Saturday, February 19, 2005

A Culture Visit

I wanted to break away (atleast for a few hours) from the influences of our current "culture" of "hard working" (synonym of money-making) and then showing it off to others in the most worthless of ways, to a period where life was simple, yet happy. when man's requirements were a small but requirement-fulfilled house and happiness to go along. I went to witness life as a culture in south india at the Dhakshin Chitra for a few hours. Being only the end of february, the sun was a little less hot (about 33 C ;-) ). so, I took a 25 minute ride on my 'poor-man's harley davidson', a suzuki, from my house to the culture house, about 4Km from the toll-gate on the ECR. I cheated the toll-gate people by taking a two-wheeler (he he) and dint pay the toll to use the road and reached the culture house when the sun was busy making people run for coconuts and shades.

The entry fee was Rs.50/-. Rs.50/- to see my own culture; In the end, I felt it was worth more than that. The pamphlet was pretty much a miniature route map for the whole place and I must say, it was threateningly accurate in terms of the route.

Tamil Nadu was first. It opened with a Chettinad house of the 19th century. The inlaid description stone (I mean the framed printout-i dont remember the correct term now) told me that the house was literally shifted from its original place to here sans the ground. ( It must have been quite heavy to lift the ground also. Besides, we wont know how deep we need to dig to conclude its enough??? ;-) ). The age old inkpots, the flour-grinder, the wooden beds et al were pretty much the originals taken from the house owners.


The backyard of the house led to an alley of tamil nadu houses. There were two fortune tellers, one was skillfully utilising the repertoire of a parrot (???) to foretell ur fortunes and the other was using ur palm to foretell. My meal-fortune will wreck havoc if I spend money on this. With a heavy heart of not knowing my future from a parrot, I moved along.

The "conservation lab"(whatever that means) lay ahead near the alley. The inside presented the f-tv of our past. Dhotis, lungis, turbans, thundus, madras kerchiefs (what a history this one has. Check it out there directly). Another room inside dawned to a person creating real art. He was weaving a kancheepuram silk saree. It was the first time in my history I saw a silk saree being made (as if I wud have gone any other day). More than the whole saree being made, It was the forming of the border of the saree that amazed, or rather shocked me the most. I was watching him work like a sculptor bring his creation to life slowly, strand by strand. Soon, curiostiy overtook my shyness and I stopped him.
What followed was a National Geographic program on weaving. He took a paper full of light and dark dots, which viewed from a distance (or a blurred eye) will show a design. The design on the border of the saree. It took a total of 2 days for 5 people and 36 separate lines of gold strands in a complicated pattern to acutally set it in the right position. To move it properly as and when the saree was being woven was way beyond me. A single saree had more than 3 lakh strands of intricately woven silk strands and 2 weeks labour of a dedicated and skilled person.

An adivce to people who want to enjoy this trip. If you happen to see a group of school uniforms in the vicinity, never even try to go near. It will be one mayhem you will want to miss. I got two sets like that today. Obviously, they were schools with students of influential parents. Most of those yet-to-be-grown-ups were clicking away merrily at virtually anything they dint encounter in their lifetime. That included anything the guy near you clicks at. Fortunately, it was lunch time and they headed to a nearby gathering area where they showcased their voice prowess.

After the enlightment at the "lab", and escaping from the two typhoons, I then went on to the glass blowing section. There was a demo going on. I sneaked in to see the glass blower morph a normal glass rod into a peocock and a horse right in front of our eyes. He did that like he was gnawing carelessly at a unroasted set of peanuts. After the pretty transparent demo, he went to become a marketing person and was trying to woo some foreign visitors to buy his wares. Escaping, I moved on to "God's Own Country"'s mini mock-up area.


It started with a traditional wooden house of a Cyrian catholic family. The inlaid stone description here (remember the term;-) ), told that the house was wholly made of pineapple wood and was two floor high. The outside was pretty deceptive that way. It didnt seem to enclose two floors until you went to the first floor. In a small passage way, there was another wooden staircase. It opened up to an attic the size of the house itself. Compact and cosy - they knew how to live. The first floor even had ravi varma's beauties to adorn the wooden walls. Enjoying God's own country in my hometown, I moved along to another house nearby, pretty similar to the first,but bigger. Palm toys were being made on-location.
My eyes were starting to get a bit dark now. I looked at the sky. It was clear. Then, it dawned. I hadnt taken anything for the last 2 hours. Getting a small 'noisy' toy for my niece, I moved on to the Andhra and Karnataka section in a hurry. Fortunately for my hunger, they both were under construction. It was nearly 2.5 hours since I reached this place and hunger was doing a salsa inside me. Pleasing it with a tetrapack juice, I started my journey back, enlightened and Happy.

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