see a focussed painting of an ox! In today’s world, I would have said, he wanted to zoom into this scene. Yet, it was a different scene from the surroundings – how many more stories could I weave out of these two paintings? Presenting Marten van Cleve’s peasant parlour with noble visitors and the Slaughtered Ox from around 1566. 


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Three different stories of women

I read / saw, three different stories of women today. There were strong ladies and then there were ladies who were beaten down by the pressures of the society. In one case, I felt sad that I give in to the pressure of the world, when everything that has happened to me shows how lucky I am. I take inspiration from the strong ones. I take lessons from the ones who had it so bad that the only way they found out of the situation was to give up completely.

  • Aung San Suu Kyi interview by Financial Times before the election. There are a few things that stand out. Her dignity, her control, the passion that peeps out from beneath the control, her action, the peace on her face. The spirit is undying and she has not allowed it to be crushed. At the same time, you think about how she has sacrificed her life, the life of her family to subject herself to tremendous struggles – all for the cause that she absolutely believes in. I like the way she says:

I don’t think these questions can be answered until years and years have passed. It’s always history that decides – in a way history never decides sometimes – otherwise historians will be out of job…

I am very much in favour of negotiations – I think a lot can be sort out through negotiations. …

  • Ambika Pillai: She has been giving several interviews on her life – somehow this stood out more – perhaps because of all the other stories. Her story is somehow close to my life from a proximity perspective. I remember attending her wedding when I was 6 years old. I wonder where she derived her strength from. I wonder what characteristics she had to display to reach where she is. Hard work – no doubt, sacrifice – no doubt. She struggled through her marriage and had the mental strength to get out of it, fight against all odds in a place unfriendly for women, in an industry unfriendly for women. Her parents must have been strong enough to give her the independence to get out and find her own life and own voice.
  • The girls in S. Saradakutti’s article:

    The girl who did not want her parents to be troubled and committed suicide so they would not be subjected to more demands from her in-laws. The parents who subjected themselves to the asks and followed the norm to be ashamed when they could not meet the demands.

    The girl in the Spanish director Louis Bunuel’s story – the one who did not even realize she was a girl until she was told that she is no longer a girl but a woman. The mother who protected her until then and gets into a panic the day the girl gets her periods for the first time.

    The parallel of a girl’s marriage to a mouse trap – about it being too late by the time she and her family realize what they have let themselves into.

    Of the parents who keep quiet fearing for the consequence for the daughter or who are worried about visiting the daughter for the fear of seeing the unpleasant atmosphere.

Each story has a different shadows and different dimensions – all have stories of women undergoing struggles. Yet, each one’s background is different and the ending is different. I do not think there is an answer. Aung San Suu Kyi’s answer on History spells it out.

I read a criticism of Anees Jung’s writing – she only observes the problems and does not give solutions. Are there solutions that can be prescribed from outside and be implemented? She can report what she sees. By reporting, perhaps she can show lives – she does not pass judgement and does not need to give solution. Only the actor in the play can give the required twist to the story through the actions and the ability to generate the required reaction.

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Years pass by

Years ago, my sister listened to songs of a new singer. It was the year FM was introduced into several homes in Chennai. They beamed all upcoming Indian pop artists. My sister and I had very different tastes in music – if she liked some songs, I would approach those songs with trepedition. We shared the same room at that time and we had frequent tussles about which type of music we would play. So it happened, that I took a long time to like Lucky Ali – even the initial years of being in love with my husband (who liked Lucky Ali music), did not cure me of the dislike. It required a move to Germany and several years to make me change my mind. I wonder how the current music trends made me switch over as well.

Today I watched Dewarist episode featuring Lucky Ali. As I sat down to watch the 3-rd series of the Dewarists, I chose the episode Lucky Ali with Shilpa Gupta (of my generation). Perhaps I was curious to watch the person whose music had grown on me. There were several aspects that stood out.

First was the physical difference.

lucky ali new

He was much older. Well, so am I – yet, when I saw Lucky Ali in this video, it brought a sense of how much time had passed. It took me back to those days – I went to Wikipedia to check how old he was at the time we had listened to him and I was surprised to find that he is almost as old as my mother is. He looked older now but not as old as he actually is- he looked better than I had imagined him to be.

I then tried to find one of the older popular songs. I was jolted. There was a very young version singing.

lucky ali

Secondly, his voice was deeper than the albums of the past that I had heard.

and finally,something about the way he and Shilpa worked together caught my attention. It made me think about how an older artist and a younger artist in a completely new area tried to match their art and make some meaning out of the two. Through out the video I saw something that made me think they were trying to postpone working together. I wondered whether anything strong could come out of the respectful environment in which Shilpa seemed to work in with Lucky Ali. She probably also grew up at the age when Lucky Ali became popular and his style was the fashion. Yet, when I saw Khirama, they two arts seemed to blend.

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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – why not me?

A friend of mine challenged me to do the ALS together with a few friends. I appreciated her nomination – she trusted us to follow her cause and course.

The last few weeks have seen an explosion of posts on my facebook wall about the ALS challenge and people taking it. It has made me wonder how it feels to have an ice bucket poured over me AND whether pouring all that ice will help the ALS people. I understood this was just a gaming by the organizers to bring in a fun factor to the whole idea. I was not against it yet- if people wanted to have fun, they were welcome to.I was grateful that my friends who did the challenge were willing to experience a second of discomfort in solidarity with patients of ALS.

When I was nominated I went to the ALS page to donate, I saw huge amounts of donation. It made me think about the amount of unexplored diseases and diseases for which there was no known cure yet like Lupus. Having worked for a Pharma company, I knew that there might be Pharma companies who invested in this as well. I found this to be the case as well. At this link, Jennifer Booston of Market Watch talked about the top pharma companies which looked for a cure. 

My husband has discussed several times the problems with water that looms high on the horizon. One of my friend’s friend pointed this out as she lives in California which is experiencing severe drought now. I have read about the droughts in different parts of the world. I come from India where many people do not have access to safe drinking water. Ice that we would be using would be drinking water. Suddenly I was uncomfortable doing the challenge of just pouring ice down.

I was uncomfortable with donating to a cause which already attracted a lot of fund when the other causes I believed in struggled to get funds. I did not feel I was really helping by just giving the money to ALS or by pouring the ice over me. I wanted to do something that caused a real change in someone’s life. Luckily 2 of my other friends felt very strongly about this too. So we decided to follow the #ricebucketchallenge that would make a small change to someone’s life and donate to a cause closer to my heart. 

I am glad my friend nominated me for the challenge – and my other friends felt as strongly too – I think this helped me feel better about taking up “a” challenge and still helping in small ways. Yet, finally it is all about “feeling” better, sitting in our comfortable life. In order to feel like the people going through this, we will have to live their life or see someone at close quarters who lives this. Perhaps this is why I feel strongly about Lupus or Alzheimers/dementia rather than about ALS having seen all these at closer quarter. 

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