The visit to Nala Sopara in March this year had its beginnings in a museum located 85 km away in Mumbai. On one of my many visits to the sculpture gallery of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, I came across an exhibit which, at first glance, looked like a random block of stone.
But museums don’t exhibit just about any random block of stone, do they? A closer look at the stone exhibit revealed inscriptions and when I read the accompanying information board, discovered that I was looking at the 9th Ashokan Edict. This edict, which dates the third century BCE, had been found at a stupa in Nala Sopara.
I was vaguely aware that Nala Sopara had a Buddhist past, but this was the first time I was hearing about the presence of a stupa there. An internet search revealed that the stupa at Nala Sopara still existed, that it was under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and also that one could visit it. The same internet search also led me to this fabulous blog post that not only talked about the stupa, but also an ancient temple in Nala Sopara — the Chakreshwar Mahadev Temple.
The result? The first free Saturday that came up saw me headed for Nala Sopara (which is connected by suburban train services from Mumbai) with my friends — Anuradha, Rama and Rupal. 🙂
“And why should I give the keys of the building terrace to you?”
“We want to see the art painted on the terrace of your building?”
“The terrace is not safe. You could fall over.”
“We’ll be very careful. We only want to see the art work there.”
“That is what everyone says.” The office bearer of the Nabi Nagar Co-op. Housing Society at Dharavi (Mumbai) glares at my friends and me and launches into a tirade about people pestering him for keys to the terrace all the time, how it was no longer safe for the building children as they wanted to go to the terrace, how it was a nuisance, etc.
We listen to him and commiserate with him and promise to be very careful and not allow any children up on the terrace with us. But he isn’t done ranting and after what seemed like a long time, he runs out of steam and grudgingly hands over the keys to us.
As we thank him, he says with a sly smile, “The lift doesn’t work. You’ll have to take the stairs all the way up to the terrace on the 9th floor.”
On a Saturday morning in November 2014, I participated in a special, curated walk — perhaps the first of its kind — on street art. Organised by the St+art India Foundation, the walk was to showcase the culmination of almost three weeks of work done by 20 renowned artists from India and abroad in and around Bandra in Mumbai.
I had closely followed the progress of the various artworks on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. And each time an artwork was “unveiled”, the itch to go and see them for myself only intensified. So when the announcement of a curated and guided street art walk popped up on my Facebook feed, I immediately signed up for it. But then, the excitement gave way to scepticism.
Let me elaborate. I love street art — it’s vibrancy, its uniqueness, its colourfulness, and the fact that they don’t follow any set rules. But most of all I love how all the street art I have seen have been serendipitous and delightful finds. Something, I thought that a curated walk would not be able to give.
Still, the lure of seeing the St+Art in Bandra prevailed over my scepticism and I made it for the walk, as did 10 other people.
This book review is part of #TSBCReadsIndia, a reading challenge wherein one reads a book from each State and Union Territory of India. Presenting the second of 36 books to be read — the book from Maharashtra — in this literary journey across India.
Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar (Hardback, 228 pages, 2013, Hamish Hamilton) is probably the only book I have ever bought without reading either the author or book blurb, or even a sample page or two.
I didn’t really need to after I saw who had translated this book from the original Marathi into English — Jerry Pinto. I was immediately intrigued as till then I had only read Pinto’s original writing in English and hadn’t known that he did translations !
And so a copy of Cobalt Blue was bought with the intention of reading it soon. But that didn’t happen and the book lay in my to-be-read-pile of books for nearly 2 years, and would probably still be there if not for #TSBCReadsIndia. While shortlisting the book for Maharashtra, I remembered Cobalt Blue and after a quick look at it found that it fit the two basic criteria that I had set for a book to qualify for this reading challenge — (i) it was a translation, and (ii) it was recent.
In my previous post on the “Summer of 1992“, I shared with you one of the reasons why that year was so important for me. I continue with another post on the same theme, but set in the winter of 1992. Once again, this involves travel for the purpose of study as part requirement of the Master’s programme in Geology I was pursuing at that time.
“Right. Everyone take off every single piece of metal on your body and keep it in your bags. No belts, earrings, chains, rings, loose change, metal rimmed spectacles, etc. You cannot carry any metal inside as it is dangerous. Also, no lighters or matchsticks or any combustible substance.”
I listened to these instructions carefully and started taking off the metal items on my body. My classmates did the same.
“Once you’re done, please keep your bags in this corner of the room. Don’t worry about its safety for the room will be locked and a security guard will be stationed outside.”
It took us a while to remove all metal and combustible items items from our person and pockets, put them in our backpacks, and then stow them in the corner indicated. Finally, we were done.
“Everyone done? Good. Come and collect these hard hats and headlamps from me. I’ll show you how to wear them.”
All of us lined up to collect out ‘gear’ and get ‘kitted’ out with a growing sense of excitement and wide grins on our faces.
“All set, everyone? Good. Follow me.”
And we followed him as led us down a flight of stairs going into the earth. Deep into the earth.
1992 was a very important year for me. A turning point, you could say. A coming of age even. I can’t pinpoint to a particular moment or event for there were many that made the year so memorable. But two of them were really special and, interestingly (or maybe not !) both involved travel. It was not the kind of travel I do today; rather, it was travel for the purpose of study as part requirement of the Master’s programme in Geology I was pursuing at that time.
In May 1992, I arrived in Bhuj (in Kachchh district of Gujarat) with AK, a classmate, to undertake a 15-day field trip for our Master’s dissertation in Geology. Though both of us were based in Bhuj and had a common faculty guide, we had separate field work sites (about 15 km away) and our field work was individual. Our faculty guide was scheduled to join us in Bhuj after about 10 days when we would have finished the bulk of our field work and be able to present our preliminary findings to him.
I was very excited about this field trip to Bhuj for this was to be my first solo field trip. Previously, I had always been part of a larger group of classmates. Having a geological hammer, compass, and topographical map all to myself and not share it with anyone made me feel quite grown-up, important and empowered ! 😛
The first day of field work was exhilarating and as perfect as a young geologist like me could hope for — excellent rock exposures, variety in rock structures and textures, fossils, some intriguing geological puzzles… It was also very distracting, but I soon settled down and within the next day or two established a field work routine.