Saturday, April 08, 2006

Love at first sight

I always held a strong opinion about love at first sight. I argued that such a phenomenon does not exist outside movies. Then I saw her, and my strong opinion was proved wrong in an instant.

She was standing in front of a mirror, wearing a flowing dress, her face turned to one side and she was looking down. A transparent veil was drawn over her face and body, but her beautiful face was plainly visible through that veil. When I saw her first, I was out of words. How could one be so beautiful? As the day progressed, I returned again and again to that same room with the mirror, to stand and gaze at her face. She did not move away, because she was rooted to that spot, literally!

Yes, I’m talking about the Veiled Rebecca, an amazing marble statue by Italian sculptor Benzoni, the most beautiful sculpture that I have seen in my life. Not that I have seen many, but I have at least seen some detailed photographs of world famous sculptures. I can say that this statue is as good as, if not better than them. It may not have the anatomical perfection of David and Venus, or the elaborate details of Moses and Pieta, but Rebecca’s simple veil beats them all… a transparent veil made of opaque stone. And as you are looking at it, you suddenly realize that you have forgotten that the veil is made of marble. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any good pictures of this statue on the Internet, so you have to see it yourself to understand what I mean.

But this post is not about Rebecca only. There’s much more to write about. Only I didn’t know where to start.

On my first Saturday in Hyderabad, I went to the Salar Jung Museum with two of my friends. It is a museum which houses works of art collected almost entirely by one person. I like works of art, so that was the first place I wanted to visit in Hyderabad. However, after going through the first few galleries, while I was speechless, both my friends got bored to death. One of them plainly said so to someone on the phone (yes, he was talking on the cell phone most of the time!), and the other one was more diplomatic and said he could not appreciate so much art in a single day. When they saw at the lunch time that the food at the museum cafeteria was not very good, they said they couldn’t stay there any longer. I could have done very well with that food, or even without food for that matter, for eating meant wasting time when you are in a building that can be called the Louvre of India. Bowing to public pressure, I had to leave that day, but I returned the next day. Alone. And I spent the whole day there, only to understand that I would have to return again and again to appreciate the whole thing.

For most people, and especially children, the biggest attraction of the museum is a large clock that is kept in the courtyard. Every second is marked by a small figure of a blacksmith hammering away. Every hour a door opens and another figure comes out. He strikes the hour on a gong with his hammer and goes back in. There are beautiful paintings, sculptures, exquisitely carved furniture, delicate ornamental crockery, arms, garments, books, clocks and watches, mirrors, embroidery, carpets, cutlery, dolls, stuffed birds, jewels… the list is endless. And these things are from all over the world. There are entire rooms dedicated to single countries like Japan, China, France and Egypt. The European gallery has a beautiful wooden statue that is a double figure representing Mephistopheles on one side and Margaretta on the other. This is also kept in front of a mirror.

The Salar Jung is a huge building as can be seen in this picture from Google Earth. By the end of the day my legs were refusing to carry me, and I was sitting down frequently on the seats that they have very wisely put all over the place. At this time I realized that it was really difficult to take in so much art at one go, because I found my attention drifting. While looking at one exhibit I was thinking about the previous one. And this was happening in spite of the fact that one section was closed for renovation. I returned several times to stand and stare at Rebecca, of course, and I watched that clock strike every hour from ten to four.

Finally, it was time to leave. It had been a memorable day. I plan to go there again, because one and a half days are too less to see Salar Jung. If I have not gone there again in the last seven months, it is only because I did not find a like-minded person to go with. What is the use of looking at something beautiful if I can’t call my companions and point it out to them? But I’ll definitely go there soon, even if I have to go alone again.

Because I find I have spent quite a lot of time in this city without seeing her. I can’t endure it much longer.

[Author's note added later: After reading this post my friend Abhijit posted this on his blog.]


  1. "She was standing in front of a mirror, wearing a flowing dress,"

    reading this much I could guess you talking about rebecca. As I had the same feeling. I was amazed t osee such a perfection. People say nothing is perfect. I will advice them to have a look at rebecca.

    Nice post sugata.

  2. well..i don't kno if i could appreciate art..i've nevr tried..but your post does make me curious..varied forms of art & their beauty alwayz intrigues a person..lovely way to put down in words the beauty which the senses could marvel at..!

  3. chubby cheeks!you have a good aptitude to appreciate art!is rebecca that beautiful??wow!thanks for sharing her beauty with all of us who hasnt seen her!

  4. @abhijit: Well, Rebecca isn't perfect too, there's a small black spot on her marble... I think near the waist.
    Jokes apart, The statue is amazing, Good to know that you shared my feelings!

    @why was i born: You said in your blog you are a nature lover... and nature is nothing but God's art. So you do appreciate art without knowing!

    @monami: Believe me, she is more beautiful than I could ever make you imagine. You can see her yourself if you visit Hyderabad. So why not plan a trip? :-)

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. "museums sirf bacche,boodhe aur school-teachers k liye hote hain".
    Donn make faces ;-).... this is nt my statement but was said by saif to rani in HUMTUM :p...
    Even I love visiting such places and can spend the whole day forgetting about food and sleep. Afterall we r similar u c ;-)

  7. Museums...... another waterloo for me!! No wonder then that I never saw the said masterpeice in my 3 visits to salar jung......was too busy searching for the exit prpobably.

  8. @aurindam: Saif probably has seen enough stuffed birds and animals at his home since childhood to make him hate museums... :p

    @indianpeppone: Sad! Though I can't see how you could have missed it... even the Salar Jung entry tickets have Rebecca's photo printed on them.

  9. khub bhalo laaglo pore. gato december aamio giyechhila salar jung-e. phataphati experience.

  10. @hutumthumo: Thanks. You have seen the real thing... so you know what I was talking about.