Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Vermeer's Yellow Wall

I was reading Gregory Rabassa's ( translator par excellence) "If This Be Treason" and came across this line where he was tearing into reviewers of translations.

"These are people who would improve things by whitewashing Vermeer's yellow wall"

I am not an art connoisseur, yet even I had heard about Johannes Vermeer. I started searching for Vermeer's yellow wall.

The wall in question was from the painting "View of Delft". It had been immortalised by Marcel Proust in his novel "In search of lost time" in this paragraph.

"At last he came to the Vermeer, which he remembered as more striking, more different from anything else he knew, but in which, thanks to the critic's article, he noticed for the first time some small figures in blue, that the sand was pink, and, finally, the precious substance of the tiny patch of yellow wall. His dizziness increased; he fixed his gaze, like a child upon a yellow butterfly that it wants to catch, on the precious little patch of wall. 'That's how I ought to have written,' he said. 'My last books are too dry, I ought to have gone over them with a few layers of colour, made my language precious in itself, like this little patch of yellow wall...' He repeated to himself: 'Little patch of yellow wall, with a sloping roof, little patch of yellow wall...'"

This article explains the context and the importance of the yellow wall for the character.


Pleasures of reading. Where one started with Gregory Rabassa and reached Marcel Proust via Johannes Vermeer.

Friday, November 10, 2017

வாழைக்காய் வறுவல்

"அப்பா இன்னிக்கு வாழைக்காய் வறுவல் ரொம்ப நல்லாருந்துச்சு. ஃபிரண்ட்ஸ் எல்லாரும் சாப்டுட்டு நல்லா இருந்துச்சுன்னு உங்க கிட்ட சொல்லச் சொன்னாங்க"

"அப்பா தான் செஞ்சேன்னு சொன்னியா"

"ஆமா, யாரு பண்ணான்னு கேட்டாங்க. அம்மா ஊருக்குப் போயிருக்காங்க, அப்பா தான் செஞ்சாருன்னு சொன்னேன். அடுத்த வாரமும் செஞ்சு தர்ரீங்களா"

"அடுத்த வாரம் அம்மா வந்துடுவாங்க, பண்ணிக் கொடுக்கச் சொல்றேன்டா"

"ஆனா அம்மா பண்றத விட நீங்க பண்றது தான் நல்லாருக்கு"

"அம்மா கேட்டா உதைப்பாடா"

"நான் ஃபேக்ட தான் சொல்றேன்"

கொஞ்ச நேரத்தில் அவனுக்கே பயம் வந்து விட்டது.

" ஆனா பிஸிபேளா பாத் அம்மா தான் நல்லா செய்வாங்க" என்று ஜாமீன் வாங்கி வைத்து விட்டான். 

இது தான் அந்தப் புகழ்பெற்ற வாழைக்காய் வறுவல்.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

QUIT 2017 - Day 9.

Started from Vizag at 06.00 AM and reached Chennai by 8.48 PM. With an hour's lunch break at Vijayawada.

Three States. Nine days. Three thousand Two hundred and Thirty Seven kilometers. From Buddhist stupas to oldest Shiva Lingam to awesome waterfalls - it was fun.

One is never fully satisfied with a trip. There's so much that could have been done, there's so much that one has missed. But there's always another day and another road.

If possible, get on the road. It enriches your life.

Friday, October 06, 2017

QUIT 2017 - Day 8

After yesterday's wild goose chase we decided to head back to Chennai by the same route we came. Started at 6.00 AM from Jagdalpur. Roads were clear and the drive till Jeypore was good. I will reiterate once again, monsoon time Chattisgarh is one of the best sights you will see in your life.

Panoramic view of Jagdalpur - Jeypore road

Jeypore Ghat road was even worse than what it was two days ago. To be honest there was only Ghat, no road.  Road work is going on the entire stretch so it was full of gravel and mud roads. Overnight rains had left the whole road slushy. Taking a hairpin bend in a slushy road was tricky.

Once we got down the ghat road, we took the Jeypore - Araku road. With overcast sky, the road was even more beautiful than two days ago. So many shades of green, so much beauty that it hurt the eyes. Stopped for a quick photoshoot after Lamtaput and drove on.

Scene near Lamtaput

Good place for a photo shoot

The skies opened up soon afterwards and it poured non stop for nearly an hour. The lake near Paduwa was now a raging river. Driving was a little difficult, but there were no other vehicles on the road, so it was ok. Roads were good except the bridges were work was going on. After yesterday's experience, I was doubly careful while driving through the bridge diversions.

Lake  that turned into a raging river, near Paduwa

Rains let up as we entered Araku. From a deserted road, we suddenly found  ourselves in the midst of a crowd of 500 people after a turn in the road. It was the friday tribal market, I think. Fresh produce was being sold in bulk. We inched our way through the market.

It was 10.30 AM by the time we reached Araku. All the hotels were closed. So our plan of a late breakfast was shelved and we drove on to Vizag. Breakfast was just snacks and biscuits we had packed. A word here about my son. He coped admirably with the change  in plans and haywired eating schedule. Most of the days breakfast was just cup noodles or biscuits as we  always start early in the day. He didn't complain at all.

Reached Vizag at 02.00 PM and checked into the hotel. Had a hearty lunch. I was so famished that I finished an entire plate of Veg Dum Biriyani (Andhra level serving size). In the evening took son to the Kursura Submarine museum in the beach. INS Kursura, a 1969 vintage submarine was decomissioned in 2001 and converted into a museum in 2002. It is in Ramakrishna beach in Vizag and you get a guided tour for Rs. 40.00. Doesn't take much time, hardly 10 minutes.

Beautiful Vizag sky
 I waited till I got out of Chattisgarh to post this. The day I entered Chattisgarh, I was stopped at a check post.

The Police inspector saw the papers and said "Your licence is expired. Cheep licence we need".
I didn't understand what he was saying. He showed a licence of another person standing next to me .
"Aah, Chip licence. But officer, Tamil Nadu doesn't issue smart card driving licence yet"
"Arre, this is all India practice. Your licence won't be accepted. See this fellow (lorry driver standing next to me), he is from Karnataka. He too has cheep licence"
"But Sir, our government hasn't issued it yet"
"No no. You pay fine"

I wasn't going to argue for USDR with Chattisgarh Police. So paid the Rs. 600.00 fine and proceeded. Last year I was checked in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat. None of them had any problem with the licence. I need to check on what is the status with Smart card Driving Licence in Tamil Nadu. The tender was cancelled some years ago and haven't heard much about it after that.

Tomorrow's plan is a long drive to Nellore. Total distance travelled so far : 2400 kms.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

QUIT 2017 - Day 7

Today's plan was to drive from Jagdalpur to Warangal via NH 63. We spent a lot of time on deciding this route. For one, it passes close to Dhantewada, the epicenter of Maoist violence. Though there have been no reports about any violence in recent times, it left us a little queasy. Another reason was that there was no clear information on whether the bridge to Godavari via Bhopalpattnam was open. Google maps showed NH 63 completely connected. There were reports of Bhopalpattnam bridge not being open, but there were also youtube videos of the new bridge across Godavari. In face of conflicting information, anyone with common sense would have taken the safer option of alternate route. But no one has accused me of having common sense. So we started at 8.00 AM from Jagdalpur. NH 63 was completely devoid of cars going towards Bijapur - Bhopal Pattnam. It is a real stunning road with beautiful scenery on both sides. There were only occasional lorries and buses, and kids walking to school. Just before Geedam, the government has built a huge educational city with the tag line "Education is for all. it is beyond ideological clashes". There was visible investment in schools and we could see lot of children walking to schools. There seemed to be a school every 20 km or so. And we saw kids walking to school for the entire time we travelled from Geedam to Bijapur. Wonder what the school timings are here. The drive through the forest road upto Bijapur was easy and pleasant. Though we felt a slight tremor of fear everytime we saw CRPF men patrolling the roads, reminding us of the insurgency we keep reading in newspapers. We were stopped at a check point and the CRPF constable couldn't believe that we were tourists travelling in this rod. We reached Bijapur by 10.45 AM and proceeded towards Bhopalpattnam. The road started deteriorating and we had to cross a series of broken bridges. At every point we had to take a diversion on the side and climb up again. Road laying work was going on and we had to navigate gravelly roads too. We proceeded thinking it is only for a short while. At the last diversion before Bhopalpattnam, I followed a cyclist going in front of me and drove straight into slush. The front wheel settled nicely and refused to move. There was a diversion of the diversion that I had missed. I got out and realised that I had made a rookie mistake and the car had to be towed back. Further acceleration only pushed the car further into the slush. I flagged down the vehicles coming behind me. One share auto guy stopped and along with other passengers tried to push the car back. It wouldn't budge. A tractor came along and I asked him to help. He asked if I had a towing rope. I didn't. Then we found a road roller with a towing rope. Another car stopped by and the person got down to help us. With the help of these good Samaritans we pulled the car back. I couldn't thank them enough. The whole thing took just about half an hour but I died many a time in that half an hour. Getting your axle broken in the middle of nowhere would have been a disaster. Then the person in the car dropped a bombshell. "Where are you going?" he asked. "To Warangal" I replied. "But there is no bridge" he told me incredulously. "But I saw videos of bridge over Godavari" I said panic creeping into my voice. "That bridge is open for two years. But the small bridge after Bhopalpattnam is yet to be built." "Oh, can we take any diversion like we did in previous broken bridges" "Two days back my men only made the diversion path, but after yesterday's rains I don't think it will be holding. Anyway you check and see, I doubt it" So we drove on to Bhopalpattnam and heard from another contractor that the diversion path has been washed away and there is no way the car can cross there. "What's the alternate" I asked. "Either go via Dantewada - Sukma - Badrachalam or back to Jagdalpur" So all our plans for Warangal - Hyderabad - Gandikota went for a toss. Started driving back sullenly from Bhopalpattnam to Jagdalpur. After a silence of twenty minutes, she said "Come on, don't brood too much. Atleast we got out safe without any damage to the car. And we were lucky that we got stuck closer to the town instead of somewhere in the middle" "Yeah, yeah. So what do we do now" "First get back to Jagdalpur, check in to the hotel and then decide" After a gap, she said "I even clicked a couple of photos of the car stuck in mud" "ரொம்ப முக்கியம்” So we drove back via NH 63. Many people warned us not to take NH 63 fearing Maoists. We of course travelled twice on that route in a single day. 400 kms of travel to realise that there was no bridge at the end of the road. Now back in Jagdalpur and planning to drive back the same way we came. As they say some days you are the bird, some days you are the statue. Total distance travelled so far : 2060 km