A month ago, photographed at Petit Palais, in itself an architectural delight. Add to that le Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, which permitted entry — gratis. I did not have time (nor the inclination) to look at the Oscar Wilde Exhibition which was also on display at the time, and for which you need a ‘billet‘. No doubt, I saw all the showcased art, and art hanging on the walls – paintings, tapestries, etc – and furniture, and sculptures… speaking of which…

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I saw some interesting nouveau art displays by contemporary artists – a stack of empty cartons piled up, a line up of coal-filled burlap ‘gunny sacks’; water pouring out of a hosepipe sticking out of something like a Sintex water tank... etc. All of these in such opulent settings had been both comical and a marvel. It was, after all, ART. “Why should art always have to be beautiful!”, I heard one student say to me. That was the artist’s viewpoint she had shared with me. 😉 What was interesting were the young students of the history of art — note, not students of Art, but of the history of art, patiently asked what we, as visitors thought of the “sculpture” (examples I cited above); and then they shared the artist’s perspective, viewpoint and purpose for creating such “ART” for display in the palace. During which time I also met one young German student – she said she was working on her Master’s thesis on temple architecture of South India. She planned to do a doctorate.

In turn, I shared with her my brief experience of studying temple architecture for a presentation to a group of young students in Toronto. I gave them a compare/contrast on temples of the north versus those of the south in India. The Kodak carousel projector did not work for some reason, so instead of projecting slides, I had shown them a bunch of large size photographs I had shot in Hampi, Badami, Pattadakal, Aihole. Those photos are now packed up and sitting in crates in my closet, with nowhere to display. The digital era has brought to light millions of such images in the public domain, especially since those sites were recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. You’ll think I’ve gone from Paris to Pattadakal! Well, that’s just me… 😉

What lies around the bend… we know not!

During its journey, meandering through three states, the Colorado River, cuts through Marble Canyon. Driving over Navajo Bridge, you see this mighty river from way above — almost 142 meters (616 feet) above — the water level. Looking far yonder, one wonders what lies around that bend… but few can tell, just as in life, it’s hard to foretell what the next bend has in store for us.

The Colorado River cuts through Marble Canyon, Arizona. We never quite know what lies around the bend, do we?
The Colorado River cuts through Marble Canyon, Arizona. One rarely knows what lies around the bend.

Today, once again, my thoughts are veering west… towards what was home for some time. Maestro Ennio Morricone’s haunting ‘Harmonica’ reverberates in my ears. Memories of majestic California Condors flying high above Vermillion cliffs, and around Marble Canyon in Navajo country over the Colorado River, sweep across.

Majestic California Condors flying high above Vermillion Cliffs and Marble Canyon, Arizona.
Majestic California Condors flying high above Vermillion Cliffs and Marble Canyon, Arizona.

But minutes before approaching the site above near Navajo Reservation area, we were driving along US Route 89 (perhaps just before it turned into 89A). I recall my first glimpse of Vermillion Cliffs… simply out of this world. But these don’t appear pink as I remembered them from my first trip there in April 2000. Nevertheless, it’s also a function of time of the year, time of the day, weather, so on and so forth… but the long winding roads, free of city traffic, are a refreshing change at any time especially in late spring — May 22, 2010 — still make for the perfect time to visit. (No, I take that back — not during AZ summers!) There was snow I remember, as we reached higher altitudes… but Arizona is dotted with mesas that stretch for miles and miles… it’s also a great time to listen to Robert Miles. For us, “Children” is often set to auto play…

Approaching the Canyons and the Cliffs, along US Route 89 & 89A
Approaching the Canyons and the Cliffs, along US Route 89 & 89A

Many travelers visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, but with time on hand, and our personal inclination to see the grander view, we’ve driven to the North Rim on a couple of occasions, enjoying every moment of the arduous journey through snow et al… (Can’t say our guests were equally delighted to sit through the extra three hours for an additional 123 miles). As the crow flies, the distance from South Rim to the North Rim is merely 11 miles… but if people were crows, can you imagine the cawing (not to mention the clawing)! 😉

Standing by the Navajo Bridge, I was transposed into another era.
Standing by the Navajo Bridge, I was transposed into another era.

Just past 6 p.m. on May 22, 2010, standing by the Navajo Bridge, I was transposed into another era.

PostScript: I often share my posts from here on Facebook. Today, I first wrote separate snippets on my timeline and then compiled it together, making it a mini travelogue. (Thanks to a comment from a kind soul.) 😉

Remembrance (2011): My Take

Last evening, I watched this foreign film, “Remembrance”.

It is the story about a Jewish woman, Hannah Silberstein, who struggles to break free from the dark memories of her past life in the Auschwitz concentration camp during Poland’s SS occupation.

Young Hannah falls in love with an inmate, Tomasz Limanowski. Together, after they escape from the camp, he returns home, introducing Hannah – his fiancée – to his mother. Instead of warmth and joy, they face Mrs. Limanowski’s wrath. Circumstances compel Tomasz to leave his too-ill-to-travel fiancée in maternal care — for just a couple of days. 30 years later, Hannah catches a glimpse of him on TV. Truly, was this the same Tomasz who had rescued her? Where did he go? Did his mother reconcile? Now, what?

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An interesting story set in the mid-’70s, the film’s narrative moves back and forth spatially and temporally, transposing audiences from Brooklyn, NY, to a tiny village in Eastern Europe. Paced perfectly, you will savor the romance and anticipation, while feeling the pain of separation when two people are in love, the circumstances notwithstanding.

The older Hannah – played by Dagmar Manzel – plays a fine role of an anguished woman battling her demons during her 30 year old marriage to an affluent businessman. Based on the true story of Jerzy Bielecki, a Polish social worker born in the early 1920s, and Cyla Cybulska, a young Polish-Jewish woman, the only one to have survived after her family was murdered. Played poignantly by Alice Dwyer, you will see glimpses of defiance and determination even during her stricken youth. Mateusz Damięcki and Lech Mackiewicz, as the young rebel Limanowski, and as the older Tomash, respectively, both portray the character deftly, and with just the right portions of passion and aggression.

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Director Anna Justice has delivered a fine film, with the entire cast in tune with the story. In 105 minutes of the film’s duration she has unfolded the characters at a pace that holds your attention, while developing every one of them – short, or tall – as a strong presence – whether brief, or long. Hannah’s husband, their adult daughter, Tomasz’s brother and his wife, Janusz – a family friend… every character is memorable.

This German film was released in late 2011, so NetFlix aficionados are fortunate to be able to watch it now… before they pull it off from their drama and foreign film categories. Original title: “Die verlorene Zeit”.

Explosions at Bodh Gaya!

My tympanic membrane is tired, and hardened from the continual onslaught of explosive news. Not only tired of the terrorism, I’m sickened by the endless rapes that women suffer mercilessly. Add to that the helplessness one feels, reading about the pointless deaths of hundreds, thousands – en masse!

Now, worse, am defeated by the mindless attempt at destruction of something sacred… not merely from a religious perspective; but it’s the sanctity of a brick structure that withstood the test of time, and weathered the elements for over two millennium – The Mahabodhi Temple! By using explosives, miscreants shook the foundations of an edifice that is symbolic of ‘ahimsa’, non-violence, and is sacred to millions of people across the globe.

A while back I posted photographs from a visit to the ruins of Nalanda, not far (56 miles) from Bodh Gaya in Bihar; also an institute of higher learning in Ancient India, particularly for Buddhist monks. I dread to think of the damage that depraved minds are capable of doing… and shudder at the thought of the pain they are causing those who are perhaps the few among the peace-loving people remaining in this world.

The Getty Center, LA, California…


The Getty Center, LA, California
by chitralekhan

Awesome architecture; I love the geometry, minimalistic design, shades of just whites used extensively! Photographed this on a recent visit to Los Angeles.

Victorian House, Show Low, AZ


Victorian House, Show Low, AZ

by chitralekhan

Don’t stop… restoration in progress!

Well, last October, on a day trip to Show Low, I snapped this house in a flash! No, I did not buy it… I wish! Though, if I recall right, property prices were so low (no pun intended) at the time, I could have gone shopping!  😉

A moment after I saw this beauty, the traffic light turned green… couldn’t get a better close-up, nor could we see the house from up close, not much point in stopping… with work in progress… but I just saw some interesting pix of this house here. So, before you head there, take a peek through my photo, for a preview! 😉

Buddhist Monks at Nalanda


Buddhist Monks at Nalanda
by chitralekhan

Modern day monks… at the ancient center of learning, in Bihar, India.

When I visited Nalanda in November of 1996, it was the Chinese Year of the Monkey… 4694 Bing-Shen! So, “What’s the context?” you may well ask… well, among the Buddhist Jataka Tales, is also a delightful but profound story about The Monkey King, stressing upon the importance of self-sacrifice.  🙂

Much of what we know today about Buddhism can also be attributed to the accounts written by renowned Buddhist monk, Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang)… scholar & traveler sans camera! 😉 🙂

The Ruins of Nalanda University


The ruins of Nalanda University
Originally uploaded by chitralekhan

The excavated remains of an ancient center of learning… from over 2000 years ago!

I may not be able to visit Taxila (now in modern-day Pakistan) in this lifetime, but was very fortunate to be able to walk around on the very same grounds of Nalanda where, at one point in history, Buddhist monks and scholars had meditated. Steeped in history, this site is truly fascinating!

Soaking under the blazing hot sun – even in early November ’96 , with a basic camera loaded with 35 mm Extachrome slide film (alas, transparencies in this digital era are now relegated to photography history), I clicked as many pix as possible in a matter of a couple of hours.  Oh yeah, at the time,  it was fun… even without Flickr… 😉  Just a low-end camera, with amateur photography skills, but the joy of travel surpassed all other pleasures… the pix were so I could view them at leisure… even much later!

(Oh no, no plagiarizing… besides, in the pre-internet, pre-broadband era you’d have to contact a photo stock agency, and they’d charge what seemed then like an arm and a leg… I know, we used a lot of those in our ad campaigns!) 😉

Plan of excavated ruins: Ancient Nalanda University


Plan of excavated ruins: Ancient Nalanda University
Originally uploaded by chitralekhan

Layout of Nalanda University, (Bihar), India: one of the ancient higher-learning institutions, particularly for Buddhist monks from near & the Far East… think 5th & 6th centuries B.C. Alas, it still remains among UNESCO’s tentative lists of designated World Heritage sites:  Excavated Remains at Nalanda

I took this photograph in the pre-digital era, in November 1996… while on a tour of Jain & Buddhist pilgrim centers in Bihar… Samed Shikharji, Pavapuri, Rajgir, Kundalpur, etc.

Pablo Bartholomew… passionate artist, photographer, photo-journalist

Today, reminiscing about my ‘advertising’ career in India – soon fading; and while reviewing my sporadic flirtations with photography; about Ektachrome, Kodachrome (also now relegated to the archives of photography), my thoughts drifted to the time Pablo Bartholomew was doing a calendar assignment for Kodak.  The theme for that specific year (somewhere in the mid-’80s, I’d say), was ‘windows’.

An old-style building in South Mumbai — with arches that framed the window panes, enhanced by ‘money plants‘ and lilac ‘morning glory‘ vines around them (thanks to my mother’s green thumb, and deft gardening skills) — somehow, must have caught Pablo’s attention, probably during a recce (Was the ad agency for Kodak then O&M? I’m not certain of that). Of course, someone from the agency approached us to request for permission to shoot ‘our’ window. Once the permission was more-than-willingly granted by mother, a date was set; they brought across a pretty model who posed by the window, and Pablo Bartholomew,  standing three-four stories below, across the street, zoomed in on our ‘archaic’ building’s architectural detail. Certainly considered archaic for a day and age then, when Hafeez Contractor and Raheja’s hi-rises were the order of the day. You just have to look at Nariman Point, Mumbai of the 1980s to see what I mean. In contrast, someone mentioned to me just the other day that our 100+ years-old building may soon be deemed a heritage building. About that, well, we just must wait and watch.

Anyway, the point is, I was wondering, if by some remote chance I could find an image of this ‘window’, online… may be in Kodak India’s archives of their then much-sought-after annual calendars… alas, I couldn’t find any. Mother had this picture framed, which she proudly displayed on the wall for a very long time – more of a salute to her own gardening skills, than to Pablo’s eye for beauty, or for that matter with any connection to Kodak or creativity (in the photography sense of the word). 😉 Of course, people would often ask her if the girl with pensive mood by the window (in the picture) was her own daughter… in response, she would beam away but I daresay, admit with much aplomb, “Oh no, she’s a model! She even used our bedroom as her changing room!” Of course, I was not sure then, whether I should laugh or cry at this response. 🙂 😉

Well, to cut a long story short – during my search for this image, I came across some interesting links that gave me some insight into Pablo the photographer, and Pablo a 50+, independently-thinking Indian of the early 1960s. Hope you will enjoy viewing his portfolio. Click, if you wish to, on each picture, to view it at a larger scale. Also, you may want to click on the video to listen to Pablo speak about his own work in this interesting film.

For Pablo’s more serious pursuits in photojournalism listen to his interview on www.artbabble.org. His portfolio of photos on the Nagas exhibited at the Rubin Museum of Art, NY, is simply astounding… my heart skipped many a beat!

Pablo Bartholomew walked away from the Bhopal Gas Tragedy... well, almost!