Quilts and Other Stuff from Frances

Day 9 – Wednesday, June 18th

Before I forget it, IST stands for Indian Standard Time, but Paul Billy said that it should be Indian “Stretchable” Time. Most things are not on time, but are not extremely late. Sukumar, on the other hand, is very precise about his timings.

We began the day with yet another meal…..I once again opted for toast and jam and Michael had another curry and bread. As Michael set out for the CES (Center for Ecological Studies), I spent a few hours working on the journal and answering/writing a few emails.

I walked to meet them at 12:25 and we again headed to Nesara (the local restaurant) to eat. As we entered, Sukumar pointed to the handwritten white board that said that “We have Strated”….. instead of “Started”. This time we ordered the same meal, but in the Southern style rather than the Northern style. I found it to be a bit hotter, but still enjoyable. These mixture plates are served on a large, round, metal plate that has raised sides (like a shallow bowl). There is a metal bowl of rice on this plate, along with small metal dishes that hold each of various sauces. To eat this, you remove the rice bowl and spoon a small amount of rice into the bottom of the plate and then pour the various sauces over the rice. We washed our hands twice during the meal…..just before we begin eating (with our hands) and then once again before we eat the dessert (using a spoon).

Michael and I have been trying desperately to avoid non-bottled water!!! They put three glasses of water on the table and Sukumar told us that it was from the tap and that he would order a bottle. Well, the bottle came, but no new glasses. He asked several times for empty glasses and finally one of the waiters simply picked up all three of our glasses (Sukumar had already drunk from his), poured the water into a dish and returned the glasses to our table!!!!! Michael murmured quietly “I guess it is close enough”, and we gratefully drank our water. In all honesty, the glasses are seldom clean anyway, so I guess that it really didn’t matter!!!

After lunch, Michael headed back to work and I girded up my courage and went out into town by myself. Sukumar had told me of a Fine Arts Gallery that was fairly close to the Institute and I had been able to find it on a map that Paul Billy had given me, so I ventured outside of the main gate and hailed an Auto (Rickshaw). It did not seem encouraging that it took four drivers to figure out where I wanted to go even though I was pointing to it on a map!!! They finally agreed and I set off with one of the drivers. Since I wasn’t really sure that he knew where he was going, I watched closely on the map. He stopped a couple of blocks short of my destination but I gratefully alighted on the sidewalk. We were in front of a fancy hotel, so I asked the guard where the Gallery was and he pointed me off down the street. As I was walking past, another Auto driver offered to take me, but I told him that I needed the exercise…..he laughed. When I finally got there, the same driver was waiting for me and pointed me to the entrance!!!!

The gallery is part of the College of Fine Arts. I spent a few minutes in the store which sells not only the student’s art, but that of the professors as well. I came close to buying a painting, but was concerned about how to get it back to the US. I paid for my entrance to the gallery….just 10 rupees (2.5 cents)!!!!!

As I walked up the stairs, a woman met me and showed me into a gallery. As I entered the darkened gallery, she turned on the lights and fans and stood with me while I looked. This first gallery was filled with paintings that had extremely bright colors. I finally found a plaque that said that the pictures were painted with tempera paint.

As I left the gallery, the lights and fans were turned off, and I was shown into another gallery where the lights and fans were turned on again. This continued all through out the galleries and I came to enjoy the company of my “minder”, even though she spoke very little English. As I entered the topmost gallery, the floor was covered with a thick bamboo carpeting, and my hostess was laying down on the floor. She started to stand up hastily as I approached, but I motioned for her to stay put. She said thank you and that she had a “bad back”. I told her that I understood perfectly and that I might well join her on the floor. As I finished the final gallery, she looked at me and said “Last”…..my signal to leave!!!

I did not understand many of the “realism” paintings, but greatly enjoyed many of the abstract pieces….guess that is the quilter coming out in me. One of the pieces that I laughed about was a woman sculpture made from fiberglass and covered with photos from magazines. It was entitled “Fast Food” and I was fully expecting to see photos of Big Mac’s and KFC, but instead it was covered with pictures of “Take-Out” Indian food!!!

There were two galleries that contained paintings in the Mysore style. They were mostly Icons depicting the incarnation of various gods and goddesses. There was a lot of gold leaf and other types of gold on the paintings, some raised or embossed. I read later on that Gesso was used to form the raised areas. The colors in the paintings were bright and the paints were colored from minerals, leaves and flowers. The paintings had extremely detailed background designs, including carpets and wall papers.

One of the other pieces that I really like was a stylized peacock made from stainless steel…..wish that I could have taken photos!!!

Although the art was wonderful, it was not well presented. All of the paintings were framed in simple wooden frames (very few matched) and were not matted at all. The glass was just normal glass (not non-glare) and it sometimes made the art hard to see. The walls and display boxes were painted white, but were covered in hand prints and dirt streaks. On the other hand, the floors were spotless!!! There were 5 or 6 women who moved into the galleries that I was not in and proceeded to sweep them with their short brooms and wash them with wet cloths which were soaking in buckets of dirty water.

As I left the gallery, I noticed some more art that was in a garden area just to one side. Since I did not see a “No-Photo” sign, I took a few pictures of the outside art. My favorite piece was mounted in a tree. It was a series of giant ants made from wire and plastic wrap that culminated in a large “nest” high up in the tree. There were even some ants at the base of the tree, fighting to be the next to climb up. It was very entertaining!!!!!

As I left the compound, I spoke with an Auto driver who informed me that would not take me back to the Institute, because he would not be able to pick up a fare inside and would have to come back empty. Another older driver came up and said that he would gladly take me. He was wonderful and talked to me about the area that we were driving in. He pointed out some of the houses and said that this was a very rich area, but that most of Bangalore was not the same. I told him that we had been living in Bonasvati and he seemed relieved that I didn’t think that Bangalore was filled with rich people. I told him that he could drop me at the front gate, but he insisted on driving me to the door of the guest house.

Both of these drivers probably charged me too much, but when you are talking about the difference between $2 and $3 for a ten minute drive, I really didn’t feel that it was too big of a deal.

After I spent a few minutes at the guest house, I headed out for the local bank to change some larger bills. It was about 4:30 when I got there, and the sign said that they closed at 2:30, but the door was partly open so I played stupid American and went on in. A very nice man helped me and made the change from a wad of bills in his front shirt pocket. The only thing that he balked at was when I asked for some 10 rupee notes and he said “Madame, we are closed….this is all I can do”. I said thanks and headed across the campus to the store that I visited yesterday.

Michael and I had decided at lunch that we did NOT want more curry for dinner, so I bought a couple of drinks and some chocolate bars for us to eat instead. We also remembered that we had Peanut Butter Cheese crackers, so that was what we had for dinner. My stomach is in desperate need of a non-curry meal, but I am afraid that I have a few days to go before I get it. I feel sure that I will NOT order the Indian meal on the flight to Paris. Instead, I will hold out for a Cheese Baguette in Paris!!!

We went to bed early so that we could be ready for our car and driver early in the morning…..more about that later!!

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