Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Despatches from Europe*

A Grand Bollywood Museum?

Salzburg is beautiful. That statement needs qualification. Much of Europe is beautiful in its way. However, Salzburg's beauty is different from Paris. Paris is a big city which throbs with life. There is a hustle and bustle and the cafes which act as islands of calm from which you can admire Paris. Salzburg's beauty is one that calms the mind, soothes the soul, helps the mind pause before letting it soar again. If you had a nervous breakdown or wanted to write a treatise, there are few places to beat Salzburg. Talking of beauty in Europe, the cities are so well maintained and so beautiful that after a point it begins to fade and when that happens, the headiness induced by beauty is replaced by a void... a void filled by boredom. The flip side to perfection?

At the risk of betraying my philistine tendencies, I was not going to visit Salzburg! I thought of heading straight to Vienna, but there is a God and the proof of His/Her love was that I was not sleeping as the train pulled into Salzburg.

(Houses nestled in the hills. There was a fog when the train pulled in, which gave it an almost dream-like quality)

One of the must-see sights in Salzburg is the Mozart residence. They have an extremely impressive museum in what was formerly the residence of the Mozart family. I was a bit hesitant to enter. The entry fee was 7.5 euros and I really do not know too much about western classical music. But enter I did and glad I was.

When you buy the ticket, you get an audio guide along with it. This is a really simple and handy device. The museum itself is very small, just one floor. As you enter a room, there are numbers attached to the exhibit. You key in that number and a narrator talks about the exhibit, with classical music playing in the background and also mentions a line or two about the musical piece. This is a beautiful but simple innovation.

I think we should have a huge museum dedicated to Indian music with such an audio guide. I use the term Indian very specifically. In my view, Indian music should consist of Hindustani, Carnatic and Film music. This would throw the purists into fits of horror and if I had the money I would do that just to get sadistic pleasure out of it!

On a related note, I think we need to build a huge Bollywood museum in Mumbai or even better Goa. It would make oodles of money. I cannot count the number of people who have said, "You are from India? I really like Bollywood movies!" It is kind of important. The reason is... for much of the west, India is about living with poverty, snake charmers, the Apu trilogy, the caste system and now cheap outsourced labour. Even though I am not the greatest lover of Bollywood movies, they change that perception of India.

The Art of Correspondence and Ambitious Fathers

The Mozart museum houses a significant body of letters that were exchanged between Father and Son. The exchanges reveal a proud but protective father worried about keeping a mischievous son on track to what the former thinks is the latter's potential. Mozart showed signs of genius quite early in life, early as in 3 years of age not 15 years of age! Father writes the following about his son to a friend,"...A God has been born in our own Salzburg" Mozart's father was an accomplished musician himself and comes across as demanding. Therefore, one can imagine the worry he would have had to go through.

The letters reminded one of the lost art of the correspondence. Of course, in today's times, there is no need for long communication. In fact, it would be frowned upon. But as a consequence, the charm of reflective thinking, witty and cutting observations that delight are lost.

A biography of Nehru by M.J.Akbar draws extensively on the correspondence between Jawaharlal Nehru and his father Motilal Nehru during Jawaharlal's days in England and it throws great light on the father's role in the development of his son. If I recall right, (and correct me if you think I am wrong) Motilal sends a picture of English Governor Generals of India (or some such high post) and writes to the effect that he would like Jawaharlal in that position.

Of course, from one perspective such things place undue pressure on the child. But from another perspective, perhaps these parents played the role of protective guides, showing a path and stepping in when the person looked like he was straying too much.

Either way, somehow I left with the feeling that writing letters leads to a kind of fulfilling relationship that modern methods be it emails or chats miss out on. Of course, that does not mean one has to write on paper, but if one writes proper emails, the way your english teacher would have liked it, perhaps it is more fun.

(View of Mozart house)

(Another shot)

(Christian Doppler's house is next to Mozart's :) For a town of its size, Salzburg has produced many achievers. Must be all that beauty! However the Doppler residence seems to have become commercial space. Note the ad!)

(One can imagine Doppler working at one of these windows)

(How to talk Arty!)

* I have always wanted to write "Despatches from " :)


Anand said...

Let's start that museum. Anyway doesn't look like I'm getting a job at this rate.

themiddler said...

I hear you. I just need to get rid of an inbred tendency to view the world from an ivory tower!