Monday, 24 December 2007

SANTA CLAUS



Is this how Santa would have looked when he was young?
That Santa there on the hoarding in Borivili SV Road Station, Mumbai, is my nephew Vinay Venkatesh.
His face is all over the city,and my sister says she had the shock of her life one morning, when his face floated past her on a bus.

Friday, 21 December 2007

ARANGETRAM


It was our first venture.

Our music class has now been functioning for more than a year.* And we have learnt quite a few kirthanams and bhajans. An ideal time to display what we have learnt, felt our guru Ganga. So when the opportunity arose, she encouraged us to go for it.

One of the more enterprising ones in our class had met someone who was organising night-long singing at a temple for Vaikunta Ekadesi. Now night-long was too ambitious, she said, but we could sing for an hour and a bit. And so we practiced vigorously and sincerely, till we were all singing in unison.


Last night all of us congregated in the small Pattu Kolavizhiamman temple, adjoining the premises of Sanskrit College. It is a temple with several images of various deities, housed in a private building, and is looked after by the lady of the house. (How this transpired, is a story in itself). The alankaram of the recumbent Vishnu was simply divine, and the sorga vaasal effect was complete even in the small place. Gita and I, just back from an uplifting concert by Sanjay Subrahmanyam, felt that the ensuing euphoria had heightened our musical sensiblities.

We sang about a dozen songs, chosen carefully. To our astonishment, there were mikes and speakers! Tabla and dholak players scheduled to accompany the next singing group joined in – and with the percussion, the effect was more dramatic - though we did have to hurry a bit to keep up with the tabla player’s pace. To be honest, we did stumble in a couple of places, but with Ganga in charge, we soon got back on track.

Our first concert taking place in a temple seemed a good indication. It was a satisfying experience. Not just to us, but our audience, too, as they told us. The listeners, who were in the main devotees who had come to the temple and the group of singers scheduled to go on next, were impressed enough to compliment us.

We could only feel grateful that there were not too many present unkind (or discerning?) enough to point out the faults!

* Read about our class here: http://rajirules.blogspot.com/2007/01/rajis-ramblings-sms-chapter.html

MAMMUDHA - KING OF LOVE

Mammudha.
The name intrigued me, as apparently it has many others. The instinctive reaction seems to be ‘Mammudha? What is that?’

To merely say that it is the title of the new dance opera from Shree Bharatalaya is simply inadequate. What or who is Mammudha is the obvious question. Mammudha is the name Manmatha, a variation formed through usage, as he is known in the interior south where he is worshipped as a God, and Mammudha festivals are conducted even today. (Any true Madrasvasi worth his salt knows what ‘mammatha rasa’ is – it is a corruption of ‘Manmatha Raja’.)


The opera narrates the story of Manmatha being burnt to ashes by Siva’s third eye, when he fires his bana at Siva, at the behest of Lord Indra. The request stemmed from the fact that only a son born to Siva could destroy the demon who had usurped Indra’s heavens. Rathi, the beloved of Manmatha is distraught by the sequence of events, but is comforted by Siva, who says when he marries Parvati, Manmatha will be resurrected, but visible only to her eyes. Rathi is satisfied.

This story from the myths is presented in a medley of dance and art forms, that keeps the show going and the audience mesmerized. From the opening scene with the two narrators as in a Greek chorus – one in Bharatanatyam style and the other in folk style - the show took off at a brisk pace.
Being a layman but a lover of music and dance, I thoroughly enjoyed the show.


I was happy to see my young friend Aruna Subbiah as the Bharatanatyam narrator – and that set the tone for my evening. She looked so pretty and demure in her golden costume, and her delicate movements reminded me of the Tanjore dancing dolls. In contrast style appeared Sasirekha Balasubramaniam, the vigorous narrator of the folk art style.

The presence of Lord Indra in the therukoothu style was effective, and the dancer (Priya Murle) expressed what her face could not (because of the make up) in the movements. A little aside in mime between Indra and the kattiyakaran - Indra asking for a soda, and drinking it while waiting for his turn to come on was charming.

Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy was a gentle and sedate Manmatha gracefully wielding the sugarcane bow and the panchabana. I was also impressed with the dance movements of Nandi (Anusha Venkataramani). In fact, all the dancers were at their best.

A pleasant surprise was in store with young dancers frisking in Western dance movements to Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’, one of the few pieces in Western classical music that I can identify and enjoy.
The music and dialogue was all recorded, and the singing was of a high order.

The d├ęcor was by V. V. Ramani, suitably unobtrusive to set off the multicoloured lighting. He was also responsible for the costumes, as well as the art in the publicity material. We see Sudharani’s face as Mammudha holding a sugarcane bow, and arrayed in twin costumes of Bharatanatyam and folk art.

It was a neat blend of different dance forms, with no dissonance whatsoever. K. S. R. Anirudha, son of Sudharani Ragupathy, is the mastermind behind the show – and is to be congratulated.

Will this set off a new trend? We will have to wait and see what next year’s ‘season’ has in store for us.

Photographs courtesy: kutcheribuzz.com
For more photographs visit:
http://www.kutcheribuzz.com/decseason2007/images/photogallery/mammudha/mammudha/album/index.html

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

LAMPS IN THE POOJA ROOM

A dear relative passed away last week. She was 79. She was a very sweet and affectionate person, and everyone who spent time with her was drawn into the warmth of her loving circle. Her death has left us with great sadness – the manner of her death more so.

On the day of Karthigai Deepam, she was sitting in front of the pooja room, doing what she had been doing for years - stringing the flowers, and saying her prayers. She stretched to clean one of the pictures, and her sari caught fire from the lamp placed in the pooja room, and in no time it had spread right up to her chest.
With great presence of mind, she had tried to douse the flames, but wasn’t successful. By the time the family came to her side hearing her cries, she had been burnt quite a bit.
After a week in hospital, she died. One can only imagine the suffering she would have borne.

It was a terrible way to go.
Another lady, the mother of my son’s friend, died the same way last year – she was also in her late 70s. It has happened to two other old ladies known to me – dying after the saree catching fire in the pooja room from the lamp.

Which brings me to the point.
Is it really safe for older women to light the traditional lamp with the oil and wick in the pooja rooms?

The idea of lighting lamps, or even candles, is to dispel darkness. This can now be done with the flick of a switch, and we should consider it for the sake of safety.
And for the more conventional minded, there are electric lamps fashioned after the traditional ones, with little bulbs flickering like flames.
No?
Then there are those traditional little lamps meant for outside use as in the thulasi madam, which are enclosed in small glass walled chambers, so that the flame is protected. These can be used in the pooja room, without fear of setting anything alight.

We should consider this seriously, as it really is a matter of life and death.
I already have one in my pooja room.

MAIJI AT THE TAJ

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

NEW "WONDER OF THE WORLD"



Nothing can prepare one for the magnitude of the Taj.
Not the millions of photographs, pictures or videos I have seen. (It was a first time for me).
The magnificent spectacle of the Taj in the balmy sunlight of a pre-winter afternoon was far greater than my expectations - truly deserving the ‘Wonder of the World’ title.

Beautifully maintained grounds added to the charm of the monument.
I had heard enough about the deterioration of the monument and its discolouration, but happily that was not too evident.





Though too little too late, efforts have been made to preserve the monument and care is taken not to pollute the vicinity. Special electric cars and camel ghadis are provided for the almost one mile stretch to the monument.



But the approach to the town, and the surrounding areas are in sad contrast to the beautiful wonder.
The Taj stands like a lotus in the slush.
Tourists throng the place. And enough funds are generated through the collections. (Foreigners are charged Rs. 750!).
Surely some can be put aside to make the city and surrounding area more inviting.

In contrast Delhi seemed to me to be a beautiful city.

DAY OF ONE THOUSAND MOONS



It was the most wonderful occasion.
It was my mother’s 80th birthday.
November 27, and the whole family had managed to get together for a week in New Delhi, where my mother, known to everyone as Maiji, has spent most of her life – and all her married life.

There were the five of us, her children, and our families in full force. And this must have delighted Maiji more than anything else. Only one grandson and his family could not make it, and his absence was felt.

The last time we were together was for our youngest sister Gowri’s wedding in 1986, which was celebrated in Delhi too.
Since then many have been added to our family.
And a vital member, my father, lost…

What we did together in those few days was simply have fun, and make beautiful memories that will be remembered in family anecdotes.

Moments of fun - when my brother Bala presented Maiji with a Janata stove, which was her regular birthday gift in the late 60s and early 70s; when Parvati delighted us with her songs, and we sisters pitched in merrily; when the youngsters went out to make merry after the seniors had retired to bed……

The highlight was the party at the India International Centre, organised by my journalist brother known variously as T. R. and Thambi.. Friends and family based in New Delhi, were all present, and they included our friends too, who could not but remember how they had feasted on Maiji’s cooking on innumerable occasions.



I got to meet friends from my college days I had not seen in decades – I was in Delhi after nearly 20 years!

Maiji has been blogging for more than a year, writing her memories down. To mark the occasion, her writings were collected and published as booklets. Viji, my sister, and her daughter-in-law Deepa, were in charge of this. Guests were thrilled to receive copies. Maiji’s posts can be read here: http://memories-and-musings.blogspot.com/

The next day we took a day trip, again organized by my brother, to see the Taj Mahal, which, strangely, Maiji had not seen in all those years of living in Delhi. Only Mohan, Gowri’s husband was missing – he had to leave for his tea garden that morning.
We travelled in a van and it took nearly five hours to get to Agra. A fantastic lunch was laid out at the ITC there.

Maiji cut a cake, ably assisted by the youngest in the group, grandson Sankar’s daughter. After enjoying the view of the Taj from the hotel, we proceeded to look at it up close.



The day after, the group sort of fragmented, with Bala’s wife Jaishree leaving, too.
But the youngsters grouped and regrouped, sightseeing and partying, till one by one we all had to leave.

To quote someone’s classic words, “A wonderful time was had by all!”

IN DELHI



Delhi!
Or rather, New Delhi.
After nearly 20 years!

And the first thing that caught my eye was the auto-rickshaw, or scooter as it is called there.
Instead of the staid black body with yellow top as they used to be, the scooters were now painted vivid green and bright yellow – you could certainly not miss them.
I was told that they run on CNG – Compressed Natural Gas – to reduce pollution in the city, and hence the green, symbolic of a pollution-free environment.
The public buses also run on CNG.

Delhiwallahs say that the city is still polluted, and the dust and traffic is far too much.
But going from Chennai, I could not help but notice how much better the traffic is.
The roads are wide with many lanes, and there are fewer two wheelers. People are encouraged to use the Metro. And in the few days that I was there, and the few places that I went to, I did not see any encroachments on the pavements
There is beautiful greenery all around, albeit shrouded in some dust, but I am sure it looks good after the rains. Lung space is something that has always been evident in the capital.
No matter where the housing colonies sprout, emphasis has been laid on that vital patch of green.

A visit to Delhi Hat took me to where we once lived, West Kidwai Nagar, and I could see several changes.
A flyover has arisen near the crossroads of Ring Road where Safdarjang Hospital and AIIMS are (were it not for my companions, I would never have recognized the area) and the sides have been converted to sloping lawns, which are pleasing to the eye. I was told that several flyovers have been built over the last few years.

I was never fond of Delhi when I lived there; the cold winters always made me uncomfortable - but now I think I may begin to like it. End November, and I did not find the city cold at all; being well-upholstered and insulated may have something to do with it.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

NATIONAL INTERNATIONAL NO BARRIER: THE CALLOUSNESS OF AIRLINES

There are only horror stories about them.
We can’t do without them, and they exploit our need.

Last week, coming back from New Delhi after a family affair, we had chosen to take the evening flight to Madras, so as to reach here before dark.
Even as we reached the Delhi airport, the flight notice board read that our flight was delayed by two hours, taking off at 6.30 pm. We comforted ourselves saying that it was only two hours, and the flight was only two and a half hours. My son, who came to drop us off asked if we would like to go back and wait, but we chose not to.

Checking in took a long time with the computer hanging, and the person in charge, maybe a novice, looking miserable as he tried to cope. So that took care of 45 minutes and I said to myself, only an hour and a bit now to wait. But by the time we finished checking in we found that the flight was delayed by yet another hour.
And then another.
And then another.

Okay, so there was some problem.
Languid announcements from the airlines, once in an hour, held no note of apology for the inconvenience, or explanations for the delay.
Another indistinct announcement was a sap to suckers who had paid money well in advance to enjoy the comfort of an air trip – they could avail themselves of ‘refreshments’ at the airlines’ cost.

My heart ached for the young couple waiting with us. On their honeymoon, they had to catch a connecting flight to Singapore from Madras at 11 pm – and it did not look like they were going to make it.

At about 7.40 pm a flight to Madras was announced – but it was not our flight.
It was the flight that was scheduled for 8 pm.
That is when the collective hackles of the passengers booked on our flight rose. They trooped to the attendant in charge at the boarding gate, and wanted to know why when they were kept waiting, the aircraft bound for Chennai could not take them. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing , our flight was announced.

And finally we made it, boarding the aircraft at about 9 pm. I don’t even want to think what happened to the other flight!

This is not an ailment of domestic airlines alone.
My son and daughter-in-law had tickets on the 2 am KLM flight to go to New York from New Delhi; they found that the flight was overbooked by many numbers. The passengers crowded the counters; a request from my son to the attendant there to control the queue brought the response “Aap hi sambhalo” (You manage it please). Finally the passengers were distributed and accommodated on other airlines. My son and his wife travelled by Aeroflot via Moscow - from what they said I don’t think they want to repeat the experience.

These are only two isolated accounts – everyone must have an experience to relate.
There is no accountability at all on the part of airlines for any inconvenience caused. Neither apology nor compensation is offered. Early booking to avoid such problems becomes a farce in the face of such irregularities.

A recent judgement against Go Air Airlines, to recompense the passengers for inconvenience caused by cancelling a flight, should serve as a lesson.
http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2007-11-27-india-airlines_N.htm

As for lost luggage – now that is another story!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

SNAPPED!


The generation next in action - capturing the family group at the wedding.
Shooting the shooters was sister Viji.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

AT A FAMILY WEDDING



Last week, our nephew Anand got married to Aarathi in Mumbai. A special event. For after many years my husband, his four brothers and their wives got together.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

BACK IN CHENNAI

We are home after six months.
Madras is hot, humid, noisy, crowded – and I love it!

We landed last week on a warm morning, though the pilot of the British Airways aircraft we flew by – had said ‘it was a not unpleasant morning’.

Yesterday we went courtesy our dear friends Doctor JB and Bhama, to a dance concert at the Music Academy. It was a rare programme, because it was a tribute to a living person, Lalgudi G. Jayaraman. Thamizh Maiyam had organized it and chosen a novel way to do it.
Leading and illustrious Bharatanatyam gurus and their disciples performed to the compositions of this great musician.

Chitra Viswesvaran, Sudharani Raghupathy, the Dhananjayans, Narasimhacharis, Radha and Leela Samson presented glitteringly choreographed events – following the traditional margam from Pushpanjali to the final thillana. Golden voiced S. P. Rahm, and Lalgudi’s daughter Viji led the vocals, and Aniruddha, Sudharani’s son, shone on the mridangam.
I was happy to see Aruna, my young friend from my newspaper days, on stage.
The cream of cultural Chennai was in the audience – there were as many artistes in the audience as on the stage.

It felt good to be back in the swing of cultural Chennai – the music season is only a few weeks away.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

ST. PAUL'S FROM TATE'S


It is always interesting to read about a person you have met, or a place you have visited.
I was fascinated to read about the Dia Museum in Beacon,which we had visited when in New York, and its patron, (whom we have not met!) in the New York Times today.

When we visited the Tate Modern last week, the eye catching sculpture of the 30 ft. spider, by Louise Bourgeoise, reminded me instantly of the huge one we had seen in the Dia gallery. It is called Maman and has a pouch with eggs, made of solid marble.

Sankar took this picture, and what we see in the background is St. Paul's Cathedral across the Millenium Bridge.

I had mentioned the museum in my post A Museum, English Tea and Riverside Music.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/14/magazine/14dia-t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine&oref=slogin

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

MANCHESTER UNITED - A TRIP BACK









After nearly four decades, we were in Manchester.

It was a rendezvous with the past. En famille we took the fast train to Manchester and were there in two and a half-hours.

Our first stop was the University of Manchester from where my husband had taken his post graduate degree. It was then called UMIST. Though he did not meet anyone he knew (they had mostly gone away or retired), he was happy to visit his department and the room where he had worked. He also met the present Head of Department who was pleased to meet him, and even pulled out his thesis which he had presented in 1973.

Lunch was at a quiet Thai place - we were the only people there, possibly because it was a Friday and maybe because it was closer to 3 pm! The food was really good, and the service friendly. Baby especially enjoyed the noodles.

We also walked around the City Centre but found the place changed a lot. Trams were noisily chugging round - they weren't running when I used to work in Lewis's the huge store. And the store itself has gone now, taken over by another company.

It was a nice day and walking around was a pleasure.

Friday, 5 October 2007

'ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE.......'



That is Baby on the steps of the house where their flat is in Kensington. Grandma stands guard.
And this is a view of the road seen from there

Saturday, 29 September 2007

WHO IS READING MY MAIL?

I have been using gmail for quite a while now to keep in touch with my family and friends.
And very convenient it is too - it retains the threads even after a lapse of several days. When my friend answers questions I had asked three months ago, somehow my original mail also pops up with hers, nudging my memory.

And I have been using it insouciantly, never bothering to look at the ads that have been creeping up insidiously.
Never suspecting that my mails are subject to the scrutiny of some unseen eye - after all it is my personal PC, not my boss's or anyone else's - I have not bothered to restrain myself in my mails.

It was only recently I found that the ads were related directly to some word/phrase in the content of the mail I had either sent or received.

Take for instance my friend's mail telling me that she had travelled Thai Airways just the day after the recent accident - and alongside I found the following ads -

Thinking Thai Property?

Cheap Tickets To Chennai

Properties In Thailand

Learn TEFL In Thailand

Save On Chennai Flights

Teach English in Thailand

Thailand Travel



Granted, I am using a free service which could do with fiscal aid!
Is it still right?

So how private is your email?

Friday, 21 September 2007

IN LONDON


We have been in London now for three weeks, after 34 years! We were last here when my husband was a student in UMIST, Manchester, and we came to London to do the tour spots before flying back home. In all these years, I never expected to come back to England, so it was a kind of pleasant feeling that we were able to visit; because my first son Sankar is now working here.

On our last visit here we stayed with friends Vaidy and Usha, and spent a week in looking up the places tourists usually do.
Everyone we know asks us how different is London from then. How different can it get?
The buildings and historical landmarks, which are so fascinating to me, are the same ;and so are the parks and greens , which my husband loves to walk around. Home is pretty close to Kensington Gardens (in the picture above; Kensington Palace, where Princess Diana lived is in the background) and Hyde Park, and he enjoys the walks.
The cabs however are much more colourful and are as many as the black ones
The weather has been glorious since we came - no rains and pleasant sunshine. When we step out , it is a pleasure to walk on these streets.

People are different - since England is now part of the European Union, you see many non- English here - not that you can really tell them apart - until you hear the various languages spoken by them on the roads or on the tube. People living here have assured me that London is now a very multi racial and multi cultural city.

Around Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square the usual tourists throng - we were there las Saturday.
The double decker tourist buses with the open top floor are an attractive sight. I noticed that many of these bus drivers are women, as are the drivers on the London city buses. How they manouevre the buses on the narrow streets is a marvel.
We also visited the National Gallery, and the highlight of that was being able to see Van Gogh's Sunflowers, and Jan Eyck's The Marriage of Arnolfini- a print of which has been in our home in Chennai for so many years.

We have also visited two other museums, both of which are within walking distance from home - the Victoria and Albert and the Museum of Natural History. Little Arundati, all of three years, loves visiting these places - and Jaisri, her mother has taken her more than once to the museums. She loves the Natural Life museum and the models of extinct dinosaurs and other animals. She kept reassuring us, and asking us not to be scared , because "they are not real, only models."
The building is itself a beauty - Waterhouse Building, a London landmark, was designed by Alfred Waterhouse.

I enjoyed seeing the works of art in the other museum, - paintings, sculptures, models of historic relevance - especially the 'cartoon' woven by Raphael as a work-model for a tapestry to be woven, and the completed tapestry displayed opposite it .
http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/paintings/raphael/history/index.html

Compared to Seattle, where Sankar used to live before he came here in June, and even New York, the city is grimy.
But who can not be captured by the sense of history that these roads and buildings convey to us.

Sankar lives in a flat, a part of a huge house in Kensington - he is just 5 minutes walk from his office. and Arundati who just started school last week, can comfortably walk to her Montessori school in 10 minutes. The houses here have elegant exteriors, and are possibly close to a 100 years old. From the outside one would not be able to guess that they have been divided into flats.
Walking round the area one can see interesting plaques outside buildings indicating the famous people who have lived here - I have spotted T S. Eliot, Terence Rattigan and W. M. Thackeray.
I am eagerly looking forward to spotting more of these.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

A CAPITAL VISIT


It was like the end of a thriller - a race against time.
We had been driving for four hours with Vandana at the wheel, and had reached
the outskirts of Washington city around 2.30 pm. It was a Saturday and we had to make it to the Library of Congress and see it before it closed for the day at 5 pm. It wasn't open on Sunday and we had to return to New York by Sunday evening.

So it had to be that evening. We broke off for a brief lunch, which the server took his own sweet time to serve, totally oblivious to the pressure we were under.
After the surprisingly good meal, we set off with the GPS guiding us and taking us in the direction of the Library.
Every now and the GPS would say 'recalculating' and give us fresh directions - obviously we had missed a turning.
Anyway we finally made it at around 4. 20 pm to the Library of Congress building - on the Capitol.

While Vandana parked the car, we rushed to the building, where we saw to our relief that the place as open till 6 pm.
We smiled happily and got ready to pass through the security door, when a guard asked us the purpose of our visit.
Thinking that the rules were getting to be more and more ridiculous, we answered - tourism. Why else was the building open to visitors, I wondered.
The guard informed us pityingly that we were in the wrong building - this was the administrative block where the offices were housed.
"You can make it if you run," he said. "It closes at 5 pm, You still have 30 minutes,"

And run we did to the beautiful building across the road, and finally made it..
The final scenes of a Thamizh movie had nothing on us!


Thomas Jefferson Building



More skilful hands than mine have written about this 110 year old building, so I will let the pictures do the talking.
Because there was so little time we did not get to see some of the special exhibits or the library itself where the books are housed. The biggest collection of books in the world is housed here. The original collection of the congress was burnt during the war in 1812, and Thomas Jefferson sold his private collection to start the Library again. The building is named after him.It also has the largest collection of comic books


I must mention here that I do not see why the museums should close at 5 pm - especially in the summer months when daylight extends far into the late hours, and when holiday makers and tourists abound. Museums are for the visitors, and it would be nice if they could stay on and linger, and not be hustled out on the dot of 5. I noticed this in some of the other museums we went to.


The National Mall


Our next visit was to the Mall - the name given to the long stretch from the Capitol hill to the Lincoln Memorial - all outdoors, and no closing hours!

The two sloping black walls on the side of a walk, meeting at right angles with the names of the soldiers killed in the Vietnam war form a grim memorial to the waste of war - so many young lives wasted - do we see a monument to the Iraq war in the future?

The Lincoln Memorial houses the gigantic statue of Abraham Lincoln in a huge hall, open at one end and supported by 36 columns - each to represent a state extant at Lincoln's time.
The inside of the halls has his Gettysburg Adress inscribed on them. A fitting monument to a great President. The President looks on with a benevolent expression across the monument tot th Capitol - all in a straight line, and spanning about 3 to 4 miles.
Outside, up close and standing on the steps the columns managed to block the statue; but further down, from afar and closer to the Washington monument, the statue could be seen , highlighted by the spotlights.
We walked down in the not unpleasant evening - it had cooled down considerably from the fiendish 105 of the afternoon, to the obelisk called Washington Monument, and the surrounding decorations of fountains and arches - all commemorating American soldiers and sailors who had perished in World War II.




The Illuminations and Nirvana, the restaurant


The illumination was beautiful on all the buildings on the Mall.
Everything here is on a magnum scale - - the country has the resources of space and money to create these magnificent spectacles.
We did however miss seeing the White House illuminated.
After an excellent dinner at a very pleasant Indian restaurant where my timorous 'No meat in anything please,' was answered by a firm, :No Ma'am, this place is run by a Jain' - we retired to bed in a hotel not far from the attractions.
A word about the restaurant Nirvana. We were the last diners at this restaurant. The service was excellent - we ordered items as varied as rava masala dosa and roti with Gujarati side dishes. I just had to ask the waiter if they had different cooks for the different cuisines. His reply ,"We have only one person for all , and he is a Mexican. He has been with us for 20 years,." floored us. Because Sriram found that the masala in his dosa was as good as the home made brand.
While waiting for the food, we were discussing the CD that was being played - we did not feel very complimentary towards the music, and wondering who it was, asked the ever obliging person who waited on us who it was.
He said he could not remember. And we did not care - none of us liked the music very much. But while we were leaving we found him rushing in from outside with a CD - he had run to his car to get it for us since we had asked him for it. We were too embarrassed to refuse it or tell him that we did not like the music.


The White House


I was rather insistent that we should not miss seeing the White House, no matter that we had seen it in so many photographs.

Once when Bob Hope was asked why he did not run for President , he is said to have answered, "I am not interested, and my wife won't like to live in a smaller house."
And it is an unassuming building - for the Chief Executive of the most powerful nation in the world. It was not half as imposing as Rashtrapathi Bhavan in New Delhi
I found the address intriguing - 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, just like yours and mine - a street name and a door number.
And when we walked round to the place, it was there, just as the address said. I was impressed by the unassuming mien of the whole place - a simple white building with the same kind of architecture we saw in the rest of the city, surrounded by plain grass lawns, and colourful flower beds. We could see the building from outside the railings - tours inside have to be approved beforehand with your friendly neighbourhod Congressman.
We walked around to see the front of the building as well, and I noticed that the trees that dotted the lawns had their names written down in Latin as well as their English names.


The National Gallery of Art


Numerous museums dot the Mall , including the famous Smithsonians. We chose to go to the National Gallery of Art. We would need a week to see them all, said Vandana.


The building is itself a beautiful piece of work, and it houses some of the most beautiful works of art.
Notable is the portrait of Ginerva de Benu, by Leonardo da Vinci, said to be the only painting by Da Vinci in the USA.Other paintings that caught the eye were 'Odalisque' by Auguste Renoir,(see picture) and the The Dead Toreador by Manet. There were also paintings by Degas and Monet, and some of Toulouse Lautrec's Moulin Rouge pieces. A painting of Charing Cross Bridge by Camille Pissaro also caught my eye. I could have spent all day there, but time was our biggest treasure - there just wasn't enough of it.




Just About DC


Washington DC is a quiet city compared to the hustle and bustle of New York, from what I could see of it over a weekend. The pace seemed to be set by tourists who walked leisurely looking at the various spots to be seen.
We had a lovely breakfast in one of the places in Georgetown, a French place which served delicious croissants as well. The streets were so quiet on the Sunday morning, with only the occasional churchbells ringing.
The streets of the city are named after the states of the country, and some, weirdly after alphabets too - I saw a K Street and an F Street.

Maybe some day we will go back an look at those treasures in the Library of Congress and the museums.



Sociable