Hampi, a heritage site, is a testament to the stillness of time. When you step into the dusty ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire, you will see monuments that withstood the sands of time and are representative of the glory and an architecture excellence of the empire long gone! Hampi has 2 parts – a large complex of temples dedicated to Vishnu (Narasimha and Krishna) and Shiva and you see stories carved into the temples walls and the royal palace or remains thereof, complete with the Durbar, Queen’s quarters, watch towers, pools and elephant stables.
Its sepia tones and somberness call to your soul and the song remains with you for years together. Its a place you want to visit again.
So based on a picture that I took years ago, I did a sketch and an oil painting with a limited palette. This was an exercise in color mixing as I had to get the tonal values right and I did try to give it my best!
This week turned out to be cold and rainy, making me doubt if the Northeast is ever going to see Spring or some warm weather. It was also a week for introspections which didn’t result in anything except it slowed down my reading.
As I walked to the falafel place today for lunch, I could see the signs of Spring all around me, buds and shoots waiting to burst, Sparrows chirping all around and what not! Though the weather in general was cloudy and dull, there was the undertone, a promise of color and greenery right around the corner.
As for reading, I finished Terry Pratchett’s latest and the 40th title in the Discworld Series “Raising Steam” featuring Moist von Lipwig, Vimes, Vetinari supported by a melee of Discworld denizens who make life rather interesting. Discworld is going through a major phase, the rise of the age of Steam and the invention of the first ever Steam Engine causes much excitement and furor amongst the governments as well as the citizens. Vetinari deploys Lipwig as Ankh-Morpokh’s representative and just when Lipwig manages to get things under control, a coup d’tat from the Dwarves threatens to throw chaos into the mix. The adventure sees Moist set out to set things right with help from Vetinari and Commander Vimes. This story also sees a transformation in Lipwig’s personality and mindset, which brings about a sort of somberness to the otherwise comical story.
Pratchett emphasizes on themes that include coups, government de-stabilization, terrorism, Steam Engines and the advent of railways, commercialization, racism and gender inequality all portrayed by the various species that co-habit the Discworld. Pratchett also delves deep into the nuances and technology surrounding the working of a Steam Engine, the commercial ventures and subsequent employment opportunities that arose with the railways while managing to retain his trademark sense of humor which made this book all more enjoyable and a fast paced read.
Unknowingly I completed the first book of the European Reading Challenge because though I marked out Pride and Prejudice for covering UK, I realized that Excellent Women might be more apt for this distinct geography. It was also one of the highly rated works of Barbara Pym.
The novel starts seemingly dull as a 30 something Mildred Lathbury or “Miss Lathbury” to her friends, observes furniture movers at her apartment and soon acquaints herself with her new neighbors Rocky and Helena Napier. Eccentric, selfish and animated, the Napiers unknowingly impart the much needed lessons in self-improvement and social norms to Mildred. Helena also introduces Mildred to Everard Bone, a fellow anthropologist and their reluctant acquaintance blossoms as hinted at the end of the book. Narrated by Miss Lathbury, the novel portrays the often deprecating view of herself and the “full life” that she builds for herself, her relationships with fellow parishioners – Julian and Winifred Mallory, Mrs. Bone, William and Dora Caldicote not to mention the myriad characters that make up the quiet and story that is Excellent Women.
Barbara Pym equips her readers with a scoping glass through which they can peek into the humdrum that defines human life. This comes to light in one particular instance where William Caldicote laments of how his movement to a new office will disrupt his pigeon feeding routine, during one of his annual lunches with Mildred. The story is also a testament of how characteristically predictable Society’s perceptions of an individual can be and of how often, one’s feelings are ignored as witnessed by the sympathy which the parishioners express to Mildred on hearing of Father Mallory’s engagement to a beautiful widow yet fail to acknowledge her response. Her feelings and need for space are often overlooked as people badger her with their problems often expecting a prompt action from a bewildered and often helpless Mildred. Mildred as a character grows on you as you progress through the story, and in the end becomes an endearing person, one you wish would get the much deserved happy ending.
Excellent Women is also Pym’s take on the middle-class London Society and provides a peek into the lives of middle-aged spinsters whom society often expects to involve themselves in others’ affairs and also takes their services for granted. She also draws on her times as a WRN officer to portray one of the most liveliest characters of this book – Rocky Napier, an Admiral’s assistant whose natural charms and social graces makes him the heartthrob of many a WREN offices.
I read this book over the weekend at a slower pace than I usually do in order to enjoy the serenity of genteel and quiet English city life and the ubiquitous custom of taking tea at all times of the day. While I didnot necessarily have a cup of tea at hand while reading Excellent Women, the resulting pleasure that I derived was well worth every minute I spent on this book not to mention the discovery of yet another delightful author whose works I hope to explore further!