Browsing through the Twitter account of Indophile, William Dalrymple (@DalrympleWill), is akin to strapping oneself in the cockpit of a Wellsian time machine and sweeping across eras and cultures of sub-continental art. He titters about himself on Twitter’s self-introduction with intriguing charm: “Writer, historian, Mehrauli goatherd & kabooter baz.” If your time machine is powered by high-speed internet, the traveller coursing on Dalrymple’s Twitter is afforded breathtaking views and glimpses of artefacts and paintings of times that exist no more. The rich seepage of nature in the art of the bygones --- manifestations of birds, animals, lush landscapes, pristine wetlands, falconry --- contrasts vividly to nature’s pauperisation in the modern era; its beggarly, tattered clothes nudity shuddering in shame on the fickle charity of development’s dictators.
Crystal-clear images of these rarities --- picked up from personal collections and global museums, including Chandigarh’s Government Museum and Art Gallery --- have been curated by Dalrymple through tweets and re-tweets from his circle of digital art collectors. What enhances viewer satisfaction is Dalrymple adding captions that anchor the image with detail of origins, school of influence and an interpretation or meaning.
Interpretations can delight in their sometimes wicked and contemporary allusions. Such as a Radha-Krishna painting where Radha is wearing a black saree, looking somewhat irritated and pointing a finger in Krishna’s direction. Though the original artist sought to evoke the bliss of the divine couple’s dance, Dalrymple was unable to resist temptation here. He shot an artistic arrow at Modi’s demonitisation by re-tweeting the painting along with the caption: “This is Black Saree, Not Black Money,” Radha yells, as Krishna is wondering where the demon of black money to be burnt vanished?
GOLFER WHO LOVED HOOKS
The late president of the Chandigarh Golf Club, IPS Mann, is remembered for his all-round sporting abilities but few know he was a “crazy, nutty” angler, who would be ready for an expedition to the great rivers to hook Golden mahseer and trout, be it morning, day, night or any unearthly hour or circumstance. He would drum up all manner of excuses, bid adieu to his startled family and off he would go with his close-knit group to rivers such as the Satluj, Giri, Tirthan, Cauvery, Pong and Gobind Sagar dams, etc. “My first angling trip with Mann was 35 years back before I got married. We reached an island on the Satluj near Bharatgarh fort in Ropar district. We hooked mahseer and had to spend the night on the island as the boat was not available. A kind farmer came to our rescue and opened his hut on the island for us,” former club president Birinder S Gill ‘Gilly’ told this writer.
Though the hook shot is universally despised in golf and is Tiger Woods’s abiding nightmare, Mann was a great hooker when it came to angling! “Mann was so confident of his abilities that he would declare before casting a lure into the water that he was going to hook a fish, and invariably he bagged one! He probably got the record mahseer for Ropar headworks (a 70-80 pounder) and at Dadahu on the river Giri downstream of Renuka Lake (a 56 pounder),” Gill said. Mann’s group also included golfers, KD Jyoti, Capt HS Manshahia ‘Harbour’ (retd) and SS Bala and their last trip was just before club elections in April 2016.
The mahseer affords the best sport due to its strength and fighting qualities. Mann built up a collection of dozens of boxes of fishing line, 200 lures, 10 fishing rods and a dozen reels. He possessed a rarity: a 15-foot bamboo fishing rod, which was presented to him by the late IPS officer and golfer, Inderjit Singh, who was in his times reckoned as one of the finest amateur flying partridge shots of Punjab.
How did the golfing anglers prepare mahseer for the tastebuds? “We took along our stoves, oil, condiments, etc and cut open the smaller mahseer, applied lemon and fried/roasted it on the river banks itself. The bigger mahseer were shared and we took the portions back home, converted them into cutlets and stored them in deep freeze for long-run sustenance,” quipped Gill.
ON WINGS OF A DREAM
While newspapers are full of easy photographs of elegant ladies creating a binary of beauty at the ongoing Chrysanthemum Show in Chandigarh’s Terraced Garden, the bungalows gardens, too, are reveling in the cold splendour of unfolding, big blooms. Here, they are visited by nature’s danseuses weaving ballets in the air, choreographed to the music of the winds. These are butterflies decked in vivid sarees with elegantly-bordered wings, flitting in and out of gardens with scant regard to simmering borders, security guards and CCTV cameras. The other day, while walking among a profusion of blooms, I overheard flowers speaking softly among themselves. Their secret yearnings were to break free from green-stemmed chains and fly. One flower confided that when she drew her petals into a shroud at night and dreamt in its comfort, it was a butterfly she had turned into. Poetic imagination, too, visualises butterflies as flying flowers, a frozen painting liberated from its frame by life.